It's been 36 hours since we waded knee deep in the in the absurdly luxuriant waters of glitterati life, and I'm still a little queasy.
We'd scored an invite to a ritzy party thrown by Vogue and Audi celebrating the magazine's "love affair with India" at a swank five-star hotel in Delhi. So we put on our Saturday best (that's a button-down shirt and jeans for me), had an autorickshaw drop us at the hotel's back entrance (tuk-tuks aren't allowed to use the fancy front), and got ready to live large.
To get into the party, we had to walk across a red carpet and get passed a polystyrene woman armed with a brilliant smile and a guest list. She looked at my natty beard, my tangled hair, my ridiculous Thai street market shoes, and -- perhaps assuming I was some sort of artist (how else would I have such a hot girlfriend?) -- let us in.
Inside, the setup was fantastic. One room held a sharply arranged frameless photo exhibit of dozens of compelling photographs with Indian themes that had run in Vogue over the last 70 years. Indian butlers circled with trays of champagne flutes. We stayed in this room just long enough to drink a couple and eavesdrop on several catty men commenting on the "horrid" outfits of many of the young models in the photographs.
The next room: bonanza! A huge spread of first-rate sushi. All-you-can-eat sushi. And I did. Indian butlers circling with trays of toothpicks and appetizers, the best easily being the shrimp tempura that were each the size of a small lobster.
After I ate my first of four plates of raw fish, we hit the bar.
"Can I get a martini?" I asked the bow-tied bartender.
"Sorry," he said genuinely, shaking his head. "All I have is red and white wine, this," and here he held up a bottle of Belvedere vodka, "or this," and he held up a bottle of Chivas Regal.
"I'll take a scotch."
We strolled the room laughing. I felt like I was in a living, breathing modern art exhibit. An Indian man with dyed blond hair was wearing a leather jacket, tight leather pants and leather boots. A white woman showing too much leg for her age wore a floppy white Mad Hatter cap as she flirted with a Michael Stipe lookalike. In a corner, a senior leader of a national political party best known for Hindu nationalism chatted with a woman half his age while a bodyguard in full camouflage and shiny black boots held a machine gun beside him.
We ate and drank and laughed for awhile, but soon we began to feel really bad, if not outright disgusted. The whole thing was so phony. Plus, with hundreds of millions of people living in abject poverty in this country, hundreds of thousands of them in this city, and thousands of them within a strong stone's throw of this party -- well, it seemed pretty awful to wash down unnecessary bites of imported octopus with fancy scotch. We left.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a tumultuous tummy and vomited. I'd like to think that it was the physical embodiment of my moral reprehension, a physiological rejection of the useless glamor I had soaked in.
Really, it was probably just the raw fish and scotch.