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Pataudi declined to comment too much on his daughter's new responsibility but hinted that she has the right personality for it. "I chose Saba because she has the time and the inclination to take it up. She is a soft and stable person. These qualities will help her. The others are too busy. Right now, her name has only been proposed as the naib mutawalli. It's a religious and administrative role, so she will have to see how it goes."
It is understandable why Pataudi perceives Saba as the better suited of his three children for the role of the head of a Nawab family. All the three Pataudis grew up imbibing from their grandmother the teachings of the Koran, the importance of tehzeeb and lihaaz, the value of the purdah and other Islamic traditions. But Saif and Soha -- also an actress -- chose glamorous Bollywood careers while Saba adopted a quieter and more pious existence.
"I am more conventional," she says comparing herself to her siblings, but adds, "I am also more flexible and adaptable than Saif and Soha, who are more strong-willed. My nature being what it is, I have adopted the traditional teachings in my own life."
Saba's taste for the fine fabrics and intricately embroidered clothes of the past, ancient jewellery and heirlooms reflect this to a large extent. She's partial to salwar-kameezes; she wears jeans or trousers on visits abroad but "doesn't dress to reveal". She also admits to "pinching all of [her] mother's jewels and saris" on occasional visits to their ancestral homes in Bhopal or Pataudi. "Maybe I just connect with the older era more than the generation of today. I always appreciated my grandmother's beautiful outfits, the exquisite jewellery and artifacts in our homes. That karigari cannot be replicated today."
Even if her beliefs are in the conservative mould, Saba does see herself as a confluence of both old and new ideas. "My parents capsuled within themselves both the modern and traditional world and they passed on the synthesis to all of us," she points out. She enjoys watching films (naturally, all her mother's, brother's and sister's top the list) and going out with friends but "doesn't smoke or drink".
The Pataudis are a close-knit bunch and family is of utmost importance to Saba. "We all give each other space and do not interfere in each others' lives," says Saba, who has grown to be friends with Kareena [Images], Saif's girlfriend for over a year now. "I find her highly spirited yet thoughtful," she says of Kareena. "I am also very fond of my niece Sarah and nephew Ibrahim [Saif's kids from his earlier marriage to actress Amrita Singh]."
Her career as jewellery designer was a natural extension of Saba's aesthetic sense, developed while being raised in an environment surrounded by so much beauty. After finishing her education at the British School in New Delhi [Images], Saba completed a course in advertising from the Delhi College of Art and headed to the Gemological Institute of America in 1997. "I never thought I was a career girl but after the course, I was talented enough to make a mark in this profession," says Saba.
As for following her brother and sister into films, that was never an option for Saba, who calls herself "too shy to go up there on the screen". But she doesn't rule out designing jewellery for films if given an opportunity.
Saba's jewellery line is simply called Saba and is an eclectic mix of precious and semi-precious stones. Once again, the underlying theme in most of her designs is the juxtaposition of the modern and classic. "I design for today's generation so my designs have a modern feel but they also have a classical element." Her next big project is designing a Diwali collection, which will be showcased at exclusive outlets if it all materiliases as planned, but nothing has been finalised.
In the long term, of course, Saba harbours dreams of finding Mr Right. "I have never been in a serious relationship and I will get married only when I find the right guy. I won't go into marriage half-heartedly." Whoever he is, he will have to share Saba's devotion to her faith. "My personality is such that I will connect best with someone who shares my beliefs," says Saba, who religiously observes the Roza during Ramzan every year. "I enjoy being a Muslim and I feel spiritually at home in Islam."
The Pataudi estates
The Pataudi family's property, worth a total of Rs 250 crore, includes several mosques, palaces, shrines and havelis. Among them, the Jama Masjid and the tomb of Dost Muhammed (both Bhopal landmarks), Masjid Sajjida Sultan, Raisen Ki Dargah in Raisen, Madhya Pradesh [Images] and the palatial family haveli in Pataudi.
What Saba would design
For mother Sharmila: A stylish classical piece with rubies and emeralds.
For sister Soha: Maybe something with aquamarines and diamonds.
For herself: A pair of long earrings with aquamarine drops or a chand bali.
In the picture: Saba's creation for Kareena. Photograph: People magazine
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