Mallika yawned, rubbed her eyes, and stepped on to the railway platform lugging her bags.
Big city. Tinsel town.
She looked around, bleary-eyed. Hardly tinsel town. Well, she hadn’t expected this. And the darned hostel where her friend shared a four-seater, where she’d latch on-- that wouldn’t open till six. Electric bulbs drew islands of grim light along a vast stretch of concrete. Dim, dreary, deserted. Kiosks advertising tea and toothpaste. Billboards of the latest movies.
So confusing. Eight platforms, flashing indicator lights. Not the two platforms that she was used to.
4.00 am, August 6, 2002, the overhead clock read. Steam hissed and saucers rattled at a tea stall. A mongrel slept undisturbed under a seat. The train she’d just stepped off, clattered as it drew past, finally picking up speed. The footsteps of the few passengers echoed in the silence.
You good for nothing! No good as a daughter, no good as a wife, a complete failure, just nothing! Star struck! Your mad celluloid dreams! You’ll never do much! Bitter, acrid words. Word shards seemed to be interspersed with disjointed train announcements from the speaker overhead that was just beginning to crackle to life.
She looked up to see her favorite hero grin at her from a billboard. “City of dreams” it read. The papers said this was raking in the cash at the till, after long a Bollywood hit. Not that she was superstitious, but this must be a good sign.
She walked to the counter. “Tea? Five minutes! We’ve just begun,” the man said.
August 6, 2007. Mallika yawned as she sank back in the business class seat. City lights glittered like a carpet of diamonds on velvet as the plane smoothly took in the curve of the sea. It would not take long now before they landed.London had been terrible. New York was all right. Fans, strobe lights, airkisses, camera, action… Crowds and handshakes everywhere. Mobs. Parties, laughter, photo ops. It got so tiring sometimes. Putting on that perfect face. Hair styled, check. Face made up and airbrush perfect, check. Clothes, shoes, handbag, check - Barbie’s ready to go!
Although at some of the interviews she’d made sure she’d dispelled the Barbie image, talking of Greek philosophy and Middle East politics.
She grimaced. She’d have to get on with it immediately. A charity event to attend this evening. Some vague gala dinner. A magazine interview tomorrow morning. And practicing for that curtain raiser for *Filmfare* at noon. It was too much.
She raised her hand. A flight attendant rushed to fawn over her. “A Bloody Mary”. “But we’re just about to land, Miss Singh,” the girl murmured, and rushed to fetch her drink.
published 28 November 2012