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|February 13, 1997||
Rich and not-so-famousWhen Liz Taylor does what she does with diamonds, my heart misses a beat. I'm sure yours does too. Of course, we end up with illusions instead of gems, but I think it is possible to take the first dainty steps in the right direction of not appearing to be a cheapskate. And it's better to start now rather than wait to be a wealthy dowager or a Seth Deendayal.
Live well without spending too much money. You may shack up behind a paan-beedi shop, save on furniture because gaddas are so chic. See that your house has a number - remember 10, Downing Street? And if you prefer anonymity, just give a post-box number. Carry about 10 gilt-edged visiting cards, which you shall not distribute. You may say you are running short.
There's nothing like literature to give you status. Buy anything at the bargain shops. After all, if editors can have their choices, why can't you? It would help to keep some Shakespeare around (available for three bucks on the pavements). As for its torn and tattered state, surely it couldn't have stood the test of time without it?
Talking about time, bring in the venerable grandparents. There's something to be said about old-world charm, especially your grandpa's white hair. Somehow the white hair of the rich appear whiter. Make your grandma into a music virtuoso who played the piano so well. Sorry, but the veena won't do - it makes you feel like whining and pining. And speaking of the piano, don't forget to mention B-major and C-minor.
And then get down to your appearance. Talk of your appointment at the saloon at 11 am. Only useless people go in the afternoons. Choose a favourite colour and wear it as often as possible, preferably white, for the exclusive look. Store new wine in old bottles. Get brass knobs at a run-down shop. The rich love bargains and sales. They can even bring rags into vogue.
But while giving a gift, buy from the best shops even if it is the cheapest thing available there. If you can't afford that, get hold of those fancy bags and wrappers that these boutiques give out. Or maybe you could pick up a few flowers from the market, though presenting pooja flowers would, I think, be taking devotion a bit too far!
Drop names. If you have been abroad, talk about the television star or the famous art collector. Even Dhirubhai Ambani won't have the guts to question you for, most likely, he sends his valet across to purchase paintings. But keep your mouth shut in front of the likes of Husain.
When you are broke, don't be afraid to admit it. The rich love to be broke since they have so many things they'd like to spend on. Then there is the guilt about too much money. If you can't eat out, say you are on diet. Talk of yoga and natural foods. Say Jane does it. Omit the Fonda, after all you've been to Hollywood. Superimpose your photograph on a picture of John Barrymore's gate. Explain John's absence as an attempt to avoid the gathered public.
PS: John is long dead, so choose someone living. But if you are truly successful passing off as wealthy, you can even get away with knowing the dead.
Finally, stride into rooms. Get manicured hands under chin in one swift movement. Talk in whispers, punctuating the conversation with a slight cough (the rich husky variety). And settle down for orange juice.
And if none of the above works, just divorce your spouse and ask for a fat alimony. Or be a contented young widower. If a purr doesn't have the desired effect, you may have to use your claws. How else can you claim to be the cat's whiskers?
Illustration: Dominic Xavier
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