Friday, 5 March 2010

Peering into the lives of the other half

The Oberoi Delhi is the kind of place rich people build to keep India out. It's modern minimalist, gleaming, has glass walls and shiny marble surfaces, a beige and black colour scheme, and the whole place is subtly scented with tuberose. There are people in there carrying real Birkins, not Berkens or Brrkins, and wearing Tods and linen pants with lemon-coloured cashmere sweaters casually draped around their shoulders, as though they're just passing through Delhi on their way to a sailing regatta in the Hamptons.

I only really go to places like the Oberoi for work, it's certainly not part of my regular life, and while it's fun, I always feel a bit like everyone's looking at me sideways to check I don't steal the silverware.

(Threesixty. Image: Oberoi Hotels)

After nine months in this city, I finally went there for the first time, at the behest of an interior designer I was doing a piece on; we met at Threesixty, which is an open-all-hours cafe-restaurant, although that description does not do it justice one bit. It's a sprawling, designer space, the interiors carrying just the barest hint of a flicker of a nod to the Indian aesthetic through all the minimalist marble and dark wood. I sat by the window in the lounge area overlooking the pool, nearby people were perched at benches and tables, eating sushi and various other delights from the buffet, which was actually an entire separate room.

I didn't eat there, however. I was thoroughly annoyed by the end of the interview: my interviewee was 20 minutes late (even though I came to the hotel because she was already there, in another meeting), she texted throughout and getting usable quotes from her was like extracting teeth. I don't understand why. It's not like she was a politician admitting to adultery, she was a designer getting some free publicity for her work. (This was the second time in less than a month that this has happened; what is up with these people? Do they have any awareness whatsoever that being pleasant and respectful towards a journalist might help push more product?) 

As we walked out - she yapping on her phone and ignoring me - I ducked into the Louis Vuitton outlet in the lobby so she wouldn't see me walking down the long driveway to the main road to flag a rickshaw. 

And immediately my black mood dissipated: a waiter in white gloves handed me a glass of champagne as soon as I entered, and there was some kind of lolly bar set up on the counter, with chocolate-dipped strawberries and those expensive natural jellies you get at places like Fortnums. I didn't even pretend to have to show interest in the (admittedly, ugly brown) handbags as there were other customers in the shop, just amble around sipping my toasty bubbles, eating lollies and looking at the shoes, in a tuberose-scented wonderland. Bliss. 

I'll still never be convinced to buy one of those bags, though. Maybe a keyring, though, to show my appreciation for predicting my dire need for a drink.

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