There has been so much blah about me in the Indian media that I thought I must set the record right. For starters, the press would have it that I carry a Birkin bag worth Rs 7 lakh, wear Jimmy Choo jutees with a Rs 50,000 tag and Roberto Cavalli glasses comes for nothing less that Rs 20,000. I have been portrayed as a socialite foreign minister who splurges on expensive fashion accessories. Is that the truth? To be honest, I do enjoy the good things in life. But I am also aware of the fact that the Pakistan government is cash-strapped. This was made doubly clear to me before I was sworn in. In fact, a senior ISI official met me at the Polo Lounge restaurant which I co-own in Lahore. “I like this place. Very chic and upscale,” the intelligence guy who called himself Mr Khan told me as he sipped his black coffee. “You too have to be like this place—chic and upscale—now that you will soon be a minister. The world must look at you with wonderment.” He then went on to observe that the mauve Punjabi suit I was wearing was too dowdy.
I was taken aback since I always believed that I dressed well. But there was no stopping Khansaab. “Wasn’t it the actress Christy Romano who said, ‘You don’t need really expensive clothes to look cute?’,” he asked, almost to himself. Then turning to me, he said, “Madam, accessories are important and becoming more and more so every day. And this is not my observation, but that of fashion guru Giorgio Armani.” He then revealed that he had been given the express task of making me look like a happening foreign minister. “I have codenamed my mission ‘Bags & Shoes’ and it involves activating our men in Delhi,” he said in a deep conspiratorial tone. Well, all this was not making sense to me. Wouldn’t accessories be more readily available in Dubai or Paris? So why Delhi? Khansaab lit a Marlboro and explained things. “Madam, you see, our budget is limited, so no Paris-waris. And however rich you may be, you’re forbidden from spending your money. This is sarkari mamla. But the good news is that our operatives have discovered that at the Sarojini Nagar market in Delhi you can get imitation accessories and clothes dirt-cheap. So a Birkin bag for Rs 500, Jimmy Choo footwear for Rs 850 and Roberto Cavalli shades comes for Rs 250. We will give you a makeover for under Rs 2,000. Isn’t that wonderful?” I was indeed impressed.
After Operation Bags & Shoes was concluded, I was well prepared to shock the Indian media and officials. Incidentally, before I left for Delhi, I had one last meeting with Khansaab. “Madam minister, when the Dilli press goes gaga about your expensive tastes, I suggest you make this statement.” With that he handed me a note which read: ‘You don’t want the attention to focus on the frivolous. A guy in my place would never get such attention. Nobody would be talking about his suit.’ I profusely thanked my man from the ISI. Wah, Khansaab, wah! I was sure my India visit would be a grand success.
(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)