A bitch — that’s what she thought of me when she met me sometime in 1997 in the newsroom. May be she was right. According to her, I never acknowledged her presence when I walked into the newsroom and she had just come from Coimbature to New Delhi to work as a journalist in the country’s premier news agency. I don’t remember when exactly Lalitha and the ‘bitch’ called Deepika broke the ice but they eventually did. Taking a retro look, now I feel Lalitha is one of the most interesting and vivacious persons I have met in my life.
Lolly as I lovingly call her is a very bright person who is passionate about news, football (soccer as Americans call it) and cricket. And of course she loves her favourite newspaper The Hindu and Tamil TV channels in addition to bhindi fry (ladyfinger) and cups of coffee. When she lived in Delhi, she didn’t own a television set and she survived on the Nescafe counter next to her house in Munrika. The office canteen took care of her lunch/dinner (as per the shift).
How do you entice Lolly to come and stay at your place? It is quite simple: I just had to tell her “Lolly, I will give you rice, curd and bhindi fry and you can watch Sun TV.” Having Lolly was great fun as she could never understand why I painted my nails in bright green/black color. And why was it so necessary for all the ‘men’ talk many of us (read frivolous souls) indulged in? Our Lolly found it difficult to understand why men were necessary for an academically inclined ‘JNU girl’ like me. She strongly disapproved of this behaviour of mine. Every now and then, I would tell her “Lolly, what’s life without a man-woman relationship?” Then she would give me a disdainful look.
Then one summer our Lolly went to Coimbature and there in the comforts of her home and in the company of her parents and sisters, she enjoyed watching the World Cup Football matches night after night. When the date of her returning to Delhi drew closer, Lolly’s heart skipped a beat. One evening she started howling and told her father, “All of you are here and now I will go back alone. I can’t even watch football matches in Delhi (as she didn’t own a TV).” Her parents really felt bad for her. So, Lolly looked for a job in Coimbature and found one in a newspaper famous for ‘breaking stories.’ Lolly came to Delhi to submit her resignation and then went back. After a year or so, I also shifted to Bangalore from Delhi. We stayed in touch.
Lolly then shifted to Chennai to work in the same newspaper after earning the tag of ‘Coimbature’s tough cookie’. She once came to receive me at the Chennai railway station and luckily my brother (who lived in Chennai then) was also there. After ‘putting’ us in the auto, Lolly followed us in her motor bike as we were going to Lolly’s house. In between, Lolly lost track of us (trust her to do this). The brother-sister duo managed to find the way to her home after making a phone-call to her sister from a PCO (those were the pre-mobile phone days). When Lolly reached home after much hard-work of following us to the logical end, I asked her, “Where did you go?” She said “To Bobby’s (my brother) office to look for you guys.” I asked, “But why did you go to his office on a Sunday?” She asked back, “ Is it Sunday today?” Well, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
In between Lolly came to stay with me at Bangalore and one of my husband’s single friends came to ‘check out’ Lolly (even though I had not really invited him and this all happened because my husband had casually mentioned about Lolly’s single status.) When I told Lolly about this, she said, “Oh, don’t worry I will break his leg. He will have a jolly good time in the nearest hospital.” Luckily, the friend went back safely without any fracture.
Then I shifted to Ahmedabad and one fine day I got a phone call from Lolly. She told me that she had quit her job and started a neighbourhood newspaper called ‘Saidapost (published from Saidapet in Chennai) with the humble thought that “it would be better than Washington Post.” Lolly’s father said he had nothing to do with this incredible venture of hers. But her mother agreed to be the director-marketing, Saidapost. Aunty diligently went around looking for advertisements for her daughter’s newspaper and she discreetly offered discounts also to the clients (our Lolly didn’t believe in discounts). All that aunty got as director, marketing was a box of her visiting cards with her super-fancy designation but no salary. Lolly gave aunty recently Rs 40,000 as her much-delayed salary (I think after eight long years aunty got her salary.) As Lolly was not the one who would play dirty games of publishing industry, the paper had to eventually close down. But people in the area still talk highly of her paper. Interestingly, once Lolly took an eve-teaser to the police station and the police official told the guy, “Do you know who’s she? Don’t ever mess up with a newspaper owner.” As Lolly proudly mentioned this to her father, uncle told her, “Only if they would have known the newspaper owner’s non-existent bank balance.”
After the closing of her paper, she worked in Pune as a teacher. And then we lost touch in between. On a late night shift at office few years ago, in moments of sheer nostalgia, I googled her name and then I landed on her profile in a job recruitment site. Next day, I called her and the first sentence I blurted out of joy was “You bloody bitch….” Lolly was then working in a Bangalore based newspaper where again she earned a name for herself as a feisty reporter. Last year, she went to London on a scholarship to do a course in media study.
In June 2012, I met Lolly in Bangalore. I was meeting her after a decade and she still remains the same. Coincidentally, we met during the European football championship. She came on her motorbike and for a change even though she followed me, she didn’t lose sight of the car in which I was travelling. For dinner, she had her favourite bhindi fry. She is now living with Scooby, her Labrador. I asked her ‘are you eating properly?’, she told me, “Both of us (Scooby here) love bread.” I didn’t thought it fit to ask further. The last bbm from her read (few days ago) like this: “Have quit my job. Now, it’s sleep, Scooby and lots of reading.”
PS: Vignettes from our conversation in Bangalore
Deepika: ‘Lolly, have I put on weight?’
Lolly: ‘Yes, a little but not much.’
Deepika: ‘Lolly, will men still find me sexy?’
Lolly: ‘Next question, please’
Well, certain things never change .