Friendship NEVER ENDS – Namrata Shirodkar Ghattamaneni & Sabina Xavier

   Find out how the first lady of Tollywood, Namrata Shirodkar, met her BFF

She’s a superstar wife, a former Miss India, a supermodel whose sultry looks and style statement are admired by the world at large. So obviously when she goes into raptures about another woman, that too unconnected with the glam world, it comes as a massive surprise. And you are curious to know who the recipient of her compliments is. We are talking of Namrata Shirodkar Ghattamaneni, addressed as the first lady of Tollywood and her best friend Sabina Xavier, founder of Y Axis, a 15-year-old business initiative and Heal-a-Child Foundation, an NGO. RITZ finds out how their paths crossed for the first time 

Our kids went to the same school earlier and she used to come to drop her daughter Zara. That’s when we bumped into each other for the first time,” narrates Namrata, “I would always look at her and admire her beauty. I found her naturally stunning sans make up so early in the morning. You know, that just-out-of-bed look when most of us don’t want to look at the mirror…And there she was, so simple and beautiful to drop her baby to the class. And finally one day at a school event, I did tell her. I don’t know if she quite remembers.”

Sabina does remember it vividly. “How can I forget a compliment, that too from someone like her!” laughs Sabina elaborating on what she loves most about her BFF, “She has no airs about herself.  I remember when I first saw her at school – she was so simple and normal with no celebrity nonsense about her.  Over the months that went by, I would see her dropping her son off every day, taking him for birthday parties and chatting with everyone happily.  She keeps a low profile and doesn’t draw attention to herself. She also just doesn’t have an ego, which is very, very refreshing. She’s down to earth and simple. From being Miss India and a famous actress to being a simple mother and a wife and partner, she’s done it all happily and with no regrets. She’s perfectly content to be in the shadows and in the background of her superstar husband. There is much to learn from her when so many of us are always trying to prove something to the world, no matter the cost.”

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Mutual admiration for the finer points of each other’s personalities seems to be the key to their strong bond. Of course similarities help. “On a few occasions when we met initially, I realised that we were similar in many ways. Both of us are hugely family-centric, our kids and family are our topmost priorities and we have no pretences. Both of us treat work as worship. We are extremely independent in our thoughts but very dependent on our families. She’s very real. And for me, that’s most important in a friendship. Also, we have been friends for a little over 3 years now. So there is no baggage. There is nothing about her I would like to change. I accept my friends the way they are.”

Sabina adds her perspective, “Besides being family-oriented, we are both very religious. We have a strong work ethic and we are always working no matter what corner of the globe we are in. Our idea of having a good time is a nice quiet place, with good food, a fantastic bottle of red wine and hanging out with our family or close friends. We both love to travel. As much as we know many people, we both have a small group of close friends and are fiercely loyal and protective towards them.  Like me, if someone does her a good deed, she will never forget it. She’s always grateful and will remember it forever and will also tell everyone about it. We are both very strong independent women. We don’t envy anyone and are very comfortable and content with our lives.  We’re genuinely happy when other people succeed or do well at something. “

It’s wonderful to see two women who are so genuinely fond of each other with no qualms whatsoever about saying it like it is. “With Namrata, what you see is what you get. There is no guile.  She’s very straightforward and speaks her mind,” says Sabina with utter candour in her voice, “I tend to be more reserved and wear a mask with people I don’t know. Rather than being straightforward, I’m diplomatic and guarded in my interactions. She’s extremely confident and able to handle any situation. And she’s definitely wiser for sure! I’m nowhere there yet.”

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But Namrata’s perception varies a bit. It’s quite obvious that the two look at the other’s positive aspects more than their own. “She’s very chilled out. I am a bit hyper. She’s more of a perfectionist and has her own calm ways to get things done as opposed to me who is all over the place,” laughs Namrata, “She makes it a point to be social. I am not half as good as her where social niceties are concerned. She’s extremely diplomatic and well behaved with outsiders. I am a little less of that. Overall, she’s a wonderful human being and I am happy that she is my dear friend.”

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But obviously, everything can’t be only honey and roses, can it? But then the way they look at issues is quite unusual. When you ask them about the good and not-so-good aspects of their friendship, this is what they say: “With us, I think good aspects are that we can go without meeting for days but we make sure we text and talk almost daily and somehow things never change. The same easy companionship is always there. The bad aspect is sometimes we won’t meet up for over two weeks even when we are both in town,” says Sabina while Namrata says, “So far only good I would like to believe. We go on short vacations with our families and all of us including the kids have a blast. She’s my 4 AM friend. Even when we don’t meet for weeks, when we do we pick up from where we left off.”

What’s life without a few skirmishes, without a few differences of opinion, without that famous first fight, huh? “We haven’t had one as yet. Can you believe that?” says Namrata, “When you have a friendship without agendas, I guess it’s usually peaceful.” Sabina nods in agreement and says, “I think she knows me pretty well. I can tell her just about anything and I think it’s the same with her.  It’s good to have a pal who you can just relax with and chat away easily. I don’t think we’ve ever really fought about anything yet and I don’t think we will too. If you can spend a week or more with another family on holiday, you get to either love them or hate them. We’ve done quite a few holidays together and it’s good and uncomplicated. No fights yet!”

Hmmm… So do they tell each other when they feel something’s not for the friend? “I do tell her what I think. She’s extremely sensitive and tends to get affected over trivial stuff. I am more detached and try to show her my perspective. She tries sincerely to see it differently. She’s getting better at it, I would like to think,” laughs Namrata, “She’s learning.”

Says Sabina, “She needs to spend less time on her phone! She’s constantly on it! She needs to take some time to smell the roses and needs to take it easy. I keep telling her that. Her brain never stops working and she’s always on the go. She needs to switch off sometimes. And I keep nagging her about dressing up and make up. She doesn’t bother most times we go out and I end up feeling overdressed like a Christmas tree while she looks simple and elegant.”

How have they influenced each other? What has been their contribution in each other’s life? “She has a calming influence on me at a very root level,” analyses Namrata, “She’s also very balanced in her judgments. She’s as crazy about her kids and husband as I am about mine. So we’re on the same page, mostly. She’s the one who put me on Facebook. I had no clue about it. She and Xavier walked me through it. She’s extremely selfless.  She is as close as a sibling to me. Xavier was instrumental in creating the logo for our production house which was much appreciated. ”

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Sabina has a lot more to share, “We’ve known each other for over three years now, though it seems much longer.  Somehow, somewhere she’s grown to be the sister I didn’t have and is a very positive influence on me in many ways. She is a woman who isn’t threatened by or insecure about anyone. She isn’t mean or petty and she won’t drag other women down and this is the best thing about her.  It’s easy to be friends with someone like this because they radiate positive energy.  She’s very loyal to her family, her sister and her close circle of friends from her modelling days.  There isn’t much she won’t do for them.  She’ll give you advice that really is good for you. Sensible advice. Your problems are never gossip value for her.  And she won’t be afraid to tell you what is right. If you’re wrong, she will say it and not sugarcoat it because you are her friend. In this day and age where one’s situation is gossip fodder for others, I find women dragging other women down to feel better about themselves and there is much fake-ness, jealousy and competitiveness. Egos are always clashing. I find it very draining. Namrata is someone who lacks of all this and it’s a hugely positive influence on me.  Also, both Mahesh and she are so into being healthy and working out, we too ended up exercising regularly with a trainer at home thanks to them.  I’m definitely healthier and fitter thanks to her!”

Do spouses and families play a role in strengthening a friendship? If you go by what these two sexy women say, the answer is a big YES.  “Namrata’s life revolves around her husband and her children and I think one reason we are good friends is because they get along really well,” elucidates Sabina, “Mahesh is a gem. He’s truly a simple, sweet person and a good human being, exactly like Xavier and they both have an easy relationship.  Be it just sitting and chatting or playing table tennis on holiday or texting each other jokes on the phone, they have their own quiet friendship and gel well together. Zara and Gautam don’t study in the same school anymore but if you look at them together you won’t say it. They just catch up from where they left off the last time they met. Both the girls love Sitara like a little sister. We trust each other with our children. I don’t worry about my kids when they are with her and I think the same applies with her kids and me. She did leave about ten missed calls when we took Gautam on his first hike in Switzerland though! But I guess I would have done the same.”

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“Both Mahesh and Xavier are good friends and enjoy each other’s company,” says Namrata, “Our kids share a great bond too. For a while after they changed schools, Gautam and Sitara would ask if Zara and Yana are coming along on our holidays as well. It’s a pity we don’t holiday together as much as we used to because the schedules differ now.”

Where do they see themselves 20 years from now? “I see us holidaying in some resort with a good bottle of red wine and chatting into the night like two good old friends. Our kids and their spouses will hopefully be chilling with us with a couple of grandchildren running around the place! But much before that I’m waiting for Sitara to get a bit older so Xavier and I can take her and Mahesh on a long distance hiking trip.  That’s a few years from now hopefully!” says Sabina.

Namrata agrees with Sabina’s vision. “We both love travelling but she makes it happen more than I do. She is a lot more adventurous than I am. Right now, with Sitara being 4, it does limit us but with time, I see us doing a lot more together as a family.”

Namrata feels that friendships that are devoid of selfish agendas and egos will definitely transcend the test of time and endure forever. With Sabina and Xavier, Mahesh and she have found all those elements and qualities. And Sabina believes, “ To me friendship is a bond between people who click on many levels… It’s a relationship, which lacks jealousy, competitiveness and any agendas. It’s a space where you can be yourself and not be judged.  I’m blessed to be able to have a small handful of girlfriends like this and Namrata has grown to be the one I’m closest to.”

Knock wood!