The Babu and his partner briefly contemplated going to the Shobhaa De launch. The lady who once brought back fond memories of Elinor Glyn (“Would you like to sin/ With Elinor Glyn/ on a tiger skin?/ Or would you prefer/ to err with her/ on some other fur”) has reinvented herself as the aunty-next-door, propagating the virtues of arranged marriages, the need to adjust and the importance of producing cheese-and-crackers at 6 pm sharp for the Better Half, in Spouse. On the plus side, there was the prospect of leering gently at Ms De, who hasn’t been withered by age, not ‘arf. On the minus, there was the deeply grisly prospect of listening to four (or five, I lost count) of Delhi’s Page 3 couples attempting to demonstrate in public on Valentine’s Day that they had great marriages, really, honest, cross my heart and hope to die.
We already knew that the lady hadn’t lost her claws. We already suspected that the real action at the launch would happen offstage, which it did, much to the disapproval of this reporter:
“Alas, for anyone in the audience, all they heard were snatches of conversation – as they jet set refused to stop their own conversations even as someone was almost shouting into the mike. Despite being reprimanded by Madhu Trehan, one half of the five couples invited for the discussion, the loud hum just refused to die down. Even as the couples – Madhu and Naresh Trehan, Naveen and Raseel Gujral, Chetan and Manya Seth, Dilip and Devi Cherian, Anita and Siddharth Basu went about trying to gamely carry on the debate, the hum just refused to subside.”
(Love that bit about Madhu being one half of the five couples, btw. That makes her, let’s see, three husbands and two wives. Or the other way round.)
So we ditched, attempted to dust off the tiger skin and gave up when we remembered that it was still attached to the tiger, and let the gossip come to us instead.
First off the mark was Bright Young Woman who sent desperate message: help help help am surrounded by neurotic couples and sinking ever deeper into morass of mush, slush and bad wine.
We told her to drop by and listen to good jazz instead, but she disappeared somewhere between the Jamaican satay (will do calypso in stomach on demand) and sea of air-kissing socialites, not waving but drowning.
Then there was the Cynical Writer, who gives great soundbyte:
Shobhaa’s still so stunning, of course her ass is kind of fat in that ghati way and she has a harsh, grating voice but her skin, it’s glorious and I’m thinking, Botox? But no, one of her friends swears that it’s all natural, Shobhaa just has naturally great skin, and then my eyes lock on to Shobhaa’s for a second and there’s this moment of, you know, energy… So I’m listening to these people witter on about marriage and I turn around and say to this gorgeous woman behind me–too much makeup, polo socialite but still gorgeous–they should be discussing divorce, not marriage. Take me, I’m a divorced father of two. And gorgeous woman–I hear she’s doing some twenty-year-old–she comes right back at me, she says in a you-beginner kind of way, I’m a divorced father of three.
Over at the next table, says another friend, are a bunch of seen-it-all cynics who’re looking at the five couples on stage (who’re still going on about their happy, happy marriages) and doing the full scalpel job: oh, that one’s been cheating on spouse for ages, and that one has her husband’s balls in a vise, not to mention the bank locker keys, and that one I might be sneaking off to have a quickie with in the parking lot after the show…
Two of my gay friends got royally sloshed and spent an hour trying to exit from Longchamps, too drunk to carry out their original plan, which was to have Shobhaa kidnapped by the Lesbian Liberation Army and forced to grow her armpit hair until she agreed to add two “Marriage for Gays, OK!” chapters to Spouse.
The original Page 3 girl, Kanika Gehlot, who literally wrote the book on the lives of the Rich and Hollow, was there in red leather jacket, making quietly confident asides and deciding whether she was going to hit the Happy Singles party or the Smug Marrieds do. No contest there.
The only reported casualty of the evening was a friend of the Babu’s, who is recovering in hospital from bad cheek wounds caused by too much air-kissing. It’s the suction after the mwah-mwah what did her in.