(Image Courtesy : Indiblogger.com)
A trip down South of India, to where else but the one and only Singara Chennai !!! Oh God !! I groaned when I saw the letter which bore the magnificent (so people think) crest of the agency that I work for. OK – make that “the agency which is fortunate enough to be able to avail of my esteemed vision and skills”. The words “photo shoot in Chennai” leapt out at me as though they had a life of their own.
In absolutely tandem with my thoughts, Annie Lennox began to croon “Why ? Oh Why ?” on the IPod Dock. Very apt, I thought wryly. Why indeed ??!! I thought, in a rather dazed stupor as I tried to think of ways and means to get out of this sticky situation. This was sticky – literally and figuratively. Ever visited Chennai during the summer months ?? I bet the Chinese did not because if they had, they would have found a far better substitute to the Chinese Water Torture. They would have discovered the Chennai Summer Torture !!
The little red light on the answering machine was blinking rather seductively as I walked in through the door. What I was focused on, however, was the oppressing heat and humidity that the entire world seemed enveloped in. To top that, the traffic in Mumbai had done nothing to help that feeling of oppressive smother that was beginning to take its hold on me and make its presence felt.
About half an hour later, with the air con humming and with me feeling a lot more human, I decided to just call in a pizza for dinner. Whilst cooling off with an ice lemon tea as I waited for the pizza to be delivered, I decided to listen to the voice messages on the phone. “Hi Babes !!!” floated the voice out of the telephone. I blinked in disbelief as Kyra went on, her voice as light and breezy as a Matheran summer “Babes – I’m coming over to Mumbai next week and guess what ?” she crooned as only Kyra can “I have the whole week off”. “Take that long overdue vacation, will ya and let’s go gallivanting around India” said Kyra, making everything sound so very easy and possible, like she always did. Kyra – whom I’d met once during a photoshoot for Lakme products. Kyra – the quintessential sunshine Diva who, even if she were modeling to promote coconuts, had the ability to make the nut look like some exotic treasured fruit, putting alphonso mangoes to shame.
I was a mixture of feelings – disappointment at the fact that I could, in no way, take the next week off because of the blessed photo shoot in Chennai and excitement at the fact that Kyra was visiting after so long. Kyra the Sun Fairy, we used to call her during our college days. Kyra the cheerful – she was jovial, positive, optimistic and sunny. Even on the darkest of rainy days, just Kyra’s presence could make one feel like one was basking in sunshine on one of the lovely beaches in Goa.
As I sunk my teeth rather guiltily, in to another slice of pizza, the idea began to take root in my mind. Why not ask Kyra to accompany me on my photo shoot and maybe part of the shoot? It would make life fun in Chennai. To be honest, I was totally tickled pink at the idea of letting the lively, bubbly, vivacious Kyra loose on the mamis in Chennai. That should be some combination, I thought to myself, not suppressing the giggle that had erupted – the little giggle that soon had me laughing hysterically at the very thought of a size six Kyra and the super-sized mamis of Chennai.
When I called Kyra and asked her whether she would like to accompany me to Chennai, she had absolutely no qualms. “Of course, babes! Why would I mind a paid holiday ?!” was all Kyra said “The idea is to spend time together and I don’t care whether we visit Chennai or the Arctic” she said, in that typical “Kyra Voice” – soft, sultry yet full of the little girl charm and innocence. “A week in Chennai and the weekend under the sun in Tiruvananthapuram (Tri-van-duh-pram for Kyra) sounds fantastic” she said, her voice all alight with excitement. A slow grin made its way across my face as I envisioned spending a week together with Lakme’s Sunshine Girl Kyra.
Now the mamis in Chennai, I knew from previous experiences, were a force to be reckoned with. The first time I’d been to Chennai the indomitable Chennai mamis had quite literally dominated my senses – in the true sense of the term. They could be heard, seen and smelt all around, at any given time of the day. I remember watching groups and groups of mamis waddling along noisily, thanks to their flip flops, at the vegetable markets and in the markets at T.Nagar and Pondy Bazar.
I had almost been blinded by the Chennai mamis – thanks to the amount of blings they flaunt openly and outrageously. The traditional eight diamond “vaira thodu” glittering on their ears only to be matched by the traditional three stone “mookutthi” (nose ring) perched on one side of the nose – the right side. Some of the mamis, traditional to the core, would have noses emanating sharp shards of light thanks to the noserings on both nostrils – diamonds, of course !
I had been able to smell the Chennai Mamis all around – not in terms of body odour – but more so in terms of talcum powder. That first trip to Chennai left me with a firm belief that Chennai Mamis must have been born holding a box of talcum powder in their hands. They love talc. Yo Lakme – you listening ??!! Chennai, being really hot, people get tanned super quick. A huge natural tanning salon, a hot cauldron meant to super tan skins. Chennai Mamis have a traditional remedy to counter tanning. A remedy that has been handed down generation after generation – talcum powder !! Before she leaves home, a Chennai mami slaps on a generous amount of talcum powder on her good self – which is to say – quite a bit – given the average size of a Chennai mami. Now for the secret !! She also tosses in a generous amount of talcum powder on her handkerchief and tucks the handkerchief rather primly and safely into her blouse. Once the heat hits, the skin starts to slowly broil and tan, quite often resulting in a look that reminds one of an over roasted crisp. The mamis in Chennai have a simple solution to this – they lather on more talcum powder from the handkerchief. Every mami in Chennai lathers on heaps of talc in the hope that the talc refracts the sun rays upward, into space !! Quite a sight they make too - leaving in their wake little white clouds as they walk away like apparitions from Cirque de Soleil !! If left to their good selves, the Chennai mamis would lather talcum powder all over the Arctic as a solution to global warming. With the polar ice and glaciers melting at a dangerous pace, Chennai Mamis would say “talcum powder to the rescue”, reflecting sunlight back into space.
“These mamis could well do with some Lakme Sun Expert”, I said to Kyra who giggled her approval. “We could introduce them to it” she said, still giggling. “It would be much better than just talcum powder”, I said. “Yeah”said Kyra “and since most mamis in Chennai are computer literate, we could ask them to log on to www.facebook.com/ilovelakme to get in touch with more mamis who are already benefiting from Lakme Sun Expert”, she said. “Would it not be fun to watch the Chennai Mamis reach into their blouses and whip out tube after tube of Lakme Sun Expert ??” giggled Kyra.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I remembered watching sharp shards of light shimmering down at me. When I looked up, all I could see was scores and scores of Chennai Mamis, their diamonds refracting light all over and in the midst of that crowd stood a smiling Kyra, arms outstretched, offering tubes after tubes of Lakme Sun Expert to the milling mamis. The sun shone brightly above them, embracing them in its heat but the mamis cared no more. Accompanied by Kyra, they lay on the pristine beach in Kovalam, their plus size bikini clad bodies stretched out on the sand. “Bah !! Who needs talcum powder anymore maa ?” crooned the mamis. “Talcum powder is wonly for the Eskimos in the Arctic fighting global warming!”
The mamis now had the Lakme Sun Expert Power and they had begun to revel in it.
This is my entry for the Lakme Diva Blogger Contest on Indiblogger.com.