Abhimanyu was passionate about investigative journalism, something, in the long run, will come for the benefit of society. The reality is different though. What he has in his platter is a world of fallen stars and pseudo-celebrities who live in a world of artificial happiness, equally nebulous like the cosmetic glow on their faces, hiding the black marks underneath their eyes.
Yes, he has his fringe benefits. He gets his free meals, free drinks. He gets ample company of young girls who poke him enough to get a place on the page three. The older ones, the fading ones are even more libidinous, apparently. Mostly they are accompanied by younger ones half their ages. With gaudy dresses flaunting whatever is left after age taking a violent toll on their once perfect body line, devilish hair style and stilettos struggling to carry their weight, they are the most media attention cravers.
Abhimanyu is just twenty six, single and without much prejudice about sexuality. At times he sells his reports in return of physical proximity. ‘Amorous girls high on alcohol, are the best page 3 materials’- says his editor Shivani Mehta, who got married for the fourth time at the age of 57 last year. Practical experience, perhaps. Even she wants Abhimanyu to get close to such socialites, yesteryears heroines, wannabe actresses, homosexual fashion designers.
‘Welcome to the party, darling’, Miss Taurani, the wealthy hostess welcomed him to the occasion with a peck.
‘Looking gorgeous, queen’.
‘Oh, when the Prince Charming says so, I must be. And does that guarantee a close up photo on your page? Last time it was an ugly shot from the back.’
‘Had I been the editor, my entire page would be with your photos only, Miss Taurani.Oh, by the way, nothing about you can be ugly’.
‘How sweet! Please have something. We’ll have the sessions soon’.
Vineet, his photographer-cum-assistant is a submissive guy with the right sense of photography and just the right appetite for good foods. Even though he is a teetotaler and hardly a charmer, his gluttony keeps him busy in such parties when he is off his lenses.
‘Same old music. Same old food. Yaar, come next year, I’m signing off. Will switch over to any small house. But not again in this page three businesses’ grumped Abhimanyu, as the melody of saxophone continued.
‘Take me wherever you want to, provided the provision of food is unchanged’, Vineet winked.
‘Yes, absolutely, octopus salad in a crime scene’, chuckled Abhimanyu.
The Gurgaon farm house where the party was being held was a perfect place to exhibit opulence. Huge lawns of lush green grass covering acres of land, symmetrically interrupted by small cottages of the finest taste. Perfect place to enjoy your weekends. But he was on his professional assignment of bringing it to the world which businessman is dating which new model on the block, which lingerie collection is going to storm the market in the coming days, which wannabe actress uses which soap and all those rubbish!
His thoughtfulness was marred by an announcement by none other than the old, fat Taurani.
‘Gentlemen and ladies. Hope you are having a gala time together. We have with us tonight a very special guest. He has swept the nation by his charm, his unbelievable acting skills and his mind blowing screen presence. Please put your hands together and welcome Shivesh Jain of ‘Kismat Ka Khel’ fame.’
The crowd burst into frenzied applause as the popular soap opera star entered the stage. Vineet was already in action. Shivesh really had a good fan following. Even though Abhimanyu never dared to watch any of the soaps, his office provides him with the regular details. He has met Shivesh earlier. A nice guy, indeed, without much air.
He went near the stage with a glass of scotch. Ritu Dahal, the owner of ‘Vastrashastra’ a popular garments chain gave him a hug. Indrajit Naik, the Director of Oriental Breweries with his new girl friend, quarter of his age gave him a proud smile. Every individual in action was being duly documented by the tireless Vineet. Komal Nath, the socialite was generous with her cleavage and thighs in front of the camera. The 40 something must have spent the entire day with her make-up crew! It was good to get introduced to the singer Saad Islam. He was a nice guy. He even promised to sing one of his latest hits later on.
Shivesh came down to hug Abhimanyu. This guy knows some basic manners, at least. After exchanging pleasantries, he was back to the stage, where Taurani was about to announce something.
‘A surprise package of the evening. We have arranged a masquerade ball in the hall of the main ballroom. The masks can be collected from here. The music and lights have already been adjusted. You can proceed with your partner or you can find one. I won’t mind if you exchange in the midway though.The ball will be followed by the melodies of Saad Islam’- the crowd burst out laughing.
‘I’ll make a good partner’- Vineet teased Abhimanyu.
‘I know. But I’m starving now. Let’s hit the food and gulp a few more pegs. Would love to listen to Saad’s voice later on’
‘Our desi Casanova is not in mood today’.
Before others could drag him to the ballroom, Abhimanyu ducked to the wine and dine court. Vineet followed him.
‘So who else are going to get entry in our page, boss?’
‘I do not find anyone but Saad and Shivesh’.
‘Seeing the drastic change of your orientation, I’m scared to work with you’
‘ Lol! It’s legalized already.’
Majority of the invitees have gone to the ball room. Fortunately, Saad was not one of them. He was kind of a reserved person preferring seclusion. He was calling Abhimanyu by name from behind. Abhimanyu was surprised. He remembered his name! Abhimanyu went close to him. Vineet was busy in his food.
‘So, you are not going there?’ Saad asked.
‘Hell, no. I have come to work here. And you?’
‘No, I am not single and no way I am ready to mingle, sir.’
‘Hahahaha, that’s good.’
‘Taurani perhaps wants to create fifty shades like scenario in her courtyard’.
‘And who is Anastasia?’
‘I’m more curious about Christian’.
Abhimanyu was impressed with Saad’s wit.
‘I’m staying here just because I do not want to miss Saad Islam’s voice’.
‘Hahaha. For that I do not need a Taurani or even a mic’.
Saad started singing one of his most popular songs. The few people around started flocking near him. Abhimanyu was mesmerized at the beautiful voice. Saad kept on singing for nearly half an hour. And continued boozing simultaneously.
Suddenly there was a clamour in the ball room, audible even from such distance. They were all curious to know what has happened there. Vineet rushed to the sight. Saad and Abhimanyu followed.
Read the other chapters here