"Madam you want to enroll in Shoppers' Stop loyalty program?" asks the boy at the cashier.
"Uh!.... no." I say.
Then glancing at my BA Amex Card he exclaims "Oh! You live abroad Madam...?"
"Uh! Yes" I say feeling uncomfortable as a glimmer comes into his eyes. Before he can say another word, I snatch my purchases from the counter and muttering a hurried "Thank You" flee from the scene.
Even after all these years my NRI (or OCI as they call it now) status seems to elicit the wierdest of reactions. Some of my mother's friends insist on speaking to me in English, while I try to respond back in my rather Bombay-ite version of Tamil.
The beauty salon is almost used to my annual visits during my annual trips back home. I say almost.... because they still try to sell their latest massage packages, not realising that to someone who earns in pounds rather than rupees they seem actually feel horrendously expensive. I have learnt no longer to indulge my salon services starved senses by jumping on every single mani-pedi-facial-massage in sight only to look at my credit card bills in horror the next month. My poor cousin status is firmly established I fear!
Watching the first day first show of Don 2 with my Dad, I chuckle in recalled surprise as the audience insists on whistling not at the scantily clad actress as much as at the muscle wrapped smirking SRK who is more engrossed in the colour of his wardrobe and changes hairstyles many more times than his beautiful heroine. The Indian man it seems is discovering his feminine side with a vengeance.
As we head back home I simply have to pause and photograph the freshly garlanded photograph of Michael Jackson whose poster is fifty times the size of the various Indian deities he towers over. After all, MJ is/was God and on this I agree.
The security guard at the reception looks at me, mouth agape in surprise as I dart towards the staircase instead of the lift, insisting on climbing the fifteen floors to my parents' apartment, trying to work off the rather heavy second meal of the day in the three hours after waking up. I know, he thinks I am just a bit wonky in the head.
And as my husband and I head out the Manchester United bar in deepest Mulund (Oh! the irony), we scan the menu and shake our heads, for a normal vodka martini sets us back by closer to a 10 pounds in Bombay. "It's Soho prices" he mutters.
We look at each other and as one head out to Janata Bar next door, for our celebratory Christmas drinks... Where over cold Kingfisher for me, a Black Label for him, and steaming plates of various assorted starters we finally relax in the company of hairy chested, tough men, crowded around narrow tables, paying us scant any attention, as they down their respective whiskies in robust gulps.
The new urban, blackberry toting, jeans clad around wide hips, laden with tons of designer shopping, buying vegetables clad in plastic at the supermarket Bombayite has left me a bit out of breath.
Savings accounts in India now get you a 9% return (to die for!) but gosh! Does everything else seem much more dear or is it that me, the poor country cousin - your average middle class NRI - has been left behind?