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Deserted Soul

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As she would get up in the morning, strong sea waves would lash against the promenade while wave upon wave of fans would throng the gates of her sprawling bungalow. Some claimed to walk a hundred kilometers; a man once claimed to be her lawful husband! Sheer stardom! Whew!!! While she would take her bath and prepare for breakfast, the watchman would bring a bag full of fan-mails, even few of them written by blood, full of praise and marriage proposals. She would sometime read few of them and then tucked them away in a store room. Her dimpled smile had swayed the entire youth generation with its inimitable allure. She used to receive marriage proposals from many big industrialists but she would spurn them with a smirk on face.

Every time the fans saw her, they went mad. Film shootings were disrupted and eager admirers would knock at her door at all times. Once, while shooting for a stadium scene, the scene required 5,000 fans but producer had to change the crowd every two hours, because there were several thousands more waiting outside to watch her in action, and if the unit wouldn't take them inside they would create a ruckus outside.


She loved dining at the Taj; she often gazed at the shimmering sea, at the birds that circled above it, and at the formless smoke that rose from the docks. Every weekend, a table by the huge glass window would bear the sign ‘Reserved.’ The manager would politely, yet with a hint of pride, tell other diners eyeing the table that it was reserved for her. Wearing a shimmering gold saree with elaborate gold zardosi work, showing more of her slender shoulders because it cut just below her collar bone and across to make sleeves that came down and covered half her hands, she would enter the five-star hotel with much ado. The luminous diamond and gold jewelry added glitter to her apparel that included the Sapphire and Diamond necklace around neck giving her a royal look.

Most of the times, she would wear the finest of silks, dab the choicest of ittar, and wear the most elegant jewelry. A heavy Kashmiri shawl would be placed on her shoulders, although it was simply for style than to keep her warm. The other women in the room always had a hard time trying to keep their men from gazing at her.

“Those days, gold was cheap at Rs 22 a tola, though quite costly for that era," she remembers. She got her diamond set made from famous Amritpal Jewelers at Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar. Her reel life was filled with virile lovers with whom she cavorted in lush gardens. Her real life, love life in particular, was a complete disaster. Ajay Kumar, her leading man in many successful films, was the man of her dreams. His printed shirts buttoned at the wrist; on dark trousers, with the looks of Greece god, he was the epitome of style, who smoked the costliest of cigars, drove around town in his Mercedes, and had bedded almost every beautiful woman one could think of. Yet, she loved him; the only true love of his life.

The apparent age difference between them did not deter her from confessing her love openly for a younger man. He played with her while it amused him, but much like a child bored of a single toy, he went after another younger woman. Make-up, lights and the camera though are a distant memory today, but still a pleasant one. She was born to the camera. To recapture the sheer joy of the gone with the wind past, to catch a peep into her best of time, she would open her photo album - beautiful images separated by thin sheets of butter paper, crisp in the memory of her finest moments. She used to sigh. ………..

She took a deep breath, coughed slightly and put forward a paper folded four times. It was a doctor’s prescription chit. “Please, give these medicines,” she whispered in her barely audible sound of pain. A boy standing on the other side of the shop-counter, in his teenage years, opened the neatly folded paper and read the unreadable scribbles carefully. “Shekhar, how much did you pay to dealer for last medicine’s consignment?” an old man sitting beside him asked the guy with his head still into calculator. “Three thousand, papa,” Shekhar replied to his father while putting all the prescribed medicines on the counter.

The old man was still lost in his calculation. “One thousand and sixty rupees,” Shekhar quickly prepared the bill while putting all the medicines in polythene bag. Her polyester purse again came out from underneath her shawl. She secretly searched something inside her bag like counting the notes. Her mouth went dry. She swallowed back her fear and inched closer to the counter. A pain-cry worked its way up her throat and ended in a scared puff.

“I have only…nine hundred and twenty five rupees right now,” she stammered in pleading tone. Though her purse was empty her heart was full. Full of pain, agony and hungry of lost love and obsolete praise. She kept standing on the counter with blank expression. “What?” Shekhar’s eyes popped up with the question, “No issue, then you can take rest of them except these tablets,” he took out two separate packs of tablet. “But I need them, beta,” she pleaded again anxiously with her fingers curling over the edges of the counter, “It pains a lot in my back, becomes very difficult to sleep.” She felt a rush of pain unleashed in her body just by the mention of backache. "But aunty, we don’t deal in credit,” Shekhar said with a commanding tone ignoring her request. “What happened?” Shekhar’s father got up from his seat and came forward to the counter.

“Papa, aunty don’t have enough money to buy the medicines, she is asking for credit,” Shekhar told the matter and went inside leaving the matter to his father. “Dekhiye, I am really sorry but we don’t deal in credit,” the old man said politely while looking at her face. “Sir…please, please pity on me, I would be able to sleep peacefully for the whole month with these medicines,” mere the thought of unbearable pain brought out a more audible voice from her throat this time.

The old man kept looking at her face and then suddenly screamed in both joy and surprise, “Are you A…A…Anupama, the superstar…Anupama...who was in...What was that movie...aaah yes...Tapasya!” the old man was grinning explicitly. She didn’t say anything further but just nodded her head in agreement with a poignant smile on her face. She had smiled after a long-long time. “Anupama ji, I have been a very big fan of you,” the old man had come out of the shop and now was standing near her, basking in his ‘five-minutes’ glory, “I have seen all of your movies, you are such a good actress. I can’t believe my eyes that I am standing so close to you.” The old woman's face brightened, "you still remember me?" she asked eagerly. She struggled to hide the joy she felt. “Can I….take these medicines?” she asked hesitantly.

“Aree, Anupama ji…don’t make me feel so small by asking…you please take all medicines, I won’t charge you anything,” the old man was still smilingly while his son looked at both of them with a glint in eyes. “No, no…You please take nine hundred this time, next time I will pay you rest of money,” she replied with assurance that she would have medicine for the whole month. “Just on one condition,” he picked up a pen and paper and turned back again towards her, “you have to give me one autograph.” “But…now I am not a star anymore,” she said in a ruffled tone. “For your fans, you were, are and will always remain a superstar, Anupama ji,” he persisted with her soothing words.

She was overwhelmed with emotions. She was giving an autograph after a long time. Even she didn’t remember when she gave an autograph last time. She looked around the shop if the others heard what the old man just said. None did. She signed the paper with shake trembling fingers, whispered ‘Thanks’ and walked out of the store. Once outside, she smiled to herself. She felt like a star again. Her pain, the years of neglect melted like mist when the sun gets brighter by the minute. For once, life was added to her torn existence. She had seen it all. Struggle, hard- work, success and then illness. Life of her followed a film's script; just that the clichéd ‘Happy ending’ was missing.

As she was going back in the taxi, Ajay Kumar's eyes stared at her blankly from a cheap poster of his upcoming movie as he hugged a girl closely. For an instant she felt he missed her, but it was just a poster. “She must be younger than Anuja, his granddaughter,” she muttered to herself. She could saw the revamped Metro from the flyover, now basking into the glory of a multiplex. It was being decorated for a movie new movie premier. She rolled up the window-glass. Today, she has reinvented the ecstasy of a bygone era…tinted memories of golden moments…the agony of oblivion … the rollercoaster ride we call Life.

Contributing Story Teller Nitin Malik is working as a Senior Writer in an e-learning MNC in Mumbai. He is quite passionate about reading and writing and his hobbies include making friends, reading, writing, playing chess and Cricket, watching birds and sky, enjoying the nature, listening music, catching late night shows of recent releases on weekend at near by multiplex etc. He also enjoys writing personal experiences/articles on social issues, motivational, and creative stuff/Poems, Short stories etc. His articles/stories/poems have been published in National Daily newspaper “Hindustan Times.” [email protected]

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