Please vote for me

On a hot Saturday afternoon there I was at the gate of the Press Club trying to garner votes for a candidate -- my colleague's dad. Whew it was weird. Going up to people, smiling coquettishly and saying prettily, "Do vote for Mr X". Add to it the fact that for the first time in the 24 years of my life I was campaigning. These are the few things I learnt:

Steer clear of those with a purposeful stride. They know whom to vote for. They brush you away like flies.

Make a beeline for the grandaddies. They grin toothlessly and even mark out the candidate you point out to them in the pamphlet. God bless them.

Never call a woman journalist an aunty (Actually that's the last thing any woman wants to be called for sure). A girl campaigning for her father happened to address this lady as 'Aunty'. Poor girl was snubbed badly.
It's good to learn from other's mistakes.

Avoid other candidates. Especially if they happen to be former colleagues. This photographer, an ex colleague of mine came up and asked me to campaign for him too. Ahem it was a bit of a sticky situation. Unless of course you say sunnily, "Aw but I am already booked."

At the end of it, we badly needed nourishment. Entered the dining area. Was greeted by a host of old faces, some leery, some too busy to look up from their plates and some busy picking their teeth(shudder)

We ended up driving further up the road to the Women's Press Corps
and enjoying a lunch of appams and coconut chicken. And not to mention the fact that it seemed a mini office thing there with most of our colleagues scattered here and there. Everywhere.

Sometimes the world is too small.


Planet Bollywood beckons

My entrepreneurial instincts are at their best. Having just covered the pre launch event of Planet Hollywood restaurant, I whispered into fellow journalist eM's ears that a Planet Bollywood would go great guns instead of the former. I put my blind trust in the star crazed millions out there.

And as I watched visuals of Arnie serving stuff to guests at Planet Hollywood, I could actually imagine Shahrukh Khan and Fardeen Khan carrying plates around. Just as they have dishes that are favoured by the likes of Demi Moore and Sly Stallone, we could have dishes named after the stars, e.g. 'Shahi Shahrukh murg', 'Lolo's lobster' or 'Fardeen Falooda'. What fun! Now only for a financer.


Up and down, up and down we went down the road to hell...

But then the road led to paradise. I was on my way to interview a famous photographer (lets call him FP) at his farmhouse. Sometimes I wonder when you are on the way to wallowing in the luxury of your plush farmhouse, how can you bear the brunt of the roads, if I would be pardoned for calling them roads. In fact the roads seem incident to the potholes. The farmhouses I passed on the way made me yearn for one. A small bungalow in the middle of mustard fields, surrounded by rows of ramrod straight eucalytpuses and silver oaks. And me relaxing on the porch with a tall glass of iced blue lagoon and a nice book (for sound effect, the gentle swish swish of the leaves) Hmmm...

The infamous RS had to disturb my reverie. He filled me in with
details about FP, how he grew up with FP's son, how FP has married
thrice...la la la. By the time he was done with his vivid descriptions, I had nodded off.

FP's house was quite out of the common. It looked a Rajasthani
haveli with beautiful jaali work and contemporary tile work as well. I was mesmerised by the brilliant aqua coloured tiles that formed a part of the steps to the house. Beat this, there was a huge lime and mortar pestle as well, where the lime was being ground by a huge chakki (wheel). Plus FP is a big garden freak. His huge huge garden boasted trees from Kashmir, Singapore, Bali and San Francisco and lotus ponds (from where snakes crawl out and sun themselves during the monsoons on the neaby rocks... shudder). There was a bird house that housed pigeons, colourful crested fowls, rabbits and ducks and a swimming pool too. Given all this, I was completely bowled over.

The best part was the view from the pavilion of the house. You could see for miles around and see the Aravalli ranges and greenery all around. Beautiful blossoms... laburnum, gulmohar, bougainvillea, roses, hibiscus. Oh it all seemed so surreal.

(Whisper) What befuddled me was FP and his wife. He is quite old and she is as young and good looking. Ok I am straying into RS's territory now. He would love to tell you how colourful FP is.

Now I have a new passion. A farmhouse.


Neighbour neighbour where art thou

Neighbours are a risque affair altogether. My colleague SB was regaling us at lunch with stories of her fat neighbour who does nothing but guzzle pizzas all day long. SB has christened her Fatty, so let me use this pet name. The other day Fatty got Mickey (that's SB's other neighbour) into trouble. It's a long story, but to cut it short the aftereffects of a spat between the two turned out thus: Mickey landed behind bars because Fatty filed an attempt to murder case against her with the cops. Actually to frighten Fatty, the former had touched her with her car, because she was refusing to budge from her path. That was it. Fatty lay prostrate on the ground and kept yelling about being murdered.

Back home, our neighbours were sort of ok. Except one of them. This fat guy with a weird voice next door, Rahul, was incredibly spoilt and kept fighting with his parents and sis. He had company in the form of their spitz dog Toffee who would not stop yapping till Rahul would. Now Toffee was not exactly an amiable creature, quite ill-tempered actually. And I would take full advantage. On afternoons when I would feel extremely bored and perverse, I would stand at my window (which overlooks onto a landing of our neighbour's place and where Toffee would be dozing off) and wake him up with 'Tch tch' sounds. It was a pleasure making faces at him. He would go berserk. Often Rahul's dad would step out to see what was wrong. But he never found out the reason. I was good at ducking down (this was an acquired habit. I was used to training my binoculars into our hot Malayasian neighbour's house and duck down whenever he happened to look up. Well he was not exactly Malaysian but an Indian who stayed there. He had fab abs).

I guess I was a painful neighbour. When I was 18 and learning to drive our bulky ambassador, I once drove it onto Rahul's garden. His mom was incredibly fond of their green patches, for she would spend hours on getting the hedges pruned at exactly the same level. So as I ploughed in to her manicured hedges one winter morning, she almost suffered a heart attack. She was standing at the verandah sunning herself with Toffee at her heels when I entered the scene with my four-wheeler. At that point my legs were trembling, but now as I recall her gripping the railings of her balcony, so much so that it seemed she would leap from it, it's hilarious.

What goes around, comes back. So it's payback time, I guess. Now we have this garrulous old Punjabi woman staying opposite us. Every time I open the door for our maid Leelavati, she miraculously pops out (I am convinced that she is obsessed with us) and starts insisting that the terrace door is unlocked. So when for the nth time, she bugged me about there being no lock hanging there, I ran up in front of her and looked very grimly at her in the eye and said, "Well it is locked." She must have been quite disappointed.

The first time I met her and had a thorough Q&A session with her
(exclusivity to the question part was hers), she learnt that the three of us are from Calcutta. So she insisted that when we go back home, we get her back Chikan sarees. I was convinced then that she was a bit touched in her upper works. Even when I informed her that Lucknow is famous for than Chikan work and not Cal, she just ignored me.

This is not all. Once S and me had to suffer a half-an-hour session with her when we needed some number. Since I was asking her stuff in Hindi, she suddenly looked at S and said, "Can't she speak?" Poor S had to explain to her in broken Hindi why she wasn't taking an active part in the conversation.

And she is forever curious about what we do and what we eat and where we are. Not to say this that she cribs about us to Leelavati whenever she can get her alone. That we don't chat with her, that she misses her old neighbours... I guess by the weird timings we keep, she only stops short of saying that we are sluts;)


They call it paranoia

I am suffering from an extreme case of paranoia since the past two days. Today morning for example, I locked my bedroom door from inside, opened my balcony door which connects me to E's room and got out from there. Then I devoted minute attention to little details in the house, like the buckets and toiletry stuff in the bathroom (I shifted them to one our bedrooms), a carton of books (to my room), a carton of cassettes (to E's room), the fridge door and the kitchen door. The latter had a huge padlock hanging on it thanks to me. Now it did look look funny. But look at my other option: Returning home after a weary day of work to see dirty feet marks all over the white kitchen tiles.

No I have not acquired a syndrome over the weekend. We have a few labour hands at our place repairing a leak in one of the loos. It's a mess out there. One Sunday at home, locked inside my room till evening, and I was indescribably worked up. Give them an inch and they would take a yard. One of them happened to ask me, "So you do not cook at home?" I said no and smiled gently. This was obviously taken to be a sign of cow-like gentility. So the next query was, "Your dad's not home?" It called for a snub. And with all the practise I have had in the three years of living away from home, I couldn't have performed better.

The fellows just wouldn't get over with their work. Every 5 minutes
there would be a tap on my door. "We need cold water", "We are going out for lunch", "We need a rag", "We need the gas for burning a rod"... Till I felt like shouting out: "Well, I need you people to get out!" I had it when I caught one of the labourers washing his dirty face and hands in one of our clean buckets. I screamed out : "What the heck are you doing?" The others found it pretty amusing. They laughed at me in a condescending manner which spoke volumes: "She's such a sissy".

Today morning one of them arrived and since S was fast asleep I made
sure the guy wouldn't knock on her door with this and that. So I left a bottle of cold water which obviously wasn't so by the time he arrived. The fool asked me for a bottle of water. I was on the verge of leaving for office. I said, "I left one for you" He smiled benignly: "I splashed it onto the cement". I said coldly, "Very good. Now you can start by bringing your own supply of water." That sure wiped the grin off his face.

And so I have arrived at a conclusion: Some are born rude, some achieve rudeness, and some have rudeness thrust upon 'em. I belong to the last species.


Now honey you aint no spring chicken

Turning 25 can be really stressful. Ask me. My parents are gung-ho about getting me 'settled in life' with a 'nice brilliant' boy (Read: A fat spectacled Bong guy. Ok so maybe I am exaggerating a bit). So I have had a tiff with my pa over the phone. That was two days ago. He went on and on like a stuck record about a particular guy he has in mind, till I wanted to throw up. I cut him short. He's not called me up since. I just can't get my folks to understand my idea of a guy.

I guess I am waiting for my prince charming. But it not's gonna happen, is it? On second thoughts, I should pray for a knight in shining armour. At least he could rescue this poor damsel in distress.

Arranged marriages, it seems, are tough ventures. After all, how many
times do you tell the prospective grooms about yourself? At least I am tired of it. After talking to the first guy my parents were keen on andwho turned out to be a slimeball, I have had to communicate on mail with another guy on e-mail, cause he stays in London. And I have had to go through the rigours of writing about myself again. At one point I felt like sending him a link to my blog. But sanity prevailed and I didn't. Enough about Bong well-to-do guys and matchmaker parents. I guess I sound obsessive now.

Yesterday I happened to bump into my alcoholic mate eM at a vodka
launch. With her and me around, goof ups are just waiting to happen.
Last time she didn't want to get out of the ladies' room. Yesterday was my turn. It went something like this. We had a very teenybopperish drink in the form of a classic Finlandia with cranberry juice. And I was eager to try a mango vodka. eM promised me we would get the drink from the vice president of the company itself. Let me call him Wiggy (he had quite an atrocious wig on) After some time, our conversation with him went like this.

eM: Now Mango Vodka is a very unique flavoured drink. Haven't heard of it before.
Wiggy: It is our USP.
eM: I was wondering whether we could smell it?
Me (Vigorous nods)
Wiggy beckoning the waiter: Get them a bottle of mango vodka. They want to smell it.

That's as good as we got!

Next the PR woman came up and asked us whether we had a taste of
Finlandia. We looked at her and said we were curious about the mango
flavoured one. She offered to get it for us and looked askance. Did we want it? I smiled and said, "Why not?" The woman came back with a
thousand apologies. I wished myself invisible. Next, they offered us
watches as 'small tokens' from Finlandia. I tried to put on my
wide-eyed-innocent-act and was at my coyest best while accepting the
watch 'unwillingly' when I noticed the other PR girl trying to warn me about something. I found out soon. There was a step ahead. Of course I missed it.

The evening was hellish. I had to put myself through an hour's torture of shrill Punjabi Pop. The singer was called Mehsophuria (apparently his father is from a Punjabi village called Mehsopur). He sang some awful number called Ranjha Jogi. I thought I would go into convulsions. But the balle balle crowd was at its enthusiastic best. Including dancing to Mehsophuria and buying his CDs to get them autographed. I am sure had Hitler ever come across Mehso, he would have snapped him up. Nothing better than Mehso performances for his gas chambers.

To my chagrin, I had to talk to him for a few minutes, within which span I just couldn't take my eyes off his flashing gold teeth. There were two in the front part.

The worst part is yet to come. I got lectured by a guy who was compering the show. I had asked him to hasten up the autograph session. I was getting late. Smartass told me, "I am also into journalism. I know how it is. You have to wait. After all, we are not the celebrities." That was it.

I was at my snooty best as I asked him, "So which organisation do you
work for?" He looked at me and said, "I am doing my bachelors in
journalism." Did he say bachelors???!!!! I stared at him in disbelief, at his cocky sureness. Dirty liar. Next when he tried to tell me that he takes autographs of the people he meets, I looked at him in utter disgust and said, "Another rule. Journalists DO NOT take autographs." Sometimes, a single action of yours can make you delirious with happiness. I loved myself at that moment. And I walked out a happy woman.


They so need a good spanking

There are so many kinds of people you meet at a film press conference. Just so many weirdos.

They are varied as the number of insignificant films releasing in Bollywood each week (I don't know why I thought of this, just that I
am thinking only in filmi terms).

The electronic media. They are a leechy lot. They just refuse to budge. No, they want their bytes first and have to keep tagging on till eternity. (If any of you are reading this, you have to stomach the truth. And no, please don't beat me up) The best instance from this type is RL, a reporter with an English TV channel. You should see her metamorphosing into an amazon in the matter of a few minutes.

With the print media it's a gimme more... funda. There are those who might have to write just a snippet on the subject while you might be interviewing the same person for a cover story. But they frankly couldn't care less. Like today I had gone for an interview with Pakistani actress Meera, a lengthy profile. A particular print guy I noticed was everywhere. At the end, when I was gearing up for my exclusive, or so it was supposed to be, I asked him, "Are waiting for an interview with Meera?" He replied in what he thought was an ultra cool gesture, "Waiting is my work. Intezaar hi to mera kaam hai." Donkey, I thought.

So when I finally had my time with Meera, I was not alone.

Besides ardent admirers (translation: loosers) hanging around for a look of even somebody like Meera, there are the autograph seekers. A surd had to get umpteen photographs of Meera autographed in between the interview by the lady herself. I glared at him. He was a benevolent fellow though. All he did was smile back with a surprisingly angelic look on his face.

Don't forget the subjects - actors and actresses. They are amusing
studies in themselves. As I met each of these stars my thoughts ran
along these lines:

Kamaal Khan seemed to have turned overnight into a gigolo with carefully kajalled eyes, Arjun Rampal was a hoity toity fellow with more airs than suits his persona, Zayed Khan was a carefully charming stud, hip and happening, a cool cat, even flirtatious at times. I even witnessed Amisha Patel shake her fingers at a photographer and warn him in freezing tones, "Kheench ke do thappar lagaungi, samjhe?" (I will give you two tight slaps). I myself was frozen where I stood till sanity got the better of me and I ran far away from where she was. All the poor photographer had done to invite such a vitriolic tongue was to take a few shots of her.

But Meera by herself was undoubtedly quite an entertaining individual. Actually naive would be the word to describe her. She had none of the diplomatic nonsense of our Bollywood actresses. When asked about kissing and nudity, she caught hold of a girl's hand and kissed it saying, "Now is there anything wrong with doing that? Tell me what is wrong?"

I couldn't shake off the feeling that she must have felt awfully trussed up, something close to a fancifully decorated turkey. At the peak of a Delhi summer, she had the temerity to dress in a black gown with a plunging neckline and a black velvet cape with a fur trimming! Not to say the pains she took to pose for the shutterbugs plus changing locales for their benefit. To top it all, the photographers were at their lewd best. I heard one saying, "These photos are gonna adorn my bathroom wall."


Embarrassments and extravagance

This has happened now twice in a row. It is embarrassing. Actually, come to think of it, I think strange situations dog me.

The other day I was trying to get in touch with cricket commentator
Charu Sharma on his mobile. It was unreachable. So the next day I tried my luck. And I was bamboozled. A female voice answered the call. In a very professional voice I asked for Charu. What she said nearly made me fall off my chair. "Is this you A?"

It was my colleague who has taken a transfer to Bangalore. And all the time she was biting her nails, thinking the dragon was trying to call her. "Trust you to do such a thing," she said.

Next day. Very confidently I pressed the entry for Mandira on my cell phone. On the first ring, she took the call, "Hi, ya I have your number saved A. So I knew it was you." My reaction: "Thank god (because she does not answer calls usually from unknown nos.) My photographer is trying to get in touch with you for the shoot." Mandira: "What???" There again, I had done it. I had called Mandira Nayyar from The Hindu instead of actor-commentator Mandira Bedi. But some good came out of it after all. She invited me for an event at the Women Press Corps next Saturday.

The bibliophile in me is getting the better of the self, which is trying to scrounge around and make some savings. In a matter of a few days, I have eight books on my rack. The first four books were from a bookstore sale. I had gone with the intention of raiding the whole shop. The stars were not in my favour. The discounts were as measly as 15-20%. So I spent quite some amount at a go. I have been casting admiring looks at them since.

Well, I was feeling oh-so-smug with my exploits. Till I was dealt a cruel blow. S walked in the other night with a beaming face and six new Penguin books for a mere Rs 200.

Yesterday I happened to wander into the bookshop at Janpath. Of course I came out laden with four books. This time I bought classics. The House of Seven Gables, Madame Bovary, She and Three Men in a Boat (The last one saw a delighted expression on E's face).

A solemn promise. No more straying into bookshops. It's time to head for The Shoe Garage.


Winey diney affair

Sitting with seven glasses of wine on your table, waiting to be smelled, swirled and tasted, is a swell feeling. Especially when they are as nice as the Zinfandel Rose or the Kadarka and of course the fact that are worth thousands. The Rose turned out to be quite a hit with the ladies at the wine do. It had a different feel to it - a fresh strawberry aroma. There was a dark side to it too: I couldn't guzzle them down, much as I wanted to, for fear of a repeat of the last time I got drunk on six glasses of red wine.

Really, wine tasting is as exotic as it sounds. And it turns out to be extra delightful if it is followed by a dinner of cold cuts and cheese (the Indian dishes were still under covers, beats me why). My fellow journo, eM and I stacked our dishes with all kinds of cheese right from the rancid Gouda to a soft yummy variety. And guess what, the bar had nothing to offer apart from wines! It was kinda funny. eM wanted rum and coke. At the end she settled down for a sparkly white wine.

I have to say this. It's part of my social work. Never invite Pooja Bedi to compere any show. Unless you want to grit your teeth, bear those brilliant flashes of teeth and go the eM way: "Can I slap her?"

An Audi parked at the entrance of Mayfair Rooms was too much to resist. The interior was so lush and rich, I could almost feel
the snugness of those huge leather seats. No, the car was not open for visitors to peek in. This conclusion was arrived at after several minutes of squinting in through the dark glass. The incident
reminded the dragon (it slipped out while I was in a meeting with him)of Dilip Cherian who was doing the same (peeking in through a car window)when C K Birla stepped out and said, "Now stop it Dilip!"