Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. I say that chivalry can never be a thing of the past.

Chivalry is not exactly the Indian male's forte. It is the Italian's.

In a matter of yesterday and today I came to the conclusion. Yesterday night I was attending the fashion show of Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre where at a certain point of time, a journo from another paper, S, and I were interviewing the CEO of Ferre. The latter pretended to be as dumb as possible with the result that we had none of our answers. As we were walking out of the hotel not very happy with life in general, an Italian guy held the door open for us and we sailed out. We turned back to smile and thank him. He was neither the doorkeeper nor was he trying to enter at the same time as we were getting out.

Today I was atttending a book launch. Now I K Gujral was there as the guest of honour. We walked out of the event at the same time and were waiting for our respective cars. I noticed an old lady who was kind of disabled and was trying to get in just after Gujral walked out. His PA, or whoever he was, held the door carefully open for Gujral but the next moment swung the door back on the lady. Of course she managed to open the door and walk in but there was nobody to help her. Not even the guard near the entrance who was standing watching people get in and out.

So if you want chivalry you know where to look.

On a different note, for the first time in my life, I watched a skywalk. Esprit launched in Delhi and for their fashion show, the models waltzed down the walls of the Shangri-la hotel. I revealed my awe and ignorance at the beginning by asking how they would do that. A photographer let me know that there have been shows like this in Bombay. And even though these models had ropes tied onto their waists and shoes that clung to the surface of the walls, I thought they were brave. Imagine walking down a five-star hotel and yet managing to look graceful!

Apparently colleague P was outside the hotel in the car and about to enter when she saw a person walking down the hotel wall. Her eyes popped out. "Initially I was trying to figure out whether I was seeing right (she was san lenses but wearing her glasses). Then I thought someone was trying to commit suicide. people had even gathered around because it could be seen from the road," she said dramatically as we stuffed into some yummy chocolate pastries and particularly nice chicken pizzettes (small circular thin crust pizzas).


Me a pickle freak

I am sitting at my desk and sneaking in a piece of mango pickle into my mouth (Colleague SB brings them on Saturday along with her aloo paranthas). If ever there was heaven, it is here, it is here, it is here.

I have always been a pickle freak. Especially pickled kul (I do not know the English equivalent for Kul). Whenever bottles of it would arrive at home in my grandma's suitcase, I would stash away one of them beneath the bed. Because when I was a kid, I was incredibly fond of two things as any other kid would be I guess - chocolates and pickles.

And I would hide them carefully since my brother had a bad habit of keeping them in the fridge right in front of my nose and preserving them for ages. Of course it wouldn't last. I would finish them off and Inevitably there would be a hue and cry about it and my mother would be ready to chase me around the dining table (it took some time, because the table happened to be really quite long).

The chocolates would come courtesy my aunt (father's sister) and my uncle (father's bro) from London. They would come in attractive packages like huge red stockings around Christmas. That was the time my aunt used to come down with my two cousins - Anna and Anthony - laden with perfumes, clothes, cookies and chocolates. Oh what times they were! I would stay with them for the entire time they were in Calcutta. It used to be a major party with their cousins as well accompanying us to trips to restaurants and the golf clubs. And there used to be this sardarji driver there who would take us around town. Nice man he was and very fond of me. I would chat with him for hours. Now I wonder what was the point around which our conversation centered.

The pickles though were a sore point with our family. Some baby or the other had died in the previous generation and mysteriously it was linked to the process of pickle making. Now don't ask me how? I am as confused and angry about it. I used to crib to my mother about it - why did we have to be saddled with such a weird excuse of not being able to make pickles?

Once I decided to flout this custom and I set out to make a bottle of lemon pickles for myself. It was an ambitious project may I say. First of all, my ma was not at all happy about the amount of lemons I had emptied on to the mat on the roof to be sun dried. Following which I dumped them into a bottle filled with a mixture of salt and sugar syrup. I waited for weeks till I opened the bottle.

I think it had turned into some kind of fungus instead of my dream pickle. So I have contemplating since then that it might have been a curse after all.

Now let me respond to Thalassa's tag before she accuses me of ignoring it!

Seven things I plan to do
1. Travel to my heart's content.
2. Open a paan boutique.
3. Own a nice sprawling farmhouse with lush greens all around. And have as my companions - an elephant, a horse, a panda and two dogs.
4. Keep a check on my foot-in-the-mouth disease.
5. Fall in love.
6. Get married at Cyprus - sort of an island wedding.
7. Shop without looking at the tags.

Seven things I can't do
1. Let my ego take a beating.
2. Be cheated.
3. Bear people trying to intimidate me.
4. Go window shopping (I end up buying no matter what).
5. Sleep well after a scary movie.
6. Not have popcorn when I am out for a movie.
7. Like my gym trainer (Laziest trainer I have ever come across. Just grins and says, wanna do more? I dread those three words).

Seven things I say most often
1. Gandu (an affectionate word in my dic)
2. Bitch (same as above)
3. Fuck
4. What the fuck
5. Basically (I hate this word. It comes up when I am doing an interview and am a bit nervous)
6. You know
7. Whatever

A random thought for the day:

Don't think the best things in life are free? Try not breathing for a while. Bob Smithwick


Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening

That's a Coco Chanel quote since I have had a weekend of fashion study that actually made me feel fashion is not so trivial as most of us tend to think. After all it has a history of its own. A fascinating one at that.

The workshop was at Manesar Heritage Resort (two hours from Delhi). The place itself was not five star but it was nice and quiet. Some of us were lucky enough to get single double bed rooms to ourselves because of cancellations by other journalists. And my room faced the swimming pool.

Some highlights from my trip:

As I sat on the other side of the desk and listened to lectures, I rediscovered the pleasures of studying.

I met several 'interesting' people on the trip. People with heavily false accents, supercilious attitudes, dirty old men, geeks and someone who suddenly and inappropriately reminded me of Horse & Hounds.

The individual in the first category, goes without saying, was shunned by all and somehow I did not feel sorry. And let me not stretch it to the plural. There was actually a dirty old man who insisted on latching onto every female on the trip. By the end of it he had succeeded in pissing off one and all. At the beginning of the trip when we met I remembered him from a French opera where we happened to be talking to the director of the opera. When we reached Manesar, he insisted on telling me that it is the dirty weekend retreat for some. Besides filling me up on how he sits at the Press Club all day and loves getting drunk. So when he was sitting alone on a field trip to a factory and asked me to sit next to him, I literally ran for my sanity. And plonked myself next to a person who reminded me of Hugh Grant.

Now when I say he reminded me of Grant, I don't mean physically at all. He was a nice guy with a sophisticated air about him. He was from some trade magazine, the name of which brought back Horse & Hounds to my mind. Weirdly I didn't at all feel he was trying to be overfriendly or irritating when he asked me about my beat and myself. Some people I am glad to say just don't rub you up the wrong way.

The export factory we visited had amazingly fashionable jackets. They apparently export to Zara, Tommy and the like. The owner and his wife (who impressed us highly with her oratorial skills) showed us around the place. Inside the place were some thousands of workers sewing, checking and rechecking the garments. It might be employment for those people, but a huge huge room chock full of people doing the same mechanical job for 10 hours every day didn't seem very cheerful. I can't explain it. It was just the sight of row after row of sewing machines and other machines and a sea of people inside that freaked me out.

Once back at the resort, we had more classes. For which PR girl BS made sure we were seated inside. She even trailed behind us to the loo!

The classes itself were really cool. And the persons taking them cooler. Not for a single minute did I feel bored. Though I must say the German lecturer, who took us on a presentation on fashion through the ages, was so flat it was unbelieveable. She could have made even rock n' roll sound flat.

As it became dark and we got back to our rooms to freshen up for cocktails and dinner, I was feeling so happy. There were diyas floating in the pool and Rajasthani folk singers playing there. It was just perfect. And the happiness increased as I tossed drinks down my gullet. One after the other... LIT, red wine, white wine, a delicious vodka drink...teamed with yummy chocolate cake. The effect may I say was profound. Besides the fact that I could hear only through one ear, the next morning I found my watch cracked and a spot of pain on my forehead.

The unexpected happened too. There were designers Ashish Soni and Manish Arora at the workshop. Credit to geek journalist who asked them, "Why don't these export houses tie up with you? The house we visited said Soni and Arora just make a lot of noise." You should have seen the reactions of the two. Arora who needs a setdown really badly got it. And it did Soni good. He spoke. At any given occasion, he who has the least to say couldn't stop making his point and making sense too! While Arora was this picture of amiability.

In the feedback sheets we were given to fill up, I recommended such workshops once a month. I asked some others. They wrote once in 6 months.

I guess I couldn't have asked for more. A drunken weekend and let's not even begin counting the calories...oily bacon rinds, pineapples, cheese, lots of meat, malpuas, gulab jamuns and chocolate... Besides of course the worst pasta I've ever had!


Of blasts, crackers and ghosts

I love lazy weekends and I love the sight of the rich golden lights bursting in the night sky on Diwali. The chill in the air as I stand on the verandah craning my neck and trying to catch them going off in different portions of the horizon.

I don't love the green and blue coloured lights and I don't love it when rockets land on me. Thankfully this year they didn't because I sat at home with S and had a huge dinner of pizza, garlic bread with cheese and crispy honey chicken and mixed noodles. Wow that was a breathful. And calorific as hell.

But they did land on me once. I was in Calcutta in high school. It was Kali Pujo and I was standing innocently (I was just watching my bratty cousins light the chadkis and the tubris) between my two cousin sisters. When wham! a rocket hit my shoulder. I was stunned. Only when the burnt feeling set in, did I run inside. I have since always wondered at the uncanny precision of the rocket.

Also I don't love it at all when the crackers are lined from one end of the street to the other and they go off like the battering effect of the stengun. Yesterday night as I was trying to watch Shrek 2, the sounds of the damn things drove me up the wall. S gave up. She went to sleep as early as 9.30 while I gave up on Shrek and read a book. At present I am reading Vikram Seth's Two Lives. The man (pint sized though he may be) has magic in his fingers. I kept wiping my face as I read of his aunt Henny. The book seems even so better because I have just got over with One Night @ the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat. First of all, when I met him for an interview I thought he was a pompous ass with no reason to be so. I think he is just a guy-who-got-lucky-with-an-average-book phenomenon.

The weekend started off with a Chanel show on Saturday night. I was feeling so frantic that day finishing off with my stories that I didn't even go and join the crowd around the TV in office when I heard the word 'blast'. It must be some minor thing in some city I thought to meself. And I rushed home. In the auto I got a call from my London aunt. She wanted to know whether I was alive. But still I didn't find the time to flip on the TV. I rushed for the show. Thereafter the amount of calls I received told me that it must have been serious. An RJ even messaged and asked how I was. I was taken aback. I replied: "In heaven where they are having a Chanel show and serving champagne."

Got to know about the real thing from E. She messaged me: Get your ass home RIGHT NOW. When she called, I told her I was sipping on champagne and feeling happy. What she said next did make me feel ashamed. "There are BOMBS going off lady. One in Paharganj, one in Sarojini Nagar, in Karol Bagh and in a DTC bus!" What one of the designers told one of the reporters the same evening disillusioned me. When asked whether he had heard about the blasts, his reply was "Life has to move on!" And I met the son of a minister there who said that he 'had' to be there with his father at the site of the blasts.

Inspite of the scare, the next day I was 'foolishly brave' (as others around me described it ). I dragged P along with me to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And should I say I didn't regret it cos the theatre was practically empty. The sight of a nearly empty PVR on a Sunday evening is quite a thing. In the darkness though P suddenly grabbed my hand and said, "Can you feel the floor vibrating?" Truly it was humming. I reassured her with the words, "I think we are destined to live a few more years". A few seconds later there were mild sounds of a siren straining in. And of course P asked me what it was. If these diversions were not enough, there was a little curly haired kid walking around. She kept tapping P on her arms and jabbering away to her.

But do watch the film. I fell for the oompaloompas and need I say Johnny Depp. I watched another film that had me going gaga about Rahul Bose. It was Mr and Mrs Iyer.

Over the weekend (I had stayed over at P's place), I heard a story that of course scared the wits out of me. We were almost drifting off to sleep when P narrated her story. "My aunt and uncle were newly weds at the time. They had come to Delhi and were visiting the Humayun's Tomb. It was not so well kept then. They had sauntered off to the part where Bu Halima's tomb is. They got this peculiar smell and followed it till they came to this enclosure where they saw a body shrouded in white and patches of blood on it. They were so scared that they ran for the guard. The latter went back with the police and came back to say that there was nothing of the sort there. Very disturbed my aunt and uncle returned to the place they were putting up at. But the smell persisted. They shifted to another corner of the city after that." I remembered all the occasions on which I had trampled to lonely monuments in the city and also thanking my stars that I had not met any shrouded bodies or disgruntled spirits.