Who needs headlines when you've got page three? Let's face it. Given a choice between the fight against terror, parliamentary proceedings and POTA arrests (someone please tell me what that stands for), I'd rather be reading about the mother of all parties (I believe that honour goes to Vijay Mallya for his New Year's Eve bash in Goa), who rules the runway (at last count it was a tie between Ujjwala Raut and Shivani Kapur) and where the ultra-chic flock to every other night (Athena, Insomnia, Djinns).
Page three is like a breath of fresh air. Quite frankly, without my morning dose, I couldn't possibly have the energy to carry on for the rest of the day. I mean who needs NASDAQ fallings and BSE indices when you could be reading about the latest in hip belts (finally something from the '80s has come back to haunt us) or Urmila's trendy new haircut.
The writing is simple, easy to follow and usually accompanied by pretty pictures. Compare that to visa regulations, dual nationalities and illegal immigrants -- the stories on page one today -- and no guessing which one's the winner! Captions are revealing: 'The sultry Bipasha Basu with two of her three loves.' That's enlightening. What's more, she seems as capable of handling all three of her loves with equal skill. Plus, she looks like Sophia Loren and is the most likely successor to Zeenat Aman's mantle of sensuality. Which man (or, for that matter, woman) would choose to linger on the ramblings of (with due respect) Shri Advaniji when he's got the sexy (and not to forget sultry) Bipasha waiting for him on page three?
Anyone who scorns the lives of the page-three set ought to take a second look. And I'm not talking about their platinum peroxide hair (though how it has reached this level of yellowness remains a mystery) or their hard-to-see nips and tucks. What I'm talking about is what they stand for and embody... a certain joie de vivre that is quite hard to match. Let's face it as a working mother. Come 9 pm and all I'm thinking about is whether Raymond's utterly dysfunctional family will be on tonight or whether a quick read of the 600-page White Mughals is possible in two-hour sessions for three consecutive nights. Come 9 pm and the page-three lovelies are thinking... PARTY! PARTY! PARTY! So while they're tucking in their kids and reading them bedtime stories, they're also doing mental run-throughs of their Versaces, Manolos and Louis Vuittons. Multitasking. The key to any mother's survival and sanity.
Some of them are models, some of them are tycoons. And many of them are actors, actresses and fashion designers. All of them are fashionistas, chatterati, glitterati and my favourite -- bratterati. Many of them have names like Queenie, Aki, Avanti. I have no idea how a businessman suddenly acquired a PhD, but no one dares to call him anything else. And rightly so. They drink his booze, eat his flown-from-Norway smoked salmon, puff on his cigars and huddle in his bathrooms. I'd be willing to call him Dr Doolittle if he asked me to. Many of them have villas, not just in Mumbai or Delhi, but in far-flung corners of the country and the globe. Here they play hosts to one another as well as international movie stars with India connections like Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn and spiritual leaders who conduct satsangs and meditation camps on their lawns. It's obvious that India is no longer on the map of B-grade European actors from Sweden, Greece and Russia. Instead bonafide Hollywood superstars walk on its cobblestones and sip its champagne.
One thing's for sure -- page three-ites certainly know how to have a good time. They're forever party hopping -- sometimes from Colaba to Powai which is the entire north-south expanse of Mumbai city -- launching something or the other, attending fashion shows either on or off the ramp, eating at the latest new restaurant (can it be anything but hip and trendy?) or randomly popping up at to-die-for events such as the Derby, movie premieres with Aamir Khan in attendance (let me tell you that's as rare as rare can be) or just dancing the night away with their six-inch killers.
Let's face it. It's that joie de vivre thing. They've got it, so why not flaunt it?
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh