On a cool, breezy Sunday, just as I sunk further into my favourite red sofa, I got the call. It had to be Sunder. He was in Mumbai to film a dance sequence for his next release. But something more exciting was brewing in his head.
'My New Year resolution is to date 365 women this year!,' he declared unabashedly. I laughed it off as another male fantasy, till he rolled out the blueprint.
Sunder's 'Project365', as I call it, is ambitious for any man in this day and age. And when the fine print says no going dutch - his date will have to foot the bill - Project365 seems all the more a herculean task.
But this photographer-turned-actor has never been a naysayer. Not in the 30 years I've known him.
I met Sunder in 1985 at The Valley School jungle gym. He wasn't my batch mate, but almost one. A senior by two years, my classmates and I loved his contagious laughter, his comic timing and his pranks, and he ours. This friendship continues till today. So when he told me about Project365, how could I refuse.
As the clock struck four, Sunder emerged from the crowd at the Gateway of India. He wasn't sure what was in store, but he exuberated a childlike excitement. We gingerly walked down the jetty and then hopped over to the Committee vessel that was to take us to our sailboat.
Onboard the Ibis, a 21-foot Seabird class sailboat, we raised the main sail and with a firm hand on the tiller set forth. The bustling Gateway of India, the magnificent Taj Mahal Hotels, the hawkers, the tourists, the horse chariots, the sights and sounds, slowly faded into a distance.
'So why only women?,' I popped the question playing in my head since the phone call.
For starters he is single. Thats a straightforward explanation. But there was more. It's easy to go out with another buddy for a meal or a beer, but how many female friends do men manage to meet one-on-one with the same ease? The idea was to make it more challenging, and by the vast spectrum of experiences, more interesting too!
In the 100 odd dates he has clocked, Sunder has shared meals with models, actors, sweepers, dancers, homemakers, journalists and even wives of political leaders. His youngest date, 21. His oldest, all of 105.
As we sail along discussing Project365, the setting sun staining the sea in pink is mesmerising. Before dark we are back to the jetty and ravenously hungry, ready for the promised meal.
'What do you plan to do with this treasure trove of experiences?,' I ask. The versatile artist plans to convert Project365 into a book or maybe even a script for a film.
For all the men envious of Sunder and his Project365, its all for a good cause. The money Sunder saves, in turn, goes to charity.
But more than anything, Sunder seeks to create a bond of friendship with his meal companions, most of whom he has known, and some who he's meeting for the first time. For the 365 women too, Sunder is a friend to cherish for life.