Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Fashion Show and a Fire Alarm

Last week I had the rare pleasure of participating in a fashion show. No, dear God, I was not a model. I got to be the MC of the event which meant spending about 2 hours speaking in front of 380 people with 528 potent projectors concentrated on me while I try my utmost to look and sound professional. The show featured the gorgeous clothes of Bangladeshi as well as one American designers. I got to work and see professional Bengali models whose physique and face depressed me for the entire weekend. It only got worse when one of my co-organizers tried to make me feel better by saying, "well, they are so much younger!" Yeah, there is nothing better when you are on a strict diet (which you don't exactly observe well) and stare at 30 stick thin gorgeous models than to be reminded that they are not only thinner and prettier than you but also younger. All I could think of while grimly watching them practice was how I'd like to force feed some of them. Sadly, all I did was force feed myself with a bunch of samosas that were just sitting there laughing at me with their oiliness.

The fashion show, also known as Untied Women of the World Dhaka 2012 was a smashing success. Organized by the joint efforts of the Dhaka American Women's Club, the SAARC Women's Association and the British Women's Association, it involved months of prep, tireless fundraising efforts, a day of practice with all the models, and D-day. One of the designers had expressed a preference for "community" models, so I recruited 9 beautiful, slim ladies from Dhaka's finest and left them at her artistic mercy.

Then we all went "in make up and hair." Oh, I was so excited at those words - who doesn't like a bunch of people toiling at them applying makeup and doing their hair to make them look stunning. We had the best artistic studio in Dhaka at our disposal. Then I saw them painting the models in layers of striking makeup and began to be a little afraid about my own fate. You see, I realized that I do need a somewhat heavier version of my usual "going out" make up since I was going to be standing in front of a million projectors during the show, but I also did not need to look like a clown fish. So, I politely asked the makeup artist not to go crazy on me. Because of the colors of my dress, I asked for blue and subtle golden hues. Looking at her palette and choices, I should have known we are poised for disaster. Half an hour later, and there I was, ready for my traditional Bengali wedding, unrecognizable in my bright blue and golden mask on pale background. There were layer upon layers upon layers of thick paint, starting with a base of paleness that rivaled Scarlet O'Hara's carefully protected pasty white skin (the lady laid on the liquid base thickly lest I look like my natural skin color for a second). I think she thought that I was simply not white enough. Bright as the moon, I then featured humongous purple-blue eyes, crowned by massive strokes of dark gold. Any self-respecting mandarin fish would have died of envy. To top the ensemble, another artist did my hair. I asked for nice, smooth large curls and boy, did I get some - the lady took small strands of my hair, poured a kilo of hair spray on them, and then sealed them tight with a curling iron. Me and Medusa were like sisters!

The show itself was fabulous! After it was over, the Diplomat and I ran to a gallery opening to see the stunning work of Vinita Karim. And then we ran again cross town to the housewarming party of the famous and fabulous singer Kumar Biswajit. And yes, all this time I was prancing about town with my moonshine skin and fabulous blue/gold raccoon eyes. Everyone was duly impressed.

I love our Embassy. We always like to enliven our lives there. For example, just 3 days ago there was a fire alarm that hit just as I was interviewing a nervous student visa applicant with very vibrant hair. The moment the alarm went off, I loudly urged the applicant to go into the waiting room, but he just stood there staring at me pleadingly. I repeated my request several times but he refused to un-glue himself from the window, his impressive hair shaking disapprovingly at me. I left him to his own devices and ran for dear life. Soon, the entire Embassy poured out in the courtyard and we waited breathlessly to see where the fire was. At which point it occurred to me that all our visa applicants were patiently waiting inside what could be a very fiery Embassy. I ran back and made the security guards let everyone out. To my utter amazement, no one wanted to leave - it was visa or nothing, fire be damned!  The student with the remarkable hair was also there giving me evil eye. Finally everyone filed out.
I believe that we all had some fun in the 100 degree sun, some smoked, others saw friends from other floors that had not seen in ages,and others even pulled sandwiches out and had a picnic. It was all very recreational and boosted morale on a slow, boring Monday.  Yes, Embassy life is fun!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Me and Bjorn Borg

Some of you might recollect my laments from the mid-summer party dry spell in Dhaka. Well, NEVER YOUR MIND!

Right after we celebrated Son’s birthday, I threw myself into frantic preparations for my own birthday. After contemplating a tacky yet delightful Eastern European trash themed bonanza on our roof top (sort of to open the season in the district), we decided on a more professional touch at the American Club here, where the Diplomat wouldn’t have to worry about cleanup the next morning (everyone has priorities, I suppose). I firmly believe the recipe for a good party calls for three essential ingredients – open bar, a great DJ and guests who are heavily interested in drinking and dancing. Thankfully, we managed to have a lot of all three. Some time around 2 am and 120 guests later, I was watching lazily as three of the male guests were doing pushups on the ground, a bunch of others were dancing slowly around them with glazed eyes and a young strapping lad, no more than 22 years old, approached me to ask me whether I was the birthday girl and to thank me for a great party. I had no idea who he was. It was indeed one swell birthday though. It was made even better by the fact that it was our DCM’s birthday as well and he did stop by and had a drink with us.

The following week, the entire expat and diplomatic corps community went nuts as we all prepared to go to the infamous Glitter Ball. Now, if you recall from last year, this is a huge party celebrated in the biggest ballroom in town, where all the crème de la crop of Dhaka foreign and local society gathers to look and behave stupid. Each table has a theme based on which folks dress up – my table went as 70’s tennis players. We procured horrendous old-fashioned white short shorts for the men, and some hideous long skirts for the women, as well as garish headbands, drank a bunch of vodka and joined the Ball. Now, mind you, when we were getting the clothes from the fancy sporting store in the middle of the most affluent part of town, the owners assured us fervently that everything was “last year’s fashion, sir!!” which makes me really, really sad. The ball, of course, was a blast and we were spectacular. I looked especially authentic – in fact, while I was looking at myself in the mirror, skort, curly long blond hair and ludicrous headband on, the Diplomat appreciatively commented that I look like Bjorn Borg from behind. WTF?

This weekend we also enjoyed an extra holiday thanks to Mr. Columbus. Luckily, it was not a holiday for Son’s school, so the Diplomat and I got a glimpse of what it is to be people without children or agenda or anything better to do. For starters, after Son left, we slept until 11 am, and then the Diplomat went to play gold while I did absolutely nothing. Oh, I might have stared at the wall for a bit, and then I ate a sandwich. A really good one, too! With a pickle! Then I saw a particularly terrible movie on TV. And then I did nothing a bit more. One thing is for sure – I did not brush my teeth until it was time to pick up Son from daycare! Bliss!! I continue to wonder - whatever do single people do on a weekend???

Speaking of Son, he has all of a sudden grown up. He now insists on sophisticated conversations that center around the bowels of dinosaurs and whether he can marry the cat. He paints elaborate grotesque paintings that portray large scale airplanes and even larger suns; he pouts when little girls won’t play with him (there is a real dearth of little boys in our community for some reason); wonders where babies come from and why he cannot have one in his belly; tells me that I SHOULD drink milk since it has “so many useful things in it” to make me grow up. I try to keep up with him and teach him good things – how to hold the spoon, when to brush his teeth, not to interrupt adult conversation, the numbers, the letters, songs, manners. He even watches me cook and helps with condiments. We read books and talk about them. And yet it always seems like he is a step ahead of me with his endless, “why?” It is amazing how often I have no answers – aren’t we supposed to have them all by now? Amazing thing this parenting business. How do we watch our children grow and not melt our hearts every morning, every day, every night?