What do you do with someone who can’t tell Justin Bieber from Justin Trudeau? You unfriend them on Facebook. You block them on WhatsApp. You unfollow them on Twitter. You refuse to talk to them until they do their homework.
Such was the fate that befell an unsuspecting young man who my friend Nafisa met, thanks to a dating app. He took her out for a few drinks and dinner. And then, a nice long walk at Marine Drive.
It was that time of night when I love to go there – when a stillness descends upon the busy business quarter of Nariman Point, the lights come up, and the place takes on a new look and a new name: the Queen’s Necklace.
Everything was perfect for Nafisa and her match made in online heaven – the sea, the breeze, the moonlight – until they began chatting about the people they found attractive.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s book Saare Sukhan Hamaare is always by Shabana Azmi’s bedside
When she proclaimed her undying love for Trudeau, he bungled up between the politician and the singer christened “Justin”. That is why she had to take extreme steps. He was probably hoping for a ‘phir kab miloge’ but all he got was an ‘achchha toh hum chalte hain’.
I know, a bit too extreme. But I am not surprised that she got offended. Serves him right, I guess.
Getting offended is something we South Asians specialise in, don’t we? I just heard from my friend Hamza, who lives in Lahore, that Sonam Kapoor’s film Neerja might not get released in Pakistan. How awful! It seems like a pretty interesting film.
By the way, in case you didn’t know, Shabana Azmi too is in the film. I had a chance to meet her just recently. She wasn’t the intimidating person I had imagined. She was great fun!
We met in the office of a movie production house in Khar. Located on the first floor of a residential building, it was your typical Mumbai office – people busy with their screens, guzzling mugs of coffee, a bit hungry and wondering where to order lunch from. We were in a quaint neighbourhood, with bright sunlight and lots of trees.
Shabana-ji was telling me about her visits to Pakistan – once for a fundraiser for Thalassemic patients, another time to shoot for the Hollywood flick Immaculate Conception, and yet another time for the Faiz Festival in Lahore.
Apparently, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s book Saare Sukhan Hamaare is always by her bedside. She told me, “He was Faiz Chacha (uncle) to us. I grew up in a home where Josh Malihabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri and many other poets and writers were guests of my parents. Faiz’s poetry is something you can go back to again and again.”
Oh, and I found out from her that Neerja Bhanot, the brave chief flight attendant whose life the film is based on, had received an honour from the Government of Pakistan itself. She was posthumously awarded the Tamgha-e-Insaniyat for saving the lives of over 300 civilians from terrorists who had hijacked an aircraft.
Anyway, I am sure those who are interested will find a way to watch it. We are great at jugaad, aren’t we?
It had been a long day in front of the screen. I was dying to take a break, sing, walk around, just chill. Just as I was getting whiny, my friend Derrick called up to say that he was in Mumbai for a day. He had come down for some work from Pune but that was over. He had the whole evening free.
That was the perfect excuse for me to board a local train, and get to Vile Parle station. A quick auto ride later, I was right outside Janki Kutir, where Prithvi Theatre is located. The sev puri there is something you are not allowed to miss if you ever visit Mumbai.
The three brothers from Rajasthan who run their chaat business out of this tiny corner in Juhu are impeccable. They look at me, and rattle off my standard specifications: “Sirf meethi chutney. Lehsun bilkul nahin. Tamatar aur pyaaz extra. Hai na, bhaiyya?” (Only sweet chutney. No garlic. Tomato and onion extra. Right, brother?)
Derrick, on the other hand, is Mr. Absolutely No Fuss. He is someone who does gola meditation. It is quite simple. You too can try it. He buys an ice gola from the street, sits down in a quiet place, and sucks on it. During this time, he talks to no one, and keeps all his attention focused on the taste.
Prithvi, by the way, was started by Prithviraj Kapoor, the man who played Akbar in the film Mughal-e-Azam. Okay, if that is too distant a reference for you, think of Ranbir Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. He was their great grandfather.
I don’t know if Ranbir and Kareena watch plays. I have not seen them at Prithvi. However, their uncle Shashi Kapoor is often here. He is old now but has attendants who bring him on a wheelchair. It must make him so proud to know that the theatre his father built continues to be one of Mumbai’s most loved cultural hubs.
When we were walking back towards Vile Parle railway station, Derrick and I came across this strange-looking tree. The trunk was painted but the branches had been cut. My spontaneous reaction was to go and hug it.
“What do you think of this tree?” Derrick asked me.
“I’m not sure if the tree likes what they’ve done to it. It’s like giving a makeover to a dead body,” I said, and hugged tighter.
Chintan Girish Modi is a Mumbai-based writer. That he shares his last name with a Prime Minister is purely a matter of coincidence. He tweets at @chintan_connect