Thursday, July 26, 2007

... and smells of steaks in passage-ways ..


This is about an evening last December or thereabouts, dug out from 'Drafts' because of a wunnerful time last Wednesday evening.


A non-evening in a Delhi non-winter. With the up-side of finally meeting the Babu, whose writing I like enough to qualify as a bona fide … ummm, fan, even. And meeting again the Babu’s Other Half, who is intimidatingly sharp, depressingly cool and had minor rock star status in Cal some decades ago. Worth it for that alone, not counting the bonus of seeing in the flesh (rather more of it than one recalled, actually) a certain celebrity stripper from the Ananda spa.

Raj Kamal Jha has written another book. His third, and apparently a good one. His first was such a stylistic miscegenation – Amit Chaudhuri sets up Arundhati Ray (you can already make out I didn’t like Jha’s first, can’t you? Go on, say it, I’m biased!) on a blind date with John Irving. Awful stuff from a good writer. But “Fireproof” has been appreciated by Learned Persons who Understand Literature, so I shall buy it and hope it’s not, as the name suggests, a future Night Shyamalan script.

Said book was launched at the India International Centre, where one rolled up in search of like-minded company. And soothed internal issues about freeloading by sipping only soda. Such restraint. No wait, I had three fish fingers – should I send Picador a cheque? I knew precisely two people there. The Babu, once we were introduced, was the third. (And a bit of a disappointment, because my mental image of somebody plump, squat, square-jawed and shawl-wrapped was totally off the mark.) There was a BYT who led me to the venue, but sadly enough, she did not stop to chit-chat once we were in.

Chatted with the Dilton for a while, while he pointed out in quick succession (a) a poet (b) Ruchir Joshi and (c) Kanika Gehlot. Hysteria-inducing account of the reaction in Delhi to her tell-all book, but if even DD does not remember the name, it must have been quite awful. (DD remembers everything. Or at least used to, when he still quizzed. OK, qualified statement – he remembered everything as long as he was stoned. Now do you see why he was a rock star on the quiz circuit?) Kanika Gehlot needs to see an orthodontist, no no, not SEE in that way, CONSULT, as in use the services of. The ORTHODONTIST’S services, boys and girls, let’s not be smutty here. I don’t know her from Eve, but I remember a piece she wrote some months ago. Nasty piece of work.

In the meantime, one PYT markedly pushed off from DD’s side the moment I hove into view; another rushed up to us and breathlessly asked if she could “borrow a cigarette”. Say what? Borrow? What does she do, hand back the stub? This cigarette thingy was repeated in various versions over the next 20 minutes (which was all I stayed, since I ended up with nobody to talk to). I spent some time in a wicker chair, sipping my soda and watching the fauna of literate Delhi.

A young lady looked at me, whispered in her swain’s ear, looked at me again. Did I resemble somebody she’d seen on a post-office wall? No, I thought I knew the reason. Sure enough, she came over and asked for a cigarette. What is it with Delhi, is this the “khoo” thing these days?

Then I got tired of it all and went back to my room and slept fitfully, with unpleasant dreams that woke me up but vanished from my memory.


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14 comments:

Tabula Rasa said...

the Babu was my senior in college. prob doesn't remember me now but that's only good bec one of our last interactions was she almost horsewhipped me for my expression when i heard she was 21. even at that age, she used to be v cool.

(see, i commented *again*)

march hare said...

you have a VERY interesting life!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Prof, what can I say, you are the Too Coolz for my blog only. Shall convey your opinion to the Babu if we meet.

March Hare, I do? Apropos what, exactly?

J.A.P.

Anonymous said...

I agree with March there...ur blog adds some feelings of adventure to my otherwise "adventureless" life.btw i r a regular on ur blog. write well.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Anon, thank you for the kind words. I dont see any adventure in my life - what do you see?

And get an identity, I just changed my settings to block anonymous comments.

J.A.P.

jerry said...

I was there too, the crowd was right not exaggerated. Wine helps me -- try it out.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Jerry, what do you mean by 'right not exaggerated'?

Wine works for me too. And next time, say Hi to me, please.

J.A.P.

iz said...

You know I ask people if I can borrow a ciggarette all the time. i just feel it seems more polite and you know, genteel.

jerry said...

Heh eh, sure I will brother. I know what its like to run out of smokes, but I ensure that I say I want to bum a cigarette when I need one -- which makes it a bit apt. Well for most -- and many -- I have seen, the Seths or likes soak in with the literati puffing chipped cigars, the crowd there was a bit humbler perhaps at that event. Well wine kills the conscience, so I dont bother about settling accounts.

Sue said...

What about my tag, then?

km said...

TR got horsewhipped?

Sounds beastly and kinky.

//cigarette borrowers deserve to be shot twice - once for using the wrong word and second time for - wait - I've bummed more than a few cigarettes myself.

John said...

Hey JAP,

Loved this one. I have heard of "bumming cigarettes" but not borrowing one. hehe. Guess it is unique to Delhi.

Perceptive, as always, great style! Check out my blog and leave residues, I mean, comments.

:)

J

Tanupama said...

anon:y such cruelty towards us anons? pout...pout...

Tanupama said...

alas...i had to reveal my identity that is...