Saturday, December 27, 2008


Who said 4 pretty single girls cant have fun all by themselves in big, bad Dilli? If anybody did, guess Nandu would have to simply send the picasa album link to that person. To get an idea of what we are capable of. Just a gist of it.

Well, it so happened that we four decided to take things in our own hands and made a plan for Christmas eve. We would hang out, have a cake, be merry and spend some nice nice time together. That was the idea anyway. So, while most of our plans go dhap, this one plan slowly cemented itself in the upcoming weeks. Finally, on the 24th, with some minor hiccups (Mrinu having a choked throat, bloody Bengali catching cold just at the right time! And Pia having banged her car, was forced to repair it with her father towering over her with the look that said, ‘You young people of today!’ also Nandu simply could not manage to convince her strict dad; we almost decided to call up as Anjali’s mom and speak to him! ) we made our way from Gurgaon to Vasant Vihar in Pia’s car singing ‘Last Christmas I gave you my heart..’

So, we made it to Hooka Bar, this stylish pub where the manager looked at us and we thought he’ll know we weren’t 25 yet! He didn’t (actually it seemed our day simply couldn’t go wrong anymore!) and informed us it was a ‘No Smoking’ zone. So we looked at Anjali and said, ‘Ah well, if only Anjali cant resist smoking for sometime, I guess this place is good enough! You have your nicotine patch with you, Anjali?’ So the manager stared. Eventually, the entire complex did, but we will come to that later.

Inside Hooka, it was still Happy Hours and so we ordered rounds of Green apple vodkas with Pia sipping some orange flavoured ones. And we toasted to so many things, that Nandu decided we should not take our glasses away, just stick them together.
We had found ourselves a table closest to the bar and once we were settled, we realized that our table direction forced us to be the unfortunate spectators of an old ugly man cozying up to a young little girl. He gulped down whisky- two in a row (sure they were neat). God save the girl!

Meanwhile, the waiter in his Santa hat found it difficult to absorb our order.
3 orange flavoured vodka and 1 green apple?
No. 3 green apple flavors and 1 orange.
Man in Santa hat returned with 2 orange flavored vodkas…that’s it.
Aapko bola tha 3 green apple aur ek orange.
He rushes off to attend to another customer, leaving Mrinu visibly irritated. Anjali decides she’ll give it to him this time he returns.
Madam dekho paper pe yehi likha hai-2 orange, 1green apple.
Mrinu: Bhaiyaaaaaa!! 3 green apple aur Ek orange kitni baar bole aapko.

Finally the drinks arrived:
Mrinu/ Anjali/ Nandini: Mmm nice!
Piya: Uhh mine tastes like shit!
Nandini takes the glass from Pia and confirms: Yeah
Anjali, sipping it: Hehe it is shit!

Anjali all through our drinks wished to go to another place and avail their happy hour too, when suddenly Mrinalini started giggling, followed by Pia, Anjali and Nandini. In the midst of non stop laughter, Nandu declared “I don’t know why am laughing” Anjali exclaimed “me neither!” Actually, none of us knew what the joke was. And then it struck us- Mrinalini was DRUNK! And the rest of us were well slightly getting where Mrinu had so quickly reached. Our second round arrived and realizing Mrinu was in lala land, Pia and Nandu quietly sipped her drink to half! Anjali, in between, was acting strange and kept saying that Pia should not drink anymore since she had to drive back.

A while later, we decided to get out of the place for a smoke and go to Chocola, a place famous for its chocolate delicacies (how obvious). Once out, Nandini began behaving strange. Our observation (fresh air + alcohol= drunk Nandu). Anjali got 2 smokes, while Mrinu protested she wanted a bidi. Nandu and Pia alternated between a paan and a Godaam Garam.

-Mrinalini constantly blabbered- we are pre-thy (pretty with an accent), I love the fondueeee (which was actually a chocolate cake) and that ‘He’- the guy she likes and the guy who was quite amused on seeing the 4 of us acting peculiar- looks like fondue.. He is fondue.

Look, people outside singing carols.
Pia and Nandini waved at them (WHY?) The guy turns back enters Chocola, hands us Christmas cards.

-Piya: Oh look cute guy across the street.
Nandini: He has a moustache.
No he doesn’t.
Nandini: Yes he does, come I’ll show you.
They go and stick out faces on the glass window and stare intently.
Yaaaaa he does have a moustache, how did you notice. It’s so tiny :p

-Cute guy looked at us, of course amused and minutes later entered Chocola with his 2 afro friends and sat right NEXT TO US.

-Anjali decided to use the washroom, started walking towards it when suddenly Nandini pushed her aside and entered the loo.

-Meanwhile Mrinalini was talking to JB, Anjali’s buddy over the phone telling her to get off the bus as she was needed home and that she had to go home right then! Also, how JB should not date Advocate Pintu [a name she mixed up] and how never to trust a woman who has an X in her name.
What is she? A fucking movie directed by MF. Hussain!

-Nandini started to go through Pia’s bag. Took out the sunglasses and placed them crookedly on her nose, while we desperately tried to operate her hi-tech camera. Nandu smiled for a pose, and seconds later, fell down on the couch chuckling. The foreign party next to us were thoroughly enjoying.
Soon, a search for the hi-tech camera cap began:
We were busy going through the hand bags, shifting couches when suddenly we heard someone tell us:
Look under that couch, I can SNIFF it!
Unanimous turning of our heads and we saw the afro guy grinning and repeating I can sniff it. When we found it, Afro Guy said: I told ya, I could sniff it. (ya, great! Whatever!)

Later, we decided to stop for some coffee and burgers. Mrinalini’s guy was on his way to picking her up and Anjali’s sole aim was to get Nandu in her senses before we met her folks. So while Anjali was gone, Pia had the responsibility of 2 pretty drunk girls, looking at shoes.
Look Fendi bag, kitne ka hai bhiyaa?
Bhaiya: 1850!
Mrinu: But yeh to fake hai.
Nandini: Even I am wearing fake Fendi shoes but they don’t look fake na. See.

Nandu took her one shoe off and balanced herself on one foot. Jeez!
Nandini: Yeh dekh dono ko (she matched her shoe and the bag while the shopkeeper had the look: What the fuck??) Soon, Mrinu sees her guy coming. He already had an amused look from far. Anjali by now was back with coffee, fries and burgers.

Mrinu to her guy: Look Anjali has such small feet and hands. Anjali show.
Anjali (totally embarrassed and probably thinking- why?):
Uhh, okay! Here!

-We bid good bye to Mrinu and her guy and began walking towards the car. Nandini was hopping/ jumping, the fake fendi had given her shoe bites.

On the drive back, Anjali asked Nandini to perform on the song playing (Khaled’s Didi). Pia viewed the ‘dance’ from the rearview mirror; a black shadow going left and right with hands moving up and down!

Nandini please behave yourself, your dad will notice.
Shake yourself up chal..Do we have water in the car?

We spotted her parents and slowed down.
Nandu keep shut in your car. Don’t talk or giggle.
Haan Haan!

We exchange ‘polite-sober-we’re-totally-okay’ greetings with her parents.
Nandini (Loudly): Anjali, Piya ka nightsuit and tera handbag tujhe de doon?
Anjali (with the shut yourself up look): Umm, no let Eeverything in the backseat be!
Nandini (sat inside, stuck her hand and face outside): Byeeee. (Then only the hand waving till we no longer could see them.)
Uff is she mad why was she doing that? Her dad will figure.

The X-Mas party had happened, and it was for real. Just that, all the four of us just remember parts of it. That is how we wrote this post. Some parts, still missing.
PS: This story is inspiring in no way. It is all that women should not be doing outdoors all on their own.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Charlie and the photo factory

Yep, that’s my version of the tale so you don’t get chocolates but photographs. It was my day out with a mime who plays Charlie Chaplin at a restaurant for a living. So for all intents and purposes, lets call him Charlie shall we, for the real one would’ve been proud of this 21st (or is it 22nd) century copy!

Basically, coming to terms with vague themes, I decided to be vague in my own way and decided to shoot a photo series with Charlie because he in himself is such an interesting prop, I only needed to place him and viola! I have a photo story. Quite what the story says, I haven’t decided just yet but something will come up. Maybe something to do with surrealism and juxtaposition and contrast etc etc. hmmm. So back to the day.

Charlie, though very decent was quite tardy, he made me wait for two hours before he arrived and then put on his make-up while I was hanging around waiting for a ready made painted one. (While waiting I checked out hideously expensive overcoats and exchanged gossip with recession worried Anjali and Pia. We were depressed with the prices and decided to wait till the sale becomes more aggressive).

Since he had a 4 'o' clock birthday to attend and I had an evening book launch to rush to, my panic button was all but blinking red since the day being his holiday, it was all I had. Phew. I get jitters just thinking about it. But we managed. Almost.

First of all I took him to Jantar Mantar where the unique architecture would provide an interesting contrast and setting. What I did not expect was ‘Charlie Charlie’ and ‘One photo please’ requests from everyone, be it 6 or 60. Seriously, people were fascinated. It makes me wonder why I was and am always so blasé about this. Charlie Chaplin appealed to me as a photographic subject, but as entertainment, I probably would not be so enamored. But maybe my idea of creating contrast by placing him in dramatic or just different surroundings worked too well. People gamed. People stared. And people called out.


‘Areey, hello yaaar’

‘Charlie Bhai’

‘Charlie paaji, oye hullo’

‘Hello Mr India!’

and you can add your variations.

This Charlie was as pleasant as was possible considering we were almost mobbed! Everyone wanted a piece of him. And I never once imagined this aspect of the shoot while I bit my nails thinking of locations and lighting.

As the day went on and we proceeded from location to location- in an auto, I was constantly amazed by the number of people who peeped out of their cars, turned their heads, hung their heads out of the window- just for Charlie. And he of course never failed to oblige. He shook hands with kids, tipped his hat to strangers, raised eyebrows for strangers, mimicked anyone with a funny expression and well, he did what he does best- entertained people. Pretending to trip while in Janpath, swishing his stick nonchalantly while checking out handicrafts or just making faces at a very old, amused lady- he was in his element. And I know he’s an artist and this is how he earns his living but the simplicity with which he adopted this role and proceeded to entertain everyone- policemen, beggars, our auto rickshaw drivers, security guards, aunties and uncles and little sardars- it was amazing.

Which is why, when we reached India Gate and some 15 unruly school children (probably bursting with post-puberty hormones) started to jostle, push and just misbehave with Charlie, I was furious. With myself for not thinking about it, since he was pretty much my responsibility and with people, who have no respect. Obviously, screaming ‘Don’t touch him’ and ‘Get away’ did not work. I wonder if my voice was within the audible range, but capable Charlie swished his stick and off we were. He was upset but within minutes he was entertaining ice-cream vendors with swashbuckling antics. Needless to say, I was charmed. Here was a boy, who hardly earns enough to keep house, is extremely talented and who likes being Charlie Chaplin and he gets over such incidents like a forgotten itch. I don’t think I would be quite so forgiving, or forgetful.

But mostly, it was his quiet pride in what he does, the smiles and the responses that he generated from every and I do mean every pedestrian we crossed (not to mention a group of very persistent south Indian NCC cadets. ‘Char-lay own photoh’) that kept him going I think. From Lodhi Garden to the National Gallery of Modern art, a book shop or a bus stand; everywhere we went, he drew smiles, if not awe. And me, I just kept wondering- how many lives has he touched today by a simple lift of an eyebrow?

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