I have my doubts about the veracity of this claim, but my friends assure me that I must be famous in Kanpur. Of course, they are idiots of the first water, so I rarely take them seriously. But it is a fun story nevertheless.
All this transpired during a friend’s wedding in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. A fair few of us were travelling and attending the wedding together, although there were only 2 women in a contingent of 12. I was one of these women.
Just after the baraat [the groom’s entry], we were entering the reception area. Because the actual wedding was at the ass-crack of dawn, the reception unusually took place first. I hear this is common practice with North Indian weddings, but it seems a little upside down to me. At any rate, hair mussed with the humidity and dancing, and panting thanks to uncomfortable heels, we traipsed into the venue.
Of course the bride’s side was set to welcome the groom’s party, and there were multiple photographers capturing all the goings-on. As we entered as a group, there were several pictures of us like that.
Then, the photographer waved to the boys to move aside. They obligingly did so, because they knew the other girl was not my favourite person, and that I would set my teeth at being alone with her in a series of snaps. I did set my teeth, but I went along with it for the sake of politeness, and in the interest of not making a scene.
After the photographer clicked a few pictures of the both of us, he waved us off. Or so I thought. We thanked him, and prepared to step aside, when:
Photographer: “Not you madam, the other madam only.”
In some surprise, I looked at him, and then at the other girl. I shrugged, because I wasn’t bothered by this development and started walking away.
Photographer: “No no no no no no! Madam stay. Other madam, side please.”
To my absolute horror, and to the unending glee of 10 miserable boys who live for fodder like this, the photographer wanted solo photographs of me. I stood in electrified shock, smile frozen in a rictus of growing dismay, as the photographer proceeded to move around me for various angle shots.
After a few moments, I collected my scattered wits and firmly put a stop to the photographs. But the damage was done. I turned in some consternation to the guys, and saw them brimming with barely suppressed mirth. Barking a ‘oh shut up all of you’ in their general direction, I limped off to the buffet.
A little later, one of them sidled up to me to tease me. I fixed him with a baleful glare, and accused him of putting the photographer up to that stunt to embarrass me. He chuckled and said: “Dude, this is Kanpur. It costs less to bribe people here.” A response that made me feel miles better, I might add, because at least then I know it was a prank.
Fast forward a month or so later, when the groom was back in office after an extended break. Of the original group, 5 of us had put together a hamper as a wedding gift, and we wanted to know whether he liked the coffee machine we got for him.
There was a little ribbing because turns out he thought it was a mixer-grinder, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it wasn’t. Silly ass. I was laughing at him when he comes out with:
UK: “Oh by the way Karishma, my relatives thought you were a foreigner.”
Me: *blanching, because this was said in the middle of a big group* “What utter rubbish. Stop making shit up UK.”
UK: “Seriously! They asked me whether I had invited people from our ‘foreign ka office’.”
Me *starting to beat a hasty retreat amid gales of laughter*: “Liar liar, pants on fire.”
DG: “Dude! They asked her to dance with them too, during the baraat. None of us were asked to join in!”
Me: “Stop it!”
AG: “And the photographer took SO many pictures of her on her own!”
RP: “Holy shit, yeah! He asked us all to move aside! Even <other chick>!”
Me: “Wait! DG bribed him to do that!”
DG: “No I didn’t! I swear!”
Me: “Screw all of you. I hate you all.”
UK: “Um. I’ve been through all the photos. There are no pictures of just Karishma.”
Pin drop silence reigned after this bombshell hit, as each of us grappled with the implications. I was the first to run off, sped on faster by the shouts of laughter from the table.
To this day, over 2 years later, I still get teased about being a foreign pin-up girl in some Kanpur photographer’s studio. I’m not kidding: I really hate all of these guys. 😐