‘A Social Cause’
There are sniggers in the kitchen ~ " bahot comedy hota hai jab bhi Madam party se wapis aata hai , Saab to chuha ka mafik newspaper ka peechhey chhup kar baith gayaa hai!" ~ Rosie's merriment would have increased vastly, had she viewed Madam Dudlani fuming smoke from her ears and jiggling her prosperity-laden love handles in frustrated fury! Their entire NY luxury trip had lost its flavour.
The evening had turned a painful 'flop'! She'd waved her hands in all variety of dance 'mudras' to display the rock sized adornment on her finger, with mention of "Tiffany" at every drop of a sentence, the applause and envy she'd dreamed of had been rudely upstaged by Silky Sood’s new silver-mauve acquisition glinting brazenly in the drive. She couldn't pronounce 'Lamborghini' but had that stopped her from tom-tomming reference to the cussed object? The Dudlani's evening had turned murkily sour! Paul the driver summed up the evening –"Aapan-log much jolly! Ek Sunday mutton curry, ek Sunday chicken curry, ek Sunday fish curry, ek Sunday 'aeig'-curry, phir salary- day and 'fiqar-not' ka bottle! Kamti paisa, kamti tension!"
Even what you eat society tells you! If the desert has to be red velvet or Macaroons flown in from Sprunglii from then so be it! Even if your face turns pink without the aid of blush-on.
This little scene is a reflection of the times that are. And of the aspirational, amorphous section of Mumbai life, called "Society".
So what’s the philosophy of our times? It is well recognized that this same ‘society’ bow’s well to the well-endowed! Never mind how the ‘well-endowed’ Mr. Money-bags acquired the stuff. His last summer holiday could have been at the most ‘prestigious’ Tihar Jail, but so long as he’s got the props he’s welcomed with open arms. And this society is the self-appointed code setter of ‘where you will live; what you should wear; how you should live; where you must holiday; what sport you should play; how equipped you are with salon cars, yachts, watches, international brands, what you should do and more importantly what you must not do.
I'm wondering, with the recently announced Bharat Ratna for Atalbihariji, they overlooked the spectacular achievements of one Mr. Yadav of U.P? His stupendous talents in conjuring up hundreds of thousands of crores (gasp!!) as a govt. engineer baffles. Mumbai society too lives the mantra. You got it you flaunt it. You aint got it you still flaunt it's appurtenances as though you've got it. You can’t make it then fake it, mortgage, beg, borrow or import container loads of fakes from China. Your red blood cell count is directly proportionate to your neighbor's green complexion! And you are nobly doing your bit of national level economic social service. Banks, institutions and related bodies pay their dazzling salaries to staff on your overdrafts, loans and mortgages!
I'm wondering about those times of when Bombay boasted a cosmopolitan, cultural, more genteel, achievement oriented elite. The kinds that read books than the carats on a diamond alone, and attended theater, that spent the afternoon at Jehangir art gallery. A breed soon to be relegated to dinosaur era. Time was, they could patronizingly deride Delhi and its emphasis on crass ostentatious, nouveau riche culture. I so clearly recall a Bombayite, telling a Deli-ite who had built an outrageous, tasteless, monument of a house - "all that is lacking in your house Mr Bubbar, is wall-papering it with thousand rupee notes!” Today the description could be swapped to fit Mumbai more aptly.
Madam Dudlani, Silky Sood and their ilk convey to their dedicated followers what to wear, where to gather, where to live, if you have to be considered an adequate being to belong to that amorphous, gigantic amoeba called 'Society' whose aspirants go to any lengths to strut the stuff on the ‘internaat’ because they couldn't make it to Page three in their morning papers! Hours spent strategically posing to impress and convey the image of plenitude and being branded at any cost-labels, and such, from wearables and even luggage and it’s the international companies that are laughing all the way to the bank! Even to the nuances! Absurdly 'mwah-mwa-ing away to glory!
There is an exclusive ladies lunch for twenty. As a society ‘doyen’ enters- derriere following faithfully- a veiled scrutiny of appraisal awaits the coiffure, dress, shoes (Choo’s?), the logo on the handbag- oh yes! The handbag. If five years ago LV was the monogrammed de rigueur, then today most have come with versions of Hermes’ Birkin. The line-up of different colors of the Hermes Birkin is like bandmasters in a line-up with their ‘badge’ of acceptance. You have to have one. And all else ‘society’ dictates. But then after all that have you ‘arrived’?
That my dear is only the beginning. There are limited editions, collectors series, high end acquisition, cars, yachts, penthouses, holiday homes in the Mont Blanc, private jets……….the stakes just get higher. And you cannot even pronounce Champs-Élysées nor Saint-Germain-des-Prés. but you claim they are your weekend getaway from Mumbai?. You can pine for the moon -and even get it- but Silky Sood has already lassoed Mars !
A friend while catching a single malt with me at the bar once confided, vexed “My wife is happiest getting me all dressed up in branded wear and labels, from head to toe -parading me around- I quite feel like a monkey.”
Though men like to think that this society thing is a women driven affair, not so. Men too sum up social worth, with their own parameters - the whiskey they serve, cigar sources, watches and pens and of course the stable of cars or horses, the properties and the homes. They’re equally happy to qualify into society’s ‘snob set,’ and equally insecure about losing their footing there, because ‘Society’ can quite nonchalantly drop you when the bank balance dips!
It’s increasingly a society that marks education, all accomplishment, even art by its money returns! I'm wondering, the Mr. Yadav, until recently a mere government engineer, much in the news will soon be the toast of the ‘elite’ drawing rooms of Mumbai lauded for his most spectacular achievement,?
What’s the New Year going to bring?
Have we lost the ability to live life for the special moments, joie de vivre, and laughter for the sake of it?
Are we allowing society to lead us by the nose?
Where it will! If allowed. They will meekly follow what Madam Dudlani or Silky Sood establish unsaid iron rules? Is it really so important to try and fit in to this something that is so elusive and never fully achieved?
It is said that the USSR broke down although the entire population was assured the basics of food clothing and shelter. Presumably this was not utopia!! People felt suffocated at the lack of freedom of choice. At the end of the day, one does get a thought that the way of the vagabond as he whistles on his own path does sometimes bring joy.
Little, 4 year old Goldie won a cup in the sack-race at school. The celebration is at the "Wasabi" never mind that the night's hero surreptitiously slides the raw fishy sashimi slices under table covers and gags over the sea weed, while Papa, with a triumphant smirk pretends loudly, to be outraged at the excessiveness of the six figure bill.