Well, I feel very Khushwant Singh-ish ( RIP) as I start to blog today. I am of course referring to his ”Delhi: A Novel”, published in 1990 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delhi:_A_Novel). However, the timeline of my blog today about a certain quirky fetish of the Delhi-ites’ would be in and after 2000. Maybe, this fetish existed earlier.But I was subject to it only after I started working in Delhi from the year 2000 onwards. Before that I studied in JNU ( Jawaharlal Nehru University,New Delhi) and although was subject to many idiosyncrasies of the Delhi-ite, it kind of got overshadowed by the region specific idiosyncrasies of the nation wide student disapora that one got to see in the university .But that is a story for another day
The middle class Delhi-ite today is very conscious of status.Now, this status could have come from many things.Most ostensibly, it could be from money from the husband’s business, the number and make of the family cars, whether the son is studying in UK/US, which beauty parlor the wife and daughter frequent, what breed is the family pooch,which area does one live in etc etc. Well, these factors certainly are important markers of status.
However, the critical marker of status , is the number of bedrooms one has in their flats/apartments( The concept of a bungalow sadly doesn’t exist anymore) . Time and again I have been subject to this aggressive question ”How many bedrooms do you have ?”. The question becomes more aggressive if you are the owner of the flat as against living in rented accommodation. I was taken aback the first time I was subject to this classification of my status.Mainly at the pronunciation. ”Bed room” was pronounced as ”Bad Room”. Completely bewildered, I timidly asked ”What is a bad room?”. I remember the host and hostess condescendingly telling me ”Arrey, where you sleep yaar”. ”Oh ok ok”, I muttered and then timidly again “But why is it bad? “. By this time time the beer, pickled onions, sheekh kebab and Halidram’s bhujiya had managed to turn the host’s ample stomach into a witch’s cauldron. A sonorous burp accompanied his ” Arrey, not Bad, but Bad. Bad.”. The hostess , still in her Sunday special satin pajamas (though it was almost 4pm) also happily chirped “”Hanh , hanh Bad .B-A-D room”. I finally comprehended.Within seconds however,the couple collapsed into hysterical giggles. The host chortled ”Arrey, you are so naughty yaar! You are thinking Bad things because its the Bad room”. Ouch, I winced. How typical to equate Vatsayana’s delight with ‘bad things’ ( Can’t say the s** word ,you see ,I am an Indian.We are very subtle.Thus,we like to drench our women in transparent white sarees under a waterfall and then ogle) .And perhaps this ”badness ” is un-imaginatively indulged in only in the bed-bad room! This from the land of the Kamasutra! Tch..tch.
So, if you have only one bed room..wait its called 1 BHK ( bedroom, hall, kitchen) , you have “just arrived” on the social status scale and so are almost person non grata. Get the point? I told my hosts that I have five bedrooms. They became surly. The hostess looked accusingly at the host with the expression ”Improve your performance on the bed-bad room front”. Very Freudian, I thought, had I not known the actual cause of her distress.And my expectations of a dinner invitation also vanished. You see, they had two bed-badrooms.Had I unwittingly said that two of my bedrooms are for my dogs, I guess I would have returned in a body bag.
While in Rome, do as the Romans do. Wise proverb. And now while in Delhi, the saying is employed by me on my social visits. The first question I ask is ” How many bedrooms do you have ?”. My hosts beam at my perfect and relevant social etiquette. After hearing their answer, I mumble the number I have. A politically correct reply. So that the hostess doesn’t poison my drink 🙂