The first time I met Anisa Nariman, we had a conversation about roofies. I can’t clearly recall how it got there, but she was disarmingly inappropriate and one thing lead to another, and in between all the dialogue there was a “Yeah you probably roofied yourself”. It was 2 A.M at a friend’s house where there was more Amarula than people. It was one of those nights that in retrospect make you wonder if there was an actual smoke machine on, or if it really was that hazy.
I met her again at our friend P.Singh’s wedding in Delhi, which was so much fun that by the end of day three I had tiny shards of glass embedded in the soles of my feet. Anisa proved to be unflinchingly fun yet again. Then there was another wedding, a trip to Bombay (she lives in Delhi) and we still didn’t get to know each other, but that was fine.
Last month she started to post these photographs of delicious looking food on her Facebook. I’ve been working from home or my studio and I am, at all times, starved. I knew she was a food critic, and I knew she was in New York for a bit, so I wrote to her to find out if she was doing a culinary course. She said no and that she was just eating all this food. The conversation then turned to the weather and I told her I couldn’t understand the cold in London. She said I had no idea about cold because she had been up in Wisconsin and had to get grade 5 thermals for herself. I didn’t even know there were grades. Then, a week later, I got a text from her saying that she’d messed up her flight and had somehow managed to land herself a 12 hour layover in London and wanted to know if I was free that day. I was and so I figured that I could show her around in the city. Then on Friday, she came over to my apartment and told me how terrible my directions were (which, to be honest, were pretty damn good. She met some information guy enroute who psyched her otherwise), we ate a croissant, I made some tea, she took a nap and then we were ready for a day about town.
London has this amazing ability to completely let you down on days you want it to behave. Not only was it enveloped in grey, there was also a steady annoying drizzle with a crisp, bone chilling wind. We took the bus to Borough market, which was great except for the bits where we chose to eat average food; Chinese for me and a pork sandwich for her. Nothing hit the spot, not even the free samples that we pecked at and then ran away from. I figured we deserved a beer so went to this massive beer store where I got thoroughly confused with all the brands and types of beer. So I got the one with the most interesting label that spelled ‘Very strong’. Anisa tried it, didn’t like it and decided to have the guy behind the counter help her out. He chose one for he and then slyly told her that it was much better than mine. What a dick.
Anyway, that beer was excruciatingly bad. It tasted like flowers in vinegar and since she was my guest, I swapped hers for mine. Then we stood at the corner of a street trying to finish our terrible beers. I told her that maybe we should skull it. I think I just wanted to use the word ‘skull’. So we tried to skull the beer by taking sips, which she pointed out and said was really lame. Then we decided to walk to the Tate, discussing, hysterically, how bad our sense of direction was. By now it was properly raining and she wrapped her scarf around her head. I didn’t. By the time we reached the Tate, my fringe looked like that of young girls in school who put a lot of oil on their heads everyday. Separated and greasy. The plan was to go to the washroom and put my head under the hand dryer but we got distracted. We bummed around from one room to the other, not paying detailed attention to anything in particular but stopping at whatever caught our eye.
We left the Tate confused about when Anisa had to leave. There was some talk about 8:30 p.m but I realized that it was her boarding time and not her flight time. With a couple more hours at hand, we headed home and then to a local restaurant called Trip Space. Everything after that was a blur. We got ourselves a drink, Michael, my husband called, I told him her flight details and he started to speak like Christopher Walken – “She. Has. To Leave. Now!! Juhi! She. Needs. To. Leave”. I didn’t get the big deal. I also didn’t get that I had grossly under-calculated the travel time to Heathrow. Michael walked in to Trip Space ten minutes later, made us get up, ran to get her bag from the apartment and reached the tube station before us. Anisa left and I felt he had over-reacted till I got a text from her and hour and a half later telling me that she just about made it. Then I felt irresponsible, but the feeling passed.
All’s well etc., right? I think so. It was a brilliant day with all sorts of things working against us. I was amazed that she wasn’t grumpy despite being jetlagged and kept her razor sharp wit intact. And I’m amazed that Michael continues to be nice to me despite the fact that my friends and I keep finding new ways to give him nose bleeds. Here’s to more badly scheduled flights.