A wistful wish

My colleague AG often used to threaten to leave home. One day he did
after bellowing like a mad bull. The dramatic intensity was heightened when his nephew clutched hold of his knees and begged him to stay back while a verbal battle was raging between him and his parents. AG stomped out anyways and put up with two of his rebel friends in an incompletely built house. For a month they would drink tea which tasted like pig's piss and which was actually meant for the labourers at the site. And the food that they had were available for Rs 2 in an aluminium thali(dish). Sounds rather adventurous and something I would never have done (especially for the last few reasons).

For myself, I have never threatened to leave home, timid as I was. The only time I was kicked out was at 11 at night. I was in the Vth std probably and I had got a really bad spanking. Now I don't remember for exactly what. The plot next to ours was empty and hence full of wild undergrowth which was quite scary. I hated going past it after daylight. Next to it lived a girl whom I could never manage to like but whom my parents praised to the skies. Reason: She used to get up at 5 in the morning. Now after being beaten up thoroughly, I was sent out to her house to ask at what time exactly she would get up and study.

Couldn't have thought of a worse punishment. It was a nightmare crossing the dark wild stretch. With a tear stained face I rang her bell. Her expression when she saw me at the door was rather comical. But who would blame her. Imagine seeing your neighbour calling in the middle of the night to see when you get up in the morning. After she confirmed it was 5 o'clock, I bid her a goodnight quite nonchalantly.

Sometimes I wish I had left home and not returned for a month. I would never have received half the beatings I did. Usually it was like this: my mom would come rushing at me with her wooden ladle and I would stand in the middle of the room waiting for it to come cracking on my back. Only when I was a little older, did I start running round and round our oval table with her in my wake.

That was exactly how it used to be. And all I would do be to mutter ala Eliza Doolittle style, "Just you wait!"


Oops I did it again!

Have you ever suffered from an ailment called the foot-in-the-mouth
disease? It's deadly. If you have, you would know how painful it is when you shoot off like a horse and want to gobble it up immediately after. Well, I happened to be interviewing a cricketer (M S Dhoni) who made some really chauvinistic comments. I gasped out loudly and said, "No wonder you don't have a girlfriend!" Luck was on my side. He was a nice fellow and didn't take me up on that.

Whenever I try to appear professional, one thing or the other
happens to upset this carefully set up image. Like my shoes had to give way during the photo shoot with Dhoni. I made a damsel-in-distress face (actually it came quite naturally) and said, "I guess I have to walk barefoot". Dhoni was my knight in shining armour. So there I was walking out of the hotel in a pair of rather "unfashionable" (as he teasingly put it. It was not exactly happening but at that point of time it was a choice between that or walking barefoot on a burning road through spit, shit and god knows what) bedroom slippers.

But I have to say this that I was very happy with my interview, for
once. The guy was a sweetheart. He's a small town guy and does not, till now, care for false pretensions. So when he said stuff like he would head for McDonalds right after the interview and enjoy a Maharaja Mac and milkshake I found it rather sweet. After all he's pretty famous and could have been on his snooty best like the rest. After all, cricketers are an overhyped breed. You would have believed that if you had been to the most insignificant of matches aka a benefit match and been jostled by fans banging on the changing room of the players while shouting corny lines, "Aapne vaada kiya thaa!"

A global conspiracy is on. To make me feel on top of the world. First of all, I got to see what the fashion week was all about, secondly I got my much-awaited interview with Dhoni and thirdly, I am doing a story on motorbike travellers. It's damn cool. I am strongly tempted to go biking with these guys to Ladakh, Leh and Rann of Kutch. But there are a few problems. The most important being I don't know them. As S pointed out helpfully, I would probably be raped and murdered.


When life meant just lazing around and being pampered

When I think of my earliest days in school, as in when I was a 4 or
5-year-old, I just can't remember any part if it that involved studying or even learning my alphabets. In fact, it's quite startling to think of school without studying. School till the age of 8 years meant the Indian School in Oman.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Indian School is the painful pinchy memories of Francis. A curly haired boy with an angelic expression - that was Francis. I guess only I knew or rather saw the devil in him. Sadly I used to sit beside him and be pinched till the end of school hours. One day it really got too much and I went up to the class teacher and said, "Teacher, teacher, Francis
keeps doing this to me" and showed her what he would do. She asked me, "He pinches you?" I had no idea about the word, so I did the p action for her once again so that she could make out my SMS (save my soul) cry. I learnt the word 'pinch' there for the first time in my life not knowing how it would dog me later as well (as a 12-year-old I was forever chased by a cousin who specialized in pinching. And I was terrified of him even though he was younger than me and was not much more than a puny kid).

Anyways, coming back to my early days, I think it was an extremely blissful period. There were lazy afternoons after school when I would plop in front of TV, hog on cheese balls, gulp down a can of coke and get my quota of Tom and Jerry. This was followed by my daily routine of racing out each evening with Nirupama and Nachiketa (they used to live on the ground floor of our place) in my little blue car towards a huge sandy field.

Later, mom, dad and me would go out for long drives along the sea. I can still recall the salty smell (sigh). A day out at the sea meant me sitting on the beach and staring mournfully at mom and dad, Nachiketa and Nirupama, aunty and uncle, all having a good time splashing about in the waters. While I used to burn with jealousy at the sight of mom hugging Nirupama and playing with. Somehow I always refused to wear my bikini briefs. As a result I could never take off my jeans. So I used to stay on the edges of the beach and satisfy myself with just wetting my ankles.

Oh what wouldn't I give to back to those good old days!

But wait there are bad memories too. For example, our cook who would molest me. Now when I remember, I cringe and wish I could whack the bastard.

Or that one time when my brother drove a pencil through my palm. All I could see was blood and the sugar that my mom sprinkled immediately on the wound.

An embarrassing memory that I can never forget: Every evening before
calling on my two friends, Nirupama and Nachiketa, I would try to pluck a huge flower from their porch. And every evening aunty would open the door at the precise moment that I would extend my hand towards the flower. It was a doomed expedition. Something I could never figure out at that point of time was how she would open the door right at the nick of time every day.

I have to stop now before I can't stop myself. But I have to say this that sometimes rambling on and on is so much of fun.


Musings of a mosquito-infested night

Yesterday night as I was being bombarded by a contingent of mosquitoes that invade my room every night, my mind wandered to certain incidents in my life, incidents when I found myself wishing I could wave a wand and undo everything or simply disappear from the face of the earth.

1. Like when I had convinced a friend that he was a nitwit. We were
talking about Egypt. He said it was in Africa. I gasped at his foolishness and said, "O my god! What's wrong with you?" Anxiously he
asked me what was wrong with that. I replied, "Well, it's in the Middle East. For god's sake, don't reveal your ignorance to others." Well, I took a peek at the Atlas and I was foolish enought to call him up and admit my ignorance. Till this day my friend doesn't lose a chance of rubbing it in.

2. Last year I had gone on a junket to Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. The PR person took us around to show the local attractions. There was a temple high up in the mountains called Jakhni Mata Ka Mandir. Now when I reached there, I saw these rows of big and small trishuls (tridents). I lifted one and sidled back to the vehicle with it. I was very happy about it. Don't ask me why. The adrenaline was flowing high. The PR guy told me,"If ever you want to get rid of it, call me. We have a temple at home where we will put it." I pooh poohed him and came back to Delhi only to see my flatmates shocked at the sight of it and warning me that it would bring bad luck. They made a deal. I had to keep it in my room. I was ok with that.

But as I relaxed in my room and read a book, I just couldn't take my
eyes away from it. It was thoroughly freaking out. By night, it was out on the balcony. And the next day I called up the PR guy and almost begged him to pick it up from my place. He obviously had a good laugh. Whenever he calls me, even now, he reminds me of it.

3. While I was studying in Delhi, I went back home for the holidays. I went to the library room (the exclusivity of visiting this room is mine, or so I thought) and checked to see if all was in place. It was not. My mother had very conscientiously dusted my books. Nothing was in its place. That's one thing I just cannot bear.

The absence of one thing was particularly conspicuous - a photo frame that displayed the smiling face of a crush of mine (I think of it now and cringe in embarrassment). This meant it was in the safe custody of my mother (In the past, when I was a kid, she would catch me sneaking Enid Blytons and later MBs into the bathroom, where I would spend hours with them. Those books were confiscated by her and gone forever beacuse it was eating into study time).

At night the same day, when I sat down for dinner, my mother looked at me with a suspiciously naughty glint in her eye and said, "Not a badlooking guy at all." I put on the most innocence face I could pull off. But I guess it wasn't good enough.

4. I think this was the worst. I had gone for an interview with tennis player Vijay Amritraj. He was talking about a soap that he had acted in and which ran on the lines of The Police Academy. "Have you watched Police Academy?" he asked. I said: "No. Actually I am not into action." In a matter-of-fact manner he told me: "Well, it happens to be a comedy."


This and that

In the 24 years of my life, I have met a host of chatterboxes. The cake goes to my photographer RS. And I have probably never felt so close to snapping at him than when we were headed to a golf resort in Gurgaon.

It was a simmering day and the road seemed to be an infinite stretch.
The media co-ordinator had told me to take the left turn from a green
board which said Jaipur Ahead. Now he didn't mention that there was a
green board at every block. So we took several left turns, only to
retrace our steps back to the highway every time. By this time I was in a frenzy, for the co-ordinator kept calling me and asking us to hurry up. "Sabeer Bhatia will leave soon," he warned me. On hearing this, RS said, "Let's turn back from here and go have some lassi and roti." I stopped barely short of asking him to shut up.

Finally we reached the turn we were supposed to take and came upon
Rampur village. Soon the Aravalli ranges came into view. RS had been
mumbling smart comments for quite some time when suddenly he pointed out the Aravallis to me and exclaimed, "Laavly, laavly!" (That's lovely for you). Then he looked at a village belle and said, "Dekho dekho nayi navelli dulhan" (look at the newly wed bride).

If you know RS, you realise that "Laavly" is a particular favourite of his. So be it a socialite or an artist, he falls back upon the L word during the shoots. Surprisingly these subjects are often flattered. They ask, "Ya?" And then they go on to pose with more vigour for the gregarious RS. And if the subject of his shoots happens to be a Punjabi, god save me. He shoots off in his local tongue and all I can make out are "tussis" and "chaddos" in his conversations.

Of all the assignments we have covered together, I can say without any hesitation that each one has been a revealing story of RS's life. By now I know what his wife cooks for him, which musical instrument he used to play in college, that Shahrukh Khan was his batchmate, how Shahrukh would dangle after their college professor's daughter...

Can somebody put a ban on The Bold and the Beautiful? Please. I am
tortured every Sunday by episodes of women simpering and crying with
every breath they take. E watches it with alarming alacrity. Yeah yeah I know S you will point fingers to the number of soaps I watch. Well, I don't any more:)

Hey, do you know what India should be called instead of the usual "The land of the tiger"? This is from Maneka Gandhi: "The land of the vanished tiger".



What must it feel like to own your own private jet? Or to marry someone who owns one.(E says if you can't have it, marry into it). I guess the right person to ask is Ritu Beri. The other day I went to cover the launch of Ritu Beri's latest collection. The farmhouse I presumed was hers. Actually it was hers (I learnt later). I couldn't take my eyes off this tomato red Mustang parked at the entrance. I am a sucker for any vintage item on four-wheels, so I really couldn't help going gaga about it for the next few hours.

Now that reminds me of hotelier Tarun Thakral. He owns 18 vintage cars! Everything from a Mustang, a Sedan, an Austin and a Buick to a
Chevrolet. Imagine my feelings as I saw row after row of vintage cars
standing to attention in his car shed. Shining clean and ready to roll out. The man even has a train house at his farmhouse. It is a luxury train compartment which the maharajas used to travel in. I have never thought of such a novel concept. Really, what money can't do!

But then that's destiny for you. E and I were talking about a friend
yesterday. The friend has always had a boyfriend with a small car.
Fixated as we are about cars, we couldn't help thinking about the four-wheeler aspect more than the guy. I told E, "Well, you know I would like somebody with a bigger car." She burst out laughing and pointed out the ultimate irony of our lives. No guys. No cars. Our only consolation: God has something really good in store for us.

And look at this way - if I can be away from home for three years living with friends, chat with a murderer in a jail, rub shoulders with a Chhota Shakeel convict in the train, hobnob with Pocketbaba (a scary fakir I met in a dargah), be forced to eat a concoction made of pearls by a descendant of Hakim Ajmal Khan, meet Shahrukh Khan, why not believe that destiny can take me anywhere.


Dumb and dumber

Are models instructed to be dumb, is it a cult thing with them or more importantly is it genetic?

The other day when I went for a fashion show, I saw this really hunky model. On the ramp he was a stud, but off it, he was a zilch. P and I went up to him with some questions. The first thing he said was, "Well, guys hardly have any choice when it comes to clothes. You girls have lots of choice and you would look sexy in anything." He kept looking at us for a reaction. Sadly it was lost on both of us. I looked at P. She was very studiously penning down stuff and
I was too distracted by his foolishness. His name? Aditya Bal.

The girls however tend to use their cerebrum while talking. At least
this pretty model called Aanchal Kumar did. I think I was the first one to speak to her. How would it explain otherwise, why she was so
genuinely sweet to me. A study in contrast - VJ Anousha. She was all
hoity toity. I did my part in ruffling her feathers. I happened to call her Anoushka.

What an easy life these models have - all they have to do is take time to don tonnes of make-up and display wafer thin bodies in sexy clothes. But some are really ugly. It's a sin that they are up there. One particular guy caught my eye with his distinctly neolithic looks.

"Vinod contacts several music directors and asks for their ideas for
scores and songs. Anu Malik, the composer he worked with on Kareeb, gets very emotional when he hears that Vinod is shopping around. He has a two-hour conversation with Vinod one Sunday morning in which he declares he is ready to work for free. He weeps and wails; he will not ask for a single paisa. The money is nothing compared to their friendship, he declares through his sobs. Vinod hears a crunching sound on the other end of the line. 'What's that? asks Vinod. 'I'm eating a radish,' answers the composer. 'Just a minute, I'll finish it.' Vinod hears him furiously crunching away; then he comes back to the phone, ready to weep afresh." That's an extract from Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found. He worked on the script of Mission Kahsmir with Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

It's quite a good read - he talks about Amitabh Bachchan to Shahrukh Khan to Mahesh Bhatt to cops to Bal Thackeray to bar dancers.

Between, S, E and I went out for dinner. It was S's birthday treat. At Flavours. On the way, we witnessed hormones running amok. And all we were doing were trying to hail an auto.

The Bangkok Thai Cafe adjacent to Flavours needs some serious image change. As in, people might die queueing up outside Flavours, but they wouldn't touch the Cafe with a barge pole. I told S that I should probably set shop there with my paan shop - Paandora's Box. Now that goes back a long time. To when S and me were in an auto one hot summer's day last year. I had just returned from a junket to Palampur and McCleodganj and was hell-bent upon opening a restaurant in McCleodganj. Finally, I had to scale down to Pandara Road. But where there's a will there's a way, right?;)


Of good friends, mirrors and long waits

Sometimes I do envy Carrie Bradshaw. The fact that she is a columnist is so cool. At least there's no one sitting on her head to approve of anything she writes or wants to write.

As if my work isn't enough, to add to my woes, my folks have sent me a picture of a guy. My father describes him as a "brilliant boy, tall and handsome" (E's right, my father almost seems like this guy's PR person). Now the previous two attributes might be true. On the last front, though I beg to differ. He's ok.

Am so scared. This is so not what I have ever thought of. E says a colleague of hers met more than 20 guys, before she liked one. Shit. What have I let myself in for? E in all her wisdom says I should look at it as a date. I can't even call it a blind date, after all am going into it with my eyes open.

If you have a good friend you don't need a mirror. So said my colleague NH today. Well, what immediately flashed into mind was the seven mirrors in our small apartment here. And the fact that before getting out of the house (it takes at least one hour), it's a compulsion to pose before every mirror. Back home in Calcutta, my dad finds it amusing. Each time we had to attend a wedding or a party, the spoken rule for me was to start preparing two hours ahead. Or there would be mayhem. It became a habit for my parents and brother to sit in the car and curse me.


Hunky dudes and disenchantment

Met Milind Soman at this fashion show yesterday. I have to say at the risk of sounding like a callow teenager that I was absolutely in love with him. But that was before I saw him making a fool of himself. While my eyes were only on Soman, he had eyes trained on the ramp for every other woman.

Moreover the dude was oh-so-drunk. Kept hugging Boman Irani and dancing for the sake of the TV cameras.

To my astonishment Aman Varma was there. The 'sting'ed guy had to rake up the controversy thanking the audience for their 'support'??? Now what was that. Am as clueless. I actually wanted to go upto him and identify myself as Ruchi from dash newspaper. And a friend, a fellow journo wanted to do the same only with the name of her newspaper. I wish we had the time to do it. His reaction would
have been worth watching.

The clincher of the evening was something I overheard. A girl asking this short guy, clearly a gay, "Found any cute guys yet?" Felt a weird connection with him. After all, we share a common cause;)

Have to go back to my story. Gosh it's a 1000-word one and my deadline's tom. God save me!


Barbeques and burning boots

Chatted for a long time with my colleagues. They have such love stories.

SB would throw barbeque lunches to 'trap' her hubby. "I must have thrown about a 30 barbeques," she laughs. And NH used hang out with her hubby and his bachelor friends. She used to pile on with them on a bike. Once her boots got burnt. She blamed them for everything, but her feet was on the silencer.

Now some serious observations:

1. When I say I am obsessed with the idea of a car, it is inevitable
that when I am on the way to office, I end up looking wishfully at the huge cars drawn up next to my obsequious auto. Those behind the wheel are a study in their own. There are those who slouch and grip the wheel with such seeming intensity that it feels the world would come to an end just any minute. The others are a picture of ease. Life seems like a smooth ride for them, with nowhere to rush to or no one waiting to bark at them in office (presuming they work at all). The ones which make me feel ew are the ones who can't keep their hands on the wheel... I mean they are more engaged in picking their teeth or shoving their fingers up their noses.

2. Never say the truth. Lie unerringly with a fake smile pasted on your face. Otherwise you end up hearing how you are a prototype of the Indian media who don't have any knowledge whatsoever. This is a fallout from my an interview with an author. The first question I was asked,"So how did you find the book?"

I hemmed and hawed and finally let it out. "There is so much of sex that I couldn't get past it." It didn't curry favour with him obviously. And when I pointed out the reviews that had not been particularly favourable, the donkey had the gall to say, "They are just like you. They have not read 500 books of the Indian tradition and make a hash of everything."

3. "You are such a vella!" That's E for you. What had I done to hear
such a thing? Well, I painstakingly sat all evening, missed out on my
quota of soaps, only to set all the channels in a certain order. I did that for more than an hour at a stretch, at the end of which my eyes felt like they would pop out any second. Think about it E, next time you switch on the TV and don't have to scramble for Star Movies!


Tuscany Calling

Last weekend I chanced upon a movie where a woman lands in Tuscany
and buys an old ancestral villa. I fell in love with the place. While earlier I ranted about Cyprus, now I can't stop talking about
Tuscany. Yesterday I read this book which also happened to be based in Tuscany. Isn't this fate pointing out that I am somehow meant to be there? (Sigh) Instead of all that fate has ordained for me:) (some hunky Leonardo Fortinari owning dozens of vineyards) , I am waiting for an interview with an author.

That brings me back to reality. Thump.

Have to do some research before I go for the interview. Sex, sex, sex... that is all there is to Tejpal's The Alchemy of Desire. It has everything from homosexuality to heterosexuality to threesomes to what not. Here is what a reviewer says about the book : "The title at first sounds overweeningly pretentious. Till, about halfway through the book, you realise it describes exactly what the book is about." And this is what I thought after I was over with it. "A treatise on the subject: the Indian Penile Code" - the reviewer couldn't have echoed my thoughts better.

The only part that I identified with in the book is the description of the hill estate of Jeolikote. Apparently the author owns the place. They also say he's bought it with the money that he wasn't paying his people at Tehelka.

Wonder what I will say when he asks me, "So how did you like the book?" I will probably have to lie through my teeth or put on a straight face and ask him why he's so obsessed with sex. The worst part is that when I try to lie, a slow grin creeps in and it is so so obvious.

Damn, I just got a call from E. I forgot to switch off the pump. This is the nth time that it has happened between our earlier house and this one. Really I think I will stop switching it on. S and E are surely cursing me. Ok promise, it won't happen again guys :)

A friend from college messaged me that he's packing for a trekking trip to Sandakphu. And just a month back, he had gone trekking to some Go lala place in Sikkim. Some guys just have it all. The only place I ever trek to, I realise, is the nearest shopping mall.

My parents are on their eternal search for the guy of my dreams, or
should I say theirs. Every time they meet the parents of some guy (he is usually someone in Switzerland or Manchester), I get a call. "Mamma, this guy's really nice. He's tall, handsome and goodlooking. Has fantastic prospects. Your horoscopes match perfectly."

The last time they said that they got hold of this chubby
cheeked boy from Chicago. An asshole who advised me that I shouldn't be using the word 'bitch'. "Take it from someone who's lived two long years in America, you can't hold your head high in American society if you say b****," he said.

Sometimes I just can't believe that I will have to go through an
arranged marriage. Really, when did I reach the grand old age of 24, when all my parents can think of is getting me married? Before all the eligible bachelors vanish from the horizon.


Finally I join the millions out there

My inspirations: motheater, jay and em.

I really can't believe I have given in to blogging. S says I probably shouldn't be writing about work. But my life oscillates mainly between work and home. Notice the word 'mainly'. That's a blatant attempt at trying to salvage my reputation.

Let me introduce myself. Am a single female living in a big bag city with my flatmates S and E. I report on lifestyle for a newspaper daily. Everyday I pray fervently for a car. They say if you pray really hard so that the prayer becomes you, your wish has to come true (that's what my prof once said). Well, it hasn't for me.

Why I call Delhi a big bad city?

Big - have lived most of my life in Cal. So coming from there, you would forgive me for thinking so.

Bad -
a. the autowallas. Nothing can beat their natural tendency to thug you. Like yesterday this autowalla quoted Rs 30 for a five-minute drive which hardly takes Rs 10. After we had settled down at Rs 15 and I had plonked myself in the auto, he had the gall to ask for Rs 20. "Itna to banta hi hai madam," he said in rather injured tones. Me: "Ok, lets drive to the police chowki." Call it my magic touch or crappy mood. It shut him up properly.

b. our landlords. The last one treated us like shitballs when we were moving out. And the present one is a dodo. He just doesn't have any sense! Also the way these people rent out their houses is something I just can't stomach. In our new house, it's a discovery every morning - fan refusing to work, shower refusing to spew water, window refusing to close and walls peeling off (the last is ew... it
looks diseased).

Called up S a dozen times trying to find out how to activate my blog. First she was eating, then she was taking a bath. Well, serves you right S for urging me to start a blog;) Now she's opening it for me. I guess SB (it's nt u S) was right. I am technologically challenged.