I found something I wrote to my friend Shilpa many years ago when we used to live in Bombay. I thought it was an interesting read. So here you go...
Dear Shilpa Darrling ( total ajit style )
Where are you lost in the concrete jungles of Mumbai? One of the animals of mumbai is the shopping mall. I was in one yesterday... inorbit, Malad.
I had plans of watching a movie when hubby said darling wait for me and we will watch the movie together so I had a three hour wait ahead of me. I walked around the mall.
I saw a skirt which costs 4000 bucks and I kept turning it inside out trying to figure out why. It was in my size and I totally loved it till my eyes went to the price tag and then suddenly the glow that surrounded the clothing item went away. Then the sales woman came upto me probably scared that I might rip or rip off the prescious chiffon article. 'May I help you ?'She said. I asked her 'Why is this skirt for 4000 bucks? ' She said ' Actually it just arrived and moreover it is a signature Satya Paul skirt. We have only one piece.' I felt like telling her ' Well if I was rich and foolish enough to buy it I would probably just sit at home wearing it fearing I might rip it or something if I went out wearing it. So I smiled my most wonderful smile and said ' Thank you so much' You know the saddest part of it is I had exactly 200 bucks in my pocket. I would have felt better if I had the money and then didn't buy the skirt purely because of the principle.
Anyway the worst parts of the evening haven't come yet. After a while I realised that my shoes were biting me very badly. I had bought some heeled shoes after a long time and now I knew exactly why I never buy heels. Finally I took off the damn shoes and walked barefoot. Thankfully most people didn't notice. If it had been Delhi I would have been stared at till I put them back on so for once I was thankful I was in the city of some of the most impersonal preoccupied people. Some of the sales people noticed but smiled gently as if indulging a child.
Most of the time I love sales people and even waiters in restaurants. I love smiling at them because one can see that they don't expect it, it throws them off gaurd and they try to do the best they can. Always works. Almost always. Sometimes they tick me off like this woman in a boutique I walked into with my nimboo paani in hand. The sales woman told me in a hoity toity tone, 'Eatables not allowed ' I stopped and said ' Oh Too bad ' as if it was her loss and I would probably have bought the whole shop with my 200 bucks. What I should have said was something smart like, 'This is a beverage!'Where are wits when you need them?
So then I found the perfect man and the perfect platinum ring. It was plain and shiny and perfect. He was tall, handsome, harried and incompetent. I smiled and asked him to take out the ring. He did and I tried it on. Perfection. I asked the price and he looked even more harried then before because he had lost the price tag while taking out the ring. I asked if they could engrave it with an inscription, they said they could for a price ofcourse. The handsome, incompetent man found the price tag. 20,000 bucks only and extra for the inscription.
Now I knew why I never go anywhere except to book shops and cafes in shopping malls. I said nothing this time but walked away quickly. The handsome incompetent man just seemed incompetent but the ring was still plain, shiny and perfect.
So I decided to go back to the book shop. It was no fun. I didn't like any book aside from the one with poems of Pablo Neruda. There was a beautiful story about a woman who read one of his poems and stopped believing in love and later when she met him, he managed to restore her faith. I had recently come across a lot of people, especially married people who didn't believe in love. Anything but love they told me. Anyway to replay the broken record I had 200 bucks and the book with beautiful black and white images and poems cost 800 bucks. So what do you think I did. I wish I could say that I shoplifted. Actually I just walked out.
Next was a store I always go to because it smells so nice. It smells of leather. I suddenly remembered it was a friend's birthday the next day and I came across a very pretty key chain made of leather and fake fur. I figured the thing about key chains is that they get lost in bags so it's important that they feel different to the touch from everything else and fur is perfect. It cost 145 bucks. I was jubiliant. The perfect gift. I asked the salesman to take off the price tag stuck behind it as neatly as possible. He did a wonderful job. I couldn't help saying, ' Very good! Very good! ' He smiled and put it in a really cute tiny cloth bag with a leather string. So happy.
By now I was exhausted and ready to drop so I decided to eat something. I stood outside the elevator and the doors opened to reveal an old friend from school. We had enacted the role of husband and wife on the stage many times back then. He called me his ' professional wife'. We couldn't stand the sight of each other and it showed on stage. He had recently made a film which I saw a couple of days ago. It had a major star in a guest appearance but nearly everything else was disastrous . We hugged and asked each other what we were doing. I said I was shopping and he said he was working on films. He asked me if I liked his film and pat came the reply, " No "
His face fell.' Everyone is entitled to their opinion' he said. We quickly parted ways after my lame attempt at trying to tell him the idea was essentially good. Why was I so blunt? May be because I'm just a blunt person. Although I think it's probably because in the Annual day play I played his wife yet again and I had one dialogue in the entire play. My professional husband jumped from one dialogue to another and I couldn't speak my lines. He apologised later but by then I had already cried buckets. The damage was already done. So I think this was sweet revenge for all those years of animosity and I felt utterly awful. If I ever run into him again I will apologise although the damage is already done.
Oh I just remembered something else. While I cried behind the stage another friend came along and sat with me. He plays the flute beautifully. He said my " professional husband" was a dog. We talked and then he asked me what I wanted to listen to? I promptly said, " Jungle boy ! "He played and ofcourse the tears vanished. I hope my friend will have someone by his side to tell him " Oh she's a bitch! " and play the flute or whatever for him.
I took the ride up the elevator which always stops on the first floor for no reason. I ate dal tadka and rice. It felt so good. I love dal rice. Now what I had left was 5 bucks and an hour to kill before I could get into the comfort of a cinema hall and watch Aamir Khan in Mangal Pandey and feel inspired.
I was dying in the shoes so I sat down outside the theater and I waited. People came. They sat next to me. They left. Some more came. They also left. I took off my shoes. I crossed my legs. I wore my shoes. I uncrossed my legs. I went to the ground floor again. I went outside. I waited on the stairs. I took off my shoes. I pressed my feet. I wore my shoes. I went back up to the multiplex.
Hubby arrived and smiled at me saying that the first half hour of the film was no good anyway he'd been told. I refused to watch the movie late. We ended up watching Iqbal instead. I prepared myself to fall asleep through the film. It was about dreams and ambitions of a boy who has very little aside from his family, some buffaloes and most of all his spirit. I loved the movie. Hubby was moved to tears and I could understand why.
I believe all of us are born with tongs inside us which only we can hear. Once in a while we see something which flicks these tongs and a vibration rises through our bodies and some of us shed tears and some of us clap and some of us jump or dance. I shiver and try not to smile.
We got out during the interval and I told him about the skirt and the ring. He asked me" Do you want the ring? " I looked at him and saw that if I said yes he would buy it for me. I said, ' No! ' I realised that surprisingly I meant it.