With best wishes, Shashi Kapoor

Juhu, Nov 18, 2009. A man emerges from Kishore Kumar Marg onto the beach. Low tide had started. A very wide area of the beach is wet and is covered with a thin layer of receding water. Waves are very distant, small and low on energy. They seem to be doing their job of making waves or just being themselves, in a very indifferent and uninterested way.
It is nearly 3pm, usually it would be a forbidding afternoon to be here; but it is not hot. The sky is a bit over caste and also it is past mid November. There were very few people around. A group is huddled up in a distance. The man walks in a deliberate relaxed way. He does not want to sweat. His phone beeps. SMS. It from Mana. “I am going tomo at 6. Impressions of Bhima.” He calls her back.
Arun: Hi Mana.
Mana: Hi Arun uncle. Where are you?
Arun: you will be surprised. I am walking on Juhu beach.
Mana: Why?
Arun: Just…
(Arun had a secret mission to accomplish, which he had done)
Arun: I don’t have the ticket for the play. It may be houseful already. Let me see.
Mana: Ok, I thought I will tell you.
Arun: Thanks Mana.
Now that we know the man’s name, let us change from ‘him or he’ to Arun. So he, err Arun had planned to walk the length of the beach; but with this call another exciting idea had crept into his head. He changes course and goes off the sand and onto the road. He walks to Misra Pan shop, grabs a ‘sada pan’ and jumps into the first auto.
Arun: Janki Kutir.
Auto driver: Kidhar saab?
Arun: Prithvi theatre… you new guys do not know anything.
Auto driver: Saab rickshaw yahan ka nahin hai.
Arun: (frustrated) Seedha jao.
There were tickets available for the show, ‘Impressions of Bhima’. Due to Prithvi festival, most shows had been sold out. Booking clerk handed him a ticket for Nov 19, 6pm show. Making a small conversation, Arun asked him, “how is Shashiji?”
Clerk: (with a quizzical look) …he is ok.
Arun: Does he still come down and sit here?
Clerk: no not that often. He is not keeping too well.
Arun: oh.
Arun keeps the ticket pensively and goes home. He has his karate class in the evening. His favorite teacher Dr. Ravi Lalvani too came and also took the class. It was a very tough class; but he enjoyed it thoroughly. His knuckles are red and hurting badly, but he is on a high.
Next day he is very busy at home. Arun has decided to make short films from his left over video clippings and then delete them. He is cleaning up his HDD. The day passes very smoothly. Three films have come out of this effort. He chooses the theme as ‘camera on the move’ – on roads, in trains and in Nainital.
Arun is out at 5pm to reach Prithvi. He looks for Mana as he walks into Prithvi compound, takes a round of space but does not find her. Few people are already in the entry ‘queue’. Looking all around for Mana, he notices a wheel chair is brought in with a stooping, gray haired old man in it… oh my god! Arun realized, “that’s Shashiji!” Just yesterday he had asked about his welfare! Arun walked up to him.
Arun: sir, can I sit by your side?
Shashi Kapoor: of course, of course.
Arun: (sitting down on his toes) Sir I… whenever I come here I always ask people about you and your health.
Not being able to place him, Shashiji looks at him quizzically.
Arun: I have done two films with you sir.
Shashi Kapoor: Really?
(a very familiar smile occupied his face)
Arun: it was long back Shashiji. One film was ‘The Witness’ by Raj Marbros. I was an assistant in sound with Narinder Singh.
Shashi Kapoor waves his hand backward meaning that’s far long back.
Arun: and sir the second film was ‘Insaniyat’. Shashiji repeated the same gesture.
Shashi Kapoor: what’s your name?
Arun: Arun, Arun sir.
Shashiji nods.
A waiter from the café placed a goblet of some yellow cold drink on a table near him. Arun thinks it might be pineapple juice. Shashiji took a sip.
Arun: (placing one hand on Shashiji’s knee) so, how are you sir?
Shashi Kapoor: (looking directly into his eyes) not good… not good.
Arun’s face fell at this open and honest answer. ‘Oh’ was all, he could say.
Arun: (trying to make it a bit lighter) what is this drink Shashiji?
Shashi Kapoor: (looking confused and uninterested) I don’t know.
(He tries to look back to find a waiter for the answer)
Arun picks up the glass, smelled it but couldn’t guess.
Shashi Kapoor: why don’t you taste it? Taste it… see what is it?
Now. This was going to be a monumental moment for Arun, one of the most precious.
Arun picks up Shashi Kapoor’s goblet of cold drink… aaaand… with Shashi looking at him, takes a sip. It can’t get better than this.
Arun: (realizing the taste) sir, it is ginger. Ginger ale!
Shashi Kapoor: Oh good. There you are.
Arun had noticed Prithvi Theatre year-book, ‘Kala Desh Ki Seva Mein’ costing Rs 500/-; on sale, but had no intentions of buying it then, but, situation was different now. Taking advantage of his good luck, he wanted more. Arun said, “sir if I buy that book will you sign it for me?”
Shashi Kapoor: of course.
Arun buys the book and brings it to him. He hands him a ball pen from his pouch.
Shashi Kapoor: (ready to write) where? Should I write here? (pointing to a space on first page)
Arun: ok sir, write it here and write for ‘Arun’.
The pen did not write in many flowing strokes that he made. He must have signed close to a million autographs in that fashion. A bit let down, Arun takes the pen from him and pressing it down, makes a few hard strokes on the back of the receipt and hands it back to Shashiji.
“To Arun
With Best wishes
Shashi Kapoor”.
Arun has a large collection of books, but now he feels this is his most precious possession, not because of the content, but the signature.
Arun: thank you. You know sir, I feel like meeting you every time, I come here; but obviously no one encourages me to just go up to hello. It is fine, but I wish I could meet you a little a more.
(Arun hoped that Shashiji has people to give him company, in these bleak times for him)
As Arun was engrossed in conversation with Shashi Kapoor, the queue to go inside had grown quite long. Mana called him on cell, he could see her in queue. Reluctantly he told Shashiji, ‘sir I have to go in now. It was very nice talking to you. Bye Shashiji.’
Shashi Kapoor: sure, carry on…
Arun loved the play, ‘Impressions of Bhima’. Mana filled him up with small details of the group Adishakti and about the lead actor. It was just an hour-long solo act. After the show they both went to have ice cream at the old original Natural. Two people there recognized him. It seems like a good day for him.
Last part of this little story is also seems like a setup and very filmy. Mana was getting a ride home with an old friend of her, who was in the area. She suggested Fab India, as the rendezvous. No Rikshaws stopped for them, so they had been walking right from Prithvi theatre…
They entered the lane of Fab India and stepped on the footpath. On cue a car honked from behind. It was Mana’s friend.
Life couldn’t get better than this.

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