Life is complicated. Love life, even more so. I'm walking in the zone, with my character. Guy, slight and slender, unassuming, comes to me and asks where Shopper's Stop is. Answer: Point finger and say, there. Me, stumbles. Neela doesn't know where Shopper's Stop is! She's lost. She doesn't know anything. But I know. Sorry, no information forthcoming. He takes me to CCD. I get wired on caffeine. Make stupid jokes. Tears spill out for no reason. You're pretty, he says, I'm not flirting. Me? Pretty? I'm invisible. Invisible is pretty? I'm Hollow Man. No one can see me. But Sandeep does. It gives me perspective. Maybe all is not lost.
What's lost, however: First draft. Complete shit. And I dare call myself a storyteller?!
Nearly a year later. I'm at CCD on Carter Road. It was late. Bad Rich Dude yells his lungs out as I'm making notes. I don't falter. I don't see him. Flicker flicker flicker at the corner of my eye. Boom boom boom in my ear drum. Bad Rich Guy has a name. He has a past. He's intrigued that I never flinched. 'No baby, why don't you listen to me?' he says and takes his call outside. Comes back. Huffs some more. 'What are you doing?'
'Just making notes.'
Bad Rich Dude wants to make a movie. Life fucked him up. A woman, even more so. He calls her wild. He calls her a slut. He calls her a character. Just fiction.
Her mother was a bitch. Her dad was abusive. She used guys for favours. I knew all that. She's chillar. I didn't care about that. She never loved me. I loved her. I gave her everything, made her a princess. I brushed her hair. I painted her toes. I wiped her tears when she cried. She never loved me. Life fucked her up and she fucked me back. Are we all guilty of the same sin?
I talk to Dolly Bindra, for the character of the mother. Tell her what it's about. That I'm lucky to be working with her. Never heard of her till that day. She brushes me away rudely. Yeah, you are lucky. Thank you very much ma'am. Actors. No such thing as a lie for them. Good people. Rude people. People who dare to wear their hate. I mollify, tell him I'd do his story. He suggests we go away some place far. He wants to show me Chowpatty and then take me to a penthouse suite where we can drink while he pours his heart out. I have the audacity to laugh at him. Rich Bad Dude doesn't take it kindly. 'Why are you so thin? Don't you have money to eat? Ask me girl, ask me anything you want.'
People ask. I give. That's who I am. My employees love me. I meet a guy, an artist, with Angry Birds on his t-shirt. I show him the meme on my own. We smile. He's not really an artist. Just a point man. He loves Rich Bad Dude for no reason. Because he's just him. Rude. Intolerable. One who yells at at a sweeper because he thinks he's eavesdropping on the 'story'. I want tragedy. I want people to go to the theatre and weep. Weep for the Rich Bad Dude who loves everyone so much and gets jilted in the end. Gets fucked by police for domestic abuse. How could she say that? He never lifted a finger on her! Did he want to?
The question goes unanswered. Whatever the character tells you is the absolute truth. It's the only way to weave a story. Rich Bad Dude gets annoyed when I bring the other character out. The wild girl. He gets scared. Doesn't believe she is real. Makes advances on an innocent witness to the whole charade. I lose it. I leave him. He doesn't want to tell a story. He wants to say women are evil. No offence.
She fucked me. And it's not fair. It's a tragedy. Weep little people. Weep for me. Rich Bad Dude finds me at Trident. Demands an explanation. When one isn't forthcoming, offers to drop me home. Sure, you're such a nice guy. I'll be alone in the car with you. He tries to make advances. I make up an excuse and get out. He yells at me. What the hell is your problem?! Vijay offers me seat. I look at the tall ceiling. Lights. Fountains. Circles inside circles. Patterns. Music. Music. Sleep for bit. I may have lost my wallet. My cellphone. And all the other numbers in my head, save one. But she's coming for me. It's all good. I haven't lost anything. Not my dignity. Not yet.
He's coming for me too. The symbol of my hate. His rage is mine, mine anguish his. It's all good. I haven't lost nothing yet.
Just a week or so before this incident, I was at Carters. I met Mehul. A pregnant cloud. Is that the true translation? He's a jolly young fellow. Asks me for a cigarette. When I shake my head, falls in love with me instead. He's had a girl too. A lovely girl. Ambitious. Hard worker. From an impoverished background. Mehul is much younger to me, but he already has a job. Savings. He makes conversations with Americans for a living. Tell them it's alright if their flight got cancelled. The bank will make other arrangements. He shares with me their trauma. These people have lives, meetings, jobs, wives. Busy people. Important people. And they just fall apart when a flight gets cancelled. I make a joke for them. They laugh with me. It's all good. He doesn't need a job, not really. He'd been on his own feet since he was fifteen. A dancer. A teacher. Something happened. He left the profession. Break up happened. He took up a job. He wanted to show her he can do as much as she did. Twenty year olds. Breadwinners. In competition with each other for a love long lost. He shows me a park. This is where we had our first kiss. It's beautiful.
A year later. 'Kya yaar, you never even gave me a chance!' We laugh. 'I wanna make you a deal. It's good for both of us.' I falter. Men and their deals. Why does it always have to be this way? 'No, it's not like that,' he assures me, 'I'll tell you when we meet.'
It's not like that. That is what I believe.