In 1815, she was handsome, clever and rich and lived in Highbury, England. In 2010, she is bitchy, sexy, rich and lives somewhere in upmarket South Delhi. The English novelist Jane Austen has come to our hot, dusty city.
An adaptation of her novel Emma, the new Bollywood chick flick Aisha shifts the focus to Emma-like girls in Delhi. “I’ll play a typical south Delhi brat with a Modern School background,” Sonam Kapoor, the screen Aisha told us last year. “You will see me jogging in Lodhi Garden and shopping in Select Citywalk.”
Where else in the Capital will you spot Dilli ki Emma? Gossiping in a GK-I café? Splurging in Santushti? Jogging in Lodhi Garden? “I find Emmas in Khan Market all the time,” says Rochie Rana, a radio jockey, whose novel, No Sex in the Urban City, is about to be released."I see them buying flashy chappals in the market’s front lane with Dior glasses perched on their nose," she says. In the 19th century classic, the protagonist Emma is fond of matchmaking and mingles with the crème de la crème of her society.
The final word on style, Emma was pretty, opinionated, class-conscious and patronising towards people of other backgrounds. If Austen’s novel was set in today’s Delhi, Emma would have lived on what is “the right side of the Yamuna.”
“Emma-like girls can be found in every posh area of Delhi where the land price
is more than Rs 20,000 per sq feet,” says novelist Chetan Bhagat. “Born into powerful
families, these Emmas have youth and beauty on their side, which places them in the ‘high demand’ brackets of high class parties.
Their vivaciousness is a welcome change to the dull existence of the wealthy.”
On prodding further, Bhagat says that the last time he saw an Emma was at a farmhouse in Chattarpur, South Delhi. “Nowadays in farmhouses, you don’t find cows, but Emmas,” he quips.
Emma-spotting, however, is not limited to Khan Market and farmhouses alone. “All south Delhi girls are sassy and smart like Emma and I’m also one,” says Kirti Mehta (see pic), a web analyst, who lives in Safdarjang Enclave.
“I have seen Emmas in the malls in Saket,” says Jaya Bhattacharya Rose, an editor with a publishing house, who has written a paper on —believe it or not — Emma’s smiles.
“But she had such a strong personality. You have only pale imitations here.” To a few, there is no one like Emma in Delhi. “Emma’s sense of girlie fun and indulgence was fuelled by mystery and smart restraint,” says Shefalee Vasudev, a writer and columnist, who is working on a book titled Modern Indian through Fashion.
“But in Delhi, girls with this wicked mix are an oddity. Those who have it, seldom know how to rein it.” Radio jockey Rana, however, swears that she sighted an Emma recently at Brown Sugar, a café in M-Block Market, GK-II.
“That girl was straight out of the novel. Her hair was straight; she was wearing big Go Go glasses and had a don’t-worry-I-will-teach-you look around her four flunkeys, one of whom looked like a small-town babe. The clincher was when she asked the steward to serve cold juice without ice."