With a star .
I think bloggers get a 7 month itch. They have to meet. And eat. Last time it was December. And this time we beat the Bharat Bandh (recently announced opposition sponsored nationwide total strike) by 2 days. Which is good, because we had folks coming in all the way from Indore and Pune, and they need to get back home safely.
We've never met in such an upmarket place before.
I started out early, with visions of rain, bad roads, traffic, and water logging, none of which had happened by then, and I ended up reaching much before time.
There was this beeping entrance thing through which you walk and they check if you are carrying dangerous things. My stupidity or patriotism must have shone brightly on my face, because as I ventured to pass through the contraption, two guys hurriedly signalled that I needn't, and that I could simply make a normal entrance. I found myself sitting in solitary splendour in the deserted lobby of this four star hotel, half and hour early, with fellows in suits and ladies in chic sarees giving me looks as they bustled around. The only excitement was provided by a young girl who looked she just stepped out of Femina, with a really short denim miniskirt, silver gladiator sandals, carefully arranged tousled hair, a fancy phone and a desperate expression on her face as she paced back and forth .
Couldnt be a blogger ....
I had this book about Zebras and Ulcers , some ongoing reading, that I had brought along just in case I had to wait, but it didn't fit in with the overall ethos of an impending lunch, and I gave up. Made some calls to bloggers. And settled down to wait for folks.
Like the retired one who suggested this place.
Followed by someone who normally used to come with luggage to catch a bus later to places 200 kms away, except this time he was staying.
The professorin, and the lady lawyer, all slim and svelte , arrived shortly.
Followed by our marathon person. I always watch with interest when folks arrive with heavily laden bags.
The 2 out of towners arrived next.
One of our group , was not going to make it this time. But we would call her between the salad and the dessert .
There were to be three new people this time. Two young ladies, who had heard about these meets and were delighted to join, and a young chap, who probably reads more blogs per week, than all the rest of the bloggers combined, and also has a blog of his own, besides twittering.
The young chap soon arrived, and was immediately put to a test of figuring out who was who. He knew a couple of us, and it was fun watching him mistakenly identifying folks as someone else.
In the meanwhile, the rains had started in earnest, and we worried about the whereabouts of the two new young ladies who were coming from some distance away, almost as if from another town. Took some time off to call our blogger friend who had been unable to come, and everyone spoke to her.
When so many blogger types converge around a buffet, filling plates with single minded devotion in between dedicating themselves to Pani Puri and Amiri Khaman, the other customers just stay away for a while. You never know when someone with Chilly Paneer may turn around and collide with you and crush the Farmers Pie in your plate, or spill some Dal Fry.
We kept looking at everyone who entered the place. This seems to be a permanent feature of all our blog lunches. Some people get lost and arrive later.
We were finally rewarded with the sight of two new members, none of whom we had met before. (a few folks had.) And with them came the littlest surprise member of the blog lunch, like a fresh ray of early sunlight in a dull and rainy cloudy day.
He was promptly established at the head of the table, and he proved to be a role model to certain gluttonous folks, by having a lunch of tomato slices, cucumber slices, carrots, a bit of rice, watermelon pieces, and would you believe, just a pinch (and what a small pinch of a small hand it was) of chocolate pastry , exhaustively licked off his own index finger!
A large group means there are conversation pockets. Everyone cannot talk to everyone all the time. But there's technology to the rescue.
Because, secretly unknown to us, the outside world was slowly being informed of things happening in the bloggers lunch. (I must hasten to add that we dont know Shashi Tharoor or Sweat Equity. All we know is Khana Zaroor and Net Activity)
In a terribly hi tech way, by a phone as follows :
"The blockers meet ! "
"I mean...the bloggers meet..."
"Desserts sink in with no trace !"
"In the midst of blogger babble and excitement! "
"The best things in life are edible."
And then after sufficient eating ......
"Bill payment ! Time flies.."
"The blogger meet ends.. Just about !"
"Do you have extra fifties please ? Small change comes in big time handy ! "
"Photo sessions done !"
"Bloggers meet disperses"
"Wonderful conversations in the bloggers meet. Can't believe this was the 5th meet !"
And I thought this person was a bit quiet and looking down at his phone, as a way of surreptiously guarding a big bag carrying several great containers of marathon-special payasam, kept under the table at his feet.......
One of the young ladies got a call from family folks coming to pick her up, and she came around with some wonderful packets of teekha sev for us, a speciality of the place she lives in; and this had been carefully carried around from place to place as she travelled the entire previous week across two states and several cities.
The tangy and spicy was followed by the sweet and creamy, and we were all suddenly recipients of wonderful containers of payasam, prepared for us and carried to the lunch by the marathon man, of course, inspired by his wife.
Several photographs were taken, some of which would probably delight toothpaste companies as wonderful ads for teeth. The staff at the place was so impressed that they took some photos for us.
A wonderful curved staircase , like in the movies, had some of us posing holding the banisters, while the others congregated on various steps. Most other hotel guests had long since given up on us, though I thought we were being greatly courteous allowing them to pass down the stairs.
Fortified by some totally unnecessary trips to the buffet, and with a sense of wellbeing , imagining a rainy afternoon with tekha sev and payasam, to be followed, in our imagination by adrak/ginger tea, we relaxed, leaning a bit back in our chairs, and were rewarded with the sight of a dark sky studded with stars, on the ceiling.
Some clever lighting , that.
Outside, the rain was pouring down. Forays into traffic beckoned. Waterlogged roads, Splashing. Folks going in the same direction decided to travel together, and so many of us got rides home from those going to those areas. It was almost peak traffic time, with folks driving in a frenzy, avoiding potholes, cursing darting ricksahws and pedestrians suddenly trying to cross the road, and pizza delivery chaps taking inverse U-turns.
It didn't really matter.
We had met after a long time....We had had a wonderful Bloggers lunch.
A great afternoon , with lots of laughs, ribbing,food and friends.....
Under the stars.
And with a young star.
Possibly a future blogger learning the ropes .
And he is just two years old !!!!
P. S. One of the new lunch members burst into verse on gmail later.....:-)
Jo kal tak bas ek naam the, unhe chehre ki aaj pehchaan mil gayi
Khayalon se hum jud gaye is tarah, ek anokhi si dosti ki shuruwat ho gayi
Wah ! Wah ! Wah !
Wah ! Wah ! Wah !