“Sometimes the rhyme is opposed to reason
Or the reason forced into rhyme
Some say that blank verse is literary treason
And others that it’s about time
That verse was liberated from fixed rules
And the music of words set free.
Others say these are the thoughts of fools
And will murder all poetry….”
From A Hut for Mrs Dishwash by Bachchoo
This, gentle reader, is an idle musing on a detail of our great, contemporary, egalitarian world. (Egal… what?? What have you been smoking?? — Ed)
My latest effort (book) Hawk and Hyena, about my years of quite incredible interaction with the infamous Charles Sobhraj, published in Britain and soon in India, has aroused the interest of a distinguished film and TV producer.
(Yaar thoojhey kitni daffa bathayah, yahaan self-advertising nahin chalega! — Ed. Janaab-e-alam, koochh tho rehm sey roti kamaaney do? — fd)
The producer had invited me to a famous gentleman’s club one evening. Oh dear! Should I ring and ask if the club has a dress code? Many of these snobbish establishments won’t admit people who are wearing sandals, trainers, jeans or T-shirts to darken their doors — or towels. Some require shirt collars and ties.
The Mahatma would certainly not have been admitted. Not out of racism, mind you, but because by the time he revisited Britain after his law student days, he’d abandoned three-piece suits and ties and adopted what he believed was the dramatically symbolic attire of the Indian peasantry. It may be churlish to observe that neither I nor anyone else has ever seen an Indian rural personage dressed in the way that the Mahatma chose, but history proves that the dramatic change of costumes worked and contributed to the image of a nationalist icon. And wasn’t it Gandhiji who, when visiting the King, and being asked why he was dressed in so few clothes, said that the King would be wearing sufficient clothing for both of them?
So, to my dilemma. I think I’ll take a chance and wear my usual street and outing stuff. A nice sweater which I myself have darned, to hide the hole drilled by the cursed London plague of moths (I blame global warming…) and some cord trousers. No tie. If I am refused entry, I shall call the producer and my publishers and the distinguished Indian film director, Kunal Kohli, who has also been invited and will all be already there, as I shall intentionally and fashionably turn up late. I will demand that they meet me in a pub nearby where we can conduct our meeting in egalitarian rather than snobbish surroundings.
Maybe I’m getting carried away and this gentleman’s club has no ban for small reasons.
I remember, gentle reader, many years ago when my friend, the film producer Bobby Bedi, was in London with Ashok Mehta, then attorney-general of India, who had represented our team in the case which sought to ban our film Bandit Queen, we decided to go to the Savoy Hotel for a meal.
In the foyer the receptionist at the hotel said we couldn’t go in as Bobby and I weren’t wearing ties and jackets. He very helpfully said that they had in their cloakroom just such ties and jackets which they could lend us and wearing which we would secure entry.
A bit demeaning. I wasn’t going to wear someone’s manky tweed jacket and some raggy tie. As we discussed leaving the Savoy and going elsewhere, the receptionist said we would be very welcome to use the upstairs bar, where there was a more relaxed dress code. Up we went.
We were shown to a table in the bar room and took our places at it. A very efficient young waitress came up to the table and before taking our orders bent down and spoke into my ear.
“Can you please put your legs under the table, Sir?” she said, in a polite but commanding tone.
“Under the table? Why?”
“Because you’re wearing jeans,” she said.
“Jeans?” I said, standing up. “I am not wearing jeans. These are very expensive Hugo Boss trousers, check them out!”. I unbuckled my belt and unbuttoned the front of my trousers to turn the top of them over so she could read the Hugo Boss label.
People turned to look.
“No, no, please sir! It’s all right, put them back…” She was panicked, embarrassed and apologetic. I buttoned and buckled my trousers and sat down.
Savoy 1 -- FD 1.
And on another occasion, I was invited with the rest of the Channel 4 TV executives to the British Academy Film Awards (the BAFTAs). The dress code for males was dinner jacket and black tie. I did want to witness my programmes being awarded a prize and so got myself a DJ, dress shirt and bow tie.
I got to the foyer of the Grosvenor House Hotel, where the ceremony was to take place.
My colleagues were already there gathered in a group. I joined them. No one greeted me. Strange. Then our CEO addressed the group.
“Where’s Farrukh, has anyone seen Farrukh?”
“NO, he’s not usually late,” one of them said, all of them pretending to see through me.
OK, as a comment on my characteristic work attire, it was funny.
Oh! The invisibility occasioned by the surrender of sartorial individuality!...