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Bubbly Bubbles and cappuccino!

"I just can't do dal, roti. But I love to cook European dishes. If you ask me about my favourite western dish, then it is lasagne. Also, I love muli ka paratha".



WANT A BITE: Bubbles Sabharwal enjoying her meal at the Ashok Hotel Coffee Shop in New Delhi. — Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

MINUTES OF conversation with Bubbles Sabharwal and you tend to think, looks can indeed be deceptive. The initial impression of her seems like a done-up, modish yuppy just stepping out of her parlour following the weekly beautification trip. One broad grin directed at you and you begin to soften your stand towards her. A few words shared and you become her slave. A superb talker, but not a mindless one; a fabulous looker but of course, with her head in the right place.

Sitting pretty at the Coffee Shop in The Ashok waiting for the waiter to arrive, you find her eager to talk about her plays, particularly three of the most popular ones now compiled into a book "Runaways And Other Plays". Published by Midnightedition.com in New Delhi recently, the book, a bubbly Bubbles says, is "an effort towards taking me seriously by the publishers." Taking you at once into the minds of the characters born out of her pen, she declares: "People sometimes categorise my plays as women-centric but I would say, my play characters are everyday people. They are your stories, they are my stories. They are never away from reality. And importantly, they are positive people."

The waiter arrives and she gently requests him for a vegetable platter mentioned at the menu card. A sudden interest arises in you to know more about her food preferences. Does she cook? "I just can't do dal, roti. But I love to cook European dishes," she says. As you converse more, it comes out that she is quite religious about her Friday Santoshima fast. "I take only fruit that day. Otherwise, I am not so fussy about food nor I get into any conscious dieting," leaving you wondering whether to digest it as true looking at her well-maintained, trim being.

Shifting focus, she talks about her much-staged mono-act play "Women in Black": "When I first showed this play to well-known theatre personality Arvind Gaur, he said, `Why don't you do the play yourself?' I felt I would be able to do justice to it and so I agreed. Gaur directed the play," the excitement in her eyes grows as she continues to tell more. "It is a story about a mother and her daughter. Both belong to different generations and both have different ways of looking at things as they lead their separate lives. But if you ask me, who is actually the stronger woman, I would say, the mother. Our mothers definitely have what their daughters don't. They are more dynamic."

Born into a well-educated family in Bangalore, Bubbles says though women in India are now more liberated than before, they still can't run away from customs and traditions. "There is still lot of pressure put by the society on women. Some overt, some covert. Despite being where I am, there are certain rules that even I as a woman have to follow."

Interrupts the arrival of food, a decorative dish out. "Looks quite yummy. But if you ask me about my favourite western dish, then it is lasagne. Also, I love muli ka paratha," Bubbles rolls her eyes.

Savouring a bite from her dish, she moves her conversation to another of her plays that form part of the book, "Runaways". Here too, this 48-year-old former air-stewardess talks about two women - Sushma and Sarla - her characters in the play who happen to share the same railway compartment on a train journey. The third of her play, "Sea-Saw", she continues, runs between two tales, one of two sisters and the other of a young couple.

"I tend to think that young people are not so inclined towards theatre, but till I saw the response to my plays staged in various colleges, I realised I was wrong. They are strong force which can be utilised to produce meaningful plays," she comments. Though, she thinks theatre in Delhi has still a long way to go. "We still do not have much of black comedy, mime, pantomime, puppet theatre, documentary theatre and even good Shakespearean theatre," she adds. As the waiter returns to clear the plates, Bubbles asks for a "hot cup of cappuccino please." And, at once, gets back on the track, "You know, we should not just talk about the beautiful people in our plays. We should talk about older women and pot-bellied men too."

Though Bubbles says she shall never quit play writing, but what she is actually plotting now is a novel. You wonder how many pot-bellied men will it encompass!

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

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