Delhiwale: A sneak peak at the exclusive Jor Bagh kitty and its ladies
“We gossip, but we are not mean!” a voice in the drawing room declared.
We were in Renu Sahu’s house. She was hosting the monthly meeting of the Jor Bagh kitty in central Delhi’s upscale 110003 neighbourhood.
Started in the 1970s, the Jor Bagh kitty has 17 members — with a ban on new subscriptions. “We are too many. We know each other so well,” reasoned Juhi Mehra.
All the ladies were either Jor Bagh dwellers or had at one time lived here. Every month, they pool funds, or kitty, to hold a gathering in a restaurant or at a member’s home. “You’ll be astonished but unlike other kitty parties, we don’t play kitties… we just hang out to have fun,” said Benu Kapoor.
We had sneaked into the meeting as a one-time guest. In fact, on entering, one of the ladies half-jokingly warned us not to portray the group as “silly rich women who love to dress up.”
This is strictly “about deep bonds of friendship nurtured over 20-30 years,” said Poonam Varma, selecting a cocktail-sticked kebab from the coffee table. “We just sit and chat,” one of the members added.
The jovial Geeta Kohli explained that while the youngest women here are in their fifties, they all call each other ‘girls’. “We spent our life worrying about our children. Now they are settled and we are enjoying,” she asserted.
The kitty club has gone beyond the perfunctory meets. “We go to each other’s family weddings and always have a group photo taken,” said Renu Khanna. (In one case, the kitty club bonds led to a rishta — Seema Kaura’s beti Upasana is married to Juhi Mehra’s beta Bharat and “it wasn’t a love marriage.”)
Meanwhile, Seema Uppal, elegant in her white pearl necklace, took on the role of a cocktail diva. She made a chopped fruit sangria for us.
The most stylish club member, however, everyone ungrudgingly conceded, was Indu Kakkar. As the club’s accountant, she doesn’t hesitate in pulling up a defaulter.
Although the ladies were as chirpy as birds on a branch, Poonam Varma, in the lilac flower-patterned green sari (almost everybody else is wearing a salwar suit) stood out with her quiet demeanour. “But her husband is just like us,” reassured Kamala Hemrajani, who is a member of three other kitties.
In a way, by barring the door to new blood, the Jor Bagh kitty ladies have come to represent the old Jor Bagh. This neighbourhood is undergoing that familiar Delhi transformation of time-worn bungalows usurped by steel-and-glass builder floors to be let out.
A few of these ladies have seen the days when Jor Bagh was built as a post-Independence colony. Seema Kaura’s grandfather-in-law, who retired from the railways, was one of the original Jor Bagh settlers. Geeta Kohli’s father-in-law, a civil engineer, built his house in 1953.
While we were not privy to the group’s intimate gupshup, Renu Sahu firmly ruled out the possibility of getting to hear any spicy conversation about household matters. “We don‘t even nag each other about blood pressure and sugar.”
“How do we explain our bond?” wondered Seema Kaura, who at 49 is the youngest naani here. “We are more than sisters, more than friends. We have seen the best and worst of each other.”
At 2pm, the ladies got up for lunch. Everyone had brought a dish, even Manju Dilwali, who had returned from a Scandinavian holiday just the previous night. “My super-nice daughter-in-law made pumpkin salad on my behalf!” she swooned.
As we picked up our plates, Renu Khanna (who is veteran news reader Salma Sultan’s samdhan) announced, “Cholesterol ghar me chodo, aur araam se khao (leave cholesterol at home, and eat your fill).”
Just as phirni (Poonam Varma’s) and chocolate cake (Vandana Sood’s) were being served for dessert, it was discovered that “Meena, Preeti, Asha” hadn’t turned up. They were missed but the show went on.
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