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Posts Tagged ‘Experiences’

So, we’ve been here all of fifteen days when one of our neighbours, an American, invites us for dinner….at five in the evening! My stomach lurches at the thought of eating a full meal at five and not only because I’ve had a relatively late Nandini thali lunch. So I am like, are you sure it’s dinner, and not high tea? I mean I know Americans eat early but even by their standards five is a tad too early.

But then the hubby educates me, a North America-virgin, on the concept of Thanksgiving. He tells me that the women have usually been slaving all day long and it’s usually the first meal of the day which is served any time it’s ready. In this case it happens to be five. All of a sudden a certain Friends episode starts to make sense (the one where they force Monica to cook a thanksgiving spread and then ditch her to go do other pressing things like watch ball game).

So we walk to the party, dutifully clutching a bottle of Old Monk. The American loves the drink and understandably so. It’s the only Indian hooch that’s worth having. Other than Kingfisher, of course (the one bottled in/near Mumbai. The Delhi Kingfisher is the pits).

The American promptly takes the Old Monk and starts swigging straight from the bottle. It makes me think of the Hindi film dialogue, agar mard a bachcha hai to seedha botal se peeke dikhga.

The party consists of an eclectic mix of people. Artists and animators from America, one of whom looks like a skinny HOG, complete with a bandana and boots and tattoos. There’s a young couple engaged to be married. Then there’s an American of Malloo origin and the host straightaway asks me if I like Malloos. The Malloo and I, both are taken aback by the bluntness of the question. 

“What about Malloo Christians?” the American persists mischievously. Both the Malloo and I blush and look away from each other. “They’re all right,” I mumble.

It’s embarrassing as a people to be so transparent to others. On the other hand, it doesn’t take a very astute person to deduce that no one likes anyone from another state in India.

Everybody at the party has been there since noon. The men have been watching a ball game and the women, well, like all good wives, they have been slaving in the kitchen, helping the hostess arrange the potluck dinner. The common theme, though, is that everyone has been drinking. Like, a lot. This makes them indiscreet and share confidences of a personal nature with us.

The female half of the engaged couple wonders if people can see them have sex ’cos they don’t have curtains. The women stop whatever it is we were doing (what were we doing? Ah yes, drinking). We look at each other, our bloodshot eyes containing the same query. OMG, did she really say that? A part of me (the sensationalist writer/immature attention seeker part) is envious that it was someone else who brought the party to a halt.

I want to say, “Well if they couldn’t earlier, they will certainly try harder now,” but I don’t.

More tomorrow…

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I wrote about The Comedy Store sometime ago. At the time they had flown down three comedians for a limited number of shows held at different venues. This event was a forerunner to the launch of the Indian Edition of The Comedy Store.

 Well, it finally happened. The Comedy Store has opened in Palladium, High Street Phoenix. As a part of their opening ceremony celebrations last week they were giving away free passes to the show. I got them, courtesy a friend who’s an investment banker.

“So how did you get the passes?” I asked.

“Oh well, I’m in business with them,” he answered suitably vaguely.

“Oh so you’re extorting money from them?” I quipped.

He wasn’t amused. “I’ve got equity in the club.”

Seeing a show my earlier quip fell flat, I resisted the urge to say, Same diff. Extortion *squealed in high soprano*. “Since when do private equity guys invest in comedy clubs?” I asked instead. “Don’t you have a more serious internet business model with no foreseeable revenue stream to finance?”

“Just because internet business models have a long gestation period doesn’t mean they are not viable business,” he said.

Have I illustrated the point several times already or what? Then again, you don’t have to have a huge appetite to invest in a restaurant.

Anyway, I went in with high expectations and it is with regret that I have to say that I was kinda disappointed. For one, the first comic and the emcee, Paul Tomkinson (?) repeated many jokes from his earlier performance at the Grand Maratha Sheraton. I hadn’t taken to his brand of comedy even then, and to have it repeated almost verbatim was, well, intolerable.

The second comic was even more insipid. And to illustrate the point I can’t remember a single joke he cracked. The third comic was a Canadian who was obsessed with Indians carving nude female statues on temples. I laughed at his jokes but only because he had the look of a madman and scared me little bit.

Afterwards, I remember feeling grouchy. That was royal waste of time and money. Okay, the passes were free but the cab cost me a whopping three hundred each way. And the three Margaritas I downed weren’t on the house either.  

I tried to analyse why I wasn’t tickled. I’m easy to please. I still laugh at fart jokes. And I had gone there ready to laugh. Did I mention the Margaritas? If that’s not priming for laughter, I don’t know what is.

And then it occurred to me like a blinding flash on a dark night. The problem was with the material. Observational humour about the Indian accent and Indians scratching their bellies and-slash-or crossing the road at whim, boring *also in high soprano*. Hack attack. Done to death in films and TV shows. (oh, come on, these days? When one Indian character is mandatory?)

However, but club should take heart from the fact that the rest of the people were, to use internet speak, ROTFLTAO. I looked around to see if it was just me who was left cold. Nope, my friends were too. My conclusion: People who’ve seen a fair amount of stand-up comedy will find it considerably short of awesome.  

PS: The Comedy Store is having an open mic night this coming Saturday. People who are interested in forging a career in stand-up comedy can contact The Comedy Store.

PPS: No, I don’t have their numbers. Get off your ass and look it up yourself.

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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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I was invited to a book launch recently. That is not to say I don’t generally get invited. I do. But whether or not I go depends on the convenience factor. As a rule I don’t venture beyond Bandra. Is there a game changer? Of course. There’s always a game changer. Booze.

So I go to this book launch where after the usual ceremony – the introduction, the reading, the q&a, – the wine was uncorked. I asked the waiter if they had any wine. And he said no, they just had beer and whether that would do. I usually like wine but in crisis situations, like this one was turning out to be, I’ll drink anything with an alcohol content upwards of 3 % (it was light beer).

And so the merriment began. I got to meet other like-minded authors and we formed a kind of community. You know it’s strange, but I’ve been a writer for, like, forever and I don’t have a circle of writer friends. So this was hugely exciting, like me, the plain jane, was being initiated into the exclusive club of prom queens. Already I could see me and my new BFFs spending lazy days in decadent pursuits like five hour Martini lunches. I would then stagger home and miraculously come up with literary gems.

After the event was over, my new BFFs decided to take my initiation to another pub / restobar / lounge whose name and location will come to me once the alcohol haze lifts. We began by ordering another bottle of wine and some eats. Again, I might remember what I ate if my brain cells revive. I have a feeling they’ve been totally vitiated, though.

We started exchanging notes about our lives and I was amazed at the varied and exciting lives these beautiful and talented people have led. One is openly gay, one experiments with her sexuality and has had multiple partners of both sexes, one has had a spouse and a lover simulataneously for ten years and also experiments with one night stands. They are all the ultimate in Bohemian chic. As I sat listening to the funny, entertaining and frankly risqué stories of their lives, it became clear to me that I might have been accepted into the prom queen club but I was just an ugly duckling pretending to be a swan. Sigh.

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Okay, so I’m ranting a lot these days. I have problems with the slum dwellers, I have problems with the middle-class, I have problems with the elite rich. I find myself quite alienated by everyone and everything. Now, I was never like this. So, out of curiosity I rang up a psych friend of mine and told her about this.

A momentary pause, and then she asks, “Do you have headaches and other body pains?” And I’m like, what kind of a question is that? Who doesn’t occasionally have headaches and body pains, especially when one is getting on in years? I reply in the affirmative.

“Distortion or loss of subjective time?”

Duh. I’m a writer. Once I start writing, I lose track of when I’m supposed to brush.

“Depersonalization?  Derealisation? Amnesia? Depression?” she asks, rapid fire.

Huh? I don’t even know what the first two terms mean. But I recognise my life-long companion, depression. So, yet again, I reply in the affirmative, albeit a little cautiously. I’m wondering where she is going with all these questions.

“Auditory hallucinations?” she asks.

“That’s it! What’s with all these questions? What is going on?”

A sharp in-drawn breath. Silence.

“Tell me already.  I’m having a panic attack!”

“Did you say panic attack?” she asks, anxiously.

“Y…yes,” I stammer, fearing the worst.

“Smita, I think you’re suffering from a….”

Brain tumour, brain tumour, brain tumour.

“… dissociative disorder.”

“Wait, did you say dissociative disorder?”

“Yes, what did you think?”

Gulp. “Never mind. Is it serious?” I’m beginning to enjoy this. Brian tumour may not be a walk in the park but a psych disorder? How cool is that? I can’t tell you how I’ve longed for these writer type afflictions, just to lend my life and writing a certain gravitas.

Of course, I’ve often fantasised about having a serious addiction. Like cocaine or something. But I’ve never seriously contemplated it. I’m sure I couldn’t afford it. And then where would I be? On the streets or in the slums, most likely, where admittedly, a lot of poverty-stricken writers and painters lived, but which, as you know from my last post, I’m not keen on doing.

In my mind I’m already a schizoid, writing under two, maybe more personalities. And what comes out is hailed as a cult classic like the Alexandria Quartet or something. I’m busy plotting my new multiple viewpoint novel when she interrupts my fantasies.

“Depends on what kind of a disorder we’re dealing with,” she replies breezily. “In your case I think it’s just urban stress. A lot of people experience this from time to time.”

Great. So I’m just normal. Where’s the cool in that?

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One small step towards the 31, one large leap towards mortality.  I’m in the grip of an acute case of loseritis. For those unfamiliar with Smitaspeak, it means fear of not having done anything noteworthy.

My friends have suggested various methods to beat the affliction. One idea was throwing a lavish party at Polly Esther. Let’s see, my close friends aggregate 80 in number. *shrug* I’m popular, what can I say? At 1500 a head, that should comfortably set me back by 120,000. *Sarcastic* So, not having done anything noteworthy and broke. Wow, that’s gonna get me out of my funk!

And Anu, skydiving? *look askance* Seriously?

Then, yesterday, my best friend hit upon the winning idea. The only thing to do when you have an attack of the blues. A great haircut.

So we go to this hairdresser everyone’s raving about. He greets us nicely, feels my hair, calls it dry and stringy, suggests some wildly expensive Wella hair care products and settles me in the high chair. So far so good. Then, as he’s cutting my hair, his hand brushes past my…well, let’s just say a part of my upper anatomy. At first I think it’s an accident, but then it happens again…and again…*eyes widen in shock* And I’m like, whao! what’s happening? Is he…groping me?

It seems like it but I can’t be sure, you understand? For one, aren’t all male hairdressers gay? And two, it could be an accident. An accident like the one with Uncle Naidu when I was twelve. And with Uncle Siwach when I was sixteen, but what the heck.

So I’m sitting there in the high chair and I figure I have two choices. I can walk out now with my dignity intact. Or, I can walk out after fifteen minutes with a great haircut. While I’m mulling this over, he pulls the bangs down my face and against my, well, upper anatomy to test the evenness.

As he’s doing so, he presses his hands down very purposefully against, you know. And I go, well, that does it. I can’t walk out now. I can feel my bangs are uneven. I mean, sexual harassment is serious. It can scar you for life. But the scars are internal. A bad haircut is there for everyone to see.

On the bright side, I look great with my new haircut and I got hit upon by my hairdresser. I still got it.

*beatific smile*

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