Romantically inclined though I am, there are a thing or two I would never share with anyone in the universe. Leave alone with women. I don’t mean our respective beds of course. But there are boundaries I will not cross. For example, I absolutely refuse to brush my teeth with a pretty woman’s used tooth brush.
Nor would I offer mine to aid her. Now, don’t get me wrong dear. I am no stingy old Shylock. I recall, not without a touch of belated regret I admit, that I gifted an expensive collection of Rembrandt reproductions to an American girl I was dating in my youth. It was so expensive that the girl’s mother began to worry. They were Jewish and she even suggested that I convert to Judaism. I beat a hasty retreat of course and reliable sources in Israel inform me that a great grandmother had left it as a gift for the generations that followed, with a Wodehouse like cryptic inscription on the front page — ‘it might have been’.
Such were the thoughts that assailed my mind as I sat in a TV studio the other evening, waiting to be questioned on my perception of the direction towards which our much advertised economy was headed.
Now, now, don’t get me wrong. Chances are less than one in a trillion that you’ll get to watch me on TV. But once in a blue moon, they do ask me to show up and pontificate on matters of social relevance. Especially so, when the rest of the local economists are too busy helping the economy caught in a quicksand. Some of these TV guys remember me as a relatively unemployed economist and drag me to their studios to seat me in front of two objects, a camera and a monitor. The camera watches me and beams its perceptions into the monitor. In other words, the camera and I watch myself simultaneously, and believe me chaps, for someone who’s used to hip wriggling Aishwariya Rai-s on TV, watching himself in action, or even inaction, can cause acute pain. Hard realization dawns on you, as it did on the dwarf in the ‘Birthday of the Infanta’, when he saw himself through the princess’ eyes. According to Oscar Wilde, it broke his heart!
The TV chaps are aware of this tragedy I am sure and they try to treat me with as much kindness as they can afford. So, they initiate the proceedings with toiletry, engaging a young girl to apply a magic ointment on my skin, thereby producing an illusion that would deceive the smartest of sleuths from Scotland Yard. Or, hopefully so. As a preamble, she dusts my face with a miniature broomstick and then follows up with other artefacts connected to the art of making up a face. The treatment varies from station to station, but they all end up with a veneer of coloured powder applied with supreme care to every part of my countenance, including, as you might suspect, the top of my head, bereft as it is of vegetation except of the most scraggy kind.
Innocuous enough, you might tend to observe. Behind this facade of innocence though, lurks unsuspected shocks, as I discovered on the aforementioned occasion. It was a shock indeed, for I had no premonition at all of what awaited me as I whistled a light hearted tune standing alone in the elevator on my peaceful way up to the studio floor. As soon as I emerged though, I found to my disappointment that the nimble fingers of the make-up artist were already occupied with the face of an eminent politician, called upon to share the floor with me.
Like mine, his head too did not have too much to boast for itself. But unlike my pate, as I noticed with a feeling bordering on awe and marvel, a profusion of sweat beads shone on his, like the diamonds and rubies that are believed to have glittered on the walls of Sheesh-Mahal, as Anarkali faced a wrathful Emperor Akbar. He had collected these, no doubt, immediately prior to his arrival in the studio while delivering a thunderous speech in some public podium or the other. The girl of course was unaware of the resemblance and used a powder-puff to wipe off the sweat from the guy’s head prior to applying the powder itself. She wiped it dry, thoroughly so mind you, and then leaving this gentleman amply satisfied, she approached me, to my horror and dismay, with intentions that did not appear to me to be too alluring. The same brush, the same mirror, the same comb, the same everything. And, in particular, the same powder-puff, all in battle ready condition, to create illusions in the public mind that I was not who I always thought I was.
I watched her warily as she removed my glasses to apply the broom, or the brush, depending on the way you look at it. And once the intermediate steps were over, she produced the sweat soaked puff, which I was apprehending she would, to wipe my face with infinite tenderness. My first impulse was to run for my life, but the girl’s hypnotic charm held me paralysed, given my admitted weakness towards fair sex. I sat there as immobile therefore as ‘The Thinker’ of Rodin fame, deeply ruminating over the physiology of sweat glands.
And I have continued in that condition till this day, asking myself repeatedly where wisdom dictates the drawing of the line. Frankly, I am caught on the horns of a dilemma. Would I have felt disturbed if the puff had explored a fascinating Waheeda physiognomy, instead of the one it slithered over, prior to its landing on mine? I mean, you know what I mean don’t you, would Waheeda’s sweat-soaked powder-puff count the same way in my list of untouchables as her used tooth-brush? Frankly, I am not too sure.
But I am certain that I don’t want to take chances anymore. If they ever drag me over to a studio, I think I will carry my own powder-puff. My only fear though is that the girl in charge may not take too kindly to a man who carries a powder-puff in his pocket. Of course, given that I have lived through more summers than I can remember, she may not really care.
And you know what? I just received a phone call from one of those stations for an interview tonight. Oh s***! I don’t even know where they sell this puff stuff!