Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Girl Who Fell in Love with Shahrukh Khan


The Girl Who Fell in Love with Shahrukh Khan

 “Ha Chokri tho nathi sudharvani che!” Baa shouts in Gujarati from the kitchen, in between flattening thepla with a rolling pin. This girl will never improve, never!
Baa’s voice would rise into a hysterical wail, “Look here, Bapu, father of my daughters, Cricket or Shahrukh Khan movies, they are the only things that interest her; she will go mad, and drive us mad one day.”
“Why don’t you leave her alone?” is all Bapu would say from behind his newspaper.
“What are you talking? How can I leave alone my own daughter? As if I could,” Baa would again shriek from the kitchen. Her sharp voice would fill the small flat in which they lived in the suburb of Ghatkopar, Bombay. She needs help in the kitchen and none of her two daughters were willing to help. One is interested only in studying all the time and the other – well, Baa is outraged – is crazy about that movie actor Shahrukh Khan. She wonders how her daughters have turned worthless after what she has done for them.
“She will learn her own responsibilities, won’t you my daughter?”
“Yes, I will, Bapu.”

Yet Parul knows nothing of her responsibilities in the Gujarati middle class home where she was supposed to cook vegetable, sauté lentil curry, and shop for groceries. She was supposed to know the difference between cumin and fennel seeds, and between parsley and spinach. Instead Parul is seated on the doorstep of their modest home in the lowly housing complex listening to the radio which is playing the song “Badi Mushkil Hai,” from Shahrukh Khan’s movie Anjam. She likes Anjam in which Shahrukh Khan leaps over several cars in a song sequence to flirt with actor Madhuri Dixit. She likes the song particularly because of her favourite star: his raw energy, the twinkling of his eyes, his dimpled cheeks, his full lips, “Oh, Shahrukh, what a man, hai, hai!” she would exclaim.

She watches all Shahrukh Khan’s movies, wheedling compact discs from friends to watch them on her friend Pallavi’s compact disc player. Her Bapu can’t afford discs or players, he is a poor teacher. She loves the star when he plays negative roles that none of the others actors would touch: serial killers, mafia dons; roles veering towards the dark side of life.

“I am fond of him because of his unconventional looks: he isn’t tall, he isn’t strikingly handsome, yet he is good-looking in a rakish way,” she tells Pallavi.

“But aren’t you aiming too high, dear girl?” Pallavi taunts. Secretly she feels pity for her friend and doesn’t want to see her disappointed when she can’t get the man of her dreams.

“What’s there? Doesn’t matter, I know he is made for me. If not in this life, in the next,” Parul says. She believes in Karma and rebirth. She believes if she is good and devoted to her man in this life she will get him in the next one.

“He is such a super star, lives in a bungalow and drives big cars and you…, look at you, what do....” Pallavi doesn’t complete the sentence and Parul knows what she means. Parul has acne on her face, a snub nose, and she is fat.

“She is in love with a star,” her elder sister Purvi teases.

“Why are you people troubling my girl so much? Leave her alone. She has the right to pursue her dreams,” Bapu is lost in his own world of newspapers and lost literary ambition. He wanted to be a well-known writer. He wrote some short stories and poems long ago, which were rejected by publishers, and now teaches in a nearby school.

“But what if she fails in her final B.A. exams? You will be responsible?” Baa shouts from the kitchen accusing Bapu.

But Parul Kapadia keeps dreaming of Shahrukh. How his hair falls over his eyes, how his cheeks dimple into those deep crags of the flesh, how shapely and attractive his lips are.

Oh! How she wishes she could meet him once!
*********
Then along comes Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, hosted by Sharukh Khan. Parul knows this is her chance. She sits beside the phone and dials the contest number, for hours, then for days. Her fingers ache. She persists, knowing this is her only chance to be with him, at least, be in a room with him, even if she doesn’t get to the competition’s final “Hot Seat.” She keeps dialling, but all she gets is an engaged tone at the other end.

For days the competition’s recorded message hums in her ear. It impinges on her mind. She even imagines Shahrukh talking to her in her sleep, his lips forming the words ever so softly, seductively from his lush lips. All her waking life she fantasises talking to him: when going to college, when in class, and when she is at home dialling the competition’s telephone number which keeps giving off the engaged tone, as millions are trying from all over the country to participate.
“What to do Purvi, I am trying all I can, but the phone lines are always engaged,” she tells her sister.
“Maybe, you should give it up and have proper food and sleep.”
Purvi doesn’t know Parul wants to win this competition for her and the family. She thinks Parul is doing it for her own self. In fact, Parul wants to win it and then shift Bapu, Baa, and Purvi out of the miserable housing complex where water is supplied for only half hour every morning and evening, and sometimes not even that much. She wants to see her father Bapu, happy.

“Soo thaye gayo? What’s wrong with you people? She has a dream, that’s all.” Bapu would scold Baa and Parul. Baa is old-fashioned and superstitious, both her daughters know. Parul knows she has only Bapu’s support.

“If she goes and does something unusual, then don’t blame me,” Baa warns.

Parul knows that Bapu believes that this is a passing phase, some initiation ceremony, something all girls must go through. But she also knows he believes in the power of dreams, and he knows that his dreams had failed because he didn’t attend enough literary functions and literary meets and therefore was not known in the community of writers.
*********
Parul becomes cranky and unpredictable. She skips meals, doesn’t sleep, and sits for hours holding the telephone in her lap, dialling. Sometimes, she is reduced to tears of frustration.

“Did you get through, son?” Bapu would ask from his easy chair in the small verandah of their house. Since he doesn’t have a son he sometimes calls Parul “son.” He considers her the son he didn’t have.

“No, Bapu, not this time. But, next time when the phone lines open I surely will,” she says, rubbing her bleary eyes.

“Son, why are you doing this? See how angry Baa and Purvi are. We aren’t getting any phone calls because you dominate the phones so much.”

“They don’t understand. They just don’t understand me, or, what my heart says. Shahrukh is a really nice man and I have a feeling I will meet him through this contest.”

Bapu looks at her earnest face, her misty eyes, blunt nose, her chubby cheeks and his heart melts for her.
“Okay. If that’s your wish. Do whatever is right, son. I will support you, I am with you.”
************
Then it happens, without warning. It marks the end of all her expectations and the beginning of all her fascinating dreams, now slowly coming true. When she is selected to appear in KBC quiz contest; she dances all over the house, teasing Baa and Purvi.

Two nights ago she had dialled the phone numbers till her fingers had grown numb and her sleep-deprived brain had become blank. “Next one, next one…” she had kept goading herself. She knew no telephone line could be engaged forever. Then she got a recorded message with a simple question to which she gave the right answer.

And so things begin to happen! She receives a letter from the organizers with the dates and details of when and where she has to appear for the show.

“Don’t worry, you will never get past the first round,” Purvi says.

“Yes I will, I will tell Shahrukh to blow you a kiss,” Parul replies.

“That is if you first get through, no?” Now Purvi is jealous.

“You wait and see,” Parul says.

“You lucky girl,” he friend Pallavi says. Pallavi is happy for her.
********
On the day of the quiz Bapu escorts Parul to the place where the contest will be held. She is amazed by how a television studio looks. The shooting is done during the day. She had imagined it would be done at night as it was broadcast daily at 9 p.m. A shooting takes hours of preparation. There are the studio hands, there are bright lights, there are people hurrying about shouting instructions. Then there is make-up, and all seem to pass in a whirl.

Then Shahrukh makes his appearance. He looks so relaxed and jovial; all nervousness disappears when she looks at him. Here is the man she truly loves, and the man of her dreams, now right before her. Her Shahrukh! She can reach out and touch him if she wants.

Then the opening round of “Fastest Fingers First” starts after the previous episode’s contestant withdraws after winning Rs 650,000.

“Arrange these films of Shahrukh Khan, that’s me (Oh! He dimples so sweetly, Parul thinks.) in the ascending order in which they were released. Meaning starting from the earliest, arrange these films of mine in the order they were released,” his confident voice rings out.

Parul swallows hard. She can’t believe it! Luck is on her side. She has seen all his films, and even knows the years in which they were released.

A. Darr B. Anjam C. Swades D. Mohobatein

Her fingers fly on the screen; she is done in a flash: BADC. Then there is a pause when she can hear her heart beat, her ears ring, and the music pauses for effect.

“The winner is Parul Kapadia, who answered in 3.02 seconds, congratulations Parul!” Shahrukh has called her by her name.
**********
Nervously she walks to the star, her mind in a whirl. It feels like a dream when Shahrukh hugs her. She feels his warm embrace and all nervousness leaves her. Still her knees are weak. At last she meets him! She walks to the hot seat dazed. He wears a nice-looking suit that looks expensive and his face and skin are glowing as he looks at her.

The first few questions till she reaches a prize money of Rs 20,000 are very simple. She knows all the answers.

“From now on Parul the questions get a bit tough,” he says, “are you nervous?”

“Yes,” she mumbles.

“Main Hoon Na? I am there for you. Incidentally, you may know, Main Hoon Na is one of my films. Do you know that?”

“Yes. I have seen all your films.”

“Really?”

He reaches across and shakes her hand. His hand is a little moist in hers.

“Shahrukh, I have a request,” she says in a tremulous voice. A silence falls over the audience.

“Tell me,” he says with all his usual earnestness.

“I want you to greet my father Bapu, who is here, my mother Kantaben Kapadia, my sister Purvi Kapadia, and my friend Pallavi.”

Shahrukh greets Bapu with a namaste. Then he turns his shining eyes towards the camera.

“Kantaben, Purvi and Pallavi, I hope you are watching this. Here’s lots of love and, muaaaaa,” he blows a kiss towards the camera.

A titter passes through the audience.

“Shahrukh, I want to ask you another question.”

“Yes, go ahead.” He looks slightly puzzled; one eyebrow shoots up effortlessly, eloquently, as she has seen in his movies.

“I know how much you love your wife Gauri, but I am in love with you, too. I want to marry you.”

The audience looks on, stunned. Even the camera crew looks on in disbelief. Who is this girl to propose to a star? What is she? But the star doesn’t look ruffled and it seems as if he has met with such girls, with similar requests, that too, often.

“Yes, I will marry you,” he beams, his dimples cutting fissures down his cheeks.

“Y-y-y-yes?” she is ecstatic and can’t control her voice.

“Yes, not in this life, but in the next one.”

Her heart almost misses a beat. Her head throbs, drowning the audience’s laughter.

“That’s enough for me. I believe in Karma and after life. I will wait for you, Shahrukh, promise?”

“Promise.”
*********
That answer makes her happy, and she glows all over. Her mind works faster; even the answers come fast to her mind. For the Rs 1, 250,000-question Shahrukh asks her:

Q: What did Galvin Corporation first manufacture under the brand name Motorola?

A. Battery Eliminator B. Walkie Talkie C. Cell Phone D. Car Radio.

She knows it’s a trick question. Motorola manufactures cell phones, but they also manufacture all the other products. The question is what they manufactured first under the brand name. Cell phone is the obvious answer as Motorola is a popular brand. She answers “C.”

Shahrukh is playful now. Something tells her she is wrong. She has exhausted all her life lines.

“Shall I freeze “C”?” he asks.

“Yes,” she says seriously while the star, her love, tries to create tension with his trademark goofiness.

“No. I think it is “D” Car Radios,” she says. Epiphany has struck.

“Shall I freeze “D”?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, why did you change your mind? Parul, Parul, you were playing so well, you got all your answers right. I told you to be careful. I told you, if you gave the wrong answer you would lose a lot of money.”

Gone, all that money gone in a second! Parul is disappointed and angry with herself. She has acted stupidly and has lost the money she had won, and her dream of a new home is never going to be a reality. The handle of the hot seat seems to slip from her grip. Her eyes can hardly meet his. Her throat feels as if furry creatures are clawing at it.

“However, if you had answered “C,” you would have been wrong; “D” is the right answer.”

Was she right?

“You win Rs 1,250,000. Congratulations!”

Yes, she is right!

“The next question for Rs 2,500,000 is: Which cricketer’s autobiography is titled: Beyond Ten Thousand – My Life Story?”

“A. Sunil Gavaskar B. Allan Border C. Steve Waugh D. Brian Lara.”

Parul is a cricket addict. She knows it is Allan Border who has written that book. But she hesitates.

“What importance does Rs 2,500,000 play in your life?” he asks flirtatiously.

“I want to take you with me on a Hawaiian holiday,” she says.

He pretends to be touched, places both palms over his heart and says, “Jaaneman, sweetheart, my loving wife in my next life, what is the answer?”

Oh, how her heart beats when she hears him call her “sweetheart.” How she would have liked to hug and cling to him for that. She is prepared to give all that she has won, to be his, only his. How her eyes betray her love for the man who sits opposite her, his eyes twinkling in the studio lights, his face a halo of charm, calm and friskiness.

But she has to help Bapu, Baa and Purvi. They need the money to move to a decent house away from the lowly housing complex in Ghatkopar.

“The answer is “B” Allan Border.”

“Congratulations Parul! “B” is the right answer. You have won Rs 2,500,000. Now you can take me on my Hawaiian holiday.”

The next question is tough and Parul is so excited she doesn’t remember what it is. She is ecstatic and in a frenzied state of mind. She says she would quit rather than take a risk.

As Sharukh Khan, the star, her love, envelopes her in a warm hug for the last time she is wondering, does he mean what he says? But she believes in Karma and the eternal chain of death and rebirth. She plans do a lot of good work with the money that she has won. Then when she is reborn he would be hers, in her next life.

When they exit the studio it is evening. As they wait for a taxi to take them home Bapu looks at her and the cheque she is holding and says, “Son, the power of dreams. Didn’t I tell you to trust in your dreams?”