This article has been up in Mirrorfect for a long while, since 14th April 2014, I had been too sluggish to cross-post it. To avoid SEO clashes, I couldn’t put up the entire article here. To read the whole one would have to go to the magazine’s main site. In my last year of travelling a little further from my Indian home ground, I was brought head on with Bollywood. Not on the television in my own small drawing room, city cinema halls, gossip columns or the dubiously increasing noise from Page 3 headlines, Bollywood embraced me in streets away from home. In conversations with rank strangers, Bollywood was the fibre of (un)likely connections and cheerful welcome.
Here’s an excerpt from those experiences, Bollywood: At Home In the World:
“Hi, I’m Joy. And you?”
Nothing like a bit of smile and chit-chat to shake up Monday morning lethargy. As the girl sidled up the aisle in front of me, I proffered a hand.
“Asha,” she replied.
As she took off her book pack edging into her seat, I wondered if I’d heard right.
“That is like…an Indian name,” I said slowly, pondering what the word might mean in her native tongue.
“It is an Indian name,” she smiled.
Curiosity must have been writ large on my face for the hijab-wearing, lithe, twenty-something classmate of evidently African stock went ahead to explained. Her family of Somalian origin was settled in London.
“My father just l-o-v-e-s Bollywood movies,” she said. “He’s always watching them on television.”
When Asha was born, her elder sister, herself a child, would go chanting ‘Asha! Asha!’ pointing to the infant, the alien word as familiar as fascinating to her young ears.
“Does she have an Indian name, too?”
No, she didn’t. “Do you know what ‘Asha’ means?” The Somalian gave me a grin and nodded assent. “Oh he’s so fond of them, it’s like, Bollywood in our house all the time.”
I tried to picture this living room somewhere in London; a Somalian man after a hard day’s work lounging before the television set in the evening, two toddlers playing on his knee or on the floor nearby, perhaps climbing the sofa’s arm, with Rajesh Khanna wooing Asha Parekh on the screen. Or an evergreen Amitabh song-and-dance playing out. … READ MORE