‘I read the Cosmopolitan Magazine regularly to keep my boyfriend happy.’
– A 19 year old aspiring air hostess to me.
Excerpts reproduced from Yours Sarcastically by Sandeep Das, on his humorous exploits as a student and after getting his MBA.
Meeting with Naveen, Head Office: Monday, May 3rd, 10 am
‘You have to interview 60 size zero, South Bombay women over the next few days—18 to 25 years old, SEC A1, fashionable young women who regularly visit parlours and spas, and try to understand their psychology, usage of beauty products and their lifestyles.’
He looked at my disbelieving face and repeated the above lines again. Once I had soaked in my latest job description he continued, ‘If you think they are not opening up enough during your interviews, make them feel more comfortable, take them out for a cup of coffee or dinner, or talk to them on the phone whenever they are free. Get to know them personally so that we can get maximum information from these interviews.’
Needless to say, I was quite thrilled about this assignment. I had literally got the license to date 60 beautiful young women in Mumbai. To create some humorous envy with my friends, I put up my job description on Facebook. Close to three dozen people poured in their opinions and their willingness to lend me a helping hand in case I was getting stressed. I obviously needed no such help. I would readily work weekends in this case.
An agency was going to fix up the 60 interviews for me. I called up the agency to brief them on this job requirement.
‘Nikhil, do you have any specific area preference?’ they asked.
‘Try to fix most of the interviews in areas like Colaba and Bandra,’ I said. My assumption was that the quality of respondents would be better in these areas.
‘Any specific educational degree you want from the respondents?’
‘Anything is fine—airhostesses, journalists, women studying advertising, arts, law, aspiring models, actresses just past the casting couch, etc.’
First Interview, Carter Road, Bandra, Mumbai: May 11th, Tuesday, 2 pm
My first interview was with a certain lady living on Carter Road in Bandra. To protect her identity, I will call her Alisha. She welcomed me into her palatial house. Alisha was a 23 year old B.A. graduate working as a customer executive in a premier MNC Bank. She was wearing a sports t-shirt and hot pants that barely covered her bare essentials. She had definitely been to a parlour in the morning, her hair was straightened and had streaks of metallic brown.
I began the interview. ‘Hi, Alisha. This is a market study we are doing to understand what women of your age do, use, spend, shop, etc. Please feel free to say whatever you want. This study is completely confidential; I am not going to quote your name anywhere. This study is purely for the purpose of understanding the lifestyles of women of your generation. I will be asking you very simple questions. I will take about 35-40 minutes.’ Alisha nodded.
‘Let me tell you a bit about myself. I have done an MBA and this is my first job after campus. So Alisha, please tell me something about your day to day routine?’
‘I get up quite early, around 8.30 every morning, get ready for work and then go to office. I am back by 4 in the afternoon. I go out with friends till about 9. I come back and have dinner, watch TV and go to sleep. On weekends, I host parties and go to pubs, discos etc.’
‘What do you watch on TV?’
‘MTV, Channel V, Star Movies, standard stuff.’
‘Do you like reading?’
‘Yes, I read Shobhaa De occasionally.’
‘Why Shobhaa De?’
‘I like the inherent bitchiness of her novels.’
‘Nice to hear that. What are your hobbies?’
‘I like reading the newspaper, especially the business section. On weekends, I go to supermarkets to shop for cosmetics.’
She bent over and readjusted her posture. I noticed that her pants were really short. I deliberately avoided looking any further despite the inherent clarity.
‘You read the business section? That’s nice. So what do you think is the GDP of India?’
‘The Gross Domestic Product—the net output of a country.’
‘Never mind. Which currency according to you has a higher value right now, the euro or the dollar?’
‘I think the trip to Europe was more expensive. When I went to London, I loved shopping at Marks and Spencer. I love branded clothes. I so love the night life in that city.’
‘Actually, Marks and Spencer is considered a common man’s brand internationally.’
‘Oh my god! That is so LS!’ For the uninformed, LS stands for low society. ‘Thanks for telling me. My friends never told me that before.’
‘No problem. What do you want to do in life?’
‘I would like to adopt a pig someday. I would like to bring it up with love and affection and give it a good life.’
Her hands gestured all over the place while she was saying this. She started fiddling with her hair as I wondered how many layers of makeup she had applied.
‘Who is your role model?’
‘I think Paris Hilton is extremely dynamic and intelligent.’
‘Why do you find her dynamic and intelligent?’
‘Her grace and the way she carries herself is remarkable. I love her for the fact that, despite being a rich heiress, she has managed to carve an identity for herself.’
‘Are you currently in a relationship?’ I looked at her a little more intently to capture her reaction to the question.
I noticed that the edges of her top were neatly cut. Her beautiful flat tummy was completely visible. I wondered why she was wearing anything at all.
‘Have you ever been in a relationship?’
‘Obviously!’ Her reaction somehow suggested to me that a relationship with a guy was absolutely imperative to her.
‘Why is a guy important to you? What can a guy give you which your best friend who is a girl cannot?’ She gave me an inviting and very naughty smile. ‘Hmm…I have never actually thought along those lines….’
To avoid sending any wrong messages, I decided to shift to the next section of my interview. ‘Let’s see how much you know about the stuff you eat at home. Let me ask you a few questions rapidly. Try answering them.’ She nodded as I got my rapid fire question cards in place. ‘What is the price of sugar now?’
‘Hmmm…should be three-four dollars per kilo.’
‘Let’s talk in rupees…dal?’
‘I guess 150 per kilo?’
‘Rice? The variety you eat at home?’
She started groaning and smiling at the same time. I stopped the rapid fire. She went on to talk about her favourite TV shows, her hair regimen, her skin regimen, her parlour regimen and her fitness regimen amongst her many other regimens. I noted down the details and left. I told her how fascinated we were by women of her generation. She asked me if I wanted to have dinner. She would call her other girlfriends too. Although it was an extremely tempting proposition, I declined.
– Sandeep Das