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I walked into the airport cutting a sorry picture.  As if dragging a suitcase that was larger and heavier than me wasn’t challenge enough, I was trying to do it with two other bags slung on my shoulders. And five-inch strappy heels on my freshly pedicured feet. And no, it wasn’t so much role-playing Anne Hathaway in Devil wears Prada as much as lack of space in the suitcase. Okay, okay, I admit, I ran short of space even in the large suitcase. But that’s only because I had to carry some Piggies (My publicity person asked me to carry some copies at the last minute).

In short, it which was the complete opposite of the picture I wanted to convey – that of a cool, calm, collected and sophisticated writer.

I presented myself at the Jet Airways counter, where a skinny thing with an attitude of a designer store saleswoman gave me a look long enough for me to become conscious of each and every one of the fine lines on my face. Not that I have any. Well, maybe just the beginning of a talon of a crow’ foot if you want to be anal about it.

“Sorry ma’am,” she says, “Only one hand baggage allowed.”

“It is one,” I said, patting the gunny sack on my shoulder.  “This one here,” I said, pointing to the obviously laptop bag on my other shoulder, “is my laptop.”

D-uh! Everyone knows that with women laptop bags and handbags are counted as one. As long as you’re not carrying any liquids which in my opinion just defeats the purpose of carrying a handbag. What’s the point if you can’t carry a lip gloss or a deo?

“But ma’am it’s as big as a suitcase!!!!”

“So? It’s cabin baggage specs!!!”

“No ma’am you’ll have to check it in.” Inflexibly said.

I shrugged as if to convey an insouciant, “If I gotta, I gotta.” But my heart was pounding knowing what was to come.

“You’re overweight,” she said after a moment. She quickly rectified her unfortunate choice of words to mean luggage before I could pass out from shock. The upshot of the conversation was that I had a choice. Either I could, like, a zillion rupees in excess baggage, or, open the suitcase and ditch the stuff I didn’t need.

Now I knew what I couldn’t do, and that was the latter. One, because there was nothing I didn’t need and two, I only do that abroad when flying Ryan Air. I also knew what I wouldn’t do and that was pay for excess baggage because, well, paying to transport kilos other than the precious few on my body was anathema to me.

My brain kicked into action. Wait, there was another solution.

“Business class has a larger allowance, right?”

“Yeah,” she said doubtfully, trying to figure out where I was going with this. She’d have to wait. I had to figure it out myself first.

“How much goes an upgrade cost?”

She mentioned a figure that was marginally higher than what I would have to pay in excess baggage.

She nodded.

“Do it.”

And so I got:

  1. to board the plane last and exit first
  2. a wet towel!!!
  3. more solicitous stewards, although that can be a pain.
  4. more space, not that I needed any. There’s enough leg room in economy to fit two of me. Front to back!
  5. and….and I got to carry my stuff for free!!!!

This was an auspicious beginning. Things were auguring well for the launch.

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Finally it was the 22nd and the day before I was to fly out to Delhi. There I sat, in the spare room of my house (Get that? I have a spare room. In Bombay!) surrounded by 15 outfits not counting jeans, tees, PJs and other casual wear; 6 sets of lingerie, not counting changeable straps and sports bras; 5 pairs of shoes not counting my bathroom slippers and Nikes; endless accessories – four belts, a huge make up kit, 2 perfumes and 3 eau de toilettes, scrunchies, headbands, clips, pins…

….and a cabin baggage-sized strolley.  

I swear I was having a tiny Rebecca Bloomwood moment. Like the aforementioned shopaholic, I was having a minor panic attack at the thought of stuffing everything inside the tiny luggage.

Okay, okay, don’t panic, I told myself. It’s just a question of doing things systematically. For instance, the clothes can be sifted through. After all there are only two launches. I don’t need 15 dresses for that. I have the little black dress so I can certainly do away with the red one with the beige and purple flowers. But what if the LBD is too much for 5 o’clock launch, I said to myself? The blue satin number’s shoulder straps are a little dodgy so can’t rely on that totally. And I’m not sure the white printed silk one goes all that well with silver sandals.  No, I’d better take them all. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

And then there’s the shopping I’ll do in Delhi.

Fuck it! I’d better go out and buy myself a bigger, correction, the biggest suitcase available.

So armed with a lot of enthusiasm and not as much cash I made a trip to Lokhandwala market. Of course, since the luggage shop is right next to Firewalkers, it made sense to quickly duck into the dress shop first. Trying out dresses with a suitcase in hand, albeit an empty one, was plain…unwieldy.

Why was trying out dresses, one may ask, when I already had 15 dresses? Well, the answer is that although, verily, I had 15 dresses, not a one among them felt like THE ONE. Besides it makes sense to purchase something you like when you see it. Cos you’ll never get it you actually need it. It’s some kinda Murphy’s Law of Cosmic Causality impervious to prayers and positive affirmations.

Well, Firewalkers didn’t have anything but the shop around the corner Xact had a 50% sale going on so managed to pick up three dresses for the Bombay launch. Yes, I’m almost certain there will be a Bombay Launch.

Then a quick trip to the ATM and it was onto the luggage shop. I resisted the urge to pick out a set of matching, monogrammed suitcases and picked out the largest, sturdiest suitcase available.

Phew! Packing crisis averted, onto excess baggage crisis.

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Days preceding the launch…

Should we, shouldn’t we? Should we, shouldn’t we? Should we, shouldn’t we? This was how the conversation between AT, my publicist at Westland, and me went for about a week. And, no, we weren’t contemplating having a same sex affair. It was about something as mundane as a book launch for Piggies.

And the reason we were having this debate was we couldn’t figure out whether we ought not to spend that money in promoting the book through other means.  But then AT made up our minds and proposed not one but two launches! One at the Park Hotel and one at Landmark bookstore, Gurgaon.

And even though the proposed launch dates were a couple of weeks away, this threw me into a complete tizzy. There was so much to do. Decisions to make. The minor ones included the flow and content of the launch programme. The major ones included clothes, footwear and hair.

Now, I’ve attended several launches so I know they’re pretty straightforward. There is usually at least one more person on stage besides the author. And that guest is someone familiar with the author’s work who can involve her in a little conversation. The programme usually goes like this:

  1. Someone (usually your editor) introduces you, hopefully without abusing you too much for the constant annoyance you’ve created for her with your whining, your constant neediness and your adamant refusal to make the changes she’s suggested.
  2. Then you read from your book, hopefully fluently like a news reader on the telly. You keep your fingers crossed that the following do not mysteriously make an appearance: a stutter, a stammer, a chronic lisp or a dodgy American accent.
  3. The guest engages the author in a little Q&A. Hopefully he/she has read the book and asks you questions that do not reveal his/her shocking lack of knowledge about your book.
  4. Afterwards you throw the floor open to the audience in the hope that the few people who are a) still awake b)  not surfing the net on their phones can be persuaded to move their butts and ask a few questions, thereby sparing you complete and utter humiliation.

However, in my case, I felt pressured to do more, deliver more. For instance, I had to decide if I should say something funny, live up to the hype the books have generated. And if yes, then I had to write that funny monologue. So the days were spent agonising about the monologue, writing it and trashing it. The evenings were spent shopping for clothes and footwear.

To be continued….

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Nonchalantly Insolent

ALAS! Lady-detectives, Indian lady-detectives are elusive literary creatures. Despite the plethora of contemporary characters that the modern Indian writer has cajoled out of the mighty pen, this earthling has failed to evolve.

But wait a minute. Here comes one waltzing in on her wannabe “black Fendi peep toes”—and six inches high no less!

Enter Kasthuri Kumar aka Katie, detective with a buzz and two bumbling feet. And ‘seasoned’ chick-lit writer Smita Jain pulls her off with elan. Smita knows what she is getting into. Her successful debut novel ‘Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions’ is compounding nto a screenplay for a Bollywood film and as she herself says: “I know I can write a decent murder mystery.” Smita is also curious, “Did you guess who the killer is?” she asks fervently. And I must confess I did not. I was on the wrong railway track all along (much to this author’s delight!) and I certainly enjoyed the bumping ride!

Read the rest of the review

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