Blogging about my nani yesterday brought back a lot of bitter-sweet memories about her. I just can’t resist sharing the funniest one here.
This is a story from my school days, sometime in the mid 90s. My two nanis (mother’s mom and mother’s chachi) were going saree-shopping at some exhibition in Churchgate and I tagged along with them. I was fond of sarees even then and I knew the route to the exhibition hall passed by Marine Drive which is one of my favorite places in Bombay.
We had just got out of the dusty bylanes of Girgaum (an old predominantly Maharashtrian locality in South Bombay, where my grandparents lived) and were crusing along the seashore when we suddenly noticed a large crowd on the footpath on Marine Drive. There were a lot of camera lights and filmi vans parked around. Evidently, some kind of film shoot was in progrss. This was not unusual for a Sunday afternoon on Marine Drive, before Bollywood producers decided to boycott Indian locales in favor of exotic foreign ones. But which film was it, and more importantly, were there any big stars around?
Naturally, both the nanis and I were very curious. ‘Driver, gadi roko’, they instructed the taxi driver and all three of us got down to investigate the mystery. The crowd on the footpath consisted mainly of men, young and old, most of them of the not-too-gentle type. There was a lot of jostling and shoving going on, and we had entered too late to get a good view of the proceedings.
But the crowd had not counted on the curiosity and determination of my nanis. I was ready to back off after a few feeble attempts, but the two old ladies were determined not to turn back. They started making ‘shuk-shuk’ kind of noises, which is a common technique used by gentle Indian ladies to attract attention. In case some of the crowd did not understand these polite noises, they also tried to mildly push aside some of the youths.
Now, anybody who has tried to jostle around in an Indian crowd would know how dangerous it can be, unless you weigh two hundred pounds plus. People started looking around, annoyed and slightly baffled, eager to spot the source of this new mild variety of shoves. Imagine their surprise to see two sixty plus old ladies, dressed in traditional Maharashtrian sarees in their midst! ‘Aaji bai ko aage jane do re’, the chant went around. (Let the two old ladies go ahead!)
Now that I look back, the scene reminds me very much of the market scene in Chachi 420 where Kamal Haasan disguised as an old lady in a similar traditional saree bashes up some goons. (Was Kamal Haasan present in the crowd that day? Was he ‘inspired’ by my nanis? I wonder!)
To get back to the scene, we were soon able to get to the front from where we had a ring-side view of the shoot. The director was still arranging the dancers for the shot but we could spot a tall hefty man sitting under an umbrella nearby. When I took a closer look, I realized it was Akshay Kumar.
I was about to go and ask for his autograph when I was interrupted by my nanis’ talk. ‘Kon ahe ga ha Sunila?’, the elder nani asked. (Who is this man Sunila?) ‘Akshay Kumar navacha toh naveen hero ahe vatta’, was the reply. (I think he is some new chap called Akshay Kumar.) ‘Haach ka to? Bara disto, nahi?’. (Oh, is he the same one? He looks kind of okay, doesn’t he?)
As I was about to shush my grannies, the man himself looked up with a large grin on his face. He seemed to have heard the entire conversation, and perhaps had understood some or all of it!
I was mortified. Despite the big smile he gave us, I didn’t dare ask for his autograph after that. In fact, the nanis were in favor of waiting until the actual shooting started, but I hurried them along giving the excuse of the rapidly ticking taxi meter. I was furious with them, but the sweet old ladies never could understand what the fuss was all about.