Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An Evening with the Bridesmaid

Last week, two incidents of monumentally tragic proportions occurred. Firstly, Jyoti Basu, having been reduced to a condition that remarkably mirrored the State he ruled for 5 terms in the office, breathed his last. Last I heard, a grand total of 4 bleary eyed visitors thronged the hospital he was admitted to. Of course, they had been misinformed that it was the venue for Neetu Chandra's upcoming photoshoot for Kingfisher's 5000th. calender.

Secondly, I had to go shopping with the bridesmaid of a dear friend for a wedding that was finally on its way after about 5 reschedules (the last one was called off because a giant anaconda had somehow made its way up the bride's dress during a trial run, and she did not feel it, given the weight of her dress. The alert designer noticed, what seemed like a tail sticking out of the would-be-bride's, um, backside and I'll let your colourful imagination figure out the rest).

I digress!

Emerging from a shopping spree with the bridesmaid is like being released from the Auschwitz... preferably unscathed. Its also a mathematical improbability.

Those of you veterans who have already been exposed to the delights of this task, which includes chasing the traffic cop halfway across the city for locking your car whose shadow had crept into the no-parking zone by about half a millimeter while your shopaholic companion blissfully figured out the mysteries governing the choice between the 4593th. and the 7456th. gift that you had encountered in as many shops, would know exactly the kind of day I had.

No, seriously! It has its advantages too. For starters, after the shopping spree is over, if it gets over, you become a peerless city guide. An experience like this makes you familiar with every nook and crevice of the city that you otherwise thought existed only in Iraq or Somalia. It also let's you know, that your pocket can be rendered lighter in about a million ways from as many different shops.

You also can successfully stake your claims to the highest echelons of diplomacy. Trust me, it takes something to survive the salvos fired by the bridesmaid - Why can't we book the Versailles for her honeymoon (note - her honeymoon); How would this tiara gel with the six hundred and fifty four pieces of jewellery that she's going to wear on the day; the merits of tying a red ribbon atop a gift measuring 3.5 X 5 inches as against a white one (if memory serves me correct, she spent half an hour conjuring about four hundred reasons both for and against the argument, and finally looked up at me with those big watery eyes for a solution; I deflected the crisis by pretending to be afflicted by a bout of hernia); Why can't you develop some taste (a question that propped up almost everytime I meekly suggested something that she hadn't seen or went below her budget) e.t.c e.t.c;

It isn't that pre-wedding shopping seems long. It is a long drawn out affair, almost as long as the list of people who think Shah Rukh (K)ham can actually act. For starters, the very thought of deciding upon the probable gifts sends the bridesmaid into a frenzy good enough to have every energy pill manufacturers scurrying for cover. By the time, anyone realizes the impending disasters, two aspects emerge with epigrammatic clarity - One, she has thought of a plan for the day that is more complicated than building the next generation hydroelectric dam, and Two, Her budget necessarily exceeds that of building that dam;

Any feeble attempt of dissuading her and you might as well administer yourself some cattle prods. Hell hath no more a fury than a bridesmaid questioned (on her choice and budget of gifts). In fact, the Q & A session that invariably precedes the actual shopping reminds me of a certain Shut up and Bounce number by someone who intended to pull the Indian retail market out of recession by going out shopping singlehandedly.

The Shut up order was for us followers while she Bounced ideas off us numbskulls. Of course, it was a smoke and mirror monologue, for she attached as much value to our opinions as Sherlyn Chopra does to wearing clothes that actually cover the body beyond three triangles.

So, while we achieved the minor miracle of deciding upon the gift in the relatively short span of 4 weeks' time, it unfortunately left us with just one day to actually buy the coveted gift whose value would have successfully outranked Guam's GDP...for about the last 10 years put together. Its one of those moments in life, when you wished Spielberg's Back to the Future machine was a reality. It would have been so much easier to have just pushed her off the cliff by travelling back through time.

I digress again!

I will not go into the details of the day. Suffice it to say that it could have been successfully remade as the the sequel to The Longest Day and that Amnesty International would have had a field day making a case representing me. I was however curious about the ophthalmic powers of my friend, the Bridesmaid in question. It was staggering to note that while she could point out about a gazillion deficiencies and distinguishing points in about as many samples of the gift we were searching for (a diamond jewellery in question), to the perfectly harmless naked male eye, they all seemed absolutely identical...and purposeless. Of course, the real horror began when she commenced debating the demerits of each of those distinguishing features, wondering which one to let go. After that, I thought, it ought to be mandatory for all diamond shopping obsessed Bridesmaids to be, if necessary, forcibly shown Blood Diamond in the hope that it might act as a deterrent against choosing from an insanely large number of probables. Or maybe not. For all you know, they might just decide to join the RUF.

By the time she was finished (with her shopping), so was I. Physically (Blisters, the size of the fauna shown in Avatar formed all over my feet), academically (why can't you understand the geometry of diamond cuts; Pardon me, the only cuts I ever understood or admired were the ones on Scarlet Johansson's you-know-where), emotionally (you are so insensitive, hurrying me while I choose between the colour of my 1.5 inch hair clutchers - that will never be seen by anybody except those who'd unobtrusively peer on her scalp right in the centre of her head) and most frighteningly, financially. Someone should have warned me in a manner similar to what Di Caprio's Danny Orchard says to Jennifer Connelly's curvaceous Maddy Bowen in Blood Diamond - "In your world its all Bling Bling! But out here, its all Bling Bang huh..."! Same case with me. In the bling of an eye, bang went my savings...since birth.

All bad times end, however! I suppose, though I would have been tempted to disagree after looking at the groom at the marriage venue the following day. He looked about as cheerful as the inmates in the Khmer Rouge camps but I'd finally managed to squash the empathy button in me shut. After all, I'd just emerged, if only barely so, from a shopping holocaust. The marriage was a relatively pleasant affair. The Bride and the Groom actually got married without their families managing to kill anybody from the opposite party. Someone suggested that the capital invested in the marriage would have yielded better returns from a Fixed Deposit, while another came up with the idea of feeding all guests canary poop in place of the assorted victuals, thereby utilizing the savings on a gala honeymoon, but those were minor blemishes on an otherwise calm and eventless evening.

Perhaps, as retribution, the Bridesmaid in question offered to drop me off to the airport on the following cold and frigid morning. It was a gesture that almost undid her excesses merely 48 hours previously. Until...

Until, she decided to unleash the worst for the last! As I was about to hop off, half mind on the watch and the other half wondering the best one liner to inquire about any possible further rendezvous, she stared deep into my eyes and asked the killer query, "Was I looking fat yesterday..." (My advice to all those innocents faced with such a query - Flee the State as I did then, and pray that your flight is on time as mine was ;-)