The day my now ex-roommate and I went on a recce was a fun day. It was a Saturday and she was supposed to be off from where she was interning at NDTV Good Times in the fashion show 'I'm Too Sexy For My Shoes'. My roommate loves fashion, but in an intelligent sort of way. She's not materialistic or shallow. It's the gloss and the colour of the fashion world that excites her. Looking at fashion photography make her happy. She's not into fashion because it makes her feel rich or special by association. No, she truly enjoys the creative aspect of sprucing up a person's appearance with fabric, perfume, plastic, and footwear.
My roommate is 21 years old. Her name is Karishma Sehgal, and she changes the colour of her nails every few days. Purple, orange, green, but always pastel. The colour of Easter eggs. She likes to paint her toenails a different colour from her fingernails, a concept that never really occurred to me before. I've always been so particular about painting my toenails the same colour as my fingernails - black, dark brown, dark blue, blood red, metallic orange, or biscuit pink. I don't always paint my toenails, but if I do, they are always the same colour as my fingernails. It just never occurred to me to mix-n-match. I was quite surprised about that because I'm quite creative. Maybe that's my particular brand of creativity.
We were still in our pajamas that pretty spring weekend morning. We were both off work, but then Karishma got a call from the office. She was supposed to find a location for a shoot that was scheduled for Monday. The location they had sealed had bailed out, and it was now Karishma's job to drop her weekend and do something about it. She was supposed to find a 'vintage' location.
"European vintage or Indian vintage?" I had asked.
"European," she had said.
"Oh, colonial British Raj types."
But Karishma was not from Delhi. She didn't have a car. She had only been in town for 6 months and didn't know her way about Delhi enough to even know where to start. She was panicking, I was sure, but in an immobile way. She sat still on her bed in front of her laptop, her cell phone placed against her lips. The last location hunt she'd been on all across town had left her with a cold, cruel migraine that had lasted well into the night.
I'd been in Delhi for over about a year-and-a-half, so I tried to come up with some ideas for places she could try. Hauz Khas? No, they'd already talked to them last week, and they'd said no. Any place in Connaught Place? Not that we could remember. Um, um, um. We couldn't think of any place for her to start her search. Delhi is a big city, especially if you don't have a car, especially if you've been sent off on an open-ended wild goose chase. Sounded a little impossible to me considering how Karishma was not from Delhi even. I mean, where do you even start?
I'd remembered this little British restaurant in a marketplace a few minutes away by autorickshaw - by cycle rickshaw even. Karishma passed that marketplace all the time whenever she'd take one of her long walks to the NDTV media training institute about 30 minutes away by foot.
"It's called 'The Forgetful Elephant'. Have you ever been there?" She hadn't. I had.
"I've been there once. The interior's all upholstered fabrics and wood and flowery, but it's not high-class vintage. It's blue-collar, like fish-n-chips."
Karishma wanted to check it out anyway. She had a couple of other shops there in mind that she also wanted to check out for the shoot.
It was my day off too. And the weather seemed nice. I knew I'd just be lying about our little room watching videos on YouTube if I didn't go outdoors, so I volunteered to accompany Karishma on her travels that day. So off we went.
And it was fun! Maybe I too should've interned in lifestyle instead of news at NDTV. Or maybe it was just the company I had. I got along well with Karishma, and turns out, we worked well together too.
I don't know if you've ever been to that marketplace that I'm talking about. It's the M-block market in South Delhi's Greater Kailash 1 area. It's not a very big place, more like a crammed quadrangle with a small children's park in the middle and shops and food places smashed into each other all around the perimeter. It's always too noisy and too crowded. I never understood why the rich people of Delhi would insist on driving their cars into the marketplace and then honking their damn horns in the eternal jam as if that accomplished anything. GK1's M-block market is where the wives and mistresses and children of Delhi's elite hang out. Good-looking aunties with their sunglasses stylishly arranged on their blonde streaked hair, and young girls in short shorts (in the summer) or Ugg boots (in the winter). The boys dress in fitted tees and All-Star shoes and light stubble. This is the India that is overfed, the tiny segment of India that possibly feeds on the rest of the sun-dried starving citizens. This is where the shops hand out their wares in pretty gift bags that I've seen some girls in Delhi dangle on their waxed arms in lieu of purses (a bit silly, if you ask me). I've never really shopped at M-block market except for a skirt I'd purchased while under the sway of hormones and a pair of boots I thought I deserved after the hermit-like year I'd spent in Delhi. Most of my limited shopping was done in the street markets of Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini Nagar. You don't admit things like that in certain circles in Delhi.
Karishma and I spent our time walking around the whole quadrangle. If we saw any shops that looked like their interior could have Victorian potential, then we entered them. There was this one expensive boutique that had a nice staircase that unfortunately looked too Indian. It had some nice wooden doors too. Another expensive clothing store had everything peacock-themed. Nice but they don't have peacocks in Europe. Some shops were too contemporary, some were too avant garde, and many were really stylish but in an Indian sort of way. Punk Bhhaarat. We squinted at shop corners that maybe had potential and cocked our heads trying to imagine a model posing there, but no go.
I'd forgotten where 'The Forgetful Elephant' was, mostly because it was hidden from view on an upper storey. We found it though and had to trudge up a narrow wooden staircase to reach it. There was hardly anyone there, which made things easier for the two of us to walk around and play pretend in our heads. And Karishma loved it! She found a couple of corners that could be used for the shoot. She quickly spoke to the manager who was very cooperative and agreed to have the team from NDTV Good Times over on Monday for the shoot. For free. Karishma took some photos of the corners she liked and emailled them to her supervisor. A couple of days later, the segment was shot, and I felt so proud of Karishma. She'd dealt with everything and everyone so professionally, and on such short notice too. And I'd had a great time tagging along and giving creative input and having it received so well. Maybe I have a future in show production.
(Two of the actual photos Karishma had taken with her Blackberry and sent to her supervisor.)