A Reality Without a Shadow- Stars.

Yuva hates crowds. And he despises himself for he had gotten into this mess by his own will, not due to anyone forcing him to do so. “You wanted entertainment, and you got it,” Naresh said, noticing the beleaguered look on Yuva’s face as he starred at the gate with utter discomfort. Naresh’s smile was bordering on sarcasm. Yuva reached out for a bunch of papers he almost left behind in the car- they were his treasure. He did not entertain Naresh’s teases; he proceeded slowly ahead to fulfill his task.

Are, the door!” Naresh shouted as Yuva began to walk. “The door, who’s going to close it, your grandfather?” he continued, louder. “I don’t have one,” Yuva replied nonchalantly and disappeared into the crowd parked right outside that one big gate that nests under a humungous sign- AVM. Yuva could still hear Naresh uttering profanity as he had to get out of his driver’s seat to close the backdoor, and drove away. Yuva knew it’ll be a very long time before Naresh would volunteer to give him a ride again.

The crowd was Yuva’s biggest nightmare, something that he utterly hates- but being in his profession, he doesn’t have a gun anymore, to just show the people that they have to make way for him, but now he is someone who is after information just as much as many other in the crowd- to win his bread and butter. Why did he insist that he wants to cover an entertainment news for today? All these went in his head, as he, like a hero diving into a pool of mud, nose closed, in order to retain a diamond or a pearl dropped at the bed of the lake, instinctively ‘dived’ into the crowd, pushing and shoving his way through, but all the time making sure his grip on the stack of notes in his hands remain strong- not a single paper he could afford to drop.

And as if the gates of heaven open when you start knocking on it, the gate opened, right at the moment when Yuva was about to reach to front end of the crowd, he finally slowed down and took a breather as the swoosh of crowd left him behind. He panted. “Damn Aishwarya Rai,” he muttered himself, feeling lucky that he was not assigned to be part of this incessant madness and obsession with India’s most popular female face. He made his way around the studio, wondering as to how much a significance this studio is for local Indians. Having spent almost his entire livelihood as an American, in a somewhat experimental capacity- he does not understand the essence of this place, yet. Thinking back, he feels he does not understand the essence of neither India or America. He was India’s child who was given away to America so that he become a guinea pig for someone’s smart idea of solving police inefficiency issues in India; and while he was raised in America, he was never the American son- he was always the Indian son under temporary American shelter. A shelter that lasted 21 years.

He had now reached where he wanted to go. He cared less about Aishwarya Rai, and more about this debutant actress who happens to be performing for a song in this very same studio. Away from all the hype, if that actress had even felt a pint of jealousy that ‘Ash’ is stealing all the attention away from her; Yuva will be her compensation package for the day. Yuva knew, when he walked in to interview her, that he would never volunteer to cover an entertainment news again. Navigating through a crowd during a political or social matter that does have significance to the bread and butter of the people does make sense, but doing the same to just get a glimpse of a film star doesn’t.

The studio was almost empty, except for the few dancers, the directors and all the what-nots that are needed to make a song in this industry. The actress was about to perform, so Yuva had to wait. He took a seat after much hesitation, as the seat very much looked like a seat that belonged to a director, a producer or someone important for the film- maybe the actress herself. But he was tired for the hassle he went through at the front gate. An office boy (Yuva could identify this seeing a white cloth draped on his shoulder, with an empty tiffin plate on his hands- obviously having just served someone in the set) turned around and looked curiously at him. “Are..” he started, obviously pointing in Yuva’s direction. But Yuva had a wonderful memoir that he managed to sneak years ago; and occasionally uses it just for the knack of it. He produces his badge, puts up a stern face, and utters, “Police, go do your work.” The boy scrambles off without much ado. The respect policemen get sometimes, heaven. The boy stopped at the door, turned around and looked at Yuva. He was apparently waiting silently until Yuva would glance towards him so that he can say something. Once Yuva did, the boy pointed out his thumb, towards his mouth, nodding mildly. Yuva knew what he was asking about, and nodded. He had gotten a tea without much hassle.

It was about an hour or so that Yuva was sitting there and watching these individuals dance, and Yuva was prepared to do all the waiting that he has been doing. The started scribbling on his papers, after making sure not even one of them is missing. He glanced up occasionally, ogled at the skimpily dressed actress and dancers, and went back to his paperwork. Peculiarly, he found himself not ogling at the actress as he generally thought should be the case, but found his eyes rather locked on one back-up dancer; she was strewn among the crowd of dancers, somewhere in the middle, insignificant. She wasn’t the perfect dancer. She made an odd mistake here and there, obviously why she was placed somewhere beyond the most visible dancers of them all.

She was insignificant, yet she caught his eyes. A tanned skin, sweating profusely as she came walking down once the director called for a break, her hair all messed up; nevertheless she seems to be good friends with the choreographer and also the actress. Yuva can’t stop glancing at her. She had a strong South Indian accent, and Yuva could figure that she was a local Tamil. A benign smile sprouted on his face. He had taken to her.

Priyanka quickly draped her scarf over the shoulders and took hastening steps outside the studio. She is sweating, and feeling sticky within her body. A shower is what she desperately needs. Not a journalist who is suddenly after her autograph. “Why are you after me anyway?” she asked out aloud, panting as she stopped. “Are you like running away from me?” he asked, with a small smile on his face. He had an accent that resembles a foreigner. Priya hates foreigners who think they are too good for this country and that they are entitled to few things just because of who they are and where they come from. She threw him an unimpressed look.

“I just want to talk,” he added quickly. Yuva wasn’t about to give up. Her reaction is only proving to be even more intriguing for him. Here is an Indian woman with an ideology, with an opinion about something. “About? The development of dance culture in India or something? Or the lives of backup dancers? I see you writing something,” she asked, crossing her hands. She sounded ignorant enough for Yuva to know that even if he was going to use such a valid excuse to sit and talk to her, she wouldn’t come. She obviously finds such reasons to be of no interest to her. “You don’t read such books, I got it,” he said. She is smart. He had to catch up, and he likes this.

Ore meal, Pucca Madras food. Any stall would do. Hawkers? I’m on. I can walk and talk. No problem. Just a few minutes,” he added. She was quick again. “Date? Is that what this is all about?” she asked. Yuva nodded without any hesitation. “So convenient for you huh? Fresh off the plane I suppose, with the accent of yours; if you are someone whose idea of date ends at your house’s bed, then I’m not in,” she clasped at his advances one more time.

“I’d say that’s not my idea, and I’d say give me a chance,” he said. She sighed. “If I say okay, you’ll let me go peacefully?” she asked. “That’s the plan.”

“Tomorrow, 4 pm. You’ll have half an hour only, come here and I’ll tell you where. And add it that I don’t like coconuts like you generally, and don’t have to try to floor me, woo me, seduce me. Anything flattering uttered, and I’m walking right out, shoving it in your face.”

Yuva stood perplexed. This is much tougher than he originally thought. It took him two years to get attracted to a woman in India and he found quite a ferocious one for a first date. He realized he still can’t erase that smile from his face.

To be continued…

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