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Posts Tagged ‘my life’

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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Meanwhile, a little later, I’m kinda alone with the male half of the engaged couple, trying to fill that thing called the uncomfortable silence.

As usually happens in such situations (it’s practically a blueprint. Notice it next time), we begin the social interaction by swigging from our bottles and smiling at each other dorkishly. Then we both speak at the same time.

 “So…”

 “So…”

 “You first,” he invites.

 I open my mouth to speak, only to realise I don’t really have anything to say. Meanwhile, he’s looking at me expectantly. So I rack my brains…except the pressure of situation gets to me and my mind goes blank.

 For God’s sake, it’s not like I was on the stage in front of a room full of people! Just say something clever and witty and….

“So, you have sex with your curtains open?” I blurt out.

 And noncommittal.

 Before my horrified eyes, the guy squints at me and says, “Sorry?”

 Is that sorry as in I can’t believe you said that or sorry as in I didn’t catch ya?

 It is possible that he didn’t hear me. What with the music, the ball game and screaming kids, it is pretty loud. Thankfully, it is the latter. One would think that having been granted a reprieve like that I would make amends. Not me, no, sir.

“Why are you getting married?” I ask next.

After he overcomes his initial shock over such a bald question, he gazes into the distance as he ponders the imponderable.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” I say hastily.

His mouth forms into an O as he thoughtfully exhales. “No, no, you’re right. I don’t know why I’m getting married. I don’t want to.” And he goes on to talk about the redundancy of the institution called marriage.

Crap.

I can see the woman hovering nearby. Out of the corner of my eyes I see her approaching. I start panicking. “Oh no, no, no.”

“No, you’re right. Marriage is a fucked up institution. I’m going to tell her after the party that I need more time.”

“Oh my God!” 

Too late.

We both turn around to see the woman behind us, staring at us, her face ashen with shock.

Before you judge me, you’ve got to understand, I spend most of day, alone. Sometimes (very rarely), when the work is going along great, I’m happy, but mostly, I’m in a bad mood.  I have no conversations with any human beings apart from my maid, cook, gardener and the car wash guy. Which is a good thing because they are the perfect targets for my ire. Besides my work comprises thinking of ways to subject my heroines to potentially humiliating situations. So, is it any wonder that I have zero social skills?

Anyway, to drag a long story longer, my faux pass (is that the plural for faux pas?) don’t stop there. Meanwhile, after having swigged a half bottle of Old Monk (on top of the beer he’d been slugging since noon), the host decides the time is just right for a moonlit motorbike drive. Apparently he’s some kind of a bike aficionado ’cos he has a garage full of bikes. He invites me to take my pick of the bike or ride pillion, whatever I fancy. I fancy staying out, I tell him. He shrugs his shoulders and calls me a loser. He then similarly dares the men, and men being men, cannot resist a challenge.

 I saunter back to terrace to join the women folk.

 “You didn’t join them?” The hostess wants to know.

 “Are you crazy? With them being so drunk and all?”

 Her eyes widen in horror. She starts hyperventilating and rushes to talk to her hubby. To no avail. As any woman will tell you, reasoning with a sober man is next to impossible. Add booze to the equation and you have a better hope of India wining the world cup. She rushes back and glares at me balefully. “I need an intervention.” (how American’s love this intervention business.)

 So all the women rush downstairs but by then the men have already left. They return after a nail biting two hours. We hear that the host, sloshed as he was, fell off his bike a couple of times on the kuchcha road and knocked over the society barricades for which he was fines 500 bucks. But other than that he was none the worse for wear. And thus ends our eventful thanksgiving.

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And as I write this heading above, the chicklit writer in me can’t resist adding: Which means fabulous. Okay so I also feel exhausted from too much exercise, faint from too little food, asphyxiated from too many cigarettes…but I’m thin. As the wise Kate Moss said, articulating what women worldwide know to be the gospel truth, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

However, that is not what this post is about. Earlier this week I felt that that Piggies’ publicity needed another push. So I logged into Gmail, opened the chat window and wrote to my PR person (henceforth known as AT).

I began the conversation with my usual, I’m not feeling the love. Which I think it’s a cute opening salvo. AT, however, complains, saying she feels I’m doing diva act. The whole I’m-throwing-a-tantrum-because-I’m feeling-ignored which, frankly, is as far from the truth as John Abraham is from making it to the A list.

I am not a diva. I don’t demand round the clock attendance. Okay, so she can call me once a day and affirm to me that my books are selling like hot cakes and that I’m the best there is. And occasionally, just occasionally, like once a day, she can send me a compilation of press clippings also affirming the same.

Oh dear. In my defence, I said I’m not a diva. I didn’t say I’m not a neurotic writer.

Anyway, coming back to the Piggies publicity push, I mean it was topping all bestseller lists and everything but that’s precisely why I felt we needed to prod it along NOW. “Stoke the fire while it’s burning and all that, old girl,” I said.

I was taken aback when she agreed. “Quelle surprise,” I said, jumping across the English channels, if only linguistically.

She said that she had already contacted numerous publications and arranged for me to comment on a host of issues for various publications. Then she logged out of chat and called me on my cell. “Hold on,” she said. “D just called me. She’s on the other line. I’ll conference you.”

“Hey, D,” she said after a while. “So as I was saying why don’t you get Smita’s views on Handy Investment Tips for Housewives?”

Now AT had either forgotten to tell D she had conferenced me, or she’d told her, but had also encouraged her to be free with her opinion about me. Fire the gun from someone else’s shoulder and all that. I’m leaning towards the latter.

“Smita Jain? But she’s a…chicklit writer!” The way D said the last sentence, with a pause after a as though she was looking for the right word, and a kind of squealy emphasis on the word chicklit, left me in no doubt that she didn’t exactly mean it was like asking Einstein to comment on high school physics.

Derision. From a journo who’d just last week written that the French Open final was played between Rafael Nadal and Roland Garros! This was almost too much to bear.

I was left fuming. As Kasthuri says in Chapter One, “if (s)he thought (s)he was dealing with a brainless twit (s)he had another think coming. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him(her)  about my excellent, eighty-percent-plus-all-the-way academic record, and multiple degrees in economics and finance just to drive home the point.”

But of course I didn’t. I didn’t want to upset D. I didn’t want her writing Smita Jain’s latest novel Piggies on the Railway is based on a popular nursery rhyme, did I?

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I’ve received such interesting commenst and views on what women want that it reminded me of a popular fable I’d heard some time ago. It goes like this:

King Arthur was one captured by a neighbouring king who agreed to spare the former’s life if he could answer one question, What do women want?

Since King Arthur didn’t know the answer, he sent his messengers all over his kingdom looking for anyone who did. In the course of their travels, the messengers came across an ugly, wizened witch who claimed she knew the answer. She would, however, only reveal it if Lancelot agreed to marry her. Knowing the gravity of the situation Lancelot acquiesced, whence the witch answered, “What a woman really wants is to be able to be in charge of her own life.”

As soon as they heard it, everyone, including the neighbouring king, knew that truer words had never been spoken. And so the wedding between Lancelot and the witch was solemnised. On their wedding night, the witch announced that she had the ability to be beautiful half the time. She asked Lancelot to choose: either she could be beautiful during the day or at night.

Unable to make up his mind, Lancelot said that he would let her choose. Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time, because he had respected her and had let her be in charge of her own life.

The moral of this story? It doesn’t matter if your woman is pretty or ugly, smart or dumb. Underneath it all, she’s still a witch. And if you try to control her life, if you don’t let her have her way, things will get ugly!

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    6.A gay best friend to listen to us and give us fashion advice. We all want a Will to our Grace, sharing the secrets of our soul. And that’s because gay men get the despair, the angst and the should I call him or will it make me look needy conundrum. They totally get the drama, relish it even, and, more often than not, may even trump us in that department. Besides, it is huge fun for gays and us fag-hags to talk about men we are attracted to, each safe in the knowledge that the other person is not pitching to the same guy.

    And then there’s the shopping. While our female friends are competitive when shopping and ‘secretly want our ass to look fat’, there’s no risk of toxic advice in shopping with our gay friend.

    7.Romance and sex. Breaking news, WE LIKE SEX. Tender as well as red-hot, passionate animal sex. Who doesn’t like their eyes rolling back in their heads from sheer, unbearable pleasure? The only reason many of us don’t like sex is because our partners think a G-spot is short for Gold Spot. They are too focussed on their own pleasure. And if they do think of us they think going at us like a battering ram is IT.

    And we like romance. We all like to be wooed and made to feel one in a million. But sincerely, and not just because they want to get into our pants. Yes, we like to be made to feel so hot that they can’t contain themselves. But we also want romance just for the sake of romance. So yes, we like romance and sex, preferably in the same guy. I mean after all the gratuitous eating and endless shopping with our gay best friend with all the money that we have, who has the energy to pander to two guys?

    8.Equality with chivalry.  We want to be treated as equals but that doesn’t mean we want we the door slamming in our faces all the time. A guy who holds the door open will go a long way, maybe even all the way, with us.

    9.No PMS. I was going to write no periods, but as the time for their cessation draws ever closer, I discover I’ve grown rather attached to them. So I’m just going to settle for no PMS. No bloating and crankiness when that time of the month approaches. And if we have to have PMS then let it be only crabbiness. After all, bad temper is something others have to live with. It’s the bloating that’s a bummer, really.

    10.A genie to grant us all that. Well, duh!

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Guys, in case you’re wondering where I have disappeared to these days, let me tell you, it’s not Goa (sadly). Well, not totally, although it may account for three days last week.

By now some of you may be aware that Piggies on the Railway is doing very well. Commercially, we sold the entire first print run (5,000 copies) in three weeks flat, and critically, we’ve had more good reviews than bad. So, I think, I can exhale now. Phew!

This success is bringing with it its own share of pressures. For instance, my publicity person is now exhorting me to write the next book ASAP. She calls me up to ask me how many words I’ve written so far. And she does this EVERYDAY. Ever had someone who does this to you every day? Wait a minute, I forgot, most of you have jobs. So you know the best way to suck joy out of something is to make it into a job.

And if that’s not enough to rob me of the will to live, my maids have taken off to their respective villages for the duration of the summer vacation. While I’m quite content to live in an inch layer of dust, eating out is proving to be a problem. A drinking problem.

I can’t help it. Ever since I graduated from college, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten out sans booze. Well, there was this one evening bang in the middle of something stupid the Maharashtra Govt observes. A Gandhi birth week during which they force prohibition down our throats (I would’ve have punned here but I can’t think of a clever punch-line to the set-up). But that was only out of ignorance. Usually I’m pretty up to speed on dry days but somehow that one escaped me. Must be ’cos I was new to Bombay.

In any case, I don’t think it’s that big a deal but my friends seem to think that Margaritas in the afternoon are a sign of alcoholism. I tell them it’s not alcoholism, it’s melancholism. I’m drinking to drown my sorrows. But they’re not amused.

I’m also writing a screenplay for an animation movie. I’m doing this because it’s a friend’s project and also it’s a huge amount of fun.

I’ve got my life somewhat under control now. Not totally sorted but managebale. And I hope to be able to post more regularly from now on. Ciao.

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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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