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One of the country's most famous women bloggers, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan has always been writing about life as a young, single woman in India. Refreshingly candid about her life and detailing everything from drinking and smoking to sexual escapades, she has won an audience that loves her bold style and can relate to her experiences.
As part of an ongoing series, we have featured four extracts from the first three chapters of her new book, You Are Here. Presented below is the fifth excerpt from Chapter 3:
'So whose party is this anyway?' I asked Fardeen in the car. 'Will there be anyone I know?'
'You might, you never know,' said Fardeen. 'It's one of those huge-ass parties where everyone is invited.'
The drive to Chhattarpur was surprisingly quick considering it was a Saturday night. The Gurgaon-bound road has heavy traffic around then, what with all the weekend revellers heading that way.
Pretty soon we were pulling up in front of an ornate gate that led to a sprawling farmhouse -- with not too many cars outside.
'Ohhh, it doesn't look like too many people have come,' said Topsy.
She and Fardeen exchanged concerned looks and then Fardeen glanced at me and said, 'Relax, it's still early, I'm sure more people will turn up.'
'I'm sure it'll be fine, guys,' I said, smiling at them. 'Let's go check it out at least, no?'
Topsy linked her arm through mine and we walked into the gate, past the guard (who confirmed that our names were indeed on the guest list) and into a huge, practically empty house. A television set was blaring in one of the rooms and a sleepy servant soon emerged to direct us outside through the kitchen. Here we stepped on to a paved path that ran around a sprawling lawn and broke off at a corner to lead to a decent-sized pool. Neat hedges edged the path and had been strung with fairy lights, as had a few large trees further down the lawn. Beyond that was darkness but I suspected the lawn stretched over a few more acres, at least. Two larger lights fitted at strange angles at two corners of the pool made the water shimmer alluringly. A bamboo shack with a thatch for a roof had been constructed to one side of the pool. On a table under it, amidst flickering candles, stood rows of glasses and bottles. I could see only two other people on a seat swing on the other side of the pool. Another guy was swimming in the pool and pulled himself out as soon as he saw us.
'Fardeen, my man!' exclaimed the guy, as he walked over to us, dripping, smiling warmly. I noticed he had a bit of a potbelly over the waistband of his Hawaiian shorts, which was printed with blue and white flowers. He was obviously the host, because after a gingerly one-arm hug and a clap on his back, Fardeen turned him towards us.
'This is Akshay,' he said, then to him, 'Topsy and Arshi.'
'Nice to meet you,' Akshay grinned. His teeth were so super-straight I almost asked him which dental surgeon he frequented. 'You guys are nice and early. Come, I'll get you a drink.'
We went over to the seat swing, occupied by a guy strumming on a guitar and a girl swaying next to him. She jumped up as soon as she saw us and giggled at Akshay. 'Oooh, Akshay, you're all wet, baba. Do you want me to get you a towel?'
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She was, I noticed, exceedingly thin. You could see her ribs jutting out between her almost non-existent breasts, and the bones in her shoulders were so sharp they looked like they would cut through her pale skin. Her eyes were enormous and rimmed with black circles, and the tapestry of veins on her face made it look like they had been painted on. She noticed me staring at her and tilted her chin away from me and up at Akshay.
'You want a drink, baba? I'm going to make myself one.' 'No, no, you sit. And I don't think you should be drinking any more.'
'Oh, Akshay, you're soooooo silly. It's not like I'm going home or anything tonight, no?'
Akshay smiled dismissively at her and went off to get us our drinks. The girl trotted off after him. When he returned, he plonked himself down next to the guy with the guitar.
'Sing us a song, man, you're the piano man,' he said, laughing.
'Fuck off, Akshay,' said the guy, but he was smiling too. He had a nice smile, with deep dimples that appeared and disappeared with every movement of his face, and a neat little French beard running from the sides of his rather lovely mouth to his slightly pointed chin. He was a little on the shorter side, barely taller than me (and I'm not very tall), I thought, though these things are hard to tell when someone's sitting down.
'Guys, this is Kabir,' said Akshay, waving towards him. 'Brilliant photographer by day and extraordinary musician by night.'
Kabir made a flamboyant gesture with his hand like he was taking a bow, and we cheered.
'With an introduction like that I'll have to sing, won't I?' he said, looking at Akshay.
'Arrey, why do you think I was flattering you in the first place?'
'Bastard!' he said, but he started to strum idly on his guitar.
The skinny girl returned to the swing with a drink in one hand and started to massage Akshay's shoulders, who looked mildly embarrassed by the gesture. Kabir had by now launched into one of my all-time favourites, Extreme's More Than Words, and he did it well, too -- all the drumming on the wood of the guitar between chords and an improvised riff or two, which made us feel even more like part of the audience at a music concert.
When Kabir was done, Fardeen whistled and I clapped and joined the raucous requests for an encore.
'This musician's tired,' said Kabir, standing up and peeling off his white T-shirt. Oh he had a hot body. His stomach had just about missed having a six-pack, but it was taut and firm and there was a hint of downy hair running from the base of his chest and vanishing into his shorts. It was much like what Cheeto had once referred to as his 'happy trail', and it was certainly making me happy now despite the tiny pangs of guilt flashing about in my head for leching at a hot guy while thinking of the recently-ex boyfriend. I caught myself staring and looked away, feeling the heat spread over my cheeks and ears, only to catch Topsy's eye. She winked at me.
'Who's coming for a swim?' Kabir asked, raising an eyebrow at us.
'My life is like a bra that's been put on wrong'
'Having sex with someone doesn't mean you're connected'
'Men believe women always wear sexy underwear'
'I feel naked without my bag & earrings'
Excerpted from You Are Here by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan with the publisher's permission. The book is 257 pages long and priced at Rs 199; it was launched on August 15 by Penguin India.
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