Every time I watch a TV advertisement for wall paint where the residents of Golf Links use telescopes to admire the garish walls of one Shalini Chopra, it takes me back to my brief, but very happy, stay at the colony. It was a small barsati, but the most charming escape I have had in Delhi.
On my very first morning walk with my bull terrier, I wore my usual shabby jeans. Three affluent matrons in their morning chiffons and pearls audibly snorted as I passed them: “Even these ayahs are wearing jeans nowadays.” As it happened, I was on TV that night and the reaction the next morning was rather different. “Oh, hulloji, we did not know you are now our neighbour ji. When will you come to coffee ji?”
My immediate neighbours, though, were a charming young German couple. The husband represented a well-known German TV network. One evening, when I knew he was out of Delhi on an assignment, I heard blood-curdling screams from their flat. I immediately alerted my landlord and rushed out, armed with a torch and a hammer to break down the door. Suddenly, the lady appeared on her terrace. “What happened? Why were you screaming?” I asked anxiously. “Oh, that,” she replied in a throwaway manner, “It was a TV serial, Quite awful. I switched it off.”
Also next door was an American couple with a sports car I used to look at enviously, hoping I could make a bid for it when they left after the routine three-year stint. For some unknown reason, all the domestic servants in the area referred to the husband as CIA Sahib. This was too good to miss and I told all my friends with understandable glee that I lived next to the CIA. But these things have a habit of catching up with you. Once, I was at an ambassador’s for dinner. Mrs CIA was also present. After we had been introduced, she asked in icy tones, “I believe you have told everyone that we are from the CIA.” As the room fell silent, all ears, I decided that attack was the best defence. “And aren’t you?” I asked in innocent tones. She just turned round and walked away. Later, I found that many conflicting interpretations had circulated about her rather timid backdown. Be that as it may, I never did get that sports car.
Golf Links was fun in another way. It had several households where the women were not only affluent, but they also did not go to work and spent most of their time asking each other to lunch, preceded by a round of bridge. I got a bird’s eye view of the sumptuous lunches the ladies ate, each outdoing the other in exotic and rich Indian cuisine, even as I ate a modest sandwich and washed it down with coffee in between bouts of writing.
However, my most rewarding moments were with children from a nursery school across the road. Every day, one of them seemed to have a birthday celebration, complete with chocolate cake, in the park below my window. So, when a young friend told me in distress that though her little son had long passed the age of speech, he simply did not speak, I advised her to send him to the school below my window. Sure enough, the young mother soon rang me up with happy tears. “Didi, he actually said ‘birthday’ today.” Long live Golf Links.