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     Volume 5 Issue 92 | April 28, 2006 |

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Slice of Life


Richa Jha

My ego took a severe beating early morning last Friday when I woke up to a full-page interview (along with a small black and white portrait) of my next-door neighbour in a local newspaper. This, because she happens to be the phoney-est of armchair social activists, surviving on a staple diet of seeing herself as a permanent fixture on the Letters-to-the-Editor page. So much so that she actually feels she can usher in a revolution with her letters. "It's all about voicing your opinion. Speak out," thus was titled her interview.

The Hubby seemed impressed. While he normally simply skims over such news items, this time I followed his eyes as he read from the first word to the last absorbed as if he had chanced upon a passionate billet doux from his ex-flames! Naturally, I didn't like it.

I tried my best to distract him from that, but to no avail. Only once he had had his fill, as it seemed, (to put it coarsely) of this marvel-next-door did he look up and remark, "To think that we had such a rare gem living close by, and I never bothered to get to know her better."

"She isn't all that great. This is all publicity stunt, and people like you fall for it. And fall for her, if I may add." I remonstrated.

"What are you saying? How can you be blind to her contribution to …"

I couldn't have expressed my extreme jealousy at that instance, so I tried to veer the discussion in the direction of what would suit me. "So what? I too can do, and maybe do better. Is it my fault that I have not been interviewed yet?"

"What are you saying? Interview, and yours? You are not interview material. You are not even news material. You have to be something, do something to step into this elite category, do you understand?"

But I was unrelenting in my keenness to be interviewed. Soon it blew into an issue of either his arranging for my interview with the media or fixing up a divorce lawyer, "Either you have a celebrity wife in your house or you don't have one at all. The choice is yours."

I waited with mounting impatience and sinking self esteem as he spent several minutes mentally weighing

the two options. After a while, he agreed (only reluctantly, I daresay) to the first option. "Ok then. I have one or two acquaintances in the media. Let me see if something could be arranged."

Between then and the day the doorbell rang in the afternoon, every second felt like an eternity.

And so, the doorbell rang. I asked him which newspaper he had come from. He mentioned some name I was not familiar with, but agreed to sit for the interview because it is good to have a start somewhere…

"Tell us ma'am, how do you handle all this fame?"

Fame? Did he know what he was talking about? "No, no, fame will come by when I become famous, hopefully thanks to this interview. Let's save this question for then."

He looked a bit dazed, and said, "You have a good sense of humour ma'am. Only great people can be so humble." I wanted to tell him that The Hubby feels my sense of humour has gone on a long vacation!

"Ma'am tell us, how long have you been absorbed in your mission?"

This made me ponder. As far as I saw my life through the ups and downs, so far I had had no mission at hand. Indeed, the latest, and only mission I could think of was to have faced this interview! So I truthfully pointed out, "Not for long, maybe a week or so, and only because I was so desperate to get interviewed. You see what I mean?"

The man looked stumped with falling jaws and unblinking eyes, fumbled for the appropriate response to my blatant honesty, and looked straight into his questionnaire for the next one. Clearly, the newspaper had sent a raw hand, which peeved me a bit, but I maintained a cool exterior. Who knows what this person might go and reproduce in print…

"Ma'am, where do you look for inspiration?"

"I don't need to look anywhere. To tell you the truth, I have never felt inspired in the strict sense…I mean, you know how it is with people aimlessly twiddling their thumbs all day, don't you? I am hoping that seeing myself in print will rouse up that slumbering purpose of existence within me. How long do you think before this interview gets published? Your organisation will inform me, I am sure?"

"What a repository of humility and wit you are ma'am, really, ha ha…Who would say you are not inspired. You are an inspiration for all…we have read you lash out against the authorities for a cleaner, greener Dhaka ma'am, but this is the first time…"

"Really, when was that? The only thing I write about is The Hubby, and much as I jog my memory, I c-a-n'-t …"

I didn't need to close that statement, because that same instance, the truth, the faux pas, the embarrassment and the disappointment crept in from all sides tom-tomming how utterly, ridiculously asinine I will be feeling moments later when I tell this young man that the person he had come to interview responds to another call bell, barely five feet away from the one he pressed!

I don't know how I fared, but he handled it well.

This Friday morning, as a rare glimpse of the almighty's bizarre sense of black-humour, I woke up to The Hubby glossing over another impressive interview of our lady in our newspaper (twice, in a week?). This time, in colour!

She is in the news, she's everywhere, God, she is. And I don't like it, I swear.

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