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Recently read the articles: “I gave my kids Rs 5 as pocket money: Nita Ambani “(Economic Times) and  “The private life of Nita Ambani” (Sunday Times Oct 2011).  Mukesh Ambani is chairman of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, second richest man in Asia and the ninth richest man in the world with a personal wealth of US$27 billion(as reported by Forbes in 2011).
Nita Amabni
How would it be to have so much money?How do the people you have so much money live?  Okay the husbands are busy earning money but then what do wife’s do? Do they spend all their time planning where to spend? Shop? Play cards?  How is to live in the the most expensive house of the world-Antilla?. Just who is Nita Ambani? We searched the net, going through her interviews to find more about her. And we were bowled over!Hope you share our views.
Nita Mukesh Ambani is the wife of the richest man in India. But there is more to her than that. She is a multifaceted personality, co-owner of Mumbai Indians, runs DhiruBhai Ambani International school(DAIS) , a bharatnatyam dancer.  She lives with her family in house called Antilla(which if anagramed is All Nita) and is often featured on the magazine covers.
Nita Ambani on magazine covers
She definitely doesn’t want to discuss her legendary diamonds. Nor does she want to talk about her controversial residence.   Nita explains, “ I cringe when the subject of money comes up. I feel like diving under the table.” So… how difficult is it being Nita Ambani? “ It used to bother me, when I first got involved with Mukesh’s projects and people in Jamnagar would talk behind my back… wait for me to leave, hoping I wouldn’t come back and ask too many questions. It hurt to be treated like a rich man’s wife.Same thing happened when I started my school. People only talked about the 27-crore building. They didn’t expect me to succeed. You see, I take my work very seriously.” (Ref:Shobha De Interview)

Her growing up

She was born on 1st Nov, 1963, grew up in the suburbs of Mumbai and hails from a middle class family.Her father was a senior executive in Birla company.While growing up, I lived in a traditional joint family in Mumbai’s suburbs. We were two sisters and 10 other cousins- that’s 11 girls and just one male cousin in one house. Girls in our family were given equal freedom. My parents told me that I could do what I wanted, but it came with a rider: do your best in whatever you choose. Besides academics, I used to be good at swimming and dancing, but the desire to excel in one extra-curricular activity had me quit swimming to focus on Bharatanatyam.”(Ref:economic times)

My mother says I was a very naughty child when I was young. I remember one incident…

My younger sister was four-years-old and I dressed up as a ghost in white clothes and dance ghungroos and scared the daylights out of her!She was screaming and crying and I got such a spanking after that! I think I was completely engrossed in enjoying the moment of scaring her!

How she met Mukesh?

Nita was performing Bharatanatyam during Navrati festival in Birla Matoshree. DhiruBhai Ambani and his wife KokilaBen were watching her.
The next day she got a call. The caller said, “I’m Dhirubhai Ambani.” I said, “Wrong number!” and put down the phone! But the phone rang again and the voice said, “I’m Dhirubhai Ambani, may I talk to Nita?” So I said, “If you are Dhirubhai Ambani, I’m Elizabeth Taylor!” and put down the phone. Her father was at home that day and sensed there was something happening. So when the phone rang again, he answered.  After being told by her father to behave nicely she spoke to Dhirubhai and met him in his office. He asked her , “Would you like to meet my son?” I said, “Who?” He said, “Mukesh”. When she went on 14th Nov Mukesh opened the door and it was love at first sight.

Mukesh Ambani and Nita

How Mukesh proposed her?

“It was our sixth or seventh meeting and I was still very undecided. I said, “I need to graduate. Let’s think about it later.” We were driving on Pedar Road in his green Fiat. It was 7.30, peak traffic. We stopped at the signal and he said, “Will you marry me?There were all these horns blaring and he said, “Tell me or I won’t start the car!” That was how he proposed to me! “So she accepted to avoid a traffic jam! (Ref:NDTV good times)

During our dating days, Mukesh used to have a Mercedes, so for all our dates we’d go in that car. Once I told him, “You have to travel my way, in a BEST bus.” I said, “The best seat is the front seat on top of a double deckerand he came with me. It was my favourite bus route, because it went through Juhu beach and you could see the sea and the sand from the top. We had such a blast. Ref:Sunday times: 9 Oct

After Marriage

Adjustments from middle class family to Industrial family I think a transition at 21, is a transition that gets all girls anxious and all parents anxious. But I must say Papa and Mummy were so understanding and welcomed me with a large heart into their world

The first 2-3 years of my marriage, 7.00 pm in the evening was the time I had to spend with Papa. Wherever I was, I had to come home and be with him at 7. His questions would range from Stock Market to the rule in Argentina, to suddenly the politics of India…I think Indira Gandhi had just been assassinated at the time. It was such a great education for me. I used to work as a teacher in the morning so I’d leave home at 7.30 am, return after school hours and read up thinking he’s going to ask me about the Stock Market.I would be very prepared and go to him and suddenly the questions would be on “How to raise children?

With Dhirubhai, kokilaben, Anil and Tina

The Ambani family: Good old days

I think, he gave us so much space really to explore ourselves. At the same time he was the guiding force in our lives like Mommy. They really enveloped us in their love and warmth. Mommy taught me things like cooking, she’s a great cook…taking care of the house. She initiated me as a young girl.

Motherhood

A few years after she got married she was told by the doctors that she  would never have children. Even when I was in school, I would write long, copious essays titled, ‘When I’ll be a mother…’ Here I was at the age of 23 being told that I would never conceive. I was shattered. However, with the help of Dr Firuza Parikh, who is one of my closest friends, I first conceived my twins!”(Dr Parikh also helped Farah Khan to have her triplets)

 

Nita Ambani with Dr Firoza

With Dr Firuza Parikh at the book launch

But it was not exactly a cakewalk yet. Her pregnancy was traumatic and she delivered two months earlier in a state of medical emergency. I was in the US and Mukesh had just left me and returned to India. As soon as he landed, he got a call saying, “Get back to the US.” Mukesh, Mommy and our doctor got onto the flight. On the plane, the pilot gave the news – “You’ve been blessed with twins –a boy and a girl!” All of them were so excited.So when he arrived we were deciding the names. What to call the “Baby Boy Ambani and Baby Girl Ambani”? That’s what they called them in the hospital! Mukesh said, “I was flying over the mountains when I got the news that I have a little baby girl. So her name will be Isha, which means Goddess of the Mountains. We were flying, so our son will be called Akash. Three years later, Anant was born naturally. Her twins are 20 years old now and are in US.  Isha is at Yale and Akash is at Brown. Ref:NDTV good times

 

Isha, Anant , Aksash , Mukesh and Nita

Isha, Anant , Aksash , Mukesh and Nita

She’s been a hands-on mum who insisted that husband Mukesh spend his Sundays helping with the kids’ homework. “I told him you may be busy influencing the future of Reliance and the country, but you better influence the future of your kids too. I believe that it’s not just quality but also the quantity of time spent with the kids that makes them sound individuals.”

 

Money consicious

Nita does the weekly hisaab of kitchen spends, a habit she learned from her mother-in-law. She’s famous for giving pep talks to her staff and is not referred to with the formal ‘madam’ or ‘Ms Ambani’, but with the very Indian bhabhi by her staff.Mukesh and Nita refused to stay in the Presidential Suite of the Four Season’s Hotel in New York, because they found the $5,000 dollars per night tariff too high!!Similarly, she says when some girlfriends tried to ‘chadhaav her into buying a croc bag ( for $45,000)’, she nixed it

When she planned her mother-in-law Kokilaben’s recent 75th birthday bash, she sat with Manish Malhotra and Abu-Sandeep, going over all the costings with a tooth comb before okaying the budget for the fashion show. Old habits die hard, she shrugged – “ Those initial cravings have gone. I have no appetite left for spending crazy amounts these days. You shop to feel good. But I don’t feel good wasting money.” In fact, so thrifty is Mukesh, that he continues to wear Vimal pants. His black bush coats (standarised evening wear!), are still stitched by Kachin’s ( who has been his local tailor since the age of 17).’

Nita seems quite a bargain hunter. When she had to shop for 25,000 pieces of chinaware for her home. She’s settled for 106-year-old Japanese brand Noritake, whose 22 carat gold/platinum-trimmed porcelain crockery. But she did not buy from exclusive Noritake showroom in Mumbai’s Kemps Corner, a stone’s throw from the Ambani tower. Rather, she chose Sri Lanka as Noritake is 70-80% cheaper there than elsewhere in the world, including India. This is because the Japanese brand has its largest manufacturing facility in Sri Lanka, and exports its fine china to over 100 countries from there. Ref: Economic Times Dec 2010, Invest SriLanka

Noritake  crockery

Her School:DhiruBhai Ambani Internation School

DhiruBhai Ambani International School was started by Nita Ambani in March 2003. It is a modern, state-of-the-art LKG-12 school that offers the finest facilities for well-rounded education, growth and development of children. To know more about the school DhiruBhai School

On Mumbai Indians

I was really upset with Mukesh three years ago when he bought this franchise. My school had just started, Reliance Retail was fairly new, his other ventures were also in nascent stages and there he was, stepping into the totally fresh IPL field, when our plates were so full. Mukesh being a cricket enthusiast decided to go ahead and hand over the charge to professionals. I, of course, with zero knowledge of cricket barely attended a few matches in the first two seasons. For two years in a row, we were at the bottom of the table.

mumbai indians Nita It was the IPL 2 disasters in South Africa that spurred me to fly halfway across the globe to be with the boys. We were playing the Rajasthan Royals and it was impossible to lose. We had to make 9 runs in 6 balls. I thought we’d win, but we lost! So I said to myself, ‘I have to learn this game.’ I selected the core team- Sachin, Bhajji and Zaheer- and we got to work on our weaknesses.”Then I started travelling with the team, holding camps, meeting the team, and the passion ignited.

This is the first part of our post on Nita Ambani.  This is about her life. The next post is about her views on various topics such as money, Mukesh, her kids, her school, her passion Dance.

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As they say behind every successful man is a woman, she is the woman behind Mukesh Ambani and she  is not hiding behind her riches. She comes across as the women very focused, hard working and very much in love with Mukesh and her children. What do you feel about Nita Ambani?

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