Somewhere along the line, workaholic Americans got the holidays wrong. “If you’re in India, they actually take off the two to three weeks before the festival even starts,” Waris Ahluwalia explained of the Indian holiday Diwali. “If you’re headed there for work around that time, you just kind of have to forget about meetings because literally everyone is off. It’s intense. You go out on the street and it’s like Christmas but a thousand-fold.” Known as the festival of lights, the five-day observance began this year on November 5. In celebration, Louis Vuitton kicked off a five-year partnership with the charity SOS Children’s Villages, dedicated all its windows across the globe to Diwali-themed light installations designed by the New Delhi-based artist Rajeev Sethi, and invited Ahluwalia and Indian-American novelist Jhumpa Lahiri (pictured) to host a dinner and reading in New York as part of the Salon de Louis Vuitton series.
In the label’s Madison Avenue flagship, a diverse set, including Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Sante D’Orazio, Isabella Borromeo (clad in a dress she recently scored in Uzbekistan, no less), and Ambra Medda, dined on guinea hen with cumin spice and later sipped House of Waris tea. Post-dinner, Lahiri took the mic for a reading of the title story in her latest, Unaccustomed Earth. She was dressed for the occasion in a Fall ’10 LV skirtsuit. “I had the fortune of meeting my Prince Charming many years ago. But last week I was in the dressing room and I really had a Cinderella moment,” Lahiri told the assembled guests.
The story’s somewhat autobiographical bent had Palestinian journalist and author Rula Jebreal thinking about the connection of art and life. Her own autobiographical novel, Miral, has been made into a film by her partner, Julian Schnabel. That connection helps to explain why she didn’t have the usual writer’s fears about the filmmaker misrepresenting the work. “In my case, it was much tougher to live it than to see it turn into something onscreen,” Jebreal said. “The nice thing about a story is that once it’s out there, it’s no longer just yours.”
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