Searching for a Jane Austen’s heroine.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In 1815, she was handsome, clever and rich in Highbury, England. In 2010, she is bitchy, sexy and rich somewhere in upmarket South Delhi. The English novelist Jane Austen has come to our hot dusty city. An adaptation of her novel Emma, the new Bollywood chick flick Aisha shifts the focus to Emma-like girls in Delhi. “I’ll play a typical south Delhi brat with a Modern School background,” Sonam Kapoor, the screen Aisha told The Delhi Walla last year. “You will see me jogging in Lodhi Garden and shopping in Select Citywalk.”
Where else in the Capital will you spot Dilli ki Emma? Gossiping in a GK-I café? Splurging in Santushti? Jogging in Lodhi Garden?
“I find Emmas in Khan Market all the time,” says Rochie Rana, a radio jockey who is making her fictional debut with the novel No Sex in the Urban City. “I see them buying flashy chappals in the Market’s Front Lane with Dior glasses perched on their nose.”
In the early 19th century classic, the heroine Emma, fond of matchmaking, formed the crème de la crème of her society. The final word on style, she was pretty, single, snooty, opinionated, class-concious and patronising towards people of other backgrounds. If Austen’s novel was set in today’s Delhi, Emma would have lived on what is “the right side of the Yamuna.”
“Emma-like girls can be found in every posh area of Delhi where the land price is more than Rs 20,000 per sq feet,” says bestselling novelist Chetan Bhagat. “Born into powerful families, these Emmas have youth and beauty on their side, which makes them in high demand in high class parties. Their vivaciousness is a welcome change to the dull existence of the wealthy.” On prodding further, Mr Bhagat says that the last time he saw an Emma was at a farmhouse in Chattarpur, South Delhi. “Nowadays in farmhouses, you don’t find cows but Emmas,” he says.
Emma spotting, however, is not limited to Khan Market and farmhouses alone. “All South Delhi girls are sassy and smart like Emma and I’m also one,” says Kirti Mehta (seen in the picture above), a web-analyst who lives in Safdarjang Enclave. “I have seen Emmas in the malls in Saket,” says Jaya Bhattacharya Rose, a publishing house editor who has written a paper on, believe it or not, Emma’s smiles. “But she had such a strong personality. You have only pale imitations here.”
To a few, there is no one like Emma in Delhi. “Emma’s sense of girlie fun and indulgence was fuelled by mystery and smart restraint,” says Shefalee Vasudev, a writer and columnist who is working on a book titled Modern Indian through Fashion. “But in Delhi, girls with this wicked mix are an oddity. Those who have it, seldom know how to rein it.”
Radio jockey Rana, however, swears that she sighted an Emma the other day at Brown Sugar, a café in M-Block Market, GK-II. “That girl was straight out of the novel. Her hair was straight; she was wearing big Go Go glasses and had a don’t-worry-I-will-teach-you look around her four flunkeys, one of whom looked like a small town babe. The clincher was when she asked the steward to serve cold juice without ice.”