I have been meeting people, who I would like to believe, would make a difference in my life and that of others they have touched. Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop came over to Delhi to formally launch the store here.
My pre-conceived notion went somewhere along these lines: that she would look down her nose at everybody. What I saw instead was this spunky little woman with her head full of unruly brown curls. I have not heard a Brit be so un-Brit.
The dame was unconventional. Swear words came tumbling out by the second along with witty one-liners. And yet what touched me was the fact that she was stuck about doing the 'right thing'. How being an entrepreneur she has used her money and power to help others. The best part was that she didn't sound like a preacher or too self-important in the least. We all like to live for ourselves. I do. How many people actually reach out to those not so fortunate as us?
She was a funny and special woman. Her mother is 92 years old and wants her ashes to be exploded along with fireworks when she's gone. And she sneaks in chilli into her neighbours' tea. That tells you what a scream such a woman's daughter would be.
And in the mean time I have re-discovered my passion for vintage cars. My grandfather owned a Morris that was a cute black number. Over the years, however, following his death my uncle (father's elder brother) let it fall apart. Then one day we heard that they wanted to sell it. I was as loathe to let them do it as was my father. You see, my dad loves driving and he had learnt it in his dad's Morris. So there was much sentimental strings attached there. On my part, I might never have been in the car, but I love anything old and a vintage is authentic. Plus I have memories of the Morris lying unattended and in a decrepit condition in the garage of my uncle's home. I used to keep telling dad that we should have it with us since he was so attached to it. But his reply would go such: "You know we can't." Caught in the politics of the family, the Morris was sold. That was it. An old man's dream sold off. Just like that.
When I went on a lunch to a corporate lawyer's farmhouse, I was amazed by the collection of vintage cars in his shed. The stately black Minerva, the gleaming Buicks, the shining yellow Cadillac, the brilliant red Chevrolet, the black car from Zubeida, the Ford Station wagon from Gadar, the lavender Ford Zephyr driven by Hema Malini once, a beautiful old carriage with gas lights belonging to a Maharaja -- I was in another world altogether. Oh and there were lovely old Lambretta scooters too. I was so envious as I listened to the lawyer say that once a year he takes off in 10 vintage cars to Sariska with family and friends. Must be some sight.
These are not things that would bring about a literal change in a day or a week or a month probably. But they would be there with the self. Now I don't know necessarily whether that makes any sense. Cause I am a tad bit exhausted. I have tottering around on heels all morning, cutting yummy cakes, opening gifts, taking food orders from editor and colleagues, munching and talking a lot.
Right now I am seated quietly and thinking about other stuff. Stuff like will the guy I care about ever wish me. I guess not *sigh* and here I am, a fool, waiting for an e-mail with bated breath.
Then scenes from yesterday evening flit through.
You see, I was at AIIMS. I have been of late plagued by a case of tiny rashes on the upper lip (let me state here that I am not HIV-positive!). So my brother suitably alarmed me by saying that since the whole face is linked to the brain through a particular vein, I am in considerable danger of having my upper works affected. As ridiculous as that sounds now, you have to hear my brother at it. He even convinced me once that I was in danger of retinal detachment.
Now my idea of AIIMS has been rather exalted.
The sight that greeted my eyes when I walked to the casualty ward was that of people lying on the pavements -- lying, sleeping and eating on the ground. Who were these? They were the attendants (the families accompanying the patients from various states). My brother's friend Dr S (who was taking me to her fiance for the check-up) commented: "It is sad you know. These people hear such big things about AIIMS. And then the poor sods arrive here from places like Bihar to lie on the pavement."
We entered the casualty ward and the smell of urine and sweat was strong enough to penetrate my blocked nose. Then there were the sights of people with bloodied shirts lying unconscious on stretchers and dead bodies being carted away. Soon I was in the room where Dr X (S's fiance) rests during the night. It was dirty, with grime covering the white floor tiles and the bed sheets unwashed for god knows how many decades.
As I perched myself on one end of the bed waiting for Dr X to manage some time from his harried routine, Dr S told me how he hardly gets to sleep any night thanks to the fact that there are hardly 10 doctors taking care of 200 or more patients. "X was very enthusiastic when he started at AIIMS. Now he has resigned to his fate here," she said. "Do you know that AIIMS has the lowest mortality rate?" That really impressed me. "No, wait," she added. "Let me tell you why. That is because all the serious cases are never accepted here. The moment they get such cases, they send them off to Safdarjung Hospital. And if a junior resident at night happens to take such a case, he gets jacked the next morning by the senior resident."
It was reality check.
Even meeting Dr S. She was so simple and one of those earnest people who only care about studies and work. And she told me about my brother who is right now in Assam working and studying in a hospital there. "Half his bed is covered with books and he sleeps on a narrow strip. He's so thin. I guess that's how he manages. He studies all the time and just doesn't do anything else. He is a walking encyclopaedia," she said.
All of it just makes me very sad.
If I sound disjointed, blame it on the mood.
All of this put together, even the biggest of stories that I have to churn out have not been able to make me feel put out.
So I think I dreamt this happy dream today morning. I was strolling on a beach with my friends and soaking in the sounds and sights. I can still hear the gushing sound of the waves. And then add to it, that it had the people I love in it. There were my parents asking me where I was headed to each time I left the house, and my friends of course with whom I checked out the flea market on the beach. Oh I wish it was for real.
I put on some Billy Joel numbers after I woke up. This particular number is my song for the day:
She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child, but she's always a woman to me
She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth, but she'll never believe
And she'll take what you give her as long it's free
Yeah, she steals like a thief, but she's always a woman to me
Ohhh... she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants, she's ahead of her time
Ohhh... and she never gives out
And she never gives in, she just changes her mind
And she'll promise you more than the garden of Eden
Then she'll carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding
But she?ll bring out the best and the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself 'cause she's always a woman to me
She's frequently kind and she's suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases, she's nobody's fool
And she can't be convicted, she's earned her degree
And the most she will do is throw shadows at you,
But she's always a woman to me...
So you can guess as much that while I am writing this, I am happily nibbling on that, another milk chocolate bar Cote D'Or and a really fat bar of dark chocolate that S had got from her Switzerland visit. Right now she told me she has sneaked the last one out from her husband's bag of dark chocolates.
I love this feeling...
And this feeling is not rare for me these days I guess. Which is good. Yesterday at the launch of the Longines Belle Arti watch by Aishwarya. Apart from a spread of Indian and Continental spread, which was excellent considering it was at the Maurya, the chocolate mousse was heavenly and truly to die for. So of course, I was greedy and had two huge servings of it.
There were also platters of different kinds of cheese. I could only identify the blue cheese, a pressed cheese which was quite hard and dry, a stinky cheese with a hard red rind. I only wish I knew the names.
To that extent, a 'nice' guy and his family -- mother, father and sister -- came to see me at our pujo bari. I was furious. I couldn't help the fact that I felt painfully shy. So I did something very funny. I kept running away from them. Wherever they appeared, I disappeared. My father tried his best to get me to chat with them, but he couldn't insist at the cost of making it obvious to my relatives. So I took full advantage of the fact.
At the end of it, I was obliged to see them off, when all I did was just smile and smile at the mother. And then I was told that I had to meet the parents and the guy again. I informed my dad very coolly that he was welcome to chat with the guy and his family, but I would not be there. Now, my mother surprised me with her reaction. She scolded my dad: "Hasn't she said clearly that she wouldn't like to meet the family again? Is my daughter some vegetable that she has to be exhibited?" So she made my dad call up the parents and tell them that they could meet me later only if I liked the guy after meeting him for coffee.
I met guy A. He was nice and I felt completely at ease with him. Only I couldn't see myself married to him. In the course of the evening, I even tried to link him up with someone else. I think he was a bit taken aback as he was by the fact that I was completely at variance with his first impression of me. He had seen a snap of mine that belongs to my high school days. So the present me quite confounded him. Plus it was a shy AB that he had seen running away from him at the pujo bari. And here I was frankly talking to him nineteen-to-a-dozen. At the end of it, he told me that he liked me but he would like to keep in touch before saying anything final about it to his folks. I was hugely relieved. I wanted to tell him then and there itself that somehow it would n't work. But like a coward I kept shut because I couldn't imagine being hurtful.
At home my parents were happy and I think immensely relieved that I liked guy A. But then at the end of an extended conversation, my mother realised that it wasn't going anywhere. So she made sure that my dad never called the guy's parents back. Neither did the guy. He and his folks were waiting for some word from my folks. I wanted to fix him up with a college friend of mine. But I guess it wouldn't have done.
Then there was guy B. His father called up and told my mother: "My son is going near your place to meet a girl. Can he see yours?" I couldn't believe at the lack of tact on his part. It turned out to be a blessing however that I didn't have to meet guy B. He apparently fell sick the day we were supposed to meet. He mailed me his details and the photographs quite reminded my colleague of the primitive man.
Anyway, I got a lecture from some people who insisted that I should not care for looks. It didn't feel nice considering the fact that I am sure that had the same people been told to make their daughters marry such a guy, they would have blenched at the prospect. One asked me: "How come you don't meet guys on your own?" When I said: "Oh I do. But somehow I don't feel anything." Immediately this other person popped in and said something so rude and with such a weird expression on her face that I was quite speechless. She put in: "You know guys may also not like you. They might find you primitive too!"
Even my mother can be biting at time with her comments. She likes to put me down and say really hilarious things. She is my mother however. And I entitle her to say anything she pleases to.
But I must say this that I have really buffed my parents well. They are cool with whatever I say nowadays. Only while I was leaving home, my mother said: "I wonder how many more interviews my daughter will take!"
After such experiences, I have decided to give up on being married at all. I just saw this quote the other day that completely summed up what I feel about the institution of marriage. That you don't marry someone you can live with, you marry the person who you cannot live without.
I have rediscovered the joys of sketching. Not that I was ever an artist. My father tried his best since he and my aunts are very good artists. So he used to make sit with a drawing book and divide a page into grids. Then he would try to make me draw portraits. The first one he made me try was Rabindranath Tagore! Can you imagine poor me trying her best to capture the poet on paper? Well, I never managed to. Finally after a few attempts my father decided to accept defeat at my ineptitude to make use of my artistic genes. I never had any I guess. But I was so bored yesterday after my long conversation with Essar and VK, that I decided to try my hand at sketching.
And I thought I could find some parallels in real life. I see Essar in Jon and VK in Garfield:0)
I think I have a few Odies in my life. Not half as odiously cute.
Oh the face of Garfield here is so me!
I can only identify a few of them with my friends. Colleague CP is as dumb as Thomson and as cute. The hermit next to Thomson was pointed out to by a friend and he said, "So this is what you look like when you are angry ha?!!!" The rest will take time it seems, while I have to get back to my stories. But this was a nice distraction...
I am thinking about........
opening a shack. If only I could come up with a plan to lure a venture capitalist into parting with some dough. I have the name of the shack as well a theme. Of course t is going to be in Goa. So if any of you are interested in sponsoring a shack, do let me know.
yes to two partners for the shack.
to toe the line.
I want to....
get married without any rituals or anything on an island. Cyprus.
I could go back to my school days, not for anything else (certainly not the studies), but the lovely friendship I shared with AM and SK. Those morning walks to the Central Park from where we used to come back to my home in a rickshaw and then collapse on the sofa while my mother had hot pakoras and chilled orange juice ready for us. After a short snooze, AM and Sk would leave for home. And the evenings when we used to hang out at Scoop. Those were the days.
Let me say that I try to avoid hearing anything most of the time. Nine out of ten times you will find me with the headphones plugged in.
What is up with SK. Is she happy with her husband? There's no way of finding that out it seems.
oh so many things. Most of all I regret my impulsiveness. There have been so situations I have wanted to undo -- situations that were a direct outcome out of my impulsiveness.
a dreamer, impulsive and lazy.
to anything in particular. But not trance. Somehow I can't figure out how to sway to it. And I love shaking it especially when I am high. The last time I really got drunk and danced like a crazed person was at a party thrown by my erstwhile newspaper. Oh was it fun!
Breathless by The Corrs. I love the feel of it.
once in a while. When I am feeling real blue. But then again, I do let those fat tears roll down -- when I am watching a film. I can't seem to stop myself:) And I remember that crying used to be a part of my life when I was with my previous office. I would rush to the loo every day after my senior had a go at me and after I returned my boss would ask me what was wrong. He would actually counsel me and say that I had to take care of myself since I was on my own in the city. At times like those he could be nice.
I am not always....
finicky. There are some things like a cluttered room, badly handled books and an unlean loo though that can raise my hackles considerably.
I make with my hands....
salads and veggy dishes, mostly to sustain myself. But I must say this for cooking, that it is a great way of destressing. On days when I feel very tired, I need to chop onions, beans and let the smell of garlic soak into my senses to feel better.
for a livelihood. And I quite like it except at times when I am feeling particularly jaded or have to come up with story ideas. I want to throw all of it then and poof! just disappear.
places when I am home. I don't know how I do it considering I have lived most of my life in Calcutta. I think I know Delhi better. Wonder whether that says much;)
a corkscrew. To open a bottle of Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc that are tucked into one end of a rack merely because I don't have a corkscrew. The last time I tried to pry the cork of one loose with a knife, a huge portion of it landed plop on my lap.
Nothing like a tag to bide time. Are any of you as jobless as me at the moment?
Why Do We Keep Strangling Life/ Wound This Earth/ Crucify Its Soul/ Though It's Plain To See/ This World Is Heavenly
And yet another photograph of a prospective groom. By now I should have been used to it. The whole grind I mean, of seeing the snap, deciding on whether I like him or not (on the basis of that scrap that says what all he is doing at the moment and what his interests in life are) and then having my parents call up anxiously to know my answer...How I wish there could be a miracle and I would be in the middle of a Notting Hill like romance. Or any kind of romance actually.
Not that I can do anything on my own. I have joined a new gym where the morning trainer is lanky and cute. So I can be caught very often casting furtive looks in his direction. I guess checking out a trainer is kind of tacky, but I have good reason. He resembles the coach in Bend It Like Beckham.
The evening trainer is an upcoming cricketer who is a very enthusiastic creature. Whenever he sees me cycling or cross-training, the words that come out of him are: "Lage raho India lage raho." Quite a chirpy fellow that.
Enough about trainers. The dark side of my life says that I am becoming too snappy. I guess I have to curb my tongue. On Saturday, I was in the bus waiting to get down at a stop, when this man with a beard and pan stained teeth asked in a surly manner whether I was planning to deboard. Even after I replied in the affirmative very clearly, he shoved me hard and went ahead. So I naturally said loudly: "Asshole".
He whirled with his beard almost in my face and challenged me vehemently: "What you means?" While I had quite a few things to say in reply, I was suddenly struck dumb by the scary look on his face. And I know precisely why he got away with it. Because he was a Muslim.
I have never felt it so strongly till it actually happened to me. The kin of those dying in these terrorist activities all over the world -- I wonder how they feel. And here we have people living in denial. As VK puts it, human right groups which insist that terrorists should not be hanged.
I know it is true that had it been just another guy, he would have heard quite a few things. At that moment, I felt it so strongly and felt so helpless at the same time because it would have probably flared into a communal issue. Knowing what happens nowadays you can never be sure about anything.
I was watching The Path to 9/11 on Zee Studio yesterday. It was mind boggling -- the brilliant and educated minds that go into the creation of such plots. Till date I think I can't believe that a bunch of people could fly aeroplanes bang into some buildings. They have successfully created a world where you can't go shopping, watching a movie or move around without thinking twice. It is one where even carrying a lipstick has been made unsafe. I wonder why?
The first show of the week itself was a mind boggling introduction. It was none other than our very own Manish Aroraâ€™s â€�cockyâ€™ collection. The first thing I noticed as we stepped in was the headgears on the ramp with cocks sitting plump on them! Quite an unusual sight, may I tell you. Anyway, besides his clothes what or rather who captured everybodyâ€™s attention was Miss Blow. Believe it or not that's the the surname of the erstwhile fashion director of The Tatler. The complete one -- Miss Isabella Blow. Sheâ€™s the one who has brought the likes of Alexander McQueen to the limelight.
But letâ€™s say this that the entire fashion fraternity will remember her for her hats, particularly the bird hats. The first day she wore a dress with an amazing number of ruffles and a hat which was a ridiculous concoction of feathers. Go ahead. Use your imagination.
Miss Blowâ€™s hats are the creations of one of her fashion associates, Philip Treacy. The latter came to her attention when he arrived at the Tatler office sporting a green felt hat.
Coming back to the designer scene, it was a spring/summer collection alright with nature as the focus of most. The collection that simply charmed all was Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khannaâ€™s. They did beautiful dresses and skirts in porcelain blues on off whites. As I went to their stall and ran my fingers over the pleats and seams, I was strongly tempted to splurge. I think itâ€™s my bank balance that keeps a good check on my shopaholic tendencies. Which I think is a good thing considering that I saw some sexy retro looking stilettos by Vanilla Moon in the stall area and some of the classiest pieces of jewellery at Suhani Pittieâ€™s.
Some other collections I liked were by J J Valaya, Ranna Gill, Shantanu & Nikhil, Gaurav Gupta, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Varun Bahl. The one which charmed me was Gauri & Nainikaâ€™s clothes. Teamed with wide brimmed sun hats, the polka dotted dresses made me feel like going on a long cruise in the Mediterranean, if you know what I mean.
And then came the grand finale with Manish Malhotraâ€™s show. As it happens every year, it was badly organized. Hence, there was a stampede with the photographers trying to rush in and secure places for themselves. The bouncers pushed them from the front and the rest of the photographers did the same from the hind. For a moment, I had the impression that I was going to have a sad end there at the entrance to the show area. But it was one of those moments when I was glad that I belong to the female species. Yes, because three of us girls in the front were allowed in because of the jostling.
The show started off with a sensuous dance performance by a professional dancer couple. The woman was beautiful and exotic and really sensuous. This was followed by the appearance of Urmila Matondkar who gyrated her hips so badly while walking the ramp that I quite she was in danger of hip dislocation. While that didnâ€™t happen, what did happen was what I call an â€�ouchâ€™ moment. The lady tripped.
The showstoppers were Shahid Kapur and Kareena Kapoor. Though they looked good, their black outfits stood out like a sore thumb amongst a pastel collection. And what did our stars think about the collection of their â€�dear friendâ€™? A gesture of both thumbs up from Urmila on behalf of the three.
That was fashion week for you. Uh oh, I was missing out on the food. Lots of salad, mustard fish, fish in red wine sauce, yummy biryani style chicken, shredded lamb, stuffed karela, zucchini lasagne...The highlight of the meals for me were the desserts. So Sunday night I stuffed myself up with tiramisu, blueberry mousse, apple strudel, apple tart, chocolate terrine, lemon cheesecake. Yes, it was sheer greed. And I also managed to follow up the above mentioned delicacies with some melt-in-the-moth marshmallows.
Because I have not been having a good time recently. Like, I met a shooter who was so grim that I thought I was weird. Till date, I don't think I have met any one like him, even though he happened to be quite a young gun, only 23. I almost quailed when I had to ask him about his 'wife'. Actually I made the usual gaffe -- I pointed out to a huge portrait asking him if he was married when he had an are-you-kidding-me look on his face. "Do I look like that to you?" he said sounding offended. Apparently the groom in it was said shooter's brother-in-law and shooter's wife.
And shooter was stinking rich. His bungalow itself was like a palace, tastefully decorated with mini bars, huge fireplaces, wooden floors and the works. But somehow he depressed me beyond reason. During the entire course of our chat, not once did a glimmer of a smile cross his countenance.
The day after that I was supposed to meet another shooter at the Tughlaqabad shooting range. The photographer was supposed to pick me up at 10 am. The interview time was settled at 11.15 am with the shooter. And I have never messed up interview timings. It's almost a credibility thing you know. Anyway, the photographer reached my place at 11 am.
When I got into the car and asked him the reason, he gave me the lamest of all -- traffic! On top of that he said defensively that he might have been 15 minutes late in getting out of his place. So what? Apparently, it is the done thing to be 10-15 minutes late. I had a row with him and I could feel myself shaking with rage. So I just shut up, turned my face away and gave him the coldest treatment I have ever given to any body in my life.
Then the other day I was on my way back from an art exhibition and I just couldn't fnd an auto rickshaw anywhere. When I finally found one, he drove me mad. Even when we had agreed on an amount, that seemed pretty unreasonable but then I just wanted to get home, he refused to switch on the meter. I wanted to check how much it would actually come to. Not that I would pay him less. But he asked me, "Will you pay me if it comes to more?" Finally when I couldn't take it anymore, I bit out coldly: "Meter chalana parega. Aur sar mat chatiye," to which he said in an amazed tone: "Achcha aisi baat hai?" To which I didn't bother to reply. I stuck my ear plugs in. As we reached my place, I realised that I had been had (I was going to pay him way more). It irritated me beyond reason. For the rest of the evening, I was feeling weepy.
I wish I could have borrowed the second shooter's double barrel gun and returned it after finishing off all auto wallahs!
Put together more little incidents like my gym shutting down forever and you have the summation of them is what I have been feeling like for the past two weeks. I am sure my blood pressure must have been abnormally high. I could almost feel it.
The only highlight of the period was a tiny thing -- watching a film. It was the day I watched 'A Wedding Date' on Star Movies. My sms date that night was former flatmate E. She in Bombay and I in Delhi, sipping on our wines and lighting up candles while drooling on Dermot Mulroney. Oh was it nice!
I want to meet a bad person with a nice body and a good head. He's one of the first bloggers I read and a dear one at that. I think I would like to meet him on a train. It would make a dreary journey seem so much more interesting. No wait, I just thought of a much better meeting place - the Gay Pride:) Still not guessed who it is? Why, it's Jay of course!
I love Mint Chutney's posts, be it her post on her eyebrows, her ex-flames or her cute little kids. I have a pact with Mint. She said she's gonna drop off Chutney at my place soon. So I guess we meet at my cubbyhole in Delhi. Hey Mint, I am waiting...
I connected with Sonal when Mint started the postcard exchange. And I have to say that even though Sonal sent me one soon after she got my postal address, I haven't got around to sending her one. The postcard's still lying in my office drawer. That's how lazy I am! Sadly, I can't make it to her wedding. So, Sonal I will make it up by visiting you in Detroit. Promise. And bring the postcard along:)
Now since Sines has so kindly offered to introduce me to her hot doc friend, I would be very rude to refute it, no?*impish grin* That's a nice incentive by the way. At the rate my folks are going, I would jump at the chance. So I will be generous with you -- you get to choose the venue...
Saltwater blues is mad (Swb don't you dare feel offended because with you I can never tell how you're gonna react to something;)). He loves to delete posts and comments, but he is nice. He's going to help me set up a shack. So I would like to meet him in Goa.
I have to meet Sonia. We seem to have a lot of things in common including our parents. We get to meet in Dubai, if I get to go there that is. The one thing I wouldn't go anywhere with Sonia though is on a long drive. C'mmon Sonia you can't blame me:0)
Rat and Penny Lane - Aha the party girls... They seem to be on a constant roll, so our meeting point has to be a party (maybe in Goa). I would love to get sloshed. I would have company I know!
Now let's see how and where we meet.
And whoever reads this, consider yourself tagged.
A few days back I got a call from R, the former Lufthansa air hostess I had met. She asked me to forward my resume to a girl for recruitment in an international airlines. The girl I forwarded it to told me to be at the venue the very next day. I got real worked up when I heard that you have to be dressed in formal gear - close fitting shirt, short skirt, stockings, closed shoes and hair in a bun- cos this particular airline is very strict about a well groomed appearance.
The day was supposed to start at 8.15 am there. I woke up at 6.30 am and gave myself ten reasons why I shouldn't be going for the interview. This, after I bought two shirts the day before. I didn't go.
While at work the same day, I got a call from a girl from that airline. She asked me why I was not there for the interview. So I told her that I couldn't make it because some work had cropped up. "No problem, come in tomorrow," she said. Now that they actually bothered to call me a second time made me think twice. So the next day, I got up early and went for it. I was dressed in a half-sleeve formal shirt and a long black formal shirt. With my hair clipped at the back. There's a reason why I am describing what I wore that day. Because the moment I stepped into the room there where the candidates were waiting, I froze. They were dressed to a T. In smart short skirts, stockings and the works. I wanted to disappear. Next I had to submit a full length photograph of myself along with my resume. I had a very casual pic that my father had taken some time back when I was vacationing in Calcutta. First of all, I was wearing huge shades and a T-shirt that said, "Therapist for crazy guys". And secondly, I had no passport size photographs of mine. So I had to give in that casual pic to my utter embarrassment.
Anyway, the entire thing go underway. We were shown a video presentation on the airline, its staff and the country where the hired cabin crew would be based. It was feel-good to say the least. I think it was after watching it that I actually felt inclined to go for it. Soon the 50 of us in the room were split up into four groups. I was in the third group.
The first two groups went first. So the other two groups had to wait in an adjoining room. During which I watched this know-all guy speak a lot on airlines and his experience in general. It was amusing. Most of the candidates were already working as cabin crew with some airline or the other. Some who had trained at aviation academies and others like me who were from another profession altogether. It was a cocktail really.
My group was finally called in at 12.30 pm. I was so hungry and sleepy that I wanted to run back home with my tail (imaginary) between my legs.It started with an ice breaking kind of thing where we had to introduce ourselves and tell the others two interesting things about ourselves which the resume didn't mention. Next we proceeded on to the group discussion. Each round was an elimination round. So there we were, eight of us -- five girls and three guys -- who were asked to stay behind through chits of paper after some three group discussions and a written test. We had to then sit down for a psychometric test. Following which we were asked to return two days later for another interview.
As the lady conducting the interview told us that we were lucky to make it there, what with their having received 17,000 applications, she also emphasised that we had to come properly groomed the next day. And I don't know whether I imagined it, but I could swear she kept looking at me while stating what all we needed to do. We had to get photographs clicked as well by the next day.
So the day before the interview, there I was doing a last minute recce of the market for a short pencil skirt, close fitting formal shirt, skin coloured stockings, pumps and hair net. In short, a complete makeover. I was quite close to tears while at it. It was frustrating as hell trying to put all of it together. Needless to say, that after I had bought myself a short black skirt from Mango, I saw this neat skirt at Benetton. But having spent a fortune already, I curbed my enthusiasm.
By the way my parents don't know about anything. On the Sunday I was busy getting ready, my mother kept asking me if I was going for a party while my father insisted on knowing where I was headed to. I shouted. Then I shut myself in the next room and came out all decked up. But I just couldn't let the cat out of the bag even though I was feeling guilty. I have to get my passport from them. It's gone for renewal.
As I looked into the mirror before stepping out, I must confess I felt like I was staring at a stranger. I looked, well, so different with the make-up and all. But it was fun. After the photo session, I hurried for the interview. It was a personal interview round. And I must say it was fun talking to them.
At the end of it, the pretty woman who was asking the questions told me,"A, you have done very well for yourself." And she handed me a folded letter but warned me, "But this is not an offer of appointment. We will be getting in touch with you later."
And from the minute they stepped in to the house, I started bickering with them. *Sigh* It promises to be an eventful visit.
As soon as we dumped the luggage and all, my father took out three packs of sweets and insisted that I wolf down some. I refused. He insisted. I refused. He said, "No mamma, don't say no." That was it. I screamed.
Next I stepped out from the bath to find a suspiciously bright living room. My father had taken down the curtains, to let in some breeze. "No, no let it be! You don't know...that window lets in a lot of dust and is very public -- anybody can see what is happening inside," I started off.
My mother pulled me aside and said, "Don't do chik chik with your father."Well, to say so, I felt quite ashamed of being so ill tempered. But it's one of those things I can't help.
I have made a kind of deal with myself-- not to lose it during their stay here. For whatever and however I do react, the truth is, it's good to see them.
In the meantime, I have just made two Yankee friends from Kansas. I met them, Jo Ann and Jeanie, when I was dining out a few days ago with friends T and C. Jo Ann and Jeanie are here on a cultural exchange from Kansas University with a couple of other girls and boys. The meeting sparked off a Sunday shopping and eating out expedition. It was amusing to introduce them to our street food. After a few gol gappas, they stopped. They were scared of getting tummy aches. But they did love the dal makhni, naan, reshmi kebabs and malai kofta dinner we had at a GK restaurant.
Curiously they had never heard of gelatos. And I was determined that they should have it. So I mentioned it a zillion times. Till the time came to take them there for dessert. When I realised that I had forgotten where exactly Gelato Vittorio was. It was their friend, Seth, who finally led us to it. It was embarrassing, alright. Seth had this mischievous look about him as he assured us that he would make sure we 'hop, skip and jump' to Gelato Vittorio.
At Gelato, there were eight of us trying out different flavours at a go. Whisky Irish Cream, Ferrero Rocher, WildBerry...I can actually remember the taste of the Whisky Irish Cream.*Drool* In fact, Kristy swore that if I opened a gelato joint of mine in Goa, she would be my loyal customer. Amen to that..
"I don't pay taxes cuz I never file/ I don't do business that don't make me smile/ I love my aero-plane, she got style..."
I was with a few other journalists and we were part of an in flight training for air hostesses and flight stewards. The morning started precisely at 7 am when I woke up with a start to realise that the air hostess academy guys might just leave me behind. So there I was rushing and trying to do everything at one go. Till I was seated in a cab by 8.15am.
In some time, I found myself in the bylanes of Gautam Nagar. Something that irked me considering the fact that my destination was the airport. The driver finally deigned to inform me that we were picking up another journalist. And he wanted me to call her up. While we were talking, I realised we were positioned in front of a gurudwara. "Is this where she is supposed to meet us?" I asked him. "Madam, they told me that the gurudwara was the landmark," the driver told me.
Now a place like Delhi has many gurudwaras. So I did something for which I patted myself 2 minutes later. I asked him to read out the address. He mumbled, "Xyz". It was the name of the lady we were about to pick up. "No, the address, the ADDRESS," I repeated. I peered over his shoulders.We were supposed to head for Green Park. "We are in Green Park, are we?" I asked him sarcastically. All sarcasm was lost on the man. "No, we are in Gautam Nagar. Because I often pick up someone from here and there's a gurudwara here," he said and insisted we wait there. Till I bit out in a no-nonsense voice: "Take me to Green Park immediately." At Green Park, he stopped in front of the gurudwara and refused to budge. It was a task getting him to move. It's a wonder we reached the airport on time. It was 9.30 am and I realised that we were way too early for the entire exercise that involved the training of a melee of girls in red and guys in white.
As we checked in, it was worth watching the security guard's reaction to our Jet boarding passes. It said, From Delhi, To Delhi. It would be a first anyway, I thought to myself. It took some time for the co-ordinator from the air hostess academy to explain it to the guard, who for the life of him, couldn't believe his eyes.
Once in the waiting lounge, we were informed that the boarding was delayed from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm. I got chatting with a former Lufthansa air hostess, a part of the faculty at the academy. R was not dramatically good looking but she was a warm and pleasing personality. With her was K, a former flight steward and another faculty member. K was very metrosexual indeed -- with lipstick, foundation, coloured hair and the works.
Anyway, while talking with R, I exclaimed that I wish I had thought of being an air hostess earlier. R looked at me and said, "Why, how old are you?" My reply was a woeful, "25". She said: "You look so young. There will be no problem for you to get through the international airlines. You must try it out. I loved flying though it was hard work. I kept stopping at Frankfurt and Munich and travelled to London very often," she said a bit wistfully. I realised, she meant it, when she searched me out as we were departing and told me that she had found out that there's a vacancy at the Emirates. .
Then began a long wait...doodling, doodling, solving crosswords, yapping, yapping, munching on sandwiches, watching the students and wondering how any of them could undo 20 years in a year of training and gain all the sophistication in the world (the guys and girls were so naive that I really hope they can make it where they want to).
In the loo, I came across a little girl who I thought was in need of the hand drier. I don't know why on earth I thought so. But I did. So I tapped her on the shoulders and pointed out the drier to her. She kept looking at me in askance. So I explained it to her. And then I happened to look down and I realised that all the time she was trying to squirt some liquid soap onto her palms. Yet another gaffe to my evergrowing list.
It was 1.30 pm when we boarded the air bus. It was a doomed take-off. All we did was sit and munch further on sandwiches and cakes. And wait. It was six hours of waiting that ultimately was a let-down. The redeeming part was meeting new people and liking most of them. Another interesting highlight of the day was getting inside the cockpit. It was kind of fascinating to have it all explained by the captain -- the controls, the panel... Oh we were also given a tiny model of the Jet airbus we were on. "They are very special. We usually give them to kids," smiled a Jet Airways hostess. It's quite a cute number. It reminds me of a childhood of growing up with my brother's toy cars, pick-up trucks and aeroplanes. All those bright blue and yellow Mercs, Nissans and Gulf Airs.
But the day has got me thinking. About whether this is a calling. To be up there in the skies.
*For instance, you can never take anyone for granted. Not friends, not anyone for that matter. There was a time when I thought friendships are indestructible. They are always there to stay. I was so wrong. I have lost so many friends over a period of time. A guy I knew pointed it out and said, "You know, maybe the problem lies with you". Is that true? Because if it is, I wouldn't know how to deal with it. But I do try to reach back to friends I have lost. There's my school friend SK. Amy, me and SK were thick till college. Till Amy decided to go to Canada and I had just S with me. Then a bunch of complications crept in, in the form of a man she is married to now, and nothing is as it was. I tried to call her when I went back home the last time. She was kind of funny and she never called me back. Her husband by the way is a professor I took tuitions from when I was in college. I still think he is a damn good teacher but I have doubts about the human being in there. I get the feeling SK is alienated from everything she is familiar and I wonder how she is actually.
I suddenly remembered a silly thing Amy, SK and I did when we were in school. We had stood beneath a tree outside my house and taken a solemn oath. I don't know if either of them would recall that evening when after an afternoon of pure mirth, one of those days when we couldn't stop laughing, we said we would never stop being friends.
*I have also learnt in these 25 years that the only people who you can take for granted and count on with your eyes closed are your parents. No matter what. For sometimes, I feel, you do need such people in your life to create a balance between the let-you-downs and the never-let-you-downs. I don't know how many times I have yelled at them and misbehaved, but they have always been there. Just the other day I told my dad that they didn't have an idea about my choice. This because he had yet again sent me a photograph of an eligible guy (a guy
who resembles comedian Vinay Pathak. Now don't get me wrong. I like Vinay Pathak but I don't know whether I would like to marry him). I felt terrible later, but still I didn't call him back. Because I knew the you-are-growing-old-and-past-the-marriageable-age thing would start again. They have their point, I want to tell them, but I can't help it if I don't fall in love with the guys they hunt out.
*There again, creeps in a disillusionment. Life is not a Georgette Heyer tale, where I could say hornswoggle to a rude duke and get away with it and even win his love. In fact, I have started wondering whether there is anything as the perfect guy out there. They say, there is a right time for everything. But is there a right guy? E says its karmic. Since she's kinda in the same boat, she commented: "We must have been kings in our past life with harems. Hence we are paying for it in this life."
*Brothers change. Mine has changed so much that I can't begin to wonder at it. The same brother who would treat me as a pesky little thing and a plaything to be toppled in her walker, has started treating me like I am his older sister. He relies on me and I think I have let him down. He wanted to marry a girl whom my mother never liked. To cut a long tale short, I didn't feel comfortable forcing my parents to accept it. It was complicated alright. Now my mother refuses to talk to my brother and I feel awful about it.
* There's nothing like young love. I met an old crush, a school friend of my brother's, who used to come over to our place pretty often. I was quite young and head over hells in love with him. Ex crush got married a year back and the other day he was in Delhi. When he called and said who he was, I almost fell out of my chair. We met up. It wasn't at all uncomfortable as I feared. I don't know whether he ever had an inclination of my infatuation, but he was very nostalgic. And for once I didn't feel like saying a sarcastic 'Oh yeah' when he commented to my brother: "AB has really grown up R. God I can't believe it." As he was leaving, he gave me a gift. The gesture touched me.
*Experience has taught me yet another thing. One fine day you just bump into someone you have never thought of laying your eyes on ever again. I have a list of such people I would want to meet and wouldn't want to meet. In the latter category would be rock photographer dude. Maybe I should forward it to my guardian angel and trust him to take care of it. And, oh yes, keep my fingers crossed.
What do you do when your worst nightmare comes true? Do you put your tail in between your legs and run? Or do you stay put and face it?
A year back, I had met a photographer (let me call him Mr P) and collected some photographs from him for a rock band story. The day had been particularly harrowing for me. At the end of it when I reached office, I forgot the photos behind in the autorickshaw. I was racked with guilt and tension. And I wanted to be honest about it. I called up Mr P and explained to him how I had misplaced his pictures. I thought he would blow his lid. He did.
To make up for my callousness, I offered to get the prints developed. I asked for the negatives. He refused. Instead he asked me to shell out Rs 10,000 for each of the prints. Till that point I was being polite and I was making myself take everything he was saying (he said a lot) timidly. But the moment he quoted that figure I lost it. I bit out some cold remarks and hung up.
Our exchange was definitely not short and crisp as my account seems. It happened over the phone, the e-mail and then on the phone again. It was an ugly experience.
Today I called up a biker for a story. While I was talking to him, he mentioned casually that he is a photographer and a rock and roll one at that. The moment I heard that, everything kind of fell in place. In a flash. I was talking to Mr P. I was stunned. I quickly passed over the phone to my photographer who was seated beside me. I called up another biker and asked him where supposed Mr P lives. "Yes, he does have an office there," he said, confirming the place I had mentioned.
Now I have to go for the story and the shoot tomorrow. And meet Mr P. I am sure that once we meet, he will remember me.
I am scared.
Also I have been meeting people. Like there was blogger Nish who turned out to be quite funny and cool. As in how many people actually have the guts to go and do something they want to. Right after meeting him, I had to go for an event where I met this chick. She was nice, pretty and chirpy and three years younger to me. We gelled well and we went for coffee when she slowly started pouring out her story. I should say stories, rather. And what she had to say freaked me out.
First of all, she told me she had wanted to kill herself and she had popped some 70 pills along with crushed glass. "I really wanted to die then," she said. More came out about her former psycho boyfriend and her broken home. The whole evening I was in a kind of a daze. Even till next day I had a hard time getting over what she told me. Was she lying or making up stuff for sympathy? For a moment, I entertained that thought. But whatever, she clearly was disturbed. These are things that seem to be straight out of a book or a film, but then meeting people like her, make you realise that such things happen in real life too. It's so painful. Even as I was listening to her, I felt so grateful for my parents, for the normal upbringing I have had, for all the happy times they have given me, in short a world where there has been no violence, incestuous stuff or anything of the sort.
It's hot. So hot that I think it would not be unsual to melt like the Belgian seashell chocolates I have been nibbling on of late.Which is why I am not very keen on going out on assignments anywhere. The other night I happened to be at the Bali Beach Festival at Hotel Nikko. It was in the lawns, an open air affair. There were giant standing fans that sprinkled water around. As I strolled in, I felt droplets of water sprayed on me. It felt heavenly. There were cool cocktails and glasses of wine with all kind of Balinese starters being circulated around.
After a glass of wine and a chat with a photographer, I was bored. So bored that I started walking aimlessly and checking out the drinks being served at the bar. The drinks were beautiful and so made me feel like I was on a beach. Plus there was a lovely breeze blowing. I think it was the effect of so many fans at work. It's amazing how you can make a steaming place like Delhi turn into a breezy beachy kind of an affair with just the precise touches. I tried out a minty drink. Gah! It tasted awful. I settled down for the staid old orange juice. Yes, that was how bored I was. I called up VK and told her about a photographer she had a crush on. I used to hear about him constantly during our IIMC days. Naturally I was taken aback to meet him there of all places. He was quite a rude one in his own way. He told a fellow photographer, "Sir, please don't shave your hair off any more. You look like a coconut."
But VK was excited. I suspect he is the reason she came over to meet me. But I was glad. We tried out Nikko Sling, a cocktail with coconut water, gin, vodka, generous doses of cream and mango juice (it is one of the best drinks I've ever had) while we watched the Wendell Rodricks fashion show that was going on. I tried to introduce VK to her former crush but she kept acting coy and pulling me back. It quite took me back to my schoolgirl days.
Then I met Brett Lee. His guy-next-door attitude was quite refreshing. At one point we were moving to a quieter place when he made sure I picked up my mobile from the table. It was a touching gesture. None of the hangups that our so glorified dandy Indian cricketers have. He was pretty excited about getting married next month to his sweetheart. But then during the interview, I had to go ahead and goof up. He was speaking about his fears -- sharks. Now the way he said it, it sounded like shocks. So I asked, "Well, what kind of shocks? Do you mean electric shocks or being shocked by people?" He was quiet for a second. He looked stumped. Then he burst out laughing. As did his manager. "I said sharks. Those in the water," said Brett. One of those moments when you want to just disappear.
And what a contrast it was to the conference I attended where Rahul Dravid was there. The guy had so much attitude, I wonder how he lives with it. There is this thing that they have about blaming the media for everything that raises my hackles. "The media puts a spin on things. So I am not going to say anything to the BCCI through them," he kept on saying. He sounded so vindictive that the man whom I once was very attracted to sounded petty and repulsive. So much so that I didn't feel like running after him to talk to him. I wish our people could give these cricketers a wide berth. They need it.
Another thing I don't understand is when these guys come to a press conference, why do they act as if they are doing journalists a big favour by opening their mouth even once? The only time they look near to cordial is when they see a TV mike hovering nearby. There was the opening of a luxury pret store recently for which actresses Urmila and Raveena Tandon arrived in designer dresses. While Urmila was at her bitchy best, just pouting and posing for the shutterbugs and speaking only to NDTV, Raveena was the surprise package. Well, she was genuinely nice. I was talking to her along with a friend from another paper when this Total TV woman started nudging me and asked me to stop. Raveena turned to her and said, "You know these guys will ban you!" After a few seconds Total TV again started acting up. This time Ravs turned to her and shot out: "You have time na? Go have some food."
And on a totally different track, I bought a new mobile phone. A cheap Nokia. While buying which I was near tears. I was reminded of my former flip phone. The one which died in soap water.
By the time I managed to get over with Marquez, I was exhausted. I slept and slept to feel better. It did help but the fact that I was horribly broke didn't. It spelt going out nowhere. The only hope was a cheque I had deposited to be encashed. I checked it. Zilch. Then I happened to check my other account. And my day was made. There was the lumpsome allowance from office in it which I had expected a day later. So there I was at Sarojini Nagar market which has to be the best flea market, at least in Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta.
Unbelievable cheap stuff lay for the taking. Of course I had to bargain and use my nagging powers. But when I got a flouncy polka dotted skirt for just Rs 35, my eyes nearly popped out. Something that brought a smile to the person who was standing at the stall chatting with the seller. And I shopped and I shopped. Even though it was hot and I really didn't need much. Compulsive shopping I guess. But it didn't hurt the pocket much. Just within Rs 1,000 I had as much as 10 small bags stuffed with lots of pretty skirts and tops.
The first time I had been to Sarojini was with a friend of my dad's. R uncle took us around the city when I came for admission to IIMC. When we went to Sarojini it was already evening and I could not make out much. Except for rows of shops with clothes popping out of every nook and cranny, the owners calling out and R uncle insisting that you could get anything for a steal here. But the actual time I remember falling in love with the market was when we used to go from IIMC in a huge gang. Times when we used to wander there for hours and times when we used to return to the hostel piled up in an autorickshaw that would refuse to go uphill with all us.
And as I walked alone through the alleys there, I felt so at home. Now I can boast that I know it like I know my slab of Lindt's dark chocolate. Once upon a time though I wondered at how you could find your way through the maze there. Funny that it's been four years almost and I am still here.
Back at home trying on the clothes made me feel even better. Finally a round of rearranging the wardrobe to hold everything that I bought and I could feel all the depression of Marquez evaporating like it was never there. The other high point was munching on my favourite Mc Donald's burger and demolishing a mud pie while watching Desperate Housewives.
The start might not have been great but the end was.
So while sipping on coffee, we started gathering a few carnations. After leaving the room, we tried our hands at a few orchid blooms. To our consternation, this waiter came up and stopped us. I put on a blank expression but held on to the two blooms that I had already plucked. M was busy sticking them back. "There are flowers inside if you want," he offered without thinking for a second that I might just take him up on the offer. And I did ask him. Seeing the expression (quite a bewildered one, I must confess) on his face, I stopped short and decided to scoot. With the blooms.
It was embarrassing. But what the hell, think I will do it again.
Sometimes is it not better to do what you want and not give two hoots to what the world thinks? Why not just grab the good times...In my alley, there was this fresh litter of fat little puppies of which somehow only one was left for me to pet. The other day I found it lying on the road and I started scratching it on its neck. When I realised it was weirdly quiet. In fact deadly quiet. Suddenly, a man on a scooter appeared and said, "He's been dead for some time now". I snatched my hands away. The next morning I saw him lying in a heap of garbage. The body was slowly starting to look distorted. Though I had not been overwhelmingly attached to it, I felt sad. For a life that was there. For a life that could have been. Everything is so transitory. You don't even know when you are gonna get snuffed.
So come tell me how many times have you actually done what you felt like without giving a damn about others...
The wedding itself was alfresco with a shamiana for the guests and a pretty pink pandal decorated with flowers for the bride and groom. S was wearing a maroon sari with a broad gold belt. She shooed us out of the room where she was getting dressed. I wonder why. Why S?:-) Mr S's relatives crooned as the ceremony took place. And as the fresh morning breeze carressed us, it felt nice. It was not a very long affair. Soon we were cramming down samosas and jalebis.
Then there was a short Bengali ritual that S and Mr S observed. Where they dipped their hands in an earthern bowl and had to fish out a ring. In the meantime, there was Mr S's Irish friend who sang two Rabindrasangeet songs very softly. Apparently she had picked them up in Benares where she has been staying for some time now. Mr S himself sang a song. And could we resist asking S for the same? Of course not (now if you have known S, you would know that singing is just not her forte;) But it is amazing how family can come together. The minute we started off, S's aunt came in and said, "Ok now it's time for breakfast."
By then all us sari clad women were feeling pretty hot and bothered even though we were inside an air conditioned room. But S's mom and aunt insisted we stay back for lunch. So there we were -- E, B, A (that's Tatonnement) and I struggling to find some way to entertain ourselves. It was a struggle alright but it was fun. The evening reception was fun. S looked very good and relaxed. So we left S very much a married lady now. Now I hear she is having a great time in the South. She's heading next for Goa.
As soon as I landed here in Delhi, it was time for Fashion Week. Jacquards, silks, nets, velvets, balloon skirts, frills, ruffles...I think at the end of three days I was ready to throw up fashion. But it was good to see eye candy material in the form of Suchitra Pillai's good looking firang hubby. The two designers who managed to put a finger on the pulse of the girls in the audience were Manoviraj Khosla and Arjun Khanna. They had only men walking the ramp and after watching just semi nude females, I must say it was very refreshing.
Aha how can I miss out the food that was specially put together by Shikha Sharma. It was all low calorie stuff but I wonder how low cal could it get if you really piled up your plate. The amount of baked fish I had two times a day for the five days can probably make up for the lack of it in my life the rest of the year. What I freaked out was with the dessert spread out there. Blueberry cheesecake, apple strudel, rich chocolate cake, fruit tarts, kulfi, malpoa...the list would run at least a mile long. Lunch and dinner were clearly the highlights of each day for me. I wish my mother could have seen me at work on during meal times. There's no way she wouldn't have done a double take.
Fashion week is fun but it leaves you as exhausted as it can. So I am kind of glad to get back to my normal routine. Except the day we got back to office, there was a fire here. Though some of my colleagues made fun of us for running down with our bags, the same night I caught the Meerut Fire clips on the channels and realised how scary it can be. Especially that our building has no fire exit. Just one entrance. It's liking waiting for a disaster to happen.
This is exactly the kind of life I want to lead. Pack my bags every week. Last week this time I was leaving for Palampur and Mc Cleodganj. It was an amazing trip. I can still feel the cold mountain air. Actually I was working on a story and stayed at a tea plantation for a day in Palampur. It was beautiful, the snowcapped Dhauladhars, the gurgling brook in the valley...that reminded me of Tennyson's Brook...you know that poem with the refrain 'Men may come and men may go but I go on forever'.
There was yummy homecooked food rustled up by the cooks at the estate. They were such people. Sarwan and Dharmo. They belonged to the local tribes -- the Gaddis and Dhogries. They reminded me of the good old servants who take care of you and make you feel cherished. Sarwan's gajar ka halwa was one of the best things I had on the trip.
The highlight however was my walk back to my cottage at night from the lounge area which housed a television. It was a Sunday night and I was desperate enough for Desperate Housewives to stay back in the lounge at 10 pm. The whole place was eerily silent by then. Everybody had gone to sleep. Now leopards are commonly seen prowling around the estate. All I could do was sit with an irregular heart beat and check my watch every 5 minutes to see whether it was 11 yet and when the soap would end. It was that bad. I was shit scared. Further the owner had showed me photographs of the British planters who owned the estate in the 1800s. And a picture of the planter's wife who had died here during the devastating earthquake of 1905. I kept looking at the glass doors thinking that any moment I would see a face staring at me. And I swear when I swtiched off the lights of the room and ventured out, I heard a rustling in the tea bushes. That was it. I ran for my life and for the shelter of my cottage.
It did not end there. You see I am rather a coward. I just couldn't go to sleep. I called up E who thought it was adventurous and sounded fun. "It must be good for newly weds. Roam around in the morning and have sex in the evening when there is nothing else to do," she mused. Even trying to read an MB didn't help.
Next morning I set out for Mc Cleodganj where I had spinach and potato momos for Rs 2 each (they were delicious especially as it was drizzling with a cold wind blowing. A monk called Tenzing egged me on saying they were the best momos to be sold there), listened to the Dalai Lama and couldn't make out anything of his Tibetan chants, saw nice looking firangs most of whom seemed like they needed a bad bath, searched for a monk I knew at the Namgyal Monastery but was told to look at the archives so didn't bother, bargained with a ruddy faced Tibetan junk jewellery seller who didn't relent much, sat down in a cafe and enjoyed piping hot coffee with macaroni and walked down to the St John's Church in the Wilderness (where Lord Elgin is buried) and thought I would get raped and thrown down the forest (it was that deserted, on top of which it was a dark and windy day). I did as much as I could do in a day before I set out for Delhi in the evening.
Now I have made some more plans. This time it goes like this: six months of the year I can spend in Goa, from October to April. The rest of the year in Mc Cleodganj.
Now I have to figure out some way to do this.
For the past two weeks I have been getting bombed by water balloons. It's been happening in a particular alley that leads to my home and which I cannot avoid out of the necessity of reaching home. Some kids have been having the time of their lives. And I have been telling myself everyday that the next time it happens I am going to ring the bell of that particular house and threaten them. Somehow I never seem to have the time to catch up with them.
Yesterday evening I was about 3 yards from home when these gang of young guys on bikes passed by and hit me real hard with balloons. I was on the phone and couldn't do a thing except shout fuckers. And pray really hard that their balls off.
Why can't people let others be? So I have had my share of enjoying Holi and I so do not want to play around. Is that too much to ask? It's like a menace which is out of my hands.
Hence the scissors. I have made up my mind. Whoever happens to throw colours on me, risks getting his locks chopped off. That's a deal.
On second thoughts, maybe I will carry the small scissors lying in my office drawer on the way back.
I have two albums of my childhood with me here in Delhi-- one with pictures shot in Oman and the other in Thailand. Just before this I had come upon something that was written by someone who will always be special in my life, regardless of how complicated he is. I was feeling blue and wondering how things never turn out the way you want them to. A look, however, at those photos of me in my baby clothes posing with my mom, dad and bro put a smile on my face.
Memories kept flitting in as I turned the pages of the album. Dresses which I had a thing for as an 8-year-old -- a sky blue nightie that made me feel like a queen, an orange and brown checked dress which gave me an Alice-like feeling because that was the time around which I watched Alice in Wonderland (I even remember Alice's face right now. Amazing really, given that my memory quite fails me at times, especially when I want to recall the faces of old schoolmates), a frothy lacy pink concoction of a dress that I would always be made to wear for school functions. Maybe dresses fascinated me because I was perpetually in jeans or trousers, often my brother's hand-me-downs. Which is why I guess I am so fond of skirts now.
Photographs of my mother and father - then in their 40s and 30s (they had me pretty late) - my mother young and beautiful with her fair lovely complexion and my father in contrast really dark and robust with the same thinning hair I have seen since I can remember. It was a standing joke then. My bro and me wondering aloud in front of him whether his head ever brimmed with hair. "Yes once upon a time when I was really young," he would say. But then we would come across his black-and white pix and bawl because dad never really had much hair on his pate.
Photographs of dinners organised by my mother. It was a party-like atmosphere in Oman when Indians, Germans, Iranians and Pakistanis would throw parties very often to escape boredom. Mother says there was not much to do. But I was well entertained with what we did - go for long drives, spend time by the sea, climb mountains, or go shopping in supermarkets to stock up the larder. My personal favourite past time though was sitting in front of the telly and gorging on my quota of cheese balls, 7up can watching Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny. And even though I studied there till I was 8 years old, I am surprised to say that I have no memories of studying. Not one! That feels nice.
As for the Thaliand photos, they had the complete feel-good look. The brilliant blue skies, the clean waters, the long stretches of beaches, my mother in her yellow silk sari, me in my polka dotted yellow frock with my four front teeth missing, my father who had developed a good paunch by then and my brother a long and lanky teenager who looked distinctly disgruntled with life at times...
Now I see how things have become. My parents have aged. My mom's skin,which was once flawless and glowing, has developed pigmentation, while my father has become very thin. My brother wants to marry someone whom my parents don't like. There's kind of a cold war going on between them as a result. So when I say this that the time I spent reminiscing made me feel good, I mean that it made all the difference to my ageing 25-year-old heart.
2. Have you ever come across a Rs 1-lakh coffeetable book? I did. Ritu Beri just launched hers. And as she announced the price of 'Firefly', her book, the entire room fell silent. And beat this: A limited 100 editions of it are being sold from the Louis Vuitton's flagship store in Paris. Yes, as la di la as it gets. Only its preview and 'informal' launch was by the hammy Akshay Kumar. Quiet an unusual 'friendship' we have there. When a journalist asked them about their friendship, Ritu hemmed and hawed and passed it on to Akshay. "Oh we just met through a common friend last year," said the actor who tried his best to be standoffish.
Ritu's faux pas at the event went somewhat like this. The shutterbugs were as usual crowding around Ritu, Akshay, when Ritu made an appeal to them to disperse and allow the event to start. She said: "I know it's your honour to be here but please wait for some time. I want to get started with the event."
3. She: "Age doesn't matter. Does it?" He: "It does, between the legs". She can't stop laughing.
This is an excerpt of the conversation between Bipasha Basu and Amar Singh. A hot Bipasha with an even hotter boyfriend calling someone like Amar Singh 'sweetie'. Indeed a sorry state of affairs.
4. This is for all those of you who think I have a real cool job. There are times when I am made to feel oh so sorry. Like when I went to interview the Bombay Rockers at Elevate recently. I was called at 10.30 pm. They made me wait till 1 am. I should have walked out, but the thought of walking out on a story kept me sticking to the turf.
When Thomas Sardorf and Navtej Singh Rehal (the two guys of Rockers) walked in with their producer Janus, 10 minutes after 1, I was seething. To the point that I bit out: "How can you guys be so unprofessional?" Mr Producer was clearly taken aback at being told so. His excuse was he had not been told about the interview. Liar. The PR guy had it from me though he tried to appease me by saying sorry a thousand times and ensuring me of getting interviews with them the next time. "I don't think I want to meet them again. Even film stars have never made me wait so long!" was my indignant outburst. But really, at the end of such along day when I snuggled into bed, I never felt more blessed.
5. A funny incident. I was at the place of a model, AW, shooting her wardrobe. She got a call on her landline. "No my parents are not home.You cannot contact them. You want a contact number? Why, will you call them up in Australia?" Suddenly I heard her shouting sternly into the phone, "Phone rakkho! Phone rakkho!" She resumed her conversation again. After hanging up, she looked at me and explained, "These bank people I tell you! This person who called up asked in a very timid voice, 'Ma'am are you asking me to hang up?'"
6. If it goes on any longer, I will probably hallucinate. I swear I will. As much Obelix craves his daily dose of boar meat, Jughead dreams of Pop Tate meals, I want my chicken. The other day, three friends of mine and I went for a Chinese dinner. While two of them hogged on their chicken manchurian, me and the other girl feasted on veg manchurian. One of the chicken hoggers said: "I don't think I was meant to die eating chicken."
7. The other day my parents called. This is what they had to say: "Mamma if you want to stay single all your life, there's no problem. We will come and stay with you there."
I feel the magic between you and I/ I want to hold you so hear me out/ I want to show you what love's all about/ ...I've got hungry eyes
My dance instructors have been telling the guys in the class to 'lead' the lady. I have never actually known what they meant till yesterday night. I didn't know a thing about it (except that it is a fast dance), but my partner just swept me off the floor, pushed me out, pulled me in, turned me in fast whirls...He made me feel like a princess.
The night had not started out on a promising note. I was covering theValentine's bash at Tapas, the Jaypee Vasant Continental bar, thrown by salsa dancer Kaytee Namgyal. I was as usual stag and accompanied by friends A and G. Kaytee was teaching everything from salsa, merengue, bachata to blindfold dancing. Of course the basic steps. While speaking to him, I happened to tell him that I have been taking salsa classes at Ashley Lobo's. He said: "You go to Ashley's for Jazz, to Shiamak for Bollywood and me for salsa. At Ashley's they teach the original salsa of the '70s. I teach the Cuban and New York styles. Hang around, you will see what I mean." And I did see, so much so that next month I think I will try Kaytee's classes.
Meanwhile, a guy walked up and asked me to dance with him. I was cool with it so long as it meant just a dance. Yet I felt hesitant. G danced with him after which he kept insisting for a dance. I guess I was acting pricey but I didn't really intend to. I was enjoying my glass of rum and coke. Kaytee was busy playing music, so he patted me on the cheek when I asked him to show me some steps and said: "Give me five minutes." Next he walked on to the floor and called a guy in red who was probably a dancer with his troupe. "Dance with her," he said.
Thus began the next few minutes that made me add another criteria to my list for the perfect guy (I decided to respond to the tag by Mint Chutney and Thalassa Mikra even though I have been tagged twice, which means I do not have to do it) :
1. He should dance or, lets be lenient, he should learn dancing (Since this is my latest obsession in life). Right now, more than a life partner I think I want a dance partner.
2. He has to look decent. I should not feel ashamed of being seen with him (This might sound vain but seriously I don't want to hem and haw while introducing my lover to you).
3. "I do this, I love this, my mother thinks I should marry someone like Sonali Bendre..." Yes, this was a navy guy who managed to bore the hell out of me. A guy who is too full of himself is a big NO.
4. I dig chivalry.
5. He should have a sense of adventure and be game for fun (though when I say fun, I don't mean swinging;) You would know what I am talking about if you have watched Rajat Kapoor's Mixed Doubles).
6. He should not act like a moron when I am with friends. In short he should have a social life of his own. I can't bear someone who would be stuck to my hip 24*7.
7. He should love to eat out. And he should be a decent eater. I have known friends -- guys -- who eat abominably. Like they have been marooned on an island without food for weeks.
8. And he should be able to relate to me when I talk books.
There, I am getting that feeling of not having said all that I wanted to.
The trip came as a junket offer and I stayed at a resort in South Goa. I was on my own. Yet I had the time of my life. I did as many things as is possible in three and a half days (my feet went really sore). Eating, parasailing, jetskiing, dolphin chasing, a trip to a spice plantation, going for elephant rides, getting extremely oily ayurvedic body massages...
Parasailing was exhilarating. It was the first time I tried it. The scenery from up there was fantastic. Only I had a hard time getting back to land. I have to come to the conclusion that you need strong arms to make it back.
And yes, I went for an underwater sea walk. This was a weird experience at the Baina Beach near Vasco. First of all, the water was not at all clear, secondly, there was no changing room and thirdly the helmet (very like a huge space helmet) which had several 1 kilo weights attached to the rim left two sore spots on my shoulders. Turns out that mine was defective.
I have to confess that I am not a water baby. So as I descended down the ladder into the sea and had the helmet lowered over my head, I panicked. The water was rising and almost threatened to reach my ears. But then thankfully it didn't. The only consolation was the good looking walk leader. I didn't even get the chance to flirt. The resort guy insisted on saying: "A come on hurry. We have to leave." I have never felt more akin to punching somebody.
The one moment I will never forget is when I was sitting on the rocks on Anjuna Beach and swigging a cranberry breezer. The wind whipping my hair with wild abandon, the sunset and the firang band playing live music at Cafe Looda's in the backdrop. It was surreal. As it grew darker, the sky became as starry as it could get. The feel was so bohemian and young. Now I know why people rave about Goa. Plus it has some of the most pretty quaint villas. I want to go back -- either own a shack, or be a bartender.
Or if none of these work, I have come upon another career option. Recently I attended a chocolate appreciation workshop by a French chef who is the head patissier at Harrods. I asked him if he would let me be his assistant. The man kept laughing. But he gave me his number and asked me to give him a call. So now I have to take a call.
In between, my folks have been obsessing about me returning home and working in Calcutta. At one point I was ready to and even asked my boss for a transfer. Now when he said: "I can't imagine you working the Cal office. Also you have to do production work," I thought twice. I guess I am too much in love with my life, work, the profile, the timing, to give it all up. My parents are sulking but I am too chicken to take such a huge step. And I just hate production. So am sticking on in Delhi.
Meanwhile, it is nearing. S's wedding. Everyone around me seems to be getting married. Now even another friend, who has gone to Calcutta for some time, is planning to go in for an arranged marriage. The bug seems to be spreading fast.
Dancing has always fascinated me. Except that I never took a liking to classical dance forms. I remember my parents trying their best to initiate me into Bharatnatyam classes. Much to their disappointment their daughter never turned out to be a dancing queen.
But I am glad to say that I have finally found my calling.
Before we started, we watched a jive by the other class which has been at it for months. They were good. Our trainers were guy A and girl C. A kept assuring us that it was normal to mess up and abnormal to do the right thing. C was this stylish chick with a great body and great moves.
A and C went on to teach us the basic steps for salsa after segregating the girls and the guys into two groups. When we had picked it up, they decided to let us try it with our partners. The only problem being most of us were stag. It was A and C who teamed us up. Now I might have mentally chosen my partner -- this cute tall guy who looked just right to dance with. But it didn't necessarily mean that I ended up with him. While he was paired with a plump little girl, I ended up with J, a fat guy with oily hair (This mattered. There was this particular step where we had to keep our hands on the partner's nape. Each time I drew back my hand, I could smell the oil).
In social dance a guy leads the girl. J kept forgetting the counts, as a result of which I had to stand, and curse my luck. In the meantime he had the gall to keep insisting on me 'relaxing' my elbows. I was close to snapping but then I clung to that last thread of patience. I think I will need a whole lot of the latter for the next few classes because I am stuck with the same partner unless he leaves or I do.
But inspite of all the cribbing I have done, I must confess the class was fun and happening.
In the meantime, S and Mr S (that's her fiance) have with all noble intentions been trying their best to matchmake. So on Saturday night I was duped into meeting one of Mr S's friends from Bombay. I have never been more mortified thanks to the fact that I happened to have met him for an interview. It seems everybody is intent on getting me hitched. Only nobody is getting any successful at it:-)
The first thing that comes to my mind is the night S came home with her beau and announced very coyly: 'I am getting married". "What?????" was the only word that I could manage. I was quite dramatic about it I guess. But what the hell it is S getting married after all.
A few minutes later though I was seated with the two of them on her bed and chattering excitedly about her wedding plans. I called up E who had a similar reaction. She wanted the wedding to be held in Goa as well. Anyway, now it is happening in Calcutta and Delhi in April. Also the immediate thing that struck me was that I would be flatmateless. Of course I freaked out (This announcement came sometime early in December). Since then I have been in a terrible dilemma. Should I stay back inDelhi or go back home to Calcutta? That was the only question that I could obsess about. Somehow I could not convince myself to return because everything has been fine till now. Plus it is winter and I love this time of the year in this city. So I think I am kind of staying back here even though I get those occasional guilt pangs.
In the meantime my mother has been worrying herself sick over my single status. Especially in light of the fact that "S is doing the right thing at the right time". So she has been trying to fix me up with her usual selection of eligible bachelors. The latest was a guy from California who was visiting his folks in Calcutta. He wanted to visit me here. My mother was only too happy and even told him "If you don't happen to like my daughter, don't worry. Just tell me and I will find another girl for you." Seriously the things my mother comes up with!
The guy called me up that very evening and said he would land in Delhi the next day. Next evening he called and said his flight had been cancelled thanks to the fog. And he asked me something which I will never forget. His question was: "So are you ready to relocate to California from Delhi?" This despite the fact that we had never met. In a rush I said everything I had to. And that did it. Because he never called back. My mom did. She had quite a few things to say none of which was particularly endearing.
Then came the New Year Eve's party that was absolutely the weirdest thing I have ever been to. It seemed like one of those American teen parties where nobody knows anybody. My friend Essar took me to the party. It was at her friend's cousin's place and turned out to be a terrace affair. Initially I had settled down to watching a movie at home, so at 10.30 pm when Essar called me and made her friends call me up, I had no option but to be a sport. I got ready in record time - 10mins. The one thing I remember from the party is the sight of this guy bent double over the terrace wall for the longest possible time. All that occured to me in my drunken state was that he would topple over. Finally someone pulled him back. The poor fellow was busy puking. The party ended on a sudden note with a drunken brawl. So at 3 in the morning we trudged back to our respective homes.
There's always a first time in life they say. It was mine. I have never, in my wildest imagination, thought of being at such a party but there Iwas.
Last but not the least I couldn't possibly leave out the recent degustation meal I had at a Mediterranean restaurant just a day back. For all those who do not know what a degustation menu is, it is something which you should try out next time you go out for a dinner. It is a 10-course to 20-course meal that a chef prepares. You get bite sized proportions of different dishes in each course and pay a fixed amount. I was doing a story on the same so I ended up at an invitation from the restaurant and it was a night to remember. I have never had so much fune ating out. I was asked repeatedly to take along a friend. So I asked VK to come along.
The dinner started at 8 in the evening. It was freezing outside yet we opted for an alfresco dinner (I must confess to a decided weakness forthe word 'alfresco'). There were huge coal fires near each table so it was very nice and toasty. The restaurant itself is very pretty and has a lovely Mediterranean ambience. The chef came and told us all that was to come to our table. Now unadventurous as I am when it comes to seafood, I was amazed at the fact that the chef's starters which had sole, prawns (yes I even hate prawns something which everybody finds weird considering the fact that I am a Bengali), salmon with caviar managed to impress me. With the starters came a straw coloured Chardonnay. In between the soups and the main courses were palate cleansers, tiny shots of sorbets --yummy Blue Curacao & Lime and Green Apple & Mint. The wine glasses kept changing with each course so that by the end of it, VK declared she was drunk.
The dessert was what dreams, actually my dreams, are made of. Exotic melon laced with apricot brandy and mascarpone mousse, pineapple and coconut tart with wildberry gelato, Baileys Irish cream cheese gateaux and chocolate cake topped with double chocolate mousse. I was completely floored.
I have also decided that's there nothing better than being the owner of such a restaurant. I came across the owner who was sprawled on a sofa two tables away from us chatting with his sister. It seemed so like what I would love to do. Free from the cares of life, drop in once in a week and do nothing.