Strange Short Love Story – ILLUSIONS
I loved the feeling of wind in my hair, the sun on my shoulder, the power in my hands, as I zoomed past various cars and vehicles on the Eastern Express Highway. I felt my tattered jeans on my legs and I felt the sweat beads forming and disappearing on my naked chest. I felt the strength in my being. I felt the exhilaration; I felt the speed, the thrill of my new bike- my new passion. I felt blessed. I also felt free, after a long time.
…..I have always been an actor, I rule ‘Bollywood’. I see girls trying to kill themselves for me and I see guys imitating me, cursing me. I thrive on their adoration and jealousy. I have always been good-looking, as a boy, my good looks were a means of income for my parents who were striving to maintain their façade of being page 3 élite but had lost all due to my father’s extravagance on girls and gambling and my mother’s alcoholism.
Things were not easy and they had to take care of me. I learned acting, the day I began to understand that my family is not a normal family. I acted in front my school friends that I am the most loved, most spoilt child. I learned to act in front my parent’s guests. I acted that I am happy. And slowly the acting became my reality. I started to believe in my own lies. And because of this my life was colorful. I had many fantasies and all of those were true for me.
And then one day, when I was in class 6th, my father came in and announced to my mother that we are moving to Mumbai. That I have got a job. That my life is “set” and I do not need to study anymore, he had landed me in a TV show- Centred on the life of a royal historical figure. I didn’t even need to go for an audition, my photographs were enough. I protested. I wanted to be an astronaut. Kids and their fantasies. The truth was, we were now no more able to pay even the electricity bill; my education was secondary. Mumbai was our new destination. With some borrowed amount, we were now bound towards Mumbai.
In Mumbai, the moment I landed, I was engulfed in the sea of Bollywood and TV industry. My parents became my managers, they handled all the affairs. My money, my time, my shows and even my friends etc. My education was never resumed. Yes, I was given a personality development training, English-speaking etc. My light eyes, fair skin, and surprisingly Caucasian looks along with my height and built gave me an edge in auditions, ads, TV shows and Films. I always looked older than I was. I looked tough and soft at the same time and at the age of 17 I landed up with my début film with the reigning actress of that time. I was an instant success and since then, I have never looked back, not even towards my parents. I have a new manager, new entourage to take care of my affairs. My parents receive ten percent of my fee after taxes and I don’t go and meet them.
It’s been ten years since then, in these ten years, I made up for my childhood. I am a graduate now and I am pursuing distant MBA from a renowned institute in India. I have saved enough to sustain myself in case of contingencies. I do 2 films per year and several ads and I host a talk show. I also contribute yearly to a charity of my liking. I do everything that is in my hands to make a change. I also enjoy my fame, my money. I go play squash in the posh clubs of Mumbai, I have a fleet of cars, I have the best bikes, and I wear clothes by the best designers of the world. I can have and I have any girl I want. God has been kind to me, my looks have improved with time, I do quality work, I have won numerous awards and recognitions including 3 National awards and today I have nothing that I want….
And as I zoomed past all those cars and bikes and autos, the traffic signal brought my speed to a halt. As it was noontime and a weekday at that, the roads were virtually empty. And other than me there was just a single auto standing and a few vehicles behind us. As I waited, I happened to look in the auto and I realized, I am not as blessed, my life is not as fulfilling, my needs are not yet answered, I do not have everything in life; I wanted her… I needed her… my heart skipped a beat… my sweats did not disappear… my eyes were fixed on her… and I forgot to breathe…
It’s not that I have not seen beauty- I have met most desirable, most gorgeous women around the world and I have felt their enthusiasm on seeing me, I did not lack love or love-making, girls were attracted to me, my looks, my persona, my celebrity statehood, my money, my everything and I used them, whenever I wanted to. I don’t have any regrets, they wanted me to use them, and they begged me to use them. So I did. And I enjoyed it. But real emotions? No, I didn’t feel them, I didn’t connect to them, I didn’t feel pain if they left me in the morning, I didn’t feel guilt when I left them in the mornings, I never talked to them, I just spoke. Till this moment, I never had the urge to hug someone and weep. Till I saw her, I didn’t know that there is hollowness in my heart. I did not know how meaningless I am…
I don’t believe in love, and love is overhyped. I know that reel and real life are two separate zones. What happens on silver screen is fantasy. I used to live my childhood in fantasy, I came out of it long time ago. Love happens, it sure does. It happens only in movies and novels. People, in real life, do not have the time and patience for love. But I felt in those 2 minutes was intense. As the light turned green, she looked at me and smiled. A stranger’s smile. And then she looked at me again. As her auto lurched forwards and as I moved parallel to her, she never once looked away. And then she again smiled. A lover’s smile. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t utter a word. We moved, in unison. The world stopped. As we were moving, there was no wind, no other car or bike or auto or bus… all that moved was her auto… my bike… her eyelashes… her quivering lips… my sweat beads trickling down my chest… her dupatta flying out of her auto and touching me, as her fingers would have touched me…
And we moved, how I do not know, for I don’t remember looking at the road once. All I remember is her eyes. Big, full of pain and aching and loneliness and longing. And suddenly her auto stopped near Lilavati Hospital. I stopped too. She emerged from the auto, while I waited; she paid the fare, picked up her bag and came towards me. Giving me her handkerchief, she smiled and asked for my autograph. As I remained unmoved and fixated upon her face, her smile vanished. She looked up at me and said, “
There are few connections as strong as I feel towards you in few minutes and I know that you have felt those too. I thought that I shall never experience what they have written poems about; I thought that there shall be no Kanha for me; I never thought that I shall be able to live in these few minutes. I lived, I lived my whole life. I saw myself being courted by you, I saw myself as a bride, I saw myself in red lehenga and gold jewellery, I saw you as a groom, I saw us in love, I saw us being loved by all, I saw myself pregnant, I saw us with our baby. He looked just like you. Just as beautiful. I was lucky in these few minutes. You gave me life. Now I have to go and die, I have pancreatic cancer, last stage. I am here to admit myself, as I don’t want to die alone. At least I shall have doctors and nurses around me. I have to go. Thank you for being with me in those few minutes, in my last journey of life.”
I watched her go inside. I felt the tears trickle down and dissolve with the sweat beads. I do not know her name, I didn’t follow her inside, I am a selfish man, I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore. All my illusions were wiped off. As I saw her, she turned and waved a goodbye, a lover’s good bye and I wept…