29 DecemberPosted: January 4, 2011
Comma doesn’t need to be persuaded to go shopping. If she were not a lawyer, she would have done well as a personal shopper for some film star, so that she could have spent all the money she wanted and bought all the glitzy, kitschy stuff that she loves. I was born in Mumbai and Comma has lived here only for the last 6 years, but she knows all the good shops to go to, depending on what you want to buy, and how much you want to spend. And of course, I don’t have the first clue.
To hear her talk, you would think she was writing her dissertation on ‘Fashion and the retail markets in Mumbai’ and not on ‘The Indian woman and the stigma of divorce – case studies in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, 2006’.
When I say: “I want something very, very glamorous. But not too expensive. I am saving up to buy something for Ogre. She’s going to be 50 next year.”
Comma: “Really? Let’s have a big bash for her. When is her birthday?”
Me: “Oh, a long time yet. But yes, we’ll plan a party. Maybe, get the Prospect to plan one for us.”
Comma: “We’ll see. If he’s still around.”
Me: “What’s with you? Every time I mention the Prospect you give me these enigmatic answers.”
Comma: “What’s there to say? It’s only been a few dates, after all. And I’m a little scared. Don’t want to get carried away. Look. Right now, let’s concentrate on your New Year’s dress, OK? That’s serious business.”
Comma takes me to a little shop in Bandra. ‘Little Butterfly’. I am not sure I like the name. And most of the dresses they have are very, very little indeed. After Comma and I have done our bit as discerning customers to drag out all the contents off the racks into a humungous heap, I choose something that is emerald green and thankfully, not too little. That is, it is not little in relative terms to the rest of the stuff in the shop, though quite little compared to anything else that I own or have ever worn.
The Chinese silk dress is held together at the neck and the back with a couple of strings, leaving bare a large expanse of shoulders and back. The neck is just low enough to reveal a hint of cleavage. The corset bodice has a delicate tracery of beads. The skirt flares slightly and ends just above my knees.
Comma looks at me suspiciously.
Comma: “Are you all right?”
I turn on my toes, and flash my bony back at her. Comma knows nothing of my feelings for So-On. No one does. But I do. And I suddenly feel that I have to try at last, to grab his attention. Though for now, I pretend nonchalance.
Me: “Why? Doesn’t this look good on me?”
Comma: “It does. But are you sure that you, a dedicated feminist lawyer who works at the reputed women lawyers’ collective, Neem, would do well to wear this sexist, sensualist dress?”
I do not deign to answer. Just twirl around a bit. The skirt swirls around my legs, most satisfactorily.
Comma: “Are you trying to impress someone? Is there something happening that I don’t know anything about? I thought you were going for a party with So-On?”
Me: “So? Is it necessary that I should wear something only to impress somebody? Can’t I wear it for my own pleasure?”
Comma, not convinced: “Oh, how come this sudden ‘my own pleasure’ bit? I’ve never known you to think of such pleasures before. Is it High BP?”
I keep quiet for a split second.
But she pounces: “Aha, it’s High BP, isn’t it? I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist him for long. Who could?”
Me, with great deliberation on each word: “No. It’s. Not. High BP. How is he going to make an appearance at So-On’s party? Talk sense, Comma.”
Comma, tentatively: “Then is it So-On himself? But how come I never guessed? I would have guessed, no, in all these years? Or are the feelings new? No, but So-On is hardly your type, is he? Or is he? No, he’s not. He’s sweet, but a little la-di-dah, don’t you think? And why would you suddenly want to impress him? It must be someone I don’t know, but then why won’t you tell me?”
I don’t even bother to get annoyed at her verdict of So-On. I know she finds So-On a little intimidating, just as he finds her a little common. I bang the door of the little trial room on her, and wriggle out of my dress. As long as she runs on with her own 101 questions, I am safe.
As I pay up, she says: “I didn’t think you had it in you. I thought you’d drag me out, and beat me up to boot, for getting you here.”