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HINDI

p.

_ _

*HINDI *

  • *

*By *

*NEERAJ SINGHAL *

HINDI

Published by: [*OnlineGatha – The Endless Tale *]

[*Address: *]Keshav Complex, S1 first floor, Faizabad

Road, Indira Nagar Lucknow – 226016

Contact: 0522- 4004150, +91-9936649666

[*Website: *]www.onlinegatha.com

[*ISBN: 978-93-86352-00-2 *]

[* Price: 380/- *]

© All Rights including Copyrights reserved with the

Author

  • *

*PUBLISHER NOTE *

OnlineGatha is a division of CompAddicts Infotech

Pvt. Ltd. The site is a step into the online literary,

academic and scientific world. It works by

connecting the hardcopy creations to the online

world.

This book has been published in the good faith that

the work of the author is original. All efforts have

been taken to make the book error free.

The author maintains the copyright of the book and

no part of this book can be reproduced in any

manner without the written permission from

publisher and the author.

ii NEERAJ SINGHAL

HINDI

_DISCLAIMER _

This is a work of fiction based on real events

and was drawn from a variety of sources including

online blogs and Wikipedia. For dramatic and narrative

purposes, the book contains fictionalized scenes,

composite and representative characters and dialogue,

and time compression. Names, characters, business,

events and incidents are the products of the author’s

imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living

or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. The

views and opinions expressed in the book are those of

the characters only and do not necessarily reflect or

represent the views and opinions held by individuals

and society on which those characters are based.

http://www.talkbond.com/

iii NEERAJ SINGHAL

HINDI

For my mother, who inspired me to do follow all my dreams,

and my father, who stood by me when I decided to chase this

rainbow in particular.

iv NEERAJ SINGHAL

HINDI

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A great many people are involved in any great

effort, and this book is no exception to that rule. I am

truly indebted to those who have supported me in the

effort to bring “HINDI” to fruition. I am thankful to

my family and friends, who provided guidance and

information to me about the loss of languages around

the world, and especially as regards Hindi. A special

thanks goes to those who read and critiqued the

manuscript in its many forms. I owe a great debt of

gratitude to my wife and son for their patience and

encouragement during the entire process. I also want

to thank my editor/proofreader, Victoria Treder, for

without her assistance, this book would never have

been completed.

v NEERAJ SINGHAL

HINDI

PREFACE

Although India is the birthplace of Sanskrit,

one of the oldest of all languages in the world, the

Indians of today do not tend to revere any of their

native tongues. There are more than a dozen languages

extant in India, and they are all endangered. And India

is not alone in being at a high risk for the extinction

of its languages. As the world transitions to the use of

English for commerce and the internet, other

languages lose value and are cast aside. The world as a

whole is losing a language every 14 days.

It is beyond dispute that it is useful to have a

common tongue that all nations of the world share.

That being said, a common tongue does not necessarily

preclude the existence of separate national or regional

languages as well. Language is more than a means of

communication: each language arises from, and

continues to support, an entire culture. We all know

that some phrases and even some concepts do not

translate well from one language to another. That

circumstance does not come from a dearth of words,

but because the act of growing up with one mother

tongue provides a different experience than does

growing up speaking another mother tongue.

If we continue to denigrate our mother

tongues or feel ashamed in speaking our native

languages, we are in danger of losing nearly 3000

languages in the next 100 years.

vi NEERAJ SINGHAL

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INDEX

*S.No. *

Chapters

*Page No. *

1

The Oscars

1

2

What Is Hindi?

22

3

Mumbai – India

70

4

Banaras

125

5

Jack Angel

174

6

Diwali

184

7

Chennai

194

8

New Delhi

218

9

Jaipuria

238

10

Actor Hunt

257

11

Audition

268

12

Pre-Production

301

13

First Day Of Shoot

311

14

The Burning Set

324

15

Political Pressure

335

16

Shoot In Mumbai

351

17

Youth Protest

368

18

Last Day Of The Shoot

382

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19

Live Show

393

Quotes

406

Poem

407

References

_408 _

viii NEERAJ SINGHAL

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CHAPTER – 1

*THE OSCARS *

llen looked at the clock. 7:30 p.m.

Plenty of time. The show didn’t start

A until 9 pm, and he didn’t have much

further to travel. He glanced out the window. It was

already pitch-black. Cars zoomed past his at speeds

reaching 80 miles per hour. The only lights cutting

the utter darkness were flickering, blue-tinged ghostly

presences emanating from inside the vehicles. Passing

other cars and shifting lanes, both were being

accomplished in complete silence by the battery-

powered cars.

The lack of sound only highlighted the frenetic

pace of the cars on the freeway, yet there was not a

single arm-wave from a driver who had been cut off.

No furious last-minute dashes to exit ramps. No frantic

drivers studying maps or street signs to determine the

correct lane to be in.

In the left-hand seat of his car, Allen lay back,

trying to relax. He shut his eyes, and lifted his left

hand to lazily follow the beat of one of his favorite jazz

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tunes wafting from the console. When another car

whooshed passed by his with mere inches to spare, he

didn’t bother to turn his head.

At the end of the song, the music paused for a

newsbreak, just as Allen had programmed.

“…February 21st…just a week after Valentine’s

Day…you know it’s true love when you give a ticket to

this special event to that special someone…crowds

have been lining up all day, and the stars are just now

beginning to arrive,” some of the reporter’s words

were lost in a burst of applause and cheers, “…chilly

this evening, but there’s more than enough warmth

here in the audience…Of course, everyone is most

curious to find out which movie will win the Best

Picture of the Year for 2117. The top nominees…”

Allen’s eyes flew open. His heart rate zoomed

as he jerked upright. He took a deep breath, then

forced himself to breathe slowly. He was well aware of

his competition for Best Director and Best Picture of

the Year. Although he had been directing movies since

his mid-20’s, close onto ten years now, the 2117

Oscars marked his first Academy Award nominations.

He had paid very close attention to the entire process.

LOST & FOUND’ had been a labor of love, but he

still felt the pressure of this very public moment, and

he didn’t want to arrive at the Oscars with sweat stains

on the armpits of his brand-new tux.

He tried calming himself with his favorite

mantra, but the sound of some very familiar words

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broke his concentration. He switched to video as

Minute 25 from ‘LOST & FOUND’ cascaded across the

screen.

The large, unmistakable and unforgettable

black eyes of 5-year-old Malcolm Bateau seemed to

meet his, drawing him in to an almost unimaginable

world. Allen’s blue eyes misted as once again he

watched Malcolm and the others of his village in the

far reaches of the north of England bravely face daily

struggles for food, water, and any attempt at medical

care.

Allen himself had written the voice-over that

accompanied the disturbing images.

“Albert Einstein once said, ‘It has become

appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded

our humanity.’ Those words may have been spoken

more than two centuries ago by the world’s greatest

scientist, but they are still true today. Even as time

moves forward, humanity seems to lag behind at the

same pace. When we progress in one direction, we

falter in other ways. We may have all sorts of gadgets,

we may be on the brink of establishing colonies under

the oceans—even on Mars—but we are still fighting

with each other. People are still being killed in the

name of religion, race and country. The world remains

on the verge of world war while many children like

Malcolm here are dying from hunger. Nature is being

destroyed. Weapons have advanced chemical and laser

capabilities….If you look back 100 years, ultimately

what have we gained? Absolutely nothing. God created

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us to serve humanity. We created religion to destroy

it. God gave us nature to nurture. We destroyed it in

the name of technology. God gave all of us LIFE, and

we changed the meaning of it. With time we have

FOUND new technologies but we have LOST all

human values.”

The clip ended, and the announcer appeared,

gushing about Allen’s achievement before moving on

to the next nominee for Best Picture.

His nervousness re-surfacing, Allen quickly

spoke aloud. “Jazz,” he requested. The mellow tones

of his favorite group, Fresh Waters, filled the cabin

and Allen lay back against the seat, careful not to muss

his black hair. It had taken the top-notch hairdresser

his art director had recommended hours to get it to

that exact tousle.

This whole publicity thing was new to Allen.

LOST & FOUND’ was his fourth movie, but prior to

this he had mostly managed to dodge the hype, relying

on his on-screen stars to make the rounds of talk shows.

His movies had done a good box office even as he had

remained relatively unknown behind the camera,

usually unrecognized by fans in his worn-out jeans and

faded T-shirt.

The dual nominations for Best Director and

Best Picture, two of the six the movie had garnered,

had propelled him into instant celebrity. Fortunately,

he was able to escape most of the paparazzi scene,

sequestered as he had been for the last couple of

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months in his London digs. He had even considered

foregoing the Oscar event, but Martin Chillingsworth,

his screenwriter, who had also been nominated,

absolutely forbade that.

“No one will know who you are, if you aren’t

at the Oscars. And if no one knows who you are, no

one will be hastening to your side with buckets of

money for your next production.”

“You know that I prefer to fund my own

movies,” Allen countered. “I don’t care for anyone

hanging over my shoulder, trying to twist my vision

into theirs.”

“Oh,” Martin laughed, “No one has to tell me

how stubborn you can be. Still, luv, there’ll come a

day when you’ll need some outside funding. This Oscar

will ensure that you’ll get to the height of the

producing-directing world—”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Allen warned,

“this win is not in the bag.”

Martin laughed. “I’ve seen your competition,

luv. And nobody else has Nikole Van Steyn stumping

for them. No worries on that score.”

“But I still haven’t even figured out what I want

to do next.”

Martin just shook his head and dragged Allen

out for a tux fitting.

Conceiving and creating ‘LOST & FOUND’ had

been grueling work, and, even though it had been

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complete for more than a year now, Allen was still

having difficulty deciding where to go from here.

There were plenty of ideas out there—he had a stack

of treatments from wannabe screenwriters five feet

high at home—but so far nothing had really stirred his

interest. Even Martin hadn’t been able to come up

with anything that spoke to Allen. At least the Oscar

nominations and resulting publicity had given him an

excuse for not moving forward for a couple of months,

anyway.

֍֍֍

In his heart of hearts, Allen was glad that

Martin had persuaded him to attend the Oscars. This

whole awards scene may have been overdone, may be

currently causing him palpitations, may be far removed

from what he had hoped to accomplish with ‘LOST &

FOUND’, but he couldn’t deny the rush that came

when people wanted to be seen with him, when his

face was globally recognized. ‘LOST & FOUND’ had

been a mega hit, had been critically acclaimed around

the world, and here he was in Los Angeles, California

to celebrate that success. Tonight was the night that

his peers would acknowledge his creativity. Tonight

they would show their appreciation for his director’s

vision.

Dammit, this was fun! Allen admitted to

himself. His face relaxed into the smile that had

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charmed millions in the past few months and he

tapped his fingers as the saxophone player improvised.

Even though Allen hadn’t been paying any

attention to the road, his car automatically slowed,

then stopped as the light just past the freeway exit

turned red. His smart car knew when to put the brakes

on without any input from him. Waiting at the light,

he adjusted his bow tie, loosening it up a bit. He may

have felt most at home in his worn blue jeans and a

T-shirt, but this was the Oscars, after all. He looked

down at his jacket and pants, shimmering in blue silk,

fitted precisely to his lean frame. He glanced in the

mirror and flattened a stray piece of black hair that

must have worked its way out of the clutches of the

mousse when he was relaxing against the seat. His

outward persona in place, Allen decided to foster the

best in his psyche as well—he poured himself a second

glass of red wine and scanned the lights of the city as

he passed by.

The Oscars! He still couldn’t believe it. He had

eagerly watched it from his home in London since he

was a kid. But he wasn’t the only one enthralled by

the movie awards. The show was beamed around the

world and millions watched, millions waited for that

special Sunday night each year, millions strained to

catch even a glimpse of their favorite stars. He had

heard that the Oscars used to be aired much earlier,

but now that everyone could stream whenever they

wanted, and with the global economy almost upending

the sense of night and day for many people, Hollywood

7 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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had set the show at a much more suitable time for a

party on the West Coast of the USA. The audience

could watch whenever was convenient for them, while

the stars got to enjoy the spectacle at a reasonable

hour.

Watching the Oscars was an occasion in itself.

Being at the Oscars was a dream for many. Walking

down that famous red carpet was beyond the grasp of

all but a few mortals.

This hours-long reveal of the winners was a

spectacular event—an extension of the movies, really.

All of the nominees, losers as well as winners, had to

put on a show for the cameras. A pretense that was,

in the end, all a lie. For every category, there were

four unhappy losers for every ecstatic winner. Four

people who had to smile, no matter how they really

felt inside, four people who had to feign happiness for

those millions of careful watchers.

Allen had practiced his own noncommittal

smile and congratulatory handclap for hours in the

mirror, just in case. For now, though, he wanted to

focus on something more cheery. Trying to distract

himself from gloomy thoughts, he peered out the car

window at the most prominent object around, the sky

city of Hollywood. The 2117 Oscars were being held

500 feet in the air, in a huge city the size of 10 football

stadiums put together. With the entertainment

industry encompassing an ever-greater part of L.A.,

plans had been made to separate Hollywood from more

pedestrian pursuits. And where better to place the new

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Tinsel Town than high in the heavens, where it would

shine like the star it was?

The enormous podium was supported on a

pillar so monstrous it looked other-worldly. From the

ground the whole contraption looked like a man-made

planet, shining like a colorful moon in the night. The

car stopped for a moment in the parking lot, then

proceeded automatically to the lift, itself as big as a

tractor-trailer rig. Outside the lift, the sky was jammed

with air traffic, pieces in a large traffic puzzle, as

thousands of people piloted their personal drones to

the theater. Captivated by the chaos above his head,

Allen couldn’t help but wonder whether in another

year or so people would be flying their entire homes

from one country to another.

Snow had begun to sift gently down. Between

the white of the flakes and the myriad colors of the

drones, it looked as though the whole sky had wrapped

the town of Hollywood in its arms. Allen seemed to

recall that someone had told him once that it used to

never snow in L.A. Climate change had altered that

forever.

Thirty seconds later, the lift slowed, then came

to rest perfectly level with the platform, without the

least jarring of any of the passengers. With such

advanced technology, maybe the Moon or even Mars

could be the capital of the world someday—Allen no

longer thought that concept was merely fantasy.

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Ready to stretch his legs after the long ride, he

stepped out of the car. High above the surface of the

planet, unseen heaters made this early evening in

February cool and pleasant. The energy of the crowd

was electrifying as well, warming him despite the chill

of the air. Onlookers cheered each star as they

emerged from their vehicles, sometimes without even

recognizing who they were applauding. When a well-

known face appeared, the crowd went mad with joy.

Many of them had been waiting since early morning

to see their favorite stars, and the release of tension

when the moment arrived galvanized the entire

audience. Applause and cheers for one star had barely

died down when the noise level leaped up again as the

next celebrity began his or her stroll down the red

carpet. Even non-celebrity guests came in for their fair

share of accolades, especially those lucky few who were

halted by one of the numerous reporters vying for a

story beyond the ordinary, beyond the usual, “Isn’t it

wonderful?” and “I’m so happy just to be nominated.”

The crowd simmered with excitement and

Allen thought that, while pleasantries came in for their

share of applause, some bared teeth or a growled

threat would have had the audience erupting with glee.

He briefly considered cracking a joke about his co-

nominees, but quickly squelched that idea. The Oscars

was a night for playing fake, for making dreams which

would later be shelved in a digital format to inspire

more dream makers. Besides, he had noticed that the

star of his movie, Nikole Van Steyn, was in the car

right behind his. She would certainly not appreciate

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his efforts at misplaced jollity and he didn’t want to

upset her on this night in particular. She was not only

the star of his film, she had played a large part in

ensuring that ‘LOST & FOUND’ had been the most

successful movie of the year.

Waiting for Nikole to finish her last-minute

primping before she exited her car, Allen scanned the

area. The platform was even more crowded than it had

been the previous year. This was the power of the

Oscars. It hardly seemed possible, but the popularity

of the awards grew each year. The sets became more

extravagant, the clothes more outlandish, the audience

more excited.

With ‘LOST & FOUND’ among the highest

grossing movies of all time, Allen’s was one of the best-

known faces on the red carpet and everyone wanted to

capture their own piece of history. He waved a lazy

hand at the continuous glittering camera flashes.

A roar from the crowd had him glancing back

at the cars. Finally ready for her appearance, Nikole

had lifted the gull-wing door on her car and the

waiting crowd had realized who she was. Playing to

her captive audience, she slowly stretched out one long

leg, then the other. As her heels touched the ground,

Allen reached in a hand to help her out, and she used

him to propel herself up, giving him a playful kiss on

the lips as she straightened. When he dipped her in

response, then returned the kiss, the burst of cheering

from the crowd drowned out all other sound for a

moment. She laughed as he raised her back to vertical,

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then she tucked her hand in his arm and they strolled

casually down the red carpet. As always, Nikole stole

the show.

All of the other stars paled beside her, which,

Allen thought to himself, was a funny way to put it,

since Nikole was a true blue-eyed blonde. Still in her

early 20’s, she had the grace and presence of a mature

woman. Tonight she fairly glittered in gold and

diamonds. Her sleeveless dress fit tightly in the bodice,

then loosened below her hips and ended in a swirl at

her feet. Halting for the inevitable interview, she and

Allen stood hand-in-hand, sending high-wattage smiles

in all directions, which Nikole punctuated with air

kisses blown to a select few favorites.

A rival director with no Nikole at his side

glared at Allen as the reporter who had been coyly

cooing at him scooted away to claim an exclusive

interview with the glamorous couple. Allen put on his

most charming smile, said a few disarming phrases,

then deferred to Nikole. He stayed in the background

as she wowed the audience, both those in attendance

and those at home. She had always been better at this

than he had, probably one of the reasons she was an

actor and he felt more at home behind the scenes. A

few more air kisses to the fans, and she captured his

arm again. As the reporter released them,

photographers were snapping pictures a mile a minute

and people thrust everything from hats to books to

shirts at them for autographs, the usual scenario at the

Oscars.

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As a renowned producer-director, Allen loved

seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the fans from all

over the world. It almost made up for having to

wrench himself into a tux for the evening. He and

Nikole headed indoors to massive applause and cheers.

Inside, the hall’s lights were so blinding that

Allen almost found himself reaching for his sunglasses

before he remembered that he was in his tux. Once

again, he missed his familiar T-shirt and jeans. Seeing

the aborted movement, Nikole grinned. She leaned in

close and whispered, “Feel like you are in a strait-

jacket?”

The paparazzi hanging around inside the lobby

went crazy. If Allen thought the lights from the

cameras had been bright before, that was nothing

compared to the thousand suns that blasted his eyes

now.

“What about it, Nikole?” Allen could hear their

shouts, but couldn’t make out any faces beyond the

glare.

“Is there something between you and Allen?”

“What about that whisper?”

“What about that kiss?”

The lights and noise combined to create a

surreal world. Allen’s stomach lurched, and he felt

almost sick. Nikole tightened her grip on his arm to

bring him back to reality. Her uplifted eyebrow mutely

asked, “You wanted this, remember?”

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Allen took a deep breath and waved at the

paparazzi. “Sorry, guys, but Nikole and I are friends,

that’s it.” He turned away to lead her into the lobby

and to let the next couple get the third degree.

The sight before him almost took his breath

away. The Grand Staircase beckoned, inviting them to

glide up its red-carpeted magnificence. The mahogany

railings, the last from non-managed forests, Allen

recalled, offered secure handholds. There was to be no

chance of any young starlet tripping on her train and

tumbling down. As impressive as the luxurious stairway

was to look at, that was nothing to actually setting

foot on the sacred steps, nodding pleasantries to the

other luminaries ascending the walkway, surrounded

by living, breathing Hollywood. Allen guided Nikole

into the thick of the crowd, where they separated.

Regardless of how ornate the decor, how dressed up

the participants were, this cocktail hour before the

ceremony was for schmoozing. Directors who hadn’t

gotten funding for their latest project, actors without

a script, producers in need of increasing their bottom

line, everyone needed something. Under the usual

banal conversations lurked the almost palpable fear

that this year could be the first and last time some of

them would be able to enter this hallowed theater. In

such a setting, gossip was the true point of the evening,

especially for those who had no real chance of winning.

“Who will the Best Picture winner be?” echoed

around the room, although this year attention was

divided between potential Oscar winners and the

14 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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actual winners of the recent U.S. elections. Many of

the incoming Senators and Representatives were

making their rounds of the room, thanking the stars

for their support. There were even a few whispers that

the President herself would show. After all, many of

the luminaries here tonight had been some of her

biggest supporters.

Allen sipped at his cocktail as he wandered idly

from group to group. A prime topic of conversation

was how good the Oscars would be this year and

whether this year’s sets would outshine those from last

year. Nobody doubted the performances would be over

the top. The only questions were “how” and “how

much.”

In the end, the Oscars were, well…spectacular.

Well-dressed movie personalities, waiting for the

glittering show to take off, were not disappointed,

even though the President did not show up. From the

red carpet to the cocktail party, from the musical

numbers to the In Memoriam, from the presenters’

jokes to the stage sets, there were no major shakeups

and everything went pretty much without a hitch.

Prior to the ceremony, every star had had the

opportunity to hear hundreds of clicks and see

thousands of camera flashes in their faces. Their hands

had waved in traditional crazy fan shapes as they

acknowledged their many adoring fans. They had had

their concerns about their outfits allayed, all those

wishes and hopes that no one else would be wearing

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the same style fulfilled—after all, they all wanted to be

in the news, but not for the wrong reasons.

This year’s host, Neil O’Brian, had been chosen

because, as host of the popular talk show, Orange

Room, he was loud and acerbic, and likely to come out

with statements that barely passed the censors. He did

not disappoint. Everything about 2117 Oscars was just

what everyone expected, apart from Neil’s opening

monologue and a few particular jokes directed at a

handful of other items —

“Welcome to the 185th Oscar night,” O’Brian

began. “We are here to celebrate not only the best in

the industry, but to appreciate world cinema in a most

elegant way.” The live telecast was being watched all

across the world with great anticipation. “Whether you

are a producer, director or an actor doesn’t matter.

You all have to listen to no one but one person and

that is ME!” Giggles accompanied the hearty

clapping that broke out at this pronouncement.

“For Oscar night,” Neil gave his trademark tug

on his tie, a sign that the next thing out of his mouth

would be outrageous, “renowned designers all over the

planet get busy making the most original creations for

their celebrities. They don’t dare even meet with other

designers, because what if their dress designs would be

stolen,” he joked to scattered laughter and applause.

“See, how people are laughing here? They are so

happy…this is what happens in our little slice of

heaven when you leave your significant other at home.”

Loud applause followed this remark.

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Several of the jokes left the audience nervously

laughing or unsure how to respond, while at other

times O’Brian elicited cheers for his remarks criticizing

the Academy, stars and Hollywood in general. He

scored repeated big applause when joking and mocking

those who were there as well as those who did not

attend the event.

Following the usual series of categories,

O’Brian finally came to the ones everyone was waiting

for. He started off the last few by stating, “Ladies and

gentlemen, I would like to call onto our stage

renowned director Peter James to announce the Best

Director of the year.”

“The nominees are….” As curious as everyone

else in the room, James wasted no time in idle chitchat

before reciting the names one by one, as the tension

built to a fever pitch. “The winner is…” James opened

the envelope, tearing it in his excitement. “O God, I

thought so! It’s Allen, for ‘LOST & FOUND’!”

Allen rose from his seat and bent over to lightly

kiss Nikole. “Go get your trophy,” she whispered. “You

deserve it, you lucky bastard.” Allen chuckled as he

climbed the steps. He set the trophy on the podium,

holding it tightly as he spoke.

“Thank you to the members of the Academy,

thank you everyone,” he began. All his nervousness

had evaporated and his words were calm and measured.

“I would like to dedicate this award to those people

who are dedicated to the cinema.” He waited until the

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applause died down, then continued, “I thank my cast

and members who worked day and night even under

the worst conditions. In the crew there were sons who

missed time with their parents, there were fathers and

mothers who were missing their children, but they all

stood by me till the movie was finished. In the end I

want to add that ‘LOST & FOUND’ is not just a movie,

it is a life lesson to all of us that we should remind

ourselves of what we have lost. There are many people

who have been left behind. Let us remember them all

and walk together to the future. We enjoy life more

when we share happiness together. We enjoy the

Oscars more when we share the cinema together.

Thank you all.” He gave a short bow, then lifted a

hand to acknowledge the audience’s reaction.

A tremendous roar of clapping began and kept

on as everyone in the hall gave Allen a standing ovation.

It continued until Allen was led offstage. This was

indeed a speech to appreciate, whose meaning would

soon be spreading worldwide. Many people in the

audience were wiping tears from their eyes, though

whether from heartfelt emotion or for the benefit of

the cameras was hard to say.

֍֍֍

After the show, Allen and Nikole went to

dinner with some of their friends before making the

rounds of the after-Oscar parties.

18 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Many congrats, Allen,” Jerry Lucas, a 50-year-

old well-known producer-director in his own right,

beamed. He was one of Allen’s mentors, and had

helped fund his first movie. “Your movie has won six

Oscars this year, well done!”

“Thanks, Jerry.” Allen rose, his champagne

glass held high. “This trophy belongs to everyone who

supported me.” He dipped his head to each person at

the table, then bowed at Lucas. “And thank you

especially, Jerry. You really believed in me. If it weren’t

for you backing my first efforts, this movie would have

never been made.”

“We producers are businessmen also. I know

where to invest money,” Jerry laughed. Allen just

smiled.

At a pause in the conversation, talk-show host

Sandra Collins touched Allen’s arm, anxious to be the

first to get the winner of Best Director and Best Movie

of the Year into a chair on her set. She well knew that

her beauty alone was alluring, and the deep cut of her

dress made it hard to look away when she leaned over

to coo at him. “So what is the plan for later on tonight,

‘Mr. Director’?”

Allen bent closer as he looked into her eyes.

That was a mistake. Her fragrance was as intoxicating

as her cleavage.

“Well,” he began as he rubbed the trophy

across her cheek suggestively, “I think…” she purred

in pleasure, “…it’s getting late. I should be going.” His

19 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

hands none-too-steady, he pulled the trophy away and

set it on the table.

Sandra pouted in frustration. “No!” She

clutched at his sleeve, but he shook his head.

“Sorry, sweetheart, maybe next time.” He

winked at her, but cut the mood short by checking

his watch. “You all enjoy the party. I’ve got to get back

home.”

“To your apartment?” Sandra asked hopefully.

“To London.” As exciting as winning the Oscar

had been, all that Allen had really wanted was to share

this night with the two people who meant the most

to him in the world: his grandmother and his long-

time girlfriend, Kelly Graham. The only

disappointment of the evening had been that neither

of them had been able to come to the award ceremony.

Granny had been taken ill just before Allen had left

London, and Kelly had offered to stay behind and take

care of her.

Kelly had been by far the largest part of Allen’s

life for years, and even in the midst of this celebration,

he was surprised at the intensity of his longing for her.

He couldn’t wait to get back to London to show her

the award, to see the looks on hers and Granny’s faces.

From the other end of the table, O’Brian

noticed Allen standing, getting ready to leave.

20 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“See how people are excited when they win an

Oscar,” he boomed, “they take it and run away so no

one will ask to borrow it.”

Allen shouted “Shut up, you fucker!” but he

was smiling.

He made it to LAX, the international airport,

at the very last minute. At the boarding gate he slowed

long enough to flash his phone at the scanner before

striding down the jetway and taking his seat in first-

class. He slept most of the way, waking in time for the

landing at Heathrow early the next morning.

21 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

CHAPTER – 2

[*WHAT IS HINDI? *]

s soon as Kelly saw Allen emerge from

the passenger terminal, she flung herself

A

at him. Just a couple of years younger

than Allen, she had somehow managed to retain a

playful attitude that she hid when work required a

persona more corporate in character.

“Whoa!” he kissed her. “What a welcome! I

should go away more often.”

“You better not,” she said.

“What if one of your button-down clients saw

you acting so wild?”

“Oh, poo,” she responded. “I’m not here to

meet any of them.”

He smiled as he looked her over. Even at this

time of day, she was well-put together, as always. Her

long brown hair stayed perfectly in place, even without

a scarf, a barrette, or any other adornment. Her dusky

skin, the product of a European father and a Turkish

mother, was set off by a yellow A-line dress that

22 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

stopped above her knees, showcasing long, lean legs.

But it was her deep, sapphire-blue eyes that he had

fallen in love with the first time he saw them that were

regarding him quizzically now.

“What?” she asked.

“Just wondering why it is that I ever go away

from you,” he grinned.

“So that you can collect the respect that is due

you, Mr. Director.” She tucked her arm into his, and

led the way to the car. “Congratulations! I knew you

could do it. Well, where is it?”

“Where’s what?”

She smacked him on the shoulder. “The Oscar,

of course.”

“I didn’t keep it out to impress the stewardess,

hon. It’s in my bag. I’ll show you once I’ve got

unpacked.”

“Come on,” she said, “the car’s this way.

Granny’s waiting for you.”

“How is she?” He had called the evening before,

but he wanted to make sure that nothing had

happened overnight.

“She’s doing much better,” Kelly assured him.

“I told her to rest, but you know Granny, she’s in the

kitchen, cooking up welcome-home food for you.”

As they left the airport, Allen relaxed into the

passenger seat. “As a filmmaker, that Oscar was

23 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

certainly the best gift I could get.” He smiled at her.

“I told Granny that I would get it this year.”

Kelly nodded, “Yeah, I think she was more

excited than you were. So what will your next project

be?”

“Maybe a romantic tale with you.” Kelly

laughed and Allen squeezed her knee.

“You’ll never see me in front of the camera,

Mr. Director. That’s too much work.” She dropped

him off at Granny’s house. “She’ll be anxious to see

you,” Kelly said. She leaned over to kiss him. “So will

I, later.”

Allen put his hand on the back of her head and

deepened the kiss. “Then come in,” he said huskily

when he pulled back. He rubbed his cheek against hers.

She put her palm on his chest, moaned, “I

can’t. I have work to do, you know that. Besides, I’ll

see you tomorrow.”

“Another whole day!” Allen complained. “It’s

already been too long.”

“Well, I’m glad you feel that way,” she giggled.

“Imagine if you just got back and were tired of me

already.” She shoved him gently. “Go on, get out. I’ll

see you tomorrow. You’ll be at your own house, then,

right? All by yourself?” She teasingly batted her

eyelashes at him, and he laughed. “We can celebrate

then,” she cooed in an exaggeratedly sexy voice.

24 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Can’t wait.” Allen’s taut voice was in earnest.

He waited until she pulled away before entering the

courtyard.

As he pressed the doorbell, the front door was

opened by an elderly woman. Her white hair was

braided and pinned in place. Though she leaned on a

cane, she held her head high and straight. She was

dressed in a simple long dress, which on her looked

elegant and refined.

“Oscar-winning director’s Granny welcomes

you.” She grinned, and could have been a 12-year-old-

girl on her first trip to the fair. “My Director,” she

exclaimed. “I am so happy for you, my son! It’s really

a great moment for me,” she hugged him tightly, and

he was glad to feel the strength in her embrace.

“Oh, Granny, I am so glad to see you! And you

must be feeling better.” He set his luggage inside the

door, and she leaned on his arm as they went to the

parlor. “You know how I worry when I leave you here

by yourself.”

“But I wasn’t alone,” She laughed. “Kelly must

have been here more than she was at her own house.

I don’t know why you had her bother, with Jessica

around.” She let go of Allen’s arm and stepped around

a loom, set up in the middle of the parlor, to reach a

rocking chair. She gracefully lowered herself into the

seat and gestured to a tea service on the table next to

her. “Are you hungry? I’ve biscuits and chai, your

favorite flavor.”

25 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Now, Granny, you haven’t been over-exerting

yourself, have you?” Allen poured two cups of tea and

handed one to Granny.

“Just the tea, son. Jessica took care of

everything else.”

“Where is she today?” He had missed the

housekeeper’s familiar presence, and was worried

about Granny being left alone.

“Now, son, no need to be concerned. She knew

that you’d be by this morning, and she took advantage

of your return to visit her son and daughter-in-law.

They have a new baby, you know.”

“Umm-hmmm.” Allen was not going to have

this conversation the moment he walked in the door.

He and Kelly had been together for 15 years now, and

were perfectly content going on for another 15 years

just the way they were. A few times after university

they had discussed having children, but as the only

child of an only child, he just didn’t feel the need to

fill his home with the noise and confusion of a large

family, and Kelly seemed no more interested in

modifying their lifestyle than he was.

Dismissing the subject of children, he scanned

the room. Not one thing had changed while he’d been

gone. The parlor was filled with an eclectic mix of

European tchotchkes Allen had obtained on his travels,

interspersed with family photos. One picture in

particular drew Allen’s attention, as it did every time

he entered his boyhood home. He had been four when

26 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

the picture was taken, and didn’t remember the event,

but he knew that the picture brought back many

memories for Granny. Being able to see it every day

helped to fill the void caused by all the losses she had

suffered in her life.

Granny had left her childhood home in India

when she married Allen’s grandfather in 2050. Allen’s

grandfather had emigrated to the UK with his parents

when he was a small boy. Before marriage also they

liked each other, as Allen’s grandfather grew up he

wasted no time in whisking his new bride to London.

The couple had only one child, a son, who had married

an English girl. In the photo, a little black-haired,

blue-eyed Allen sat on his grandfather’s lap. Allen’s

father stood behind the chair, between Granny and

Allen’s mother. To Allen’s artistic eye, the picture

always seemed a bit skewed, with his mother’s pale

face and light hair drawing the viewer’s eye to the right,

away from the darker faces of her husband, son and

in-laws.

Shortly after that photo had been taken, his

parents had divorced. Allen’s mother took off for

Scotland, where she remarried and began another

family. Allen stayed with his father and grandparents,

but within a few months, his grandfather unexpectedly

died of a heart attack. Soon thereafter, Allen’s father

headed for Manchester, in Northern England, and

Granny was left alone to raise Allen. That photo

showed one of the last times the whole family had

been together.

27 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen and Granny chatted for some time. Over

the years, they had become as close as mother and son.

He took her hand in his, felt re-assured at the warmth

of her touch.

“How are you, Granny? Are you really feeling

better?”

“Yes, my sweet boy,” she said. “No need to

worry.” She laid a palm on his cheek, and he leaned

against it contentedly. She smiled and drew her hand

back. “Now,” she insisted, “where is this trophy?”

Allen grinned and reached into his luggage.

“Here he is, Granny! Oscar, big as life!”

“May I?”

“Of course!” She took the statuette from him.

“Thanks, son. At last. I never thought that, in my

lifetime, I would ever get to touch this young man.”

Allen laughed, “I think you are too young for

him.”

Granny laughed until she had to wipe tears

from her eyes. “Now,” she went on, as she caught her

breath, “tell me all about your adventures.”

Allen recounted how nervous he’d been before

the ceremony, how sure he’d felt that his movie was

worthy of the honor of Best Picture, and the pride that

had flowed through him when Peter James had

pronounced his name.

28 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“And after?” Allen smiled as he described the

dinner. No matter how much he told her, Granny

wanted more.

“I have a real celebrity in my house,” she

marveled.

Allen set the Oscar on the mantle. “That is

where he belongs,” he said. “If not for you, I would

never have received that honor.”

When the first excitement of Allen’s

homecoming had subsided, and he was relaxing in a

rocking chair in his old bedroom, with his feet up on

an ottoman, almost asleep, Granny went outside to

water her plants. Her snowdrops and daffodils were

like her children whenever Allen was away. She

enjoyed talking to them and telling them about her

day, and she felt that they understood her very well.

Whenever Allen invited her to travel with him out of

the country, she asked the gardener to take care of

them for her, but she still worried the whole time she

was gone.

Allen looked out the window. A warm feeling

went through him when he thought of how deeply his

grandmother was attached to her plants. She regularly

lost herself in talking to them. She even called some

of the plants by name. As he watched, she took her

glasses out of the pocket of her long pink gown, to

have a closer look at something that looked

suspiciously like a weed.

29 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Be careful!” Allen called, as Granny almost

lost her balance.

“Don’t worry, son, I am okay. Don’t you know

I am getting younger every day?” Granny raised her

hand without turning around. Allen leaned back,

amused. It was not so long ago that Granny had been

cautioning him. The same chair he was sitting in was

where Granny had spent hours soothing him after one

mishap or another, where night after night she had

rocked him to sleep. Life is not complete, he thought,

until there is someone who needs you, someone you

need, at every stage.

Feeling a bit in danger of falling asleep now,

he hefted himself out of the chair and went in search

of Granny. She had returned from the garden, and was

busy at her loom. It was the one big thing she had

insisted on bringing with her from India. Allen recalled

his father constantly cracking his ankle on it on the

few occasions that he would visit, and how Granny

would rush to protect her precious treasure.

“Be more careful!” she would scold.

“I don’t know why you have to have that old

thing here, anyway!’ He would complain as he rubbed

his ankle. “Here in London, we buy all of our clothes!”

“Just you never mind!”

Allen chuckled to himself. That was the one

piece of slang that Granny had learned well, and she

used it all the time.

30 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

He went on to his grandfather’s library.

Opening the window, he let the sun’s rays lighten the

dark-walled room. Light struck the floor and reflected

on his face. He took a deep breath, inhaling the

fragrance of old books. He never felt comfortable

talking aloud in Grandpa’s library. It seemed to absorb

all sound, as though only the books were allowed to

speak there. Strangely enough, it was the only place

he ever really felt that he could hear his grandfather’s

voice. Allen always pictured him in this room, sitting

behind his desk in the same chair he’d occupied in

that family photo.

Oh, I love this room. Even now, Allen couldn’t

bring himself to say the words out loud. He sat in his

grandfather’s old wooden chair and looked around the

shelves. He ran a hand across the spines of some nearby

books, releasing the combined odors of camphor,

leather and incense. When his grandfather retired to

his library, he always lit incense, and this reminder

also continued to permeate the room.

Some old books peeped out through newer

titles that Allen had contributed to the collection.

Allen took out one book on the history of England.

He had purchased this book for a class, but kept it at

the end of the term. It had been his love of history

that had nudged him into film making. The stories.

Endless stories. He loved reading stories, but the

stories came more alive for him when he added motion.

People in costume speaking their lines, scenery in the

background, was how he told his stories. He set the

31 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

book down, picked up another. This was one of his

grandfather’s. He sniffed it, inhaling the old smell,

then thumbed through a few pages, before closing it

and setting it back. The book had been tight against

others, and he misjudged the space. It knocked against

another book, and the movement dislodged an entire

pile of books that fell into his lap.

“Allen?”

“It’s okay, Granny. I’m okay.” Catching up the

books, he lined them back on the shelf, one by one.

Taking a final glance around the floor, he realized that

he had missed one. Picking it up, he couldn’t make

out the title, it was so covered in dust. Even so, the

book didn’t look familiar. He couldn’t ever remember

seeing it before. He blew gently on the cover, then

wiped it clean. Setting the other books to one side, he

flipped through the pages, but he couldn’t understand

any of the writing.

What language is this? I’ve never seen anything

like it. He turned to the front, but could only make

out the date of publication, 2017. This book is 100

years old. But where did it come from? It was obviously

Grandpa’s, but where did he get it? Bemused, Allen

took the book back to the living room, locking the

library behind him.

“Granny,” he said, “Look at this. I was

searching through the library and look what I found.”

He showed her the book. She turned away

from the unfinished pullover she had been working on

32 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

and pulled out her glasses, so that she could see close

up. She peered at the book as though unable to place

it for a moment, then practically snatched the book

from his hands.

“Oh,” she said, “That’s nothing.” She set it in

her lap and resumed working.

“Granny,” he chuckled, “May I have it back?”

“There is no need,” she said sharply. “It is

nothing. Give me the key to the library, and I will put

it back later.” She held out her hand, and Allen

reluctantly deposited the key into her palm.

“Why do you lock the library, anyway, Granny?

There’s only you here.”

“It’s time for supper, son. Get washed up.” She

rose and walked away, the book hidden in the folds of

her dress.

“Granny!” But Allen knew better than to argue

with her. He set off for the washroom to freshen up.

During supper, Granny resumed her

questioning about the Oscar ceremonies and all of the

stars that Allen had brushed shoulders with. She

chuckled at all the right spots, and they shared a few

laughs. The book was not mentioned again.

After supper, Allen’s phone rang. When a

hologram of his father appeared, Granny excused

herself and began cleaning up.

“Hi, Dad,” he said.

33 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Have you got a few minutes, son?”

“Sure, Dad. Granny and I just finished supper.”

Allen headed outside and the hologram

followed him.

“You’re at Granny’s? Well, tell her Hullo for

me.”

“Why don’t you—” Allen cut himself short.

“Sure, Dad, I’ll tell her. What can I do for you?”

“Nothing, son. I just wanted to call and say

that I am so happy for you. Congratulations.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“You know, Allen, all my friends have been

calling me to congratulate me. Their children are all

in business but you are all they’ve been talking about.

I am so proud of you.”

Listening to him, Allen could see how much

his friends’ envy meant to his father, how happy he

was at his son’s success. Inwardly, he smoldered, but

he merely said, “Maybe the children of your friends

did what their parents wanted them to do, while I did

what my heart wished for.”

He could see his father wince. “I am sorry son,

that I didn’t realize your dreams could carry you so

far.”

Allen was barely listening to the same old

apology. He said evenly, “It’s not the height of the

dreams that counts, Dad. It’s the depth of the passion.”

34 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Allen, I said I was sorry—”

“That’s not the only thing you didn’t realize,

Dad,” Allen cut him off. “You know how much Granny

misses you both, but neither Mom nor you ever come

to see us.”

“I am really sorry, son, but I don’t know how

many times I have to apologize. You know that I am

caught up in my work, and your Mom, well I don’t

know which world she’s living in day by day.”

Allen said, “Yeah, I got her message

congratulating me. She signed it on behalf of her latest

husband, too. Tony is his name? Hardly necessary,

since I’ve never even met the man. But, I guess it

would be unfair of me to expect anything more than

that as her eldest son.”

“Don’t worry, son,” the artificial heartiness was

worse than silence would have been. “I promise. I will

get in touch with her, and we both will make plans to

come down someday.”

“Don’t forget Tony,” Allen’s comment may

have been just a little tinged with snarkiness, but that

glided right by his father.

“Sometime soon,” his father went on. “You

know how we’re looking forward to seeing that place

you got. It sounds like quite a showpiece.”

“I don’t mean just my place, Dad. I mean

Granny’s home. Our home. Come by anytime, Dad,

35 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

come back, where your son and your mother are

waiting for you to visit.”

His father couldn’t meet Allen’s eyes. “Of

course, son, both of them. Both of you. We want to

see you both—them both. Well, I have to go. See you,

Allen, take care.”

“Wait, Dad, one more thing before you go.”

Even if Granny wouldn’t open up about that book,

maybe his dad knew the significance of it, what strange

language it was written in.

“What is it, son?”

“I found a book. In Grandpa’s library.”

“A book? I don’t understand.”

“It was a book in a foreign language.”

“Another one? Was it in Hindi? I thought I—”

Allen could have sworn that his father was almost

snarling. “You find any books in languages you don’t

understand, son, you just throw them out. Its not

going to benefit you. Or better yet, burn them. Just

throw them in the fire.”

“Dad, what are you talking about? What is

wrong? Why would I burn books? What is Hindi?”

“I’ve got to go, son. You should move ahead in

life. Such books won’t take you anywhere. Again,

congratulations. I’m proud of you, boy. God bless you”

“Thanks, Dad, ta-ta,” but the hologram had

already disappeared.

36 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen looked across the street, where a father

was holding onto the back of his son’s two-wheeler,

keeping the boy balanced and cheering him on. The

grin on the boy’s face was visible even that far away.

Allen looked away from the domestic scene, his phone

clutched tightly in his hand. He would gladly give up

every award he’d earned, even the Oscar, to have had

just one afternoon outing like that with his father.

Hearing noises from next door, he watched as

an old couple tried unsuccessfully to corral their cat.

Like his grandparents, they were also originally from

India, and had lived next to Granny for as long as Allen

could remember.

“Hullo, Mr. Basu, Mrs. Basu,” Allen called.

“Ah, hullo, Allen,” Mrs. Basu answered. Mr.

Basu was too intent on the cat to answer.

Allen leaned against the garden wall and idly

watched the old couple at their sport. The old man

gave his wife detailed instructions on how to corner

the wayward cat, then he moved in to block the cat’s

escape. Just as they thought the animal was within

their clutches, the cat leaped way out of their reach.

The fourth or fifth time the cat crossed the

road, Mrs. Basu gave up the chase. She stood in the

middle of the lawn, with her hands on her hips.

“Come here, Hindi,” she shouted.

Allen was startled. “Did I hear you right, Mrs.

Basu?”

37 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Hullo, Allen,” Mr. Basu crossed the street and

shook Allen’s hand. He gestured to the cat, who had

followed him and was now lying quietly in yard. “This

Hindi is really naughty,” he said.

“Are you talking about the cat?” Allen asked.

“Yeah,” Mr. Basu nodded, “her name is Hindi.”

Allen was surprised. “Is it some kind of a

language also?”

“Yes,” Mr. Basu confirmed. “Hindi is the

language we spoke in India.” He pointed toward

Granny’s house with his chin. “Your Granny speaks it

as well,” he said.

“Granny speaks Hindi?” Allen was astounded.

“I—of course, I knew she was from India. It makes

sense that she didn’t speak English when she was

growing up, but…thank you, Mr. Basu. Good night.

Good night, Mrs. Basu,” he called, and she waved back

at him.

By the time Allen went back inside, Granny

had cleaned up the dishes and was sitting in her rocker.

“Granny,” Allen asked, “What is Hindi?”

“Oh, Allen, it’s nothing.”

“It’s not ‘nothing’, Granny,” Allen said. “It is

something big. Something that really upset Dad when

I mentioned it. He told me that I should take all of

the books in Hindi that I find and throw them away.

Burn them, he said.”

38 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Granny shuddered, and drew her sleeves over

her hands.

“Granny,” Allen knelt in front of her chair.

“What is going on?”

“And did you tell him you would, Allen?” Her

eyes were wide with fear.

“Tell him I would do what, Granny?”

“Tell him that you would burn the Hindi

books.”

“What? Of course not! Why would I burn

Hindi books? Mr. Basu says that you speak Hindi.

Granny, Hindi was your native tongue, wasn’t it? Why

didn’t you ever tell me about Hindi? Why didn’t you

teach me Hindi? Does this have anything to do with

it?” He gently took her left hand and turned it over.

The palm of her hand was scarred. He caressed it, then

kissed it. “Tell me, Granny,” he asked softly, “what is

going on? What happened to your hand?”

He held her gaze as she studied him intently

for a long time. Then she dug in her pocket and pulled

out the key to the library. “I put the book on the desk,

son. Please go get it and bring it here.” When he

returned, she took the book from him tenderly, gazed

at it with reverence. “That book,” she said, “It

belonged to your grandpa, son. His father gave him

this on his fifteenth birthday. This is one of the most

famous holy books of India, The Bhagavad Gita. This

book contains the preaching of Lord Krishna to his

disciple, Arjuna.”

39 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“So it’s your Bible,” Allen said, wondering,

“and my dad wanted me to burn it. Why, Granny?

Why would Dad want me to burn your Bible?”

“Because it is in Hindi, my son. Because it

makes me think of India. Because it reminds him that

I am not English—that he is not 100% British. He

doesn’t like to relate himself to that part of him that’s

Indian.”

“That’s all?”

“We all choose where we feel that we belong,”

Granny said, “and your father wants to be English. So

he wants all reminders that he is not British to

disappear in smoke.”

“But that’s ridiculous!” Allen exclaimed. “You

are what you are.” He looked at the book again. “Tell

me, Granny, tell me about Hindi. Tell me about

yourself. I want to know.”

She leaned back in her chair and closed her

eyes. “Besides my parents,” she began softly, “Hindi

was the first thing I knew.” She opened her eyes and

her voice grew stronger, prouder, as she explained,

“Hindi is one of India’s official languages and my

mother tongue. It comes from Sanskrit, an ancient

language.”

Allen nodded. “Yes, one of the oldest. I learned

about it in history. Sanskrit was the precursor to many

Indo-European languages, including English. Wow.

Hindi.” He turned the book over, examined the back

cover, then flipped through some of the pages. “That’s

40 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

incredible—I didn’t know anything about this. I can’t

believe that I never thought about it before.” He sank

into the seat next to Granny, touched the strange

letters. “You know how to speak this language, this

Hindi. Can you read this book?”

“Yes,” Granny said, “I can speak this language

very well, but sadly, there is no one with whom I can

speak in Hindi.”

“What about Mr. and Mrs. Basu?”

She shook her head. “I cannot. It has been too

long.”

“You can’t remember?”

“No, not that. But I have been too well-trained.

I cannot…” she waved a hand. “The words…”

“That is so sad, Granny. How long has it been

since you spoke Hindi?”

“Oh,” she closed her eyes. “A very long time.

Not since I was a young bride, first come to the UK.

Your father’s grandparents wanted me to be a proper

well-mannered English girl, so they insisted that we

speak English. It took me a long time to be

comfortable with the language. Whenever they would

have friends over, it would be hard for me to join in

conversations. They would be upset with me. Your

father was embarrassed by my efforts. I tried very hard,

Allen, but it’s not easy to master the language in a

short time. I mean, I couldn’t grasp the real accent, or

all the little hidden meanings of words and phrases.

41 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

But your grandfather encouraged me.” She smiled at

Allen. “He helped me a great deal.” Her smile faded,

and she plucked at her dress. “I wanted my son to

speak Hindi, to learn of our culture, to be able to carry

on our traditions, our festivals and our religion. My in-

laws objected, but I tried to teach him anyway. He was

not interested. He wanted to be English, like his

friends.” She shook her head. “Your grandfather,

though, he missed the old ways, too. Only he and I

would speak, together, when we were alone.” Allen

could see a new spark in Granny’s eyes. “Ah, my son,

to speak Hindi again. It is one of the sweetest and most

beautiful of languages.”

“Would you, Granny, could you, say something

in Hindi for me?”

Granny said, “MAIN TUMSE PYAAR KARTI

HU. I love you, son.”

She pushed herself off the rocker, and got up

slowly to walk around the parlor floor, humming and

clapping her hands as she moved.

“There was music,” she said, “and dance. The

movies we saw,” behind closed lids she was recreating

bygone days, “they were so beautiful. We would go to

the shows, late at night, your grandfather and me. I

could have gone every night.” The hem of her dress

stopped swaying as her feet stilled. Her hands fell to

her sides. “But I haven’t seen a movie in Hindi for years

now. And once your Grandpa was gone, there was no

one to speak Hindi to. Your father, he would get so

42 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

upset when he heard me talk to the Basus, or anyone

else, that I just spoke English always. And after your

Grandpa died, he…” she sank back into her seat, and

looked at the palms of her hands.

“Granny!” Allen exclaimed. “Dad did this?” He

grabbed her hands, but she pulled away, and he let

her go, anxious not to hurt her.

“No, son, that is, it was not his fault. I was…I

was…it was too soon. I couldn’t bear to have your

grandfather taken away like that.”

Allen stared at her, confused. Then it clicked.

His father, burning books in the backyard. “Dad

burned Grandpa’s books? And you tried to save the

books he was burning? That’s how you hurt your

hands?”

“It wasn’t his fault,” she repeated. “I should

have let it go.”

“But that’s awful! I’ve got to—” he stood up,

reached for his phone, but she stood, also, and put her

hand on his chest.

“No, Allen. Let it go. It was years ago, and he

is your father. He deserves your respect.”

“Respect him! Look what he did to you,

Granny! I won’t—I can’t—”

“But you must,” she pleaded. “For me. He is

my son. And nothing can stop the love of a mother for

her son.”

43 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen’s face paled. His skin stretched tight from

the tension of holding his emotions in. He gazed at

her for long moments, then strode to his room and

slammed the door.

In his bedroom he sat at his old desk. He

pressed a button and a screen came up. “Hindi,” he

said, and began to search the internet. Hour after hour

he sat and read and watched, fascinated. There were

so many interesting things about India, things that he

had never known, never even heard of. He couldn’t

believe that once India had been one of the richest

countries of the world…one of the largest universities

in the world was there….He kept reading about its

history, culture and heritage, but he wondered why he

hadn’t known all this already. He was half-Indian and

his ancestors were Indian, yet he didn’t know anything

about Indian culture or festivals. All night he sat,

engrossed in reading about India and Indian languages.

For every page he read through, he saved another ten

pages to read later. Finally, he stretched and looked

around. It was late at night.

His fury at his father hadn’t abated, but he

couldn’t do anything against the man—that would hurt

Granny too much. Still, there must be something that

he could do to avenge her, the woman who had raised

him, the woman who had given so much of herself to

him—but who had withheld so much as well, had kept

secret her very heart. How could he give back to a

woman who had sacrificed so much for him?

44 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

He pushed back in his chair and thought.

֍֍֍

Next to the Oscars themselves, Kelly

determined, this surprise party for Allen at his private

villa was going to be the event of the year. She had

begun planning it right after the nominations had

been announced, had spared no expense. She had

ordered ‘Best Director’ this and ‘Congratulations’ that,

figuring that she would simply dump them in the trash

before Allen arrived, on the off-chance that things

didn’t end up working out.

Allen had purchased the villa for the express

purpose of handling his and Kelly’s frequent

entertaining, as well as for more quiet weekends away

from the stress of the city, so the staff was used to

such elaborate festivities. Ecstatic about their boss’

Oscar nominations and eventual wins, they had gladly

conspired with her in all the preparations. Although

the gala had a huge guest list, it wasn’t hard to keep

Allen from finding out about it. Even after ‘LOST &

FOUND’ had been released, he had been distracted, as

though he was still caught up in little Malcolm’s world.

Normally, all guests to Allen’s private villa had

to be signed in at the gate, but Kelly had had a special

fob made for each of them, which allowed them access

for this night only. The fob also operated any of the

automated systems of the house that guests might need,

including a floor map, so that first-timers to the house

45 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

wouldn’t need to ask directions, or feel intimidated by

those who had previously enjoyed such access. She

wanted each invitee to feel extra special and very

welcomed.

For

those

without

convenient

transportation, she even hired a couple of limos, so

that no one would be forced to hire a car, or take a

taxi. Even though she specified that dress was casual,

she wanted an air of luxury to permeate the

celebration.

She had also made phone call after phone call

until she had secured Fresh Waters, Allen’s favorite

jazz band, to anchor the evening’s entertainment, then

she followed up that success by hiring his second

favorite jazz band, too, so there would be no break in

the background sound. As hostess for many corporate

events, she knew that the drinks were more smooth

and silky, the food more tantalizing, when improvising

musicians made the atmosphere more alive and

spontaneous.

Kelly had had the caterers set up on the back

lawn, with pavilions nearby just in case of rain. The

open air, the expansive green space, the pool lit with

golden lights in honor of Oscar, the massive stone

fireplace warding off the chill for guests

inappropriately dressed for the middle of winter; the

entire scene could have been a set out of one of Allen’s

movies. The best part, Kelly thought to herself as she

made a final check, was that Allen had come upon it

all at once, already complete. He had spent his first

night back in London at his and Granny’s house, and

46 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Kelly had set up Trevor Montgomery-Jones, one of

Allen’s longtime friends, to take him to lunch as soon

as he dragged himself out of bed. By the time they had

gotten to Allen’s villa, everything was done. It was all

perfect. Allen had been most pleasingly stunned, not

least by Kelly herself.

“Have I told you how terrific you look tonight?”

he asked her yet again. The sequins in her red tunic

top reflected what light hadn’t already been captured

by her sapphire eyes. Her brown hair curling half-way

down her back proved an almost overwhelming

temptation for his hands to dive into.

“I’ll have to thank you for this party properly,

later,” he whispered in her ear, then turned as William

Smith laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“Allen, old buddy!” William, who had been one

of Allen’s university buddies, had never given up his

taste for ale, as his portly body amply demonstrated.

William now ran a popular online news portal, and

had a sideline as movie critic. Allen’s abrupt turn had

unbalanced him, and his ale sloshed a bit as he raised

his glass in a toast. “Cheers! Allen, this last film of

yours was sure different. When I first saw it, I was like

ohh freak, how could you think of such an idea, and

then, how well you brought it to life! Crikey!” He

scratched at his goatee as though he’d forgotten what

else he meant to say.

“Oh, man, how did you get this idea?” Robert

Beedham was a film director whose career as an

47 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

assistant director had begun alongside Allen’s, for the

same director, but who had never managed to make

the leap to stardom. Now he used William’s lapse in

memory as a way to enter the conversation. “You really

deserved that Oscar.”

“It was Kelly,” said Allen. “She was the

inspiration behind this film.” She returned his smile

and they kissed.

“Ain’t that sweet.” William slobbered over the

couple.

Robert ignored William. “So, Allen, what’s next?

Are we going see something really special this time?”

“I don’t know,” Allen said. “It’s too early…I am

not ready to think about that yet. I was so involved in

‘LOST & FOUND’ that I needed to take a long break,

to clear my mind. Excuse me, I need to mingle.”

He wasn’t ready for shoptalk just yet—he was

still feeling that prickle of anger against his father,

along with his desire to somehow make amends to his

grandmother. Instead, he allowed himself to be

carried along by the current of the celebration,

chatting and joshing with what seemed like the entire

film industry in his backyard. Everyone had showed,

directors, writers, producers, members of the nobility

and government—some of these people, he was sure,

had not actually been invited, but so long as the

paparazzi left him alone, he didn’t care. There were

plenty of foods, drinks, music and camaraderie to go

around.

48 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

As he refreshed his drink at one of the bars,

Peter Kelton walked over. Peter had produced the first

two films Allen had directed. The success of those films

had propelled Allen into worldwide renown as a

producer-director, and he had been able to finance the

last two films on his own.

“Congratulations on another job well done, old

chap,” Peter said.

“Thanks, Peter. What’ll you have?”

“I’ll take a whiskey and water.” Allen caught

the bartender’s eye and pointed at Peter’s empty glass.

Peter leaned against the bar as he spoke. It was

obviously not his first trip to the bar. “Allen, my dear

friend…book me for the next project. You have left

me out in the cold your last two times at bat. But I

will produce your next film…”

“Allen is his own producer,” Garry Singleton,

founder and CEO of VIEW-TV Group Network, noted.

The entrepreneur and philanthropist had strolled over,

and was nibbling on a crudite as he spoke.

“But he is my friend, and he wouldn’t deny me

the chance to make billions like you, would he?”

Everyone within earshot laughed. Allen

clapped Peter on the back and took this opportunity

to slip away again. He made his way over to another

bunch of friends who were having drink in the corner.

Listening to their conversation, he cast a quick glance

over the rest of the party. Everyone seemed to be

having a good time. Food was disappearing off the

49 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

caterers’ plates, the band was in a groove, people had

started moving to the up tempo jazz beats of Fresh

Waters, and he didn’t even want to think about how

much alcohol had been poured.

Kelly was engaged in conversation with Garry

Singleton on the other side of the fireplace, but he

noticed that she was making subtle gestures at him to

join them. Garry must have some big deal he wants to

discuss, Allen surmised. He started to excuse himself

from the group when Nigel Harrison, a chum from

public school days, grabbed his sleeve. Nigel owned a

string of markets, but he enjoyed hanging around the

celebrities.

Nigel slurred out, “Fucker, you were holding

Nikole’s arm so tight…you know I feel jealous if anyone

touches her.”

Allen smiled and said, “Holding her arm?

That’s what has you upset? Are you kidding me? Didn’t

you see that kiss? We really steamed up the cameras.”

He laughed and moved away, as Nigel shook a

fist at him.

“Does Kelly know?” Nigel called after him.

“Does Kelly know what?” She appeared next to

Nigel, put her hand on his arm.

He glared after Allen. “That fucker kissed

Nikole!”

Kelly patted Nigel’s arm reassuringly as her

gaze followed Allen through the crowd. “He falls a

50 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

little in love in every one of his movies,” she said softly,

“but he always comes back to me. Now,” her voice

brightened as she took Nigel’s arm and headed toward

a woman standing alone, “Have you met Phillipa?”

Jack Morgan, the premier producer in England,

came up beside Allen, who had paused by a water

fountain and was enjoying the play of gold lights in

the ever-changing stream. “Hey, Allen, congrats. I

really appreciated your efforts, man. Enjoy yourself,

baby…Famous directors and actors always take the

cake…” Allen beamed. It was his dream to work with

the man.

“Thanks, Mr. Morgan,” Allen shook hands.

“You know why I like you, Allen? Because you

make movies to entertain, not to make money.”

“If a director starts making a film from a

marketing point of view,” Allen agreed, “then he ends

up compromising his work. Always make what do you

want to make first and have belief in it. Fuck the

marketing people and critics. They make you do things

you do not want to do.”

“Oh, don’t tell me to fuck myself!” Jack

exclaimed. “We producers also have to use marketing

tactics these days.”

“And don’t forget about the starlets’ marketing

tactics,” Allen whispered in his ear, “Did you see the

way Nikole was hanging on me at the Oscars?” Jack

burst out laughing.

51 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Everyone was in a good mood this evening.

Many well-known actors, including Julia Moore, the

most glamorous and highly-paid actress in the business,

came over to congratulate Allen, and pump him about

any upcoming roles.

“So, dearie, what do you wanna do next?” one

asked. “Sci-fi, action, historical…?”

“I don’t know yet,” Allen hesitated, “but last

night my heart was asking me to do something which

I think I should do.”

“What’s that?” The question was more

rhetorical than real. When Allen said that he didn’t

have any particular project in mind, everyone’s

attention had faded. Now Allen’s words were getting

lost in the sounds of the saxophone and percussion.

“You might be surprised,” he said. Julia leaned

in closer, struck by the intensity in Allen’s tone.

Having broached the subject, Allen wasn’t sure that he

was ready to go public with his idea, but somehow the

words began to flow out. “My forefathers…”

Seeing Julia’s attentive attitude, others began

to pay closer attention themselves. Noticing that a

crowd had begun to gather, Allen raised his voice,

“You might all be surprised to learn that my

forefathers came from India. I never really thought

much about it, never really cared that much about

India, but something happened to me last night…I did

a lot of research on India…” He paused to gather his

thoughts. Kelly motioned the band to stop playing. All

52 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

activity in the yard stilled as everyone strained to hear

Allen.

“Did you know that India is a culturally rich

country?” The wonder was evident in his voice. “I

think it’s an amazing country, and I…I think, no, I

feel,” he put his fist against his chest, “that I should

make my next film there.”

“That’s a great idea, Allen,” said Kelly. As Allen

had made his way across the party, she had

maneuvered Garry closer to him. She was stunned by

his announcement, but immediately moved to support

him.

She took his hand as Julia held her glass high

and yelled, “Sign me up! I’ll go to Africa any time!”

“India is in Asia,” Allen said impatiently, but

Julia had already finished off her drink and wasn’t

listening to him. “It’s—” he began to explain to Kelly,

but William was shouting to Julia, “But you said no to

Allen last time he asked, my dear!”

Everyone chuckled, and little conversations

began to break out everywhere. Seeing that the party

was getting out of control, Kelly motioned to the band

to start playing again, and waved the caterers to

continue serving canapes.

“We’ll see, guys,” Martin Chillingsworth

strolled up. Martin had written every screenplay for

Allen since their first collaboration, an 8-minute short

back at university. “No film is ever complete until it is

released.”

53 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Ah, the hell with it all!” William held his glass

up. “Let’s toast Allen’s past success, and wish him

many more in the future!”

“Hear! Hear!”

“Skol!”

“Down the hatch!”

Everyone finished their drinks, and those

guests who were unable to flag down a passing caterer

began heading to the bar.

For the rest of the evening, the talk turned to

celebrity gossip, guesses and hints about future

projects, snide comments about clothing, hairstyles

and dates, and promises to do lunch.

No one asked Allen anything else about the

India project. In the early hours of the next morning,

their curiosity satisfied, their taste buds sated and their

moods lifted, guests began the process of leaving.

When the house was empty again, Allen flopped down

onto a couch, and pulled Kelly down next to him.

“Oh, that was great! Very well managed,

sweetheart.” He played with a stray ringlet in her hair.

“Thanks.” She kicked off her heels and curled

up next to him on the couch. You know how I love to

organize things for you, especially if it is a party.” She

took a sip of wine. “Are you really going to make a

film in India?”

54 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen nodded. “Planning, but not too sure. It’s

too early to decide. But you know how I have been

searching for something meaningful since ‘LOST &

FOUND’. I want to make statements with my films,

Kelly. I don’t want to become some hack director.” He

turned to face her. “Last night, I discovered a part of

Granny that I’d never seen before. A part that she’s

kept hidden for years. She…she really blossomed,

talking about the movies she used to watch in Hindi.”

“Hindi?”

“That’s her mother tongue. The language she

spoke back in India. You should have seen her, Kelly.

She was singing—and dancing. I don’t know when I’ve

seen her so happy. I want to do something for her—

after all this time, make that come alive for her. I want

to,” he stood up, paced in front of Kelly, then stopped.

“I’m going to India to make a movie in Hindi, for

Granny.”

“Then, go for it, Allen—I know you will do

what is best, what your heart says.”

“But I did some research last night. Nobody is

making movies in Hindi any more, and I don’t speak

the language. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this.

It’s going to be a long, tedious job.”

“There must be plenty of people there who will

help you, Allen. I know you, how determined you are.

You won’t let a little thing like not speaking the

language slow you down. For you, writing and

directing films is not a job, it’s a passion. And this

55 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

project is for your Granny. You will find a way. You

must follow your heart.”

Allen replied, “But my heart is with you, and

it says that you are the best.” He dropped back down

next to her

“Always, honey.” Kelly leaned close and they

kissed.

֍֍֍

Later that afternoon, once Allen had dropped

Kelly at her place, he headed back to Granny’s.

“Allen, my boy, you must be hungry,” Granny

said. “Let’s have lunch.”

“Granny, you forgot. We had a party at the

villa. I am still full from that.”

“Oh, my son, I am so sorry. I’m getting old,

that’s why I forgot. Still, let me know when you feel

hungry.”

“I’d like some tea, though, Granny.” He sat as

she fixed the tea. “Guess what, Granny? I’m planning

to shoot my next film in India.”

“Why do you need to make your film there?”

She studied him with worried eyes.

“Don’t you want me to go to your motherland?

Don’t you want your grandson to visit the place you

56 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

were born? I would think you’d be excited for me. For

this idea.” He tried to tease her.

She looked at him in amazement. “It is…it’s

just that it’s so sudden, this interest of yours in my

homeland.”

“It’s sudden only because you never brought it

up before. Granny,” he took her hand in his,

“everything about you is special to me.”

“Okay, son, I know your persistence.” She was

lost in thought. After a pause she continued, “I think

we must not forget our roots. We must remember

where we have come from. But what will you do there?

Do you have a story? Do you know anyone out there?”

He shook his head, turned his teacup in his

hands. “I heard that they produce the highest number

of movies in the world, so first, I will meet the people

from their industry, understand them and their

behavior. Then I will try to learn their culture…only

then can I work up the story on my idea…I might try

to look for a writer there, we’ll see, but first I have to

go there and do some research.”

She listened to him closely. “How long you

would stay there?”

“I can’t say exactly, but it would be a long

trip I guess.” Allen could read Granny’s face. She was

worried about being alone for so long.

57 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Granny, you don’t worry,” he assured her, “I

will be back soon. I can’t live without you for long,

either.” He hugged his granny.

“So, when are you planning to go, son?”

“Next month, probably. I just hope I’ll be able

to communicate with the people there.”

“Don’t worry, son, there are many people who

know English there,” Granny smiled at him.

֍֍֍

“India?” Joe Lamb, renowned producer, nearly

dropped his ever-present cigar. He and Allen were

sitting side by side on one of the leather sofas that

ranged around his enormous office in Movie Mesh

Studio. “But why? Allen, you have got everything you

need right here. Screenplay writers, good actors. If you

want, I will finance a film here. Why do you wanna go

to India to make a film?”

“Creativity knows no boundaries—and I think

I should do what inspires me,” Allen replied.

“Yeah, that’s fine for the masses, but we are

business people also. I know that you made tons of

moolah with your last movie, but do you really think

that people are going to buy an Indian-based movie?

You don’t have a story, you don’t know much about

India. You have gone mad after getting an Oscar, I

guess. Don’t you think it’s time for a shoot-em-up?”

58 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen stubbornly shook his head. “That’s not

the kind of movie that I want to make. You know that,

Joe. Look, if you don’t want to—”

“Do you even know anyone there?” Joe

interrupted.

“No one in particular, but my grandparents are

from there,” Allen folded his arms across his chest.

“This is not the first time a British director-producer

will be shooting a movie in India. I think I will manage,

because I have an idea to work on. Listen to this,” he

stood up and walked around the room, “See what you

think.” He stopped and put his hands on the back of

his chair and leaned forward, “A…” he hesitated, then

began again, his eyes lit with excitement, “‘A UK-born

Indian revisits his ancestors’ country to learn about its

values and rich culture’. Can you see it, Joe? What do

you think?”

“You are getting emotional, Allen. I don’t

know why you want to do this,” Joe objected. “I think

it’s a stupid idea. It’s really not a wise decision at this

point of your career.”

“Don’t think so much, Joe,” Allen hit the back

of the chair with the palm of his hand, “Come with

me,” he invited, “You can travel, see the sights,” but

Joe just shook his head.

“Thanks for the offer, Allen, but no. Good luck

to you, though. I wish you the best.” They shook hands.

“Let me know if you need any help.”

“Thanks, Joe. I’ll be in touch.”

59 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

In the weeks leading up to Allen’s departure

for India, Granny spent as much time as possible with

him. He had invited her to go along, but she was not

up to such an extended trip. And he would be busy

with his movie—there would be no one to take care of

her. Her heart was heavy with the thought of his

prolonged absence, but she was cheered that, not only

was he doing what he loved, he would be in her

beloved India. It was almost like going home, herself.

Each day, she eagerly awaited his footsteps

coming through the courtyard. As he roamed from

room to room, gathering what things he would need,

talking on the phone to this producer and that one in

India, as the two of them sat at the worn kitchen table

and shared a cup of chai tea, she soaked in his every

movement, his vaguest gesture, the look of his hair as

a lock fell over his forehead. When he left at the end

of each day, she opened his closet so that the fragrance

exuding from his clothes would fill the air of her flat.

At her age, she could only hope that she would

still be fully alert and well when Allen finally returned.

Lately, her memory had seemed to fail more than it

used to, and she had been coming down with every

virus that was passed around. Neither of them would

mention the possibility out loud, but when their eyes

met, they shared the unspoken desire to make as many

memories in these days before he left as they could.

She longed to share her grief at his upcoming absence

with someone, but there were only the plants to

60 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

understand her feelings. Their housekeeper, Jessica,

was very helpful, but she wasn’t family.

Finally, the morning they had dreaded, the day

they had awaited, arrived. Allen chuckled sourly at the

thought that the hovering fog, which obscured

everything beyond a few meters away, matched his

dour mood. As always, Granny helped him pack his

luggage. Since he’d been a little boy, off to overnights

or school, she had checked through his luggage to

make sure he had everything. It was part of their ritual

now that he still needed that guidance. She sat in her

favorite recliner, and checked each item off her list as

Allen carefully stowed all of the shirts and pants

Granny had ironed and folded for him.

“Granny,” he chided her, “you are still using

paper and pencil? Have you ever heard of a thing called

an e-notebook?”

“Eh? What, son? I can’t hear you.” This give-

and-take was part of their ritual, too, to help them

laugh when they really wanted to cry.

Now she looked over the list again. “Did you

remember your toothbrush?”

“Oh, drat,” Allen said, “I’ll be right back.”

“See what you would forget without me?” she

called after him.

“You know I love to forget something,” he

smiled as he tucked his toothbrush into a zippered

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compartment, “because I know that you will remind

me.”

“You will never change,” Granny laughed and

fanned herself with the paper, conveniently hiding her

eyes, which were moist for some reason.

Allen was just depositing his luggage by the

front door when Kelly knocked from the other side.

“We knew it was you, Kelly, before you

knocked,” said Granny, as Kelly gave her a hug. “Your

perfume is as fresh as you are.”

She kissed Allen. “Everything ready, honey?”

He nodded. “Yes, Granny has been a real

taskmaster this morning.”

“That is why I love my Granny,” Kelly said.

“Always keeps Allen in line.”

“Well, Granny, it’s time,” he said.

“Do take care of yourself, son. Oh, I cannot

tell you how happy I am that you will stand on my

motherland for the first time. Give my regards to

Mother Earth.” She brushed at her tears.

Allen gathered her gently into his arms. “Don’t

worry, Granny. I will be all right. It’s you I’m worried

about. Don’t spend too much time in the garden, and

take care of yourself.”

“I will make sure that she rests properly,” Kelly

promised.

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“Granny,” Allen took her hands in his, “would

you give me your blessing? I want to have that in my

heart when I make this film to honor your homeland.”

“Of course. God bless you, my son. I will miss

you.”

“I will come to see you everyday while Allen is

gone,” Kelly tried to console her.

“No, Kelly,” Granny managed a laugh, “or

Allen will be jealous of our friendship.”

Allen and Kelly joined in the mirth. They were

all still smiling as they headed out the door. Granny

waited by the car as Allen stowed his luggage, then

gave him another hug, holding him tight before she

let him go and patted his cheek.

“I’ll call you every day, Granny,” Allen

promised, as he held her hand through the car window.

“Now, get back inside. It’s damp out here.”

“When you’ve gone, son. I want to have a last

look at you.” She tearfully waved as they pulled away.

Allen had left for long periods of time before on shoots,

but never before had he been headed to her

homeland—a place she hadn’t seen in 50 years, not

since her parents had died.

Allen also turned around to strain for one last

glimpse. Only when he could no longer see her did he

turn back to face Kelly.

“And you, Honey, I miss you already.”

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“I miss you, too,” her mouth was trembling.

“Don’t worry about Granny,” she said, as he went to

speak, “I will take care of her.”

“Thank you, Kelly.” He kissed the palm of her

hand. “Yet another reason I love you.”

“No need to thank me, Allen, I love taking care

of Granny.”

“And I really do love you…”

“I will miss you each moment you are gone,

Allen. Come back as soon as you can.”

They kissed each other again outside the

terminal, and said a final goodbye. Allen waved once

more, then stepped inside to join the queue at check-

in. He showed his ID and whisked his phone under

the scanner at the gate, then found a seat where he

could observe the other passengers until the flight was

ready to leave. Sometimes he got his best story ideas

just from watching the curious behavior of other

people.

He noticed that most of the people were on

this flight to Mumbai were Asian, and that many of

them had their mobile phones out, taking selfies and

pictures of each other.

A voice in his ear startled him. “Hello, Mr.

Allen, yes? You are the one who won the Oscar for

Best Director this year?”

To his left, a well-dressed Asian gentlemen was

grinning at him like a Cheshire cat. The combination

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of successful businessman and childish eagerness was

almost too much for Allen. He bit the inside of his

cheek to keep from laughing. The man raised his hand

to shake, and Allen controlled himself enough to

answer him with a smile.

“Yes, sir,” he confirmed, “that’s me.”

“It’s a great pleasure to meet you, sir. I am Biz

Rahwana. Do you mind, may I take a picture with you?”

“Yeah, sure.” Allen stood. People around them

started to stare and gather. A few of them pointed his

way, and he could hear his name being mentioned

throughout the crowd. More and more passengers

lined up for selfies with him. At first, he was amused.

He had never dreamed that one Oscar would so change

his life. After several rounds of photographs, though,

Allen had had about enough. His charm and his smile

were fading, and more than one person reminded him,

“Now, smile, please.” He wondered how in the world

actors were able to maintain their composure for so

long in public, let alone put on whatever face was

called for, take after take.

“Thank God I am behind the camera,” Allen

muttered over the head of an elderly Asian lady who

had tucked herself under his arm for her turn with the

celebrity.

“What did you say?”

“Sorry,” Allen said, “Nothing. I didn’t realize I

said that out loud.” He made an effort to re-engage his

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smile for one last group of passengers, but it was no

use.

“Oh, Uncle, that is too bad,” one little girl

commented, when she didn’t get the picture she

wanted, “you are the director and you don’t know how

to smile in front of the camera.”

At first, Allen was upset by her comment, but

then he realized: How easy it was to criticize someone

else’s work. Riding in a boat is one thing. It’s not until

you are captain that you actually learn how difficult it

is to sail when you are stuck in a giant storm in the

ocean. This time, his credibility at issue, Allen tried

hard to get the right picture for the girl.

Not nearly soon enough, there was an

announcement to board the plane. As he headed down

the jetway, Allen sent a silent prayer of thanks to the

announcer who had saved his reputation as a selfless

director and mobile camera hero.

Allen’s business class seat came with a

computer screen and an adjacent bar, but he was

whipped, and just wanted to relax, hopefully to sleep

through some part of the trip. He looked out the

window, but the tarmac wasn’t moving under the

wings yet. It might be awhile before they got going.

He sat back and rolled his shoulders, easing into his

little nest. Next to him, he could see a young man, in

his mid-20’s, dressed for business travel. The man

glanced around the cabin, then quickly opened the

luggage rack and immediately closed it again. He

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thought for a moment, then re-opened it and took out

a bag. He turned around and smiled at Allen. Allen

smiled back.

“Huh,” the man said, “I was right. You were

the one, the one people were taking pictures with.”

His badly-hidden sneer suggested that he had

discovered something nefarious.

Even though Allen had had enough of picture-

taking, he mustered up a genuine smile. “Yes, you’re

right.”

The man clicked a picture and did a quick face

scan on his phone. “Oh, my God!” he exclaimed.

“You’re that director! Nice to meet you,” he just about

shook Allen’s arm off in his excitement. Once he had

his own selfie with Allen, he seemed to realize that he

was being intrusive. He sat down, but couldn’t seem

to take his eyes off Allen. To discourage him from

further conversation, Allen pretended to fall asleep. He

turned toward the window, but opened his eyes when

a hand landed on his shoulder.

“Excuse me, may I exchange this window seat

for mine?”

Allen looked at the man in surprise. “Is there

something wrong? You can see the window as well as

I can.”

The man bent closer to Allen. “Well, you know,

I’m a writer, so I need to think. And I just don’t get

inspired until I can see nature. I hope, as a director,

you understand.” He smiled.

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Allen was a bit shocked and surprised. He

didn’t know what to say in this unusual situation. He

shrugged and exchanged seats.

“So, are you are professional writer?” Allen

looked back at the man.

“No, sir, I am an Associate Vice President of

Marketing, but writing has been my hobby since

childhood.”

“Great, you are multi-talented. What kinds of

things do you write?” Allen was hoping at least for a

good story for his film out of this strange encounter.

The man lifted his eyebrows and pressed his

lips together. In a very cultured voice he said, “Well,

my writing standard is so high that most people have

a difficult time grasping my concepts.”

“What’s the point of writing something that

nobody can understand?” Allen had to grin at the

man’s pretentiousness.

“That’s the problem,” the man was oblivious

to Allen’s sarcasm. “There isn’t anyone who actually

understands my writing. It is beyond most people.”

Allen couldn’t help staring at the man. He wasn’t sure

how to respond to this unadulterated garbage.

“Would you care to read some of my work?

Perhaps, as a director, you could glean an idea for a

movie.”

Allen had to suppress a chuckle. “Sorry luv, I’m

afraid my brain isn’t lofty enough to understand such

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highly exquisite writing.” Allen closed his eyes before

the man could read the expression in them.

The writer murmured something that Allen

couldn’t hear, and turned his attention outside the

plane.

The flight from London to Mumbai rose into

the cloudless sky. Beautiful air hostesses began serving

food to everyone. Most of them looked as good as any

Hollywood actress. Dressed in blue coats, with red

scarves tied at the neck, they kept up constant smiles

even in the face of the most recalcitrant passengers.

I found posing for just a few pictures with

strangers tiring, Allen thought. But that is one tough

job, being polite even when someone is not behaving.

I don’t think that I could hold down that job for more

than an hour. The first time somebody said something

rude to me for no good reason, I’d explode.

With an extra appreciation for the world

outside filmmaking, Allen paid attention when the

hostess spoke, helped her place the sandwich and drink

he had ordered on his tray, and made a neat pile of

the leavings. His belly full, tired from his leave taking,

he was asleep before she came back to gather the trash.

He didn’t wake for many hours, and when he did, his

seatmate was still out. Allen turned to the internet

with relief, and his fingers tapped the keyboard until

the pilot announced their arrival in Mumbai.

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CHAPTER – 3

[*MUMBAI – INDIA *]

s the plane circled high above Mumbai,

Allen stared out the window. Over the

A years, he had heard a lot about this city.

It was a movie mecca as well-known as L.A., India’s

Bollywood in contrast to the U.S. Hollywood. There

were bound to be quite a few people here who could

be helpful when he got his movie underway. But for

now, he wanted to learn about the home of his

ancestors. If he was going to create a movie to give

Granny back her heritage, he needed to know

something about it first.

As the plane drew contrail paths across the sky

above Mumbai, he marveled at the expanse of

buildings below him. He tried to fix the whole of the

city in his mind, so that he could retrieve the memory

whenever he wanted, to share it with Granny when he

got back to London. She hadn’t lived here, she was

from somewhere called Banaras, but he knew her. She

would ask question after question until he had satisfied

every last bit of her curiosity.

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It was easy to let his gaze wander over the

landscape. The city was so exotic, with strange

architecture, but also curiously modern at the same

time. He just couldn’t get enough of this place, where

his ancestors had once trod the streets. Being here

gave him a strange feeling. Although there was no one

in Mumbai that Allen knew, he still felt as if somehow

he already knew everyone there.

In the terminal, his seatmate the writer caught

up with him.

“So,” Allen asked, “did you get a lot of writing

done in your dreams?”

“Oh, no,” the man huffed. “I wasn’t asleep.

Actually, I was so lost in deep thought that I couldn’t

sleep.” He touched his forehead. “I was writing

everything in my mind. I was deep into my imagination.

That’s where I live, in a world of my own creation, a

world which doesn’t exist.”

The man droned on and on, but Allen had

already tuned him out. Pretending to read one of the

maps conveniently posted on the wall, he waved

goodbye and quickly walked away.

As he came out of the airport, he saw a large

number of taxis nearby, along with metros and

monorails, for getting around the city. He hadn’t

decided which mode of transportation to take, so he

stood for a moment, craning his neck at all the sights.

“First time in India, sir?” A man standing next

to one of the taxis asked. The man was lean, in his

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early 30s, dressed smartly in a uniform with a patch

on the left pocket announcing that his name was

‘RANGA G’. There was something so infectious in

Ranga’s smile, as though he constantly had something

to looking forward to, that Allen found himself smiling

back, even as he was stunned at the man’s insight.

“Yes, this is my first visit,” Allen replied. “How

did you know that?”

Ranga smiled. “The way you are drinking in

this beautiful country. When anyone enters a country

for the first time, he or she looks at the sky to compare

it to home.”

“I see,” Allen nodded, “very smart.”

“My name is Ranga G. Where would you like

to go, sir? May I help you?”

“Yes, please, Ranga, thank you,” Allen turned

over the handle of his luggage to the taxi driver. “I

need to look for a good hotel, preferably seaside.”

“Of course, sir. If you are on vacation, looking

to combine an exotic city with the best of sun and sea,

Mumbai is an ideal destination.”

Allen’s new self-appointed tour guide, Ranga

continued to talk as he shut the passenger door behind

Allen and climbed in the driver’s seat. He touched his

Lord Shiva idol, which he had placed on dashboard of

the car, then started the electric car without missing

a beat.

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“Mumbai is India’s largest, most prosperous

city. Here you will find everything from underground

colonies to vast skyscrapers to fashionable apartment

blocks and high-rise buildings. We also have the very

finest gourmet restaurants, as well as temples, green

parks, street markets, and, of course, the Taj Mahal

Hotel.”

Ranga stopped for breath, so Allen asked

politely, “The Taj Mahal?”

Ranga looked Allen over, then hit the steering

wheel with his hand. “The Taj it is,” he proclaimed. “I

will drop you there. It has been a top-rated hotel for

more than 200 years, and you look like the kind of

man who would appreciate that kind of excellence.”

“Thank you,” said Allen. “That sounds perfect.”

“Oh, wait,” Ranga said, “Sir, please wear this.”

He lifted an oxygen mask off the front passenger seat

and handed it Allen.

“What is this?” Allen looked at the mask in

surprise.

“Sir, here we suffer from pollution of the air,”

Ranga explained. “It makes for beautiful sunsets, but

also makes it difficult for newcomers to breathe. This

mask will help you until you can adjust to it.”

“Do you mean that I will have to wear this the

whole time I’m India?”

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Allen looked at the oxygen mask with

displeasure. There hadn’t been anything about this

encumbrance in all the glowing pages of the internet.

“Oh, no, sir,” Ranga smiled, “within a few days

you will be acclimated, but you will need it on the

streets until then.”

Ranga pressed the accelerator and slowly pulled

away from the terminal. Allen watched, fascinated. For

all its modernity, Mumbai hadn’t yet implemented

auto-driving vehicles. Ranga was actually steering his

taxi.

Allen took a couple of deep breaths. “Yes, that

is better,” his voice was muffled, but Ranga smiled in

understanding anyway. “Where did the smog come

from?”

This time, Ranga looked puzzled and shrugged

his shoulders, as if he couldn’t understand what Allen

had said.

Allen pulled the mask away from his mouth

and repeated, “Why is there so much air pollution?”

“There is a quote I like,” Ranga said in response,

“‘God gave us nature to nurture it, and we destroyed

it in the name of technology.’ So, this had to happen

someday.” Allen nodded. “The quote is from the movie

‘LOST & FOUND’. Are you familiar with that movie?”

It was Allen’s turn to smile enigmatically.

As they left the airport for the main road, they

were suddenly surrounded by traffic. Ranga dodged in

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and out of the cars with the ease of a top fuel race car

driver.

“We must be careful, sir,” he said with a smile.

“We are at the top in population, also.”

Ranga kept up a running commentary as he

pointed out sights all along the trip. Allen felt almost

dizzy looking here, there, and everywhere, trying to

keep up with Ranga. Allen was impressed with all the

high-rise buildings, electric cars, metros, and the

monorail running along the skyline.

One thing struck him as odd, though. Even

though he kept his neck bent back and his head craned

upwards, most of the people on the streets were

looking down.

“Why are they looking down?” he asked Ranga.

By this time, he had decided that Ranga knew just

about everything of importance.

“Sir, in this year of 2117, India is the most

populated country in the world. Along with the

greatest population, India has the most mobile phone

users in the world. Everyone uses mobile phones, and

everyone uses their phones all the time. I think this is

the reason their neck is always bent downwards.

Remember Darwin’s theory of evolution? That is why

Indians look down—they have evolved that way!”

Ranga guffawed at Allen’s look of confusion.

The taxi driver was still laughing as he

suddenly jammed on his brakes and stopped inches

from the car in front of him. Allen almost flew into

75 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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the seat beside Ranga. Slowly, Allen inched himself

back into his seat, and made ready to put up a bracing

arm as soon as they started forward again, but they

continued to idle in traffic, unable to move.

Noting Allen’s nervousness, Ranga went on,

“Sir, the roads are really jam-packed at this time, but

don’t worry, this traffic is very normal here.”

Allen nodded uncertainly in response. He

jumped when the first horn honked. Another joined it,

then another. Soon all of the drivers were honking,

non-stop.

“Do not worry, sir,” Ranga assured him, “we

are also a musical people.”

Allen grinned behind his mask, resigned to a

day of strange adventures.

“That is the beauty of this country, sir. You

will get to see everything on the road, people, pets,

parties…I mean everything….What is your name, sir?”

“Allen.”

“My name, Ranga, means colors. What is the

meaning of Allen?”

Allen shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just my

name.”

“Ah.” Ranga changed the subject with an effort.

He was obviously confused by the idea of a name that

meant nothing. “What do you do, sir?”

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“Allen,” he reminded Ranga. “Please call me

Allen. And I make movies. I mean I am a film director.”

“Ah, I like movies,” Ranga brightened up.

“They just had the Oscars. I watched them all, every

minute.” Ranga looked at Allen again. Helpfully, Allen

pulled the mask away from his face. “Oh, are you the

one who won the Oscar for Best Director? And Best

Film?”

“Yes,” Allen said, “That’s me.”

“‘LOST & FOUND’!” Ranga shouted. “That’s

my favorite movie!”

In the confines of the car, he twisted himself

sideways to shake hands with Allen. While speeding

along, he dug in his pockets for a pen and electronic

notebook. “May I have your autograph, sir—Allen?”

Allen tried to avoid Ranga’s request. “Please,

Ranga, I need a drink of water. Can we stop so that I

can get some?”

“Sorry, sir,” Ranga frowned, “Didn’t you read

at the airport that you are only allowed to have 10

liters of water a day?”

“What? How can I survive on 10 liters per day?

I thought India was the country of rivers, that there

would be plenty of water.”

Ranga cut in. “Sir, you must have read old data.

There is plenty of water, but the population is very

high.”

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Allen whispered, “Oh, God. This is nothing

like I expected. Did I make the right decision to come

here?”

“Don’t worry, sir, as you are our guest, I will

serve you water.”

Ranga reached on the floor in front of the

passenger seat as Allen imagined all of the ways they

could die in a fiery crash while Ranga’s attention was

diverted from the road. But Ranga pulled out the

bottle and had his eyes back on the roadway before

there was any real danger, and handed a bottle to Allen

from his own stock. Allen downed the entire bottle. It

was chilled and very refreshing in the heat.

“But sir, you must know,” Ranga had

apparently not finished with the tour guide lecture.

“Don’t waste the water here. It is a severe crime these

days. We are no longer in the 21st century when you

could waste as much water as you wanted. Now, in the

22nd century, you need to keep a record of how much

water you consume in a day.” Ranga grinned.

Allen was shocked. “But how can the

government keep track of who is drinking more water?”

“We get a whole month’s stock of drinking

water delivered to our homes by officials. If we use

that up and buy more, then we need to submit those

purchases so the government can keep track.”

“Oh, freak! How could they do this? Aren’t the

politicians doing anything about the water situation?

Are they so careless and stupid?”

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“No sir, they are the smartest people we have.

They kept fighting to have elections made on the basis

of caste and religion, and we stupid people thought

that they were right. No one did anything about it,

and now this is the situation we are in. Is that not the

case the world over?”

Allen thought Ranga’s point about politicians

was well taken. They wanted to be elected on almost

any criteria other than their ability to govern and by

God, the people obliged them and then were surprised

at the quality of their government.

Lost in thought, he jerked his head at the

sounds of honking close by. People were asking them

to move on. Finally, traffic eased up enough for Ranga

to create a path.

At the Taj, Allen ran his debit card through

the taxi’s scanner and added a generous tip. “Okay,

Ranga. Thank you so much. You have been really

helpful.” Allen gave him his oxygen mask back, glad to

be able to breathe once again without it.

“No problem, Allen, sir. I am always available.

I am helpful with many things. I can drive you around,

and if you don’t find an actor for your film, I can do

that too, for free.”

“Wow, that is so nice of you, Ranga. I will give

you a call next time I need a taxi, and I will let you

know if I need an actor.”

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Ranga gave his cell number to Allen, and they

shook hands. Ranga waved as he drove away, and Allen

turned to the Taj.

The Taj Mahal Hotel had certainly kept its

200-year-old legacy alive. From the outside, the Taj is

not just a hotel, it is a state of grace. Inside, Allen felt

like a prince in a palace. The staff welcomed him with

a garland of marigolds, and greeted him with a smile.

Throughout the lobby, artfully displayed antiques were

set off against a backdrop of beautifully decorated walls

and ceiling. Even so, and despite the exotic name, the

Taj was a completely contemporary hotel. Allen didn’t

know whether the Taj had been built during the age

of the British Empire, or had copied that look, but it

had captured perfectly the union of Indian and British

architecture. The Taj was not just a hotel, it was a

symbol of pride for all of India.

Once in his room, Allen marveled at the

excellence before him. Like the city in which it was

located, this room in the Palace Wing exuded an aura

of old-world charm and elegance in tandem with the

latest in technology. It was adorned with delicate

Rajput bay windows that encased spectacular views of

the city. He hastened to one window, where he

couldn’t help contrasting the subdued elegance of the

Taj with the strange beauty of the city laid out before

him.

The doorbell rang. “Room service” was Indian

tea and snacks. The fragrance of the tea was so familiar,

Allen was startled.

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“Isn’t this chai tea?” he asked the waiter, and

received an affirmative nod. Allen held the cup near

his face, inhaling the aroma. “It is strange,” he

murmured, “it is so like home, but then, I guess, in a

way this is home, after all.”

Once he’d settled in, Allen rang Kelly on his

phone.

“Hello, Sweetheart. It’s good to see you.”

“How was your trip?” Even over electronics and

across space, Allen could make out Kelly’s special smile.

“It was good. Long. You should see this

amazing place I’m staying.” He pointed the phone at

the window.

“Wow.”

“But that doesn’t do it justice.”

“I hope you haven’t found a new love in

Mumbai.”

Allen laughed. “No, Sweetheart, never.” They

caught up for a few minutes, then Allen said, “Okay,

honey, I will talk to you later. I have to explore the

city.”

“I’ll be here. Take care.” Kelly cut the call.

Before he went out, Allen got a quick nap. By

the time he was up and ready, evening was close and

the air had cooled off. He stepped outside the Taj, and

was delighted to see so many people walking around.

Most of them were tourists, taking photographs of

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themselves with the Taj in the background, or

capturing the Gateway of India in their cameras,

panoramas of the ocean that lapped against the walls

of Mumbai. Allen found an empty table on the

promenade next to the Taj, and sat there for some

time, enjoying the sights and smells of the ocean.

֍֍֍

The next morning, he called Andy Chopra, the

owner of Y R Studio.

“Mr. Chopra, it’s Allen. I’m here in India. Can

we meet today?…Okay, sure. What time? Do message

me the address, please…thanks again. See ya.”

He pulled Ranga’s card out of his wallet. “Hello,

Ranga, Allen here.”

“Hello, sir, it is very good to hear from you

again. When do you want me to come for the shoot?”

Allen stifled a laugh as Ranga went on and on.

“Very soon maybe,” Allen broke in, “but right

now I have to go to the Y R Studio.”

“Sure, sir, I’ll be by in 25 minutes.”

In less than 10 minutes, Allen was in his

favorite jeans and blue checked shirt, waiting. Ranga

was a few minutes late, and Allen spent the time

wandering through the lobby and adjoining rooms of

the Taj. He soon found himself lost in a myriad of

paintings, vases, mirrors, and chandeliers. As he stood

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in front of one particularly ornate mirror, one of the

staff made his way over.

“Hello, sir, I am Ritvik. May I help you?”

“What? Oh, yes, thanks. I was looking at your

pieces here. They are really lovely. Where did they

come from?”

“Thank you, sir. We are very proud of these

pieces. They were purchased back in 1910. The Taj

has the greatest collection of antiques outside of any

museum.”

“Aren’t you afraid they’ll be stolen?”

Ritvik chuckled, “Yes, we are sir, but,

unfortunately, no one has these stuff. We had really

thrown them out of life once but now we desire to get

them back and keep them as antique at home as some

just don’t know the value of this stuff. Is there

anything else I can help you with? Some coffee or tea?”

“No, no thank you. I just wanted to look at

these while I was waiting for my ride.”

“Of course, sir, please let me know whether

you require anything else.”

So far, Allen had been very impressed by all of

the staff that he had met. Each one had been very

warm and helpful and never missed an opportunity to

make him feel at home. In more ways than one, the

Taj was like a home away from home.

83 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Ranga called up to say that he had arrived, and

was waiting outside. Allen took a last admiring glance

at the luxuriously appointed hotel and walked outside.

Ranga opened the back door of the cab for him.

“Good morning, sir.”

“Good morning, Ranga.”

Ranga handed the oxygen mask to Allen. “Do

not forget this, sir.” Allen wrinkled his nose in distaste,

but adjusted the mask to his face.

“You know, Ranga, I feel like an astronaut

when I wear this thing.” They both laughed.

On the way to the studio, Ranga hummed

along to a song in English. As the car stopped for a

light, someone knocked on the window. Allen slid

down the glass. A well-dressed man held out his hand

with swipe machine. Allen looked at him puzzled.

“Beggars, Allen,” Ranga explained. “It’s a

problem here. At every street you’ll see a beggar.” He

waved off the beggar, “We have nothing for you today!”

he yelled through the window, then drove away.

“He was awfully well dressed for a poor man

having swipe machine in hand. Did he just lose his job,

you think?” Allen asked. “Doesn’t India have some kind

of welfare system?”

“No, sir, actually begging is a good business

itself. It is flourishing day by day.”

84 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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Allen would have asked more, but he was

jolted almost out of his seat as one wheel suddenly

dropped into a pothole. The city roads were rough and

filled with potholes, and Allen once again found

himself bracing himself. The condition of the roads did

nothing to discourage all of the food vendors who had

set up snack stalls on the shoulders, though. The stalls

were so close to the road that some of the patrons

were standing almost in the line of traffic. No one

seemed to mind as cars darted just centimeters away.

Not a single stall was empty. All along the way, people

were relishing the roadside delicacies.

Ranga said, “I hope you have plenty of water

in the hotel. Outside, it is difficult for people like me.”

Allen nodded. “They’re treating me quite well.”

He looked around. “This trip is taking a very long time.

There is so much traffic today.”

“No, sir, this is normal, but please remember

whenever you have to travel on Mumbai roads, don’t

drink too much water.”

Allen quirked an eyebrow. “Why do you say

that?”

“Here it takes lot of time to reach from one

place to another, and we don’t have mobile toilets like

you guys have in your country,” Ranga laughed.

Caged inside his mask, unaccustomed to the

heat, bounced around by the potholes, smelling the

unusual food, hemmed in by all the unusual customs,

trapped by the long car ride, Allen began feeling out

85 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

of sorts. He glared at Ranga’s latest attempt at humor.

“Why must you talk so much, Ranga?”

Ranga was not the type to easily be offended,

however. He grinned and said, “Sir, there are two types

of drivers in India: one who talks a lot and others who

do not speak at all.” He touched his thumb to his chest.

“I am the first one.”

Allen glanced at him, but Ranga was smiling

innocently.

It was an hour and a half before Ranga stopped

at the gate to the studio. “Sir, this is the most famous

studio in India. It has been expanding for the last 125

years.”

In a better mood since he’d finally reached his

destination and could remove his mask, Allen said,

“Thanks, man.”

“Call me, Allen, if you need any help.”

“Sure, friend.”

Allen waved as Ranga drove away. He walked

through the studio lot. It was quite large, and there

was a lot of activity, with a number of shoots going

on. Everyone was dashing by, in a great hurry, engaged

in many different tasks. Two people passed him

without a glance. From their discussion it was clear

that one of them was a director and the other one was

a cinematographer.

Allen stopped to watch one shoot going on to

his right. He tried to keep clear as people ran by him,

86 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

unnecessarily shouting at one other. Others were

frantically waving their hands in the air, asking

everyone to keep calm. It looked like some kind of war

zone. Down one corridor, some actors were having an

intense discussion under an umbrella, held over their

heads by a thin man not much wider than the umbrella

handle. An actress preened in a full-length mirror

propped against a wall for her benefit, not taking her

eyes off herself even as she spoke to the people around

her. Allen stood for awhile, enjoying seeing how

serious these people were about their work.

Suddenly someone shouted, “Hello sir! Mr.

Checked Shirt!”

Allen glanced down at his shirt, then turned in

the direction of the voice.

“Yes sir, you. Excuse me, but you are blocking

the shot.”

“Sorry.” Allen continued on to the offices. In

the gallery next to the reception area there were many

old photographs of shoots. Fascinated, he stopped to

examine the stills. He was engrossed in the past when

an aide came up to him.

“How may I help you, sir?” The aide asked.

“I am Allen. I have an appointment with Mr.

Chopra. Could you please guide me to the office?”

“Right this way, sir.” The aide turned smartly

and led him to the CEO’s office. “He’ll be right with

you, sir.”

87 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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Allen studied the office while he waited. It was

lavishly decorated, and the walls were covered with

pictures of Indian legends who had contributed

immensely to the Indian cinema. He began to read a

newspaper clipping about the man who had founded

this studio, Mr. Y. R. Chopra, the great-great-

grandfather of the current Mr. Chopra. The article

stated that it had been Mr. Chopra’s dream to set up

India’s biggest studio, “where people’s dreams can be

made into reality”. Amazing man, thought Allen, and

turned as Andy Chopra entered the office. Allen was

struck by the sheer presence of the man. At around 45

years of age, Mr. Chopra was at the height of his power.

He was sharply dressed in a three-piece suit complete

with bow tie, and his steely dark eyes took Allen in at

a glance. What surprised Allen was that Mr. Chopra

had fair skin, topped by meticulously cut and waved

blond hair.

“Hello, Mr. Chopra, it’s very nice to meet you,”

Allen greeted him with a smile and the two men shook

hands.

“Same here, Mr. Allen. It is our privilege that

the Best Director of the Year came to meet us,”

Chopra ushered Allen to a chair. “I saw your film.

Amazing. It must have done a great box office business

across the world.”

“I don’t know the exact dollar amounts,” Allen

waved off business considerations. “Maybe it worked

because I didn’t make it to earn money but to

entertain people with a message. When you follow

88 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

your passion, with honest effort and intentions, your

film is bound to be a success.”

“Very true, Mr. Allen. You have been very

successful in your chosen career. But things are

different in the UK than here in Mumbai. Anyone who

comes to Mumbai to direct a movie has many obstacles

to overcome. He must struggle for many years. Then

if he is lucky, he gets a chance to direct a movie. Only

after making two to three box office hits he can also

think of becoming a producer. Rather than thinking

about passion and creativity, people think of different

ways of making money in this field because without

money no one would recognize you here.” He grinned

at Allen and lit a cigar. “So, how can I help you, sir?”

“Well, to be frank, I want to make a film here

in India,” Allen said.

“That’s great!” Mr. Chopra ashed his cigar.

“And you came to me. How flattering.” His relaxed

attitude suggested that it was no more than was

expected, however.

“Since you are the biggest producer in India,”

Allen went on, “I would certainly appreciate your

assistance in hiring the best people possible.”

“I would be most pleased to assist where I can,

Mr. Allen. It is my privilege to work with you,” Mr.

Chopra continued. “No actor, writer, musician or any

other artist dares to say no to us. You name the person,

I promise you will get to work with him.”

89 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen tried to hide his shock. Mr. Chopra was

obviously a man used to being in control. It would do

Allen well to be wary of relying on his assistance too

much. Seemingly oblivious to the effect his words were

having on his guest, Mr. Chopra had already changed

subjects. “Do you have any story in mind?” He leaned

forward and clasped his hands together on his desk.

“Not exactly. I am still looking for the story. I

thought maybe first I would roam around the country

and try to understand the culture, or see if I can get

a good story from a writer. I strongly believe that

stories are all around, we just need to find one whose

emotional impact suits our needs.”

“Very impressive.” While the words seemed

favorable, Mr. Chopra immediately dismissed Allen’s

comments in favor of his own ideas. “If you are

interested, we have got terrific story ideas, which we

have been using for ages.” Chopra brought out his

phone and created a holographic presentation on the

desk. “Rich guy, poor girl. Two brothers, one is a cop,

the other is gangster. Two friends fight for the same

girl. Guy falls in love with engaged girl and chases

her—he fights with everyone. Dhoom 100 – our most

popular action series. Girl falls in love with a bad guy.

A loser fights against the odds and comes out as a hero.”

Chopra was so engrossed in the stories that he

was actually acting out the ideas as he went along.

“Twins, who are separated as children, then are

destined to meet later as enemies…” Allen nodded his

head. “These formulas are tried and true. Mr. Khan,

90 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Mr. Kapoor, Mr. Kumar, all of the Indian megastars,

they are all dying to do these films after listening to

these ideas.”

Allen paid close attention to each idea.

Mr. Chopra gazed intently at Allen, as if willing him

to pick one. His voice was soft yet full of authority.

“You will get the best Indian talent for your

film, with contracts for as long as you want,” Mr.

Chopra promised. “Any location, anytime. Sir,” he

stressed, “This is India…we know how to make things

happen, to easily open doors for you. Also, if you wish

us to produce your film, I am open to that as well.

Our banner name is enough for a good opening of any

film in India.”

Allen listened carefully, interested in the inner

workings of Indian movie making. Somehow, with all

of Mr. Chopra’s glib talk, there seemed to be a

threatening undercurrent. Perhaps it was all of the “we

will make it happen” and “everyone will be available

for you, as long as you want”. He felt a tiny shudder

at his shoulder blades and was thankful that he did not

have to make a living in India’s film industry. Hopefully,

he could merely skirt Mr. Chopra’s influence when

making his own film. Meanwhile, he worked to

convey the appropriate sense of gratitude and wonder

at Mr. Chopra’s power in his voice.

“Wow, Mr. Chopra. Everything is set. Thank

you so much for the help. You have made everything

easy for me.”

91 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“My pleasure, Mr. Allen.” Apparently Allen had

been able to strike the correct tone, because Mr.

Chopra glowed with pleasure. “Are you planning to

release your movie worldwide?”

“Yes,” Allen responded. “In India it would be

fine, but outside India we’ll have to dub it.”

Mr. Chopra gave Allen a surprised look. “Dub

it? What language are you are planning to make this

movie in? Russian, German, Chinese, Spanish or have

you blokes forgotten your own English tongue?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m making this movie

in Hindi,” Allen told him happily.

“Whaaatttt?”

The

stunned

look

on

Mr. Chopra’s face shocked Allen. The room was

absolutely silent as Mr. Chopra stared at Allen as

though in a trance. Allen couldn’t figure out what the

problem was.

“I’m sorry, sir, that you have come all this way

for nothing.” Mr. Chopra paused, then said, “Hindi is

no more.” Mr. Chopra looked concerned, while it was

Allen’s turn to be taken aback.

Allen couldn’t believe that he had heard right.

“I…I’m sorry…Whatttt.…What do you mean by that?”

he stammered.

“Mr. Allen, I regret to inform you that Hindi

doesn’t exist any more,” Chopra explained. “The only

place you’ll find any Hindi now is on Indian currency.”

He smiled beatifically.

92 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“But I want to make this film in Hindi,” Allen

objected. “The cast and the location should be Indian,

and the dialogue….” he waved his hands helplessly,

“well, everything should be in the Hindi language.”

“Then I am afraid that you are 100 years too

late, Mr. Allen,” Mr. Chopra said gently, as though

afraid that any further shock would paralyze Allen

completely. “Hindi began to vanish 100 years ago, and

gradually it has completely disappeared. Now no one

in India knows Hindi.”

Allen was speechless. There was the silence of

the desert in Allen’s ears, but the roar of the storm in

his mind. Mr. Chopra’s words echoed throughout his

brain. They were both silent for a long while.

“But,” eventually Mr. Chopra held up a hand,

“I am so generous, I help my guests in any way that I

can. Here, Mr. Allen, are the numbers of all the top

actors, technicians and artists,” he dug in his desk

drawer and pulled out a file, then tossed it across the

desk at Allen. “You can meet with them and ask them

if anyone knows Hindi. But I am very sure that you

will be disappointed.”

Allen picked up the file. Before he could open

it, Chopra pointed his cigar at him. “But I wanna

ask you one thing, Mr. Allen. Why does an Englishman

want to make a film in the Hindi language, which

nobody understands, including Indians?”

Allen replied, “Because I have Indian blood

running in my veins.” His voice turned cold. “Maybe

93 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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you can forget that your mother tongue ever existed,

but I cannot. It was once my ancestors’ mother tongue,

and to deny their language is to deny them and their

culture. I don’t know how, but I am going to make

this movie in Hindi.”

“Good luck to you, then, Mr. Allen.” Mr.

Chopra’s eyes narrowed as he rose and shook hands

with Allen. He winked at Allen’s retreating back as a

sly grin crossed his face. Once the door closed behind

his guest, Mr. Chopra murmured, “This world is mine,

sir. I’ll see how you fly in my sky. You’ve just put a

target on your back…Bull’s eye!” His whisper was

nothing short of evil.

Outside the studio, Ranga was waiting.

“You’re still here!” Allen exclaimed. “I was just

going to call you.”

“If I left, I wouldn’t get back here before

nighttime, so I thought I would just wait.”

“That’s so kind, Ranga. Thank you so much.”

As Allen entered the now-familiar taxi, he asked, “Do

you speak Hindi?”

“No, sir. My grandfather used to know it.”

“Then why don’t you?” Coming from his

unproductive interview with Mr. Chopra, Allen fairly

snarled the words at the taxi driver.

Ranga looked askance at him, but answered

him evenly, despite Allen’s harsh words and tone. “Sir,

in the 22nd century, no one knows how to speak Hindi.

94 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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Even my father only spoke English. My parents used

to scold me if I asked them about Hindi. They never

let me learn it.”

“Strange…” Allen was nonplussed. “Do you

know anyone who speaks Hindi?”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Damn it! You don’t know your mother tongue!

How careless and irresponsible you are!”

“What happened, sir?” Allen’s behavior was

making Ranga concerned. “What did I do?” He

shrugged. “It is not my fault. We never felt the need

of the Hindi language.”

“Maybe that’s why Hindi vanished.” Allen

stared out the window, tapping his fingers on his leg.

“But why are you asking about Hindi suddenly?

No one has asked about it for many years.”

“Because I was planning to make this film in

Hindi.”

The car lurched as Ranga slammed on the

brakes. They came to a stop near a mobile restaurant.

Allen looked at him. “Why did you stop?”

Ranga was speechless for a moment, as he

stared at Allen. Then he touched the God idol set on

his car’s dashboard, and addressed its holy presence. “I

hope he is okay. Save him, God.” To Allen he said,

“Let’s have Indian tea, sir. This shop right next to us

95 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

opened in the year 2000, and it is said that the taste

is still the same as it was a century ago.”

They sat down. Ranga touched the built-in

menu screen and a short time later a robot served

them two cups of tea.

“How is everything here?” The restaurant

manager appeared at their table.

Allen took a sip of his tea. “Wow. That’s nice.”

“Thank you so much, sir.”

Allen noticed that everyone around him was

speaking English.

“What are you looking at, sir?” Ranga asked.

“Nothing,” Allen said, “I’m just wondering…it

seems as if no one knows Hindi here.”

“Whether you like it or not, that is true, sir.

We have adopted the English language very well.”

“Wait a minute,” Allen frowned. “If you don’t

speak Hindi, then how do you know that your name

means color?”

Ranga smiled. “When I was young, my

grandfather told me the story of my name, why I was

named so, and what it meant. It is the only Hindi I

know, sir. Many people do not even have that. They

have Hindi names, but they do not know what they

mean. Like your name of Allen,” he grinned.

96 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“Hmmmph.” Allen twisted away from him and

looked around the restaurant. He noticed that even

the beggars were begging in English.

“Beggars,” Ranga followed his gaze, “they will

beg even if the government gives them a home and a

job. They simply will not leave off begging. For

centuries, their forefathers have been begging, now it

has become a family business.”

A beggar came up to them.

Ranga said, “I can give you something to eat,

but not money.”

The beggar was disgusted. “Keep your favors

to yourself. I need money, not food. Bloody taxi driver.

Huh.”

Allen stared in disbelief at the beggar’s

insolence. “He really doesn’t need help, does he? I can’t

believe that he would pass up food if he were really

hungry.”

Ranga had already dismissed the beggar in his

mind. “So, what is today’s plan for the day, sir? Would

you like to see the city?”

“Nah…Not today,” Allen was dejected. “Maybe

some other day.”

“No problem, I will drop you at the hotel,

then.”

“Sure,” Allen was no longer paying attention

to Ranga. All the way to the hotel, he didn’t speak.

97 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Ranga wanted to ask him what had happened in Mr.

Chopra’s office, but Allen did not look like he was in

the mood to discuss it.

Allen stared out the car window at the people

passing by, but his mind was elsewhere. A couple

riding on an electric bike pulled up next to them, the

girl cuddling the boy from behind. They zoomed away

as Ranga’s taxi got stuck in traffic behind a Hindu

religious procession. Allen could hear a song that was

composed on Indian beats, but the words were in

English. His shoulders drooped more and more as he

noticed that all of the signboards and hoardings were

written in English. At the Taj, he couldn’t escape the

taxi quickly enough. He merely nodded and grunted

when Ranga made arrangements to meet the next day.

֍֍֍

Back in the UK, Kelly rang the doorbell at

Granny’s place. It was just after lunch, and she had

decided to stop by on her way back to work. Jessica

opened the door, and showed Kelly into the parlor,

where Granny was busy at her loom.

“Oh, my darling…what a surprise!”

“How are you, Granny?”

“Absolutely fine. Please, sit down. Would you

like some tea?”

98 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“No, thank you. I just ate. I just stopped by to

see how life is treating you.”

“Well. Yeah…it is going on. I’m waiting for

Allen to come home.”

“Yes, I think of him all the time. I miss him so

much.”

“In today’s era, if we are missing someone, then

we should call that person.” Granny gave Kelly an

impish wink.

Just then, the video phone rang.

“Long life, my son. We were about to call you.”

“Hello, lovely ladies.” Allen was pleased to

catch both of them at the same time. “What a pleasant

surprise.”

“We both are missing you so much, Allen.”

“Me too, sweetheart.”

“How’s the progress, my son?”

“Not good,” Allen’s disappointment was

evident.

“Why? What happened, honey?” Kelly

interjected.

“Nothing. I mean it’s complicated.” He wanted

to wait to talk to Granny alone to ask her if she had

any idea what had happened to Hindi.

99 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Don’t worry, son, everything will turn out

fine,” Granny said hopefully.

“I hope so.” Allen gave them a thumbs up.

They chatted for a few more minutes, then he said, “I

will talk to you both later. Take care.” He cut the call,

his mind on other things.

All his life he had thought of himself as British.

Neither his father nor Granny had ever so much as

mentioned India, and his schoolmates ranged from the

fairest Scot to the darkest Senegalese, so he’d never

considered his father’s family’s dark skin as unusual.

The revelation that his grandparents had been born in

India had turned his whole worldview upside down.

Even so, the realization of his Indian ancestry would

probably not have had such an effect if not for the

added shock of his father’s betrayal of Granny. Upon

learning the truth, Allen felt compelled to right the

wrong his father had done to his erstwhile mother.

Being blocked so immediately and so firmly upon his

arrival in his Granny’s homeland had made him feel as

though he had somehow betrayed her as well. He had

to find some way to make up her son’s rejection of her

heritage to her.

He wandered over to the window and looked

outside. The view was more gorgeous than ever. At 6

pm, the sun was about to wrap up its daily work and

go back home, and the late day rays made Beach Blue

Island in the Arabian Sea glow like diamond pearl in

the ocean. Beach Blue Island was India’s first artificial

island, built at the turn of the 22nd century. All of the

100 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

buildings on the island were less than 3 stories tall and

colored gold and blue. They had been built back far

enough from the water for an enticing beach to

encircle the entire island. There were no cars or

parking lots on the island. Instead, Allen could see

monorails gliding along specially-built tracks.

Impatient with the gorgeous view when his

world was collapsing around him, Allen yanked the

drapes closed and sat down to work on his computer.

“How to say ‘Hello’ in Hindi,” he searched.

“I have no results for that. Did you mean

‘bellflower’?”

“No. ‘Hello in Hindi’,” he enunciated as clearly

as he could.

“I have no results for that. Did you mean

‘Helen of Troy’?”

“Bloody hell! I know what I want!” he yelled at

the screen. “And it bloody well isn’t bloody Helen of

Troy!”

He tried another tack. “I’ll show you what I

mean,” he muttered. Pulling up the keyboard, he

typed in ‘Hindi’ and hit Search.

“I have no results for that,” the computer voice

blandly stated. “Did you mean ‘hieroglyph’?”

“Hindi, Hindi, Hindi!” he yelled.

“I have no—”

101 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“Never mind!” He slammed the top of the table

in disgust. He leaned back in the chair and clasped his

hands behind his head, thinking. When nothing came

to mind, he leaned forward and ordered tea. He was

still lost in his thoughts when the waiter rang the

doorbell.

“Come in,” Allen said absently.

“Sugar, sir?”

“Hmmm?”

“Sugar?” Allen nodded.

“One spoon, please. Say, tell me. What do you

call sugar in Hindi language?”

The waiter smiled and shrugged. “Sorry sir, I

really do not know.”

“You mean you don’t know your own mother

tongue?” Allen said sharply. The waiter flinched

slightly. “Do you know your mother’s name?”

“Of course, sir.”

“Well, if you know your mother’s name, how

can you not know your mother tongue?” Allen’s voice

rose higher.

“I am sorry, sir,” the waiter tried placating him,

“but even my mother doesn’t know Hindi.”

“Does anyone you know speak Hindi?”

“I doubt it, sir. In my entire life you are the

only one who has asked about Hindi,” the waiter

102 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

replied. “Your tea, sir,” the waiter handed Allen a cup

with a hand that trembled slightly. “Anything else, sir?”

“What? No, you may go.”

Allen stared after the waiter even after the door

shut behind him. He was still staring when the

doorbell rang again.

“Excuse me, sir,” the waiter ducked his head

inside, “If you want to know what sugar is called in

Hindi, I can go and ask my manager. He will search

on the internet for you,” the waiter offered humbly.

“No, thank you,” said Allen. “I will find it out

on my own. Besides, I would be interested to know

how he would be able to do that, since there is no

Hindi data available online in India. It is blocked.”

The waiter stared at Allen, unsure whether to

sneak away, or call for help. His obvious fear worked

to calm Allen down. He winked at the man and smiled

reassuringly.

“I’m sorry. Bad day. Please, don’t give it

another thought. And please, don’t mention this to

anyone else. People will think that I have gone mad

after winning the Oscar.”

Dubiously, the waiter stared back, his eyes

wide, then he silently pulled his head back and shut

the door behind him. Allen chuckled mirthlessly, then

stalked to the window and stared out. Soothed by the

beautiful Indian night, he pulled out his phone. It

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HINDI

hadn’t rung more than once before Granny’s face filled

the screen.

“Hello, son. I was expecting you to call back.

You sounded upset earlier.”

Allen was more relieved to hear Granny’s voice

than he cared to admit. “Granny,” he began, “I need

your help. Do you know that no one here speaks Hindi?

At all. Why didn’t you tell me that Hindi is no more?”

“What are you saying, son? You are making no

sense. Of course, people there speak Hindi. Did I not

come from India? Do I not speak Hindi? How can it

be possible, what you are saying?”

“Sadly, Granny, these people made it possible.

Now no one here can read, write or speak Hindi.”

Granny put a hand to her chest. “But you can’t

mean everyone,” she protested feebly. “Maybe there

are people of my generation who know how to speak

Hindi?” Her voice was so soft, Allen could barely hear

her.

“I don’t know, Granny, but right now, I

haven’t got the slightest idea of how to go about

looking for them. You are my only hope, now Granny,

so I’m counting on you. Please help me out. Please tell

me, how do you say ‘Hello’ in Hindi? I need a place to

start, anything at all.”

Seeing his distress, Granny rallied. “Of course,

my son,” she smiled. “I would be most glad to teach

you how to say ‘Hello’ in Hindi. But first, you must

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HINDI

know that ‘Hello’ is more than a word. It is a way to

greet people, and it is different in each culture. In

England, as you know, we shake hands, but in India

we make obeisance.”

“What is that, Granny?”

“Like so.” She set the phone down, then

touched her hands, with her fingertips together, then

bowed her head over her hands. “Namaste,” she said.

“Nama-what? What did you say, Granny?”

“Namaste.” She repeated the entire procedure.

“Namaste,” Allen said, as he did the same thing.

“Very good, my son,” Granny smiled, “Now

you have your first word in Hindi.”

“Thank you, Granny,” Allen said, “You have

helped more than you know. Now please go and get

rest,” he chided her. “I have work to do. I am going

to say Namaste to everyone I meet, and see what

response I get. You take care, Granny.”

“Good night, son,” he heard, then the screen

went black.

“Wow,” was Allen’s first thought. “I know

something that most of the people in this country

don’t know.” Thrilled at having some direction to

follow, he took his camera outside with him. The

promenade between the Taj and the ocean was

bordered by a tall seawall, and many people were

roaming the walk, enjoying the cool breeze. Beach

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Blue Island looked magnificent across the Gateway of

India. Flying cars blazed like stars in the sky over the

sea in the dark. Allen took picture after picture of the

beautiful things around him. Finally, he lowered the

camera. He noticed a vendor selling popcorn.

“Namaste,” he greeted the man.

“Hello.”

Allen frowned. He greeted a vendor selling hats,

but that man didn’t respond to the phrase, either. It

seemed that he couldn’t get anyone to say “Namaste.”

He walked over to a group of people to chat.

“Namaste”, he said, but they all just shrugged

and went on with their own conversations. It was as

though he was invisible. He couldn’t stop himself,

though. He kept seeing the bewildered look on

Granny’s face when he told her that no one in India

spoke Hindi. Frustrated, he ran up and down the

promenade, yelling “Namaste! Namaste!” but his

efforts were all in vain.

Winded, he stopped and bent over, his hands

on his knees. Looking all around himself, he yelled,

“Does anyone around here know Hindi?”

All he got in return were wary looks. Some

people smiled vaguely in his direction and hurried on,

but no one said anything in response. In the ensuing

silence, Allen’s disappointment was louder than the

waves caressing the seawall. He sat down on the

seawall and stared out towards the boundless ocean,

but saw nothing. The vendors on the promenade

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began to gather their things and headed inside as the

wind grew fierce and the waves grew taller. Lost in his

thoughts, Allen paid no attention. At one point, a wave

large enough to breach the wall knocked him over.

Spluttering and bleeding where he had scraped

against the stones, he leaped to his feet and raised his

fist to the ocean.

He railed against the storm, “You may break

my tattered body into pieces, but my spirit will rise

stronger than ever. I will face all challenges. No matter

how many times I get knocked down by each wave, no

matter how hard it hits me, even to the death, yet

there will be hope to keep me alive, to lighten my

heart again, to make it beat even harder. I will get

right back up and face you once more, because I know,

if not now, someday you will open your door to me.”

Energized by the storm, Allen retreated to one

of the entryways to the Taj, but refused to seek shelter

inside. He was pushed to and fro by gusts, blinded by

buckets of rain, but the ferocity of the storm only fed

his own anger and frustration.

As the wind and waves finally ebbed, he crept

back out to his seat on the seawall. As the sky cleared,

night fell deep in the sky. Drenched and bloody, Allen

stared off into the distance. A policeman cautiously

approached the solitary man and halted a respectable

distance away.

“Hello, sir,” he tried to catch Allen’s attention,

“I’m guessing you are not planning to commit suicide

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here.” When Allen turned to him he added, “Please go

home, sir. Do whatever you want to do with your life

there, but not here.”

After such a blunt comment, Allen had no

option but to get up, dust some himself off, and go

back to the hotel directly behind him. In the

moonlight, the Taj was shining like a diamond, as

though teasing Allen in his frustration. The land drew

him in with her beauty, but teased him by withholding

what he most desired.

He went to his room. Without bothering to

clean up, he pressed the button to show the computer

screen. He had been writing down all of his

experiences so far, and he wanted to add the latest.

“From the outside,” he wrote on the screen,

“the Taj looks like a jewel in the night. How proud I

am to be here in India, in the land of my ancestors, in

an edifice that has been glittering like a star for more

than 200 years. The Taj showcases all that is glorious

about Indian history. Even though the entire city and

its people have changed a lot in the past 100 years, in

their hearts they are still the same.” He lifted his finger

and thought for a moment. He set his forefinger back

on the screen. “They are still at their best.” He closed

the screen and fell into his bed.

֍֍֍

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The next afternoon, Allen called Ranga to take

him to visit the Indian veteran actor, Nanda Kapoor.

As usual, Ranga was late.

Allen asked, “Why are you always late?”

Ranga smiled, “Although we have taken on

some western ways, we are still Indian, sir. I am simply

keeping Indian traditions alive.”

Ranga’s attempt to lighten Allen’s mood didn’t

work so as they settled themselves into the taxi, he

tried again. “Yesterday I thought a lot about why have

we forgotten our mother tongue.” He looked at Allen

through the rear view mirror. “Once, my grandfather

told me about his life. He was educated and very

intelligent. But it was not easy for him to get a job.

Government jobs were restricted, and in private jobs,

you needed to have a good command of English. It was

hard for my grandfather to be promoted, as everyone

was looking for good English speakers. Even interviews

were conducted in English. Admission into good

schools was also difficult, unless you spoke English.

Parents needed to have good knowledge of the

language for their children to succeed. There were

only English-speaking classes. No one cared about

Hindi-speaking classes. No wonder that Hindi faded

out of the culture.”

“So, who was to blame?” Allen challenged him.

“Maybe it was our quest to be modern. Or

maybe it was political reasons. It may have been both.”

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Allen looked at Ranga and said, “More-

commonly spoken languages dominate the less-

commonly spoken languages, and so the latter

eventually disappear.”

Ranga was looking out of the windshield,

concentrating on his driving. “Maybe this is the reason

the world is losing one language every 14 days,” he

said bitterly.

Allen just nodded and stared unseeingly at the

passing scenery for a while, before rousing himself.

“I was wondering, Ranga, how is it that you

know so much? I mean, for a man who drives a taxi all

day, you certainly seem to be well-educated.”

Ranga smiled. “I have a degree in engineering.

Now I keep that degree inside the glove compartment.”

“Why in the world aren’t you working as an

engineer?”

“Despite what our parents told us, the problem

in this country is not that we need to speak English

to get a job. It is that, even if we speak English, there

are no jobs to be had. Even though I speak English

and have a degree in engineering, the only job I can

find is to drive a taxi.”

“So requiring English was just a way of getting

rid of Hindi, of the whole Indian culture,” Allen

murmured. He stared out the window at the passing

coast, and rolled down the window to let the fresh air

in.

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“Excuse me, sir,” Ranga interrupted his

brooding, “but because of you I have started thinking

about this so much, that I brought it up to my wife.

Now she thinks I’m going nuts.”

Allen laughed. “See, asking about your native

language can cost you your marriage.”

Ranga’s natural good humor was restored by

the jest, and they both laughed at the absurdity of life.

The rest of the ride was spent in lighter topics, and

Allen found himself astounded by Ranga’s depth of

knowledge about Mumbai and the surrounding towns.

֍֍֍

Mr. Kapoor’s place was a private flat on the

200th floor of a curtain-glassed monolith. Mr. Kapoor

was the eighth generation of a dynasty that had been

in the film industry since its inception. There were so

many family members who had been a part of the

industry that even he couldn’t recall all of their names.

For more than 200 years someone from the Kapoor

family had been ruling the movie industry in Mumbai.

Answering the bell, Mr. Kapoor’s manager

warmly welcomed Allen. Although Allen was

successfully himself, he was staggered by the opulence

of Mr. Kapoor’s home. Allen couldn’t help but stare as

the manager led him past an indoor swimming pool.

“Please, sir, have a seat. Mr. Kapoor will be

right in.”

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Instead of sitting, though, Allen walked over to

the wall, which was decorated with stills from Mr.

Kapoor’s movie career. He barely had time to glance

through them before Mr. Kapoor entered.

“Hello Mr. Allen, how are you?” Though Mr.

Kapoor was a superstar of yesteryear, he still looked

magnificent. Of average height, he tended to fat, but

his blue silk shirt and white coat were well tailored

and set off with a red silk tie and shiny black loafers.

He smelled of cologne, his grey hair was neatly combed

back and his handshake was firm.

“I am very well, sir, thank you,” Allen greeted

him.

“Please, be seated.” They sank into a leather

sofa with a golden armrest, in front of a window

overlooking a skyline filled with monorails and high-

rise buildings. The exterior view was only enhanced by

the beautiful interior. The light that slanted in

shimmered on their faces. Allen was entranced by the

loveliness of his surroundings. This must be what it is

like to live in heaven, he marveled. The pool water

glittered, and with this vantage point, this flat was, if

not heaven itself, then next to heaven.

“I heard that you are planning to make a movie

here in India.” Mr. Kapoor’s well-modulated voice

brought Allen back to reality.

“I’m sorry, sir. I was enjoying your flat. I missed

what you said.”

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Mr. Kapoor smiled. He was obviously used to

having guests overwhelmed by the surroundings. “I

asked, how I can be of assistance to you, Mr. Allen.”

“Well, Mr. Kapoor,” Allen leaned forward,

then tension in his body compounding the excitement

in his voice, “I am very interested in making a movie

in India, with an Indian cast and crew, and I would

certainly appreciate your help. If you are available to

star in it, that would be brilliant.”

Mr. Kapoor leaned back. He rested his arms on

the back of the couch, somehow taking up all of the

space in the room and leaving Allen diminished. Allen

could see how Mr. Kapoor had been such a presence

in the film industry—he certainly knew how to inhabit

his space.

Mr. Kapoor cracked his knuckles one by one

in the silence that ensued. The loud pops could be

heard clearly throughout the room.

“My movie,” Allen continued, “is to be in

Hindi. How familiar are you with that language, Mr.

Kapoor?”

A burst of sound broke over Allen like a wave.

He was so floored by the noise, seemingly louder than

a jet engine in that space, that it took him a moment

to realize that Mr. Kapoor was laughing, huge heaving

gusts of amusement.

As his laughter died down, Mr. Kapoor yelled

down the hall, “Does anyone here speak Hindi?” His

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HINDI

voice echoed, but there was no answer. No one spoke

up. They both waited, as the lonesome echo died away.

Mr. Kapoor chuckled. “Thank you for the

notion, Mr. Allen. That was most amusing. As you can

see, no one here speaks Hindi. No one in India speaks

Hindi. Hah! Hah! That was inspired! Who put you up

to that? Was it that joker, Chopra? He is always trying

to come up with new ways to amuse me. Hah! Hah!”

His stomach rumbled with the after-effects of the wave

of emotion. “It is not often that I get such a pleasure

at my age. Now,” he clapped his hands, “let’s get down

to business. What kind of movie do you really want to

make?”

“Mr. Kapoor,” Allen began tentatively, then

took a deep breath and steadied himself, “I am serious.

This movie must be made in Hindi.”

Kapoor held Allen’s gaze. Slowly he nodded.

“You are serious, are you not, young man. Well, sir, I

am sorry to tell you, that is not possible. There is no

one who could act in such a movie. Hindi no longer

exists.”

To have such a presence as Mr. Kapoor make

such a pronouncement brought its truth home to

Allen. He got heavily to his feet, feeling as if he had

left his torn heart on the sofa he had just vacated.

Breathing shallowly through the crushing weight on

his chest, he went to the window and stared at the

skyline of Mumbai. “People are traveling so fast,” he

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murmured. “They seem to be very busy. No one has

time for anyone else.”

Mr. Kapoor gazed at Allen’s slumped shoulders,

then nodded. “This is more than a movie for you, is it

not, Mr. Allen? This is a quest. Ah, young men and

their windmills. I understand,” he smiled at Allen’s

back. “I was a young man once. Hmmm. I do have a

solution for you,” Mr. Kapoor said, “if you feel you

must continue in this foolish endeavor.”

Allen turned quickly. He held his breath.

“If only someone were able to teach your actors

Hindi first, then you could make your movie,” Mr.

Kapoor joked.

Allen flushed. “You are talking absolute

rubbish, and you know it. It is your own mother

tongue, yet you say that someone else has to teach you?

How can you guys forget your own mother language?”

Mr. Kapoor was silent for a time. He heaved a

sigh. “My dear friend, it is hard to be lectured to by

the next generation, but let me try to explain it to you.

Yes, we have lost our native tongue. I admit that we

are responsible for this. Or, actually, I should say, our

grandparents lost it for us. A long time ago, we made

movies in Hindi, but we wanted a wider audience.

People outside India were interested in what we had

to say, but they couldn’t understand us. And our

directors and actors went outside India to practice

their craft—they needed to speak English to get work,

to expand their knowledge. Even when they came back

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and made movies here, they preferred to speak in

English. They thought it gave them cachet. It was not

their fault, though. We all want to ride the high tide.”

Allen listened, his fists clenched, as Mr. Kapoor

continued, “As time went on, we began to feel that

those who spoke English were the literate ones, the

ones to emulate, while those who spoke only Hindi

were the uneducated. It wasn’t only Hindi, either, Mr.

Allen. There used to be many regional languages and

dialects in India. Now, no one knows any of them.

They are only found in old libraries or on Indian

currency.” Allen sank back down onto the couch,

somehow soothed as the baritone voice rolled on. “It

was our mentality that made us forget our language,

as none of us felt the need to keep it alive. It was a

burden to learn two languages, so we just dropped the

Hindi. Minority languages and regional dialects

became associated with poverty, illiteracy and hardship,

while the dominant language English was associated

with progress.” After this long speech, Mr. Kapoor

leaned back and lit a cigar.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kapoor,” Allen apologized, “I

didn’t mean to lash out at you.” He gently set an

ashtray on the table for Mr. Kapoor.

Mr. Kapoor smiled at him. “I am still willing

to help you, however I can. Give up this quest, and I

will gladly act in your movie. Whenever you need me,

feel free to call.”

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“Thank you, sir. Your presence would make a

world of difference to my movie.” With a lighter heart,

Allen left the aerie and returned to the world below.

But conditions on the ground did not improve.

Days passed by on the wings of eagles and months

quickly followed suit. Before Allen knew it, the rainy

season was upon him. The downpours refreshed the

dry, cracked soil with welcome moisture, but Allen felt

no such refreshment. He wandered the streets of

Mumbai, but without success and with dwindling

hopes.

He had long ago acclimatized himself to the air

of Mumbai, and had no need of the oxygen mask in

his roaming the city to meet directors, producers,

writers and actors. Between the names he’d gotten

from Mr. Chopra and Mr. Kapoor, he had plenty of

recommendations, and he started each day full of

promise, but Hindi was foreign to them all, and each

one was highly skeptical of his chances of success. Each

evening he returned to his hotel room laden with yet

another disappointment.

He took to stopping people in the street,

ostensibly to have them take his picture, but really to

ask whether they knew Hindi. All he got for those

efforts were some admittedly terrific photos of the

highlights of Mumbai. In addition, he had placed ads

online and in the newspaper The Century Times,

asking anyone with any knowledge of Hindi to contact

him. The only responses to those were jokes about the

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state of his mental health, warnings to go back where

he’d come from, and death threats.

Late into the night he would sit at his screen

and write the story of his experiences. Sometimes he

wrote directly on the screen, sometimes he felt more

at home running his fingers across the keyboard.

Either way, no matter his mood, he forced himself to

do the work, to transcribe any and all thoughts that

crossed his mind. Each morning, prior to heading into

the city again, he would review what he had written

the night before, and try to rearrange the words, to

make sense out of whatever had ended up on the

screen.

One morning, he got up late. When he went

to call up the screen to review his previous nights’

notes, he just couldn’t make himself take that step. He

closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Writing is all

about rewriting the stuff which you have already

written, he reminded himself. The more you write, the

better your story is. But after months of pushing

himself, he simply didn’t have the energy to look at

the disappointments of the previous day. He was no

longer inspired enough to write, because he knew in

his heart that all of his efforts were getting him no

closer to his dreams. He was writing the story for a

language which no longer existed and which nobody

but him cared about.

He turned away from the table and strode

towards the window. He threw back the drapes and

opened the window as wide as it would go. The sun

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was already high in the sky, and his room quickly

began to grow warm. He squinted against the glare.

Closing his eyes again, he took a half-dozen breaths,

as deeply as he could inhale. When he opened his eyes

to look at the beach, the scenery hadn’t changed. And

neither had his mood. Shaking his head, he called

down to reception for some tea and snacks. Hoping to

absorb enough of the sun’s rays to give him the energy

he needed to continue on his quest, he stayed at the

window until he heard the waiter ring the doorbell.

He opened the door to the same smiling face

that had greeted him each previous day. Even after he

had been so cross with the man, the waiter’s face had

never faltered. It was as though the man had been

blessed with that smile. With a bitter twist of his own

mouth, Allen wished that God had chosen to bestow

a smile like that on his own face, a smile that would

make him look permanently happy.

His glance at the morning paper did nothing

to make that gift more likely. Most of the news in The

Century Times was India-related, but an item on page

3 made his already foul mood even worse. “The Best

Director of Last Year is Making This Year His Worst!”

it trumpeted. The Century Times was the only

surviving newspaper in India. The others had quit

printing long ago, and now Allen heartily wished that

this newspaper had joined them.

Though he longed to crumple up the paper

and throw it out the window, he forced himself to sit

and read the entire article. The reporter, a man he had

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never heard of, had apparently been trailing him

around town. Every person that Allen had spoken to

about his movie had some opinion, ranging from

skepticism to outright incredulity, about Allen’s movie.

Even Mr. Chopra and Mr. Kapoor hadn’t held back.

The nicest thing they said was that he was misguided

and would never be successful in his efforts. Other

comments were even worse, stating that Allen was mad

to attempt to make such a movie, and that, even if he

managed to put it on the market, no one would watch

it.

Dropping the paper in his lap, Allen hung his

head. How could everyone be so discouraging? He had

never thought that attitude of the Indian film industry

itself would be his downfall in trying to get his movie

made. He had been prepared for many obstacles to

overcome, but this wasn’t one of them. He got up and

flung himself on his bed, stepping on the newspaper

as he crossed the room. He covered his face with his

arm, keeping even the smallest ray of light from

catching a glimpse of his face.

He did not know what to do. He had started

this journey full of hope, but now he couldn’t even

see the path ahead. He slept for a while, then prowled

the room. He didn’t go outside. He couldn’t eat. He

needed some reassurance that his dream was

substantial, that it meant something. He needed to

talk to the one person who knew him better than

anyone else, who understood exactly what he was

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trying to accomplish, someone who knew what this

mission meant to him.

“Hello, my son.” Granny sounded almost as

though she had been expecting his call.

Allen checked the time. “Granny, it’s late there.

Shouldn’t you be asleep?” he chided her.

“I was waiting for your call. I knew that you

would call,” Granny smiled.

“Oh, Granny, I’m so tired. I have tramped over

every square meter of this city, but no one knows

anything about Hindi, except that it is gone forever!”

Allen burst out.

“Don’t worry, my son,” Granny soothed,

“setbacks are a part of life. Our lives are like one of

your films. We have good scenes as well as bad scenes,

but in the end we all have a good ending in our movie

of life. Don’t fret, my son, you will make it past this.”

Allen shook his head silently. He felt ashamed

that Granny was comforting him when his dream had

been to provide her solace.

When Allen didn’t answer, Granny took charge.

“Do this one thing for me, son. Go to Banaras. It is

the place I was born, the place where the holy Ganges

River flows. The river will heal your heart and the Gods

will speak to you there.”

“Oh, Granny, I don’t think even the Ganges

River or the Gods can help me out. What I need is a

person who speaks Hindi.”

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HINDI

“Calm yourself, my son. You will find a way

out of this.”

In the face of her conviction, he could feel

hope rise in his heart as well. “Thank you, Granny. I

will take your advice. Love you. I am missing you.”

“Love you, too, son. Now,” he could see her

face crinkle up into a grin, “the emotional scene of the

movie ends here. Get yourself up, and go and find your

happiness. I am sure that you will find peace on the

banks of the holy river.”

“Hey, Granny, if that’s where you grew up,

then you’ve got to have family there, too, right? Is

there someone in Banaras I can contact? Maybe

someone there still knows Hindi.”

To Allen’s dismay, Granny shook her head. “I

am sorry, son. My parents were the last, and they died

a long time ago. I have not been back since they left

this world. There is no one I know in Banaras now.

You will have to rely only on the river and the Gods

to help you. Take care, son. Good night and may the

Gods bless you.”

They waved and blew air kisses to each other.

When Allen hesitated, Granny said, “Go, my son. Go

to Banaras. Go visit the holy Ganges River,” then

reached out and cut the connection.

Allen booked the flight to Banaras for the next

morning. Ranga was pleased to hear from him again.

Allen had been getting moodier and moodier, but he

seemed to be exceptionally cheerful today. The sunny

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weather seemed to have liberated him from sorrow and

filled him with new energy.

“Ah,” Ranga winked as if suggesting that Allen

had enjoyed a late-night tryst, “a visit from the

girlfriend last night?”

“What? No,” Allen smiled, “another kind of

woman altogether.” Ranga raised his eyebrows, but

Allen merely looked out the window.

“Why do you want to go to Banaras, sir? Is

everything okay?” The mere lack of response was never

enough to dampen Ranga’s curiosity.

“Yes,” Allen said, “Everything’s fine. I’m just

going there to renew my hope.”

“That is a good place to do it, sir. You may

meet up with a priest there, someone who will help

you find someone who speaks Hindi.”

Might this new place, the homeland of his

grandmother, indeed hold all of the answers that he

was looking for? What kind of place was it? If the holy

river Ganges was there, perhaps some of the old ways

had persisted there as well. It was almost as though he

was going on a kind of pilgrimage.

“What is Banaras like?” Allen asked.

The sudden beating of his heart was almost

enough to drown out Ranga’s answer to his question.

“Banaras,” Ranga repeated, as though flipping

through a set of brochures in his mind, “that place has

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HINDI

been a cultural centre of North India for several

thousand years, and is closely associated with the

Ganges. Myths and hymns speak of the waters of the

River Ganga as the fluid medium of Lord Shiva’s divine

essence. A bath in the river is believed to wash away

all of one’s sins and relieve the soul. Truly, sir, I have

always wanted to go there, myself, but I have never

been able to travel so far.”

Allen nodded as he listened closely.

At the airport, Ranga asked, “When will you

be back, sir?”

“I don’t know, yet, but I’ll give you a call,”

Allen could barely hold himself in check long enough

to politely shake hands with Ranga and say good-bye.

He hefted his luggage and strode away with a new

lightness in his heart. Watching Allen walk away with

his head held high for the first time in a long time,

Ranga smiled and whistled a popular tune as he opened

the taxi door and drove away.

124 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

CHAPTER – 4

BANARAS

he flight to Banaras took less than one

hour. Before he did anything else in the

T city, Allen wanted to find a hotel where

he could drop off his things, and then get something

to eat. When he had made his flight reservations, he

had searched for a hotel on the Internet that advertised

a view of the Ganges River, but hadn’t found one, so

he was hoping some of the locals could help him out.

Outside the terminal, the taxi lane was full. In

seconds, Allen was surrounded by taxi drivers, all

chattering loudly and beckoning for his attention.

“Where would you like to go, sir?” asked one

taxi driver.

“I’m looking for a good hotel,” Allen smiled,

“one with a view of the Ganges.”

“Ah!” to Allen’s surprise, the man burst out

laughing. “That is a good one, sir!”

“What is so funny?” Allen asked.

The taxi driver yelled, “This tourist wants a

hotel with a view of the Ganges!”

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HINDI

Guffaws were shared all around, as Allen

crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the men.

“Ah, sir,” another man stepped up, “please. I

will take you to a good hotel, Hotel Apaya.”

“That is not the right hotel for such a

gentleman!” another taxi driver put in. “You want to

go to the Ganga Hotel.”

“Not so!” said the first driver. “Why would you

put this nice gentleman in such a place! Come, sir!”

He took hold of Allen’s luggage.

“Wait!” Allen said. “What do you think you are

doing?”

“You need a hotel, do you not, sir?”

“I may need a hotel, but that doesn’t mean

that I need one from you. Now, let go of my luggage.”

“Yes,” chimed in the second driver. “Let go of

his luggage!”

“You, too,” said Allen with a frown.

He left the two men squabbling, and walked

on to a third taxi. Obviously these men were not going

to be helpful. Perhaps he would have to ask someone

else. In the meantime, the bickering had given him a

headache, and he decided to get something to eat

before he settled on a hotel.

“Please take me to a nice restaurant,” he asked

the driver, “in the middle of the city.”

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An hour later, a belly full of delicious Indian

food had improved Allen’s mood considerably. With

his luggage still in hand, he decided to wander in

search of a hotel. He waved away a taxi driver in front

of the restaurant and, on a whim, turned left onto the

street.

Most of the city area was still intact. It had the

air of a holy city all about it. There were many

sculptures of the Gods and small temples everywhere.

It wasn’t as clean as Mumbai, but many foreign tourists

ambled along, checking their phones, then pointing

around them. Once again, Allen noticed that all of the

signboards and notices were in English.

In his wanderings, he found what looked to be

a decent hotel, the Hotel Karshu. It seemed to be just

the place. It was smaller and more newly constructed

than the Taj, but the employees were just as friendly.

He checked in and deposited his luggage in his room,

then decided to hunt for the Ganges on his own. From

Granny’s description of the river, he should be able to

follow the crowds. Outside the hotel, though, Allen

was soon bewildered. There were plenty of crowds,

plenty of people roaming the streets, but no trace of

a river.

“How difficult can it be to find a river?” He

ran a hand over his hair in disgust at his own

shortcomings. “What kind of idiot am I?”

He walked and walked, changing directions

every few minutes, exploring every side street, but

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coming no closer to his goal. Ready to break something

in his frustration, he headed back to the hotel. He

made an effort to calm himself down before he

approached the front desk.

“Please, sir,” he asked the manager, “could you

direct me to the Ganga River?”

“Even we are trying to find the Ganga,” the

manager whispered.

“Sorry, what did you say?” Allen asked in

confusion.

“Nothing, sir. Go straight,” he pointed outside

the hotel, “until you come to a “T”. Turn right, you

will easily be able to find it.” Transaction over, the

manager picked up the phone to move onto the next

customer, but Allen hadn’t moved. “Did you

understand me, sir?”

“Oh, yeah, I got it.” The manager nodded and

looked at his phone again, but Allen reached across

the counter and touched his arm. “Excuse me, please,

can you tell me whether there is anyone here who

speaks Hindi?”

“Sorry, sir,” the man chuckled, “In this city

you can find good food, Gods and Ganga, but no Hindi.

Perhaps there will be someone in the temple who will

be able to help you out.”

“Thank you.” Allen almost asked where to find

the temple, but the man looked as if he had had

enough of answering Allen’s questions for the moment.

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At least he now had a direction to follow. Leaving the

hotel, he found the “T” all right, but when he turned

right, he didn’t see anything that looked like a river.

He continued on, perplexed. Certainly he hadn’t

jumbled up the manager’s directions!

He was just about to give up and turn back

when he saw a glint of sun off something that could

only be water. Finally! He sped up, only to halt again

in a few short minutes. He had found water, all right,

but this was no river. This tiny body of water looked

like nothing more than a man-made pond. He looked

around, to see whether anyone could explain, but

there were few people around, and they looked to be

mostly tourists. Off to his left he could see a temple.

Maybe this was the temple the manager had been

referring to. If so, perhaps someone here could be a

guide to finding Hindi at last. Rubbing his chin in

frustration, he headed in that direction. Not knowing

what else to do, he sank down on the steps that led to

the pond. The cool breeze was refreshing, and despite

his lack of success, he could feel his frustration lift. He

smiled and turned to look behind him, at the temple.

“Thank you for the breeze, Granny,” he

whispered, “but where is the river?”

There was no answer in the wind, but still he

sat for some time, his soul at rest for the first time in

too many days. In this peaceful setting, Allen felt what

seemed to be a benediction, from somewhere on his

left. He glanced over, and saw an old man whose entire

body was covered in a single white cloth, cunningly

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wrapped. From the wrinkles on the man’s face, and his

thin, bony arms, the man must have been in his 80’s,

but he carried himself with a grace that Allen had

never encountered before.

Once again, Allen gave thanks to his Granny.

“You have sent me to a priest, haven’t you?” He got

up and went next to the old man.

“Namaste,” he placed his hands together,

fingertips up, and bowed before the old man, just as

Granny had showed him, “if you don’t mind, can I sit

here with you?”

“Of course, my son, you have no need to ask.

This earth belongs to everyone,” somehow the old man

encompassed the entire world in his expansive gesture.

His voice was croaky, but a certain gentleness pervaded

it.

“Thank you.” Allen lowered himself back down

on the step. “I came from the UK on a mission, but I

have been struggling with every step that I take. I…”

his voice began to shake, “I have become very

depressed. My grandmother suggested that I visit the

Ganges river, that it would bring me inner peace and

solace. I haven’t…” his voice cracked, “I can’t even find

that! I know that I am asking a lot, but could you

please guide me to it?”

The old man nodded and smiled, but was quiet

for a time. His gaze searched Allen’s face, taking in his

clothes, his face, it seemed, his very soul.

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“My son, who searches for the Ganga river, I

must tell you that it does not flow here any more. Now

it ends its days at Rishikesh, in the north of India.

That,” he pointed at the man-made pond with his chin,

“that is all that we have left to say to the world that

we still have traces of the Ganga.”

“First Hindi, now this!” Allen was aghast. “How

could that happen?”

“Two hundred years ago, the Ganga was one

of the largest rivers in the world. The waters of the

Ganga were the purest. It was the most sacred water

in the world.” He shook his head sadly. “But we did

not take our sacred trust seriously. We allowed the

Ganga to become contaminated. We misused its

precious waters in industry. We did not care for this

gift as we should. So Mother Earth took her child

back.” The old man leaned his head on the wall

enclosing the steps.

“Hmm, water is an issue for the entire world

these days,” Allen tried to console him, but the old

man shook his head.

“A river is where a civilization originates. It is

responsible for the development of nations. The Ganga

played a major role in the development of India, but

something went wrong. For the last 150 years, the

government has been trying to clean up the Ganga,

and in the end,” his chuckle held no mirth, “in the

end, we have cleaned it out of the world.”

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The old man looked Allen’s way, but his mind

was obviously engaged in images of the past. “It is sad,

my son, that in the last century the world has lost so

much of our precious heritage.”

Allen nodded in agreement. “Sir, may I…this

mission of mine….Do you know anyone who can speak

Hindi?”

“My son,” for the first time, the old man

seemed to lose his patience, “This country, that could

not save the Ganga, how can you expect us to save

Hindi? As a river needs a path to flow, in the same way

a language needs a speakers and an environment to

flourish. So did we lose both. Languages are vehicles

of our culture, collective memory and values. They are

an essential component of our identities, and a

building block of our diversity and living heritage.

When languages fade, so does the world’s rich tapestry

of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions,

memory, unique modes of thinking and expression –

valuable resources for ensuring a better future are also

lost.”

The old man gestured to a boy passing by for

water. The boy brought by two disposable glasses, but

remembering Ranga’s warning, Allen tried to refuse

his.

“Do not worry, my son,” the old man assured

him. “In these days, we drink nothing but bottled

water. Though it is more harmful to the environment,

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it is still a profitable business for many people, so we

are bound to drink only this.”

“My poor Granny. She sent me here for peace

and solace. She didn’t realize….instead of that, there

is nothing.”

“No, my son, she was right.” The barest touch

on his arm roused him to the old man’s words. “Today

a crowded, bustling, noisy, dirty city, Banaras was in

antiquity an area of gently rolling hills, lush forests,

and natural springs bordered by the magical waters of

the river Ganga. A favored hermitage site for many of

India’s most venerated sages—Gautama Buddha and

Mahavira, Kabir and Tulsi das, Shankaracharaya,

Ramanuja and Patanjali—all these spiritual leaders

meditated here. Banaras had been and continues to be

one of the most visited holy places of the planet. First-

time visitors to Banaras may not experience its spiritual

and sensory stimulation, yet just beneath the surface

is the presence of peacefulness and spiritual wisdom.”

Allen bowed his head. “I had no idea of my

heritage. Then I found my roots, and I came to India

to reclaim the past. To celebrate and venerate the

culture of my Granny and her people. Since I have

been here, I have found no such culture. I have found

only pain and loss. I came to Banaras to ease my inner

pain, to gain new energy. What do I need to do to feel

this land’s spiritual peacefulness and spiritual wisdom?”

The old man stood. He motioned Allen to

follow. Allen was surprised to see the lengthening of

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the shadows. He felt that the conversation with the

old man had taken but a few moments, but realized

that the two of them had been sitting on the steps all

afternoon. Other men wrapped in white cloths were

emerging from the temple and heading to the water.

Evening was upon them, and it was time for prayers.

“These men are pandits, Hindu priests,” the

old man explained. “We are about to begin a prayer:

Ganga aarti. Aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire

as an offering. It’s usually made in the form of a lit

lamp. The offering is made to the Goddess Ganga. Now

there is no river, so we have to pray to this artificial

pond.” The old man spoke quietly to Allen, so as not

to disturb the others. He held up a hand for Allen to

wait where he was, then moved forward into the

forming circle of men.

At first, nothing happened. The men gathered

and nodded to each other, but waited until the circle

was complete. As the last priest stepped into place, to

his right Allen could hear the blowing of a horn and

saw a man with a conch shell at his lips. The men in

the circle began to chant as they waved incense sticks

in elaborate patterns and moved large flaming lamps

in circles that created a bright hue against the

darkened sky. The movement of the lamps, held in the

pandits’ hands, was tightly synchronized to the

rhythmic chants of hymns and clang of cymbals. The

heady scent of sandalwood thickly permeated the air.

Some minutes went by, though Allen was so caught

up in the ritual that he was barely aware of the passage

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of time. Finally, the men cupped their hands over the

flames then placed their palms on their foreheads.

Although he didn’t have a lamp, Allen mirrored their

gestures.

The men slowly left the circle. The old man

returned to Allen and continued his explanation. “The

pandits are priests who chant praises or songs in honor

of Mother Ganga. Through the ritual motions, the

lamps and incense sticks acquire her power. The

devotees then cup their hands over the flame and

touch their foreheads to receive the Goddess’

purification and blessing.”

Though he was not a pandit, Allen could feel

the power of the ceremony. He was grateful for his

inclusion in the ritual at the same time as he mourned

the loss of the culture outside of this small area. He

couldn’t help but feel that the world was the worse for

the spiritual power that had been lost in the pursuit

of development.

The old man gave his blessing to Allen. He had

Allen dip his hand in the water of the Ganga and pour

it over his face.

“People come here to find Moksha,” he said,

“release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law

of karma. This place releases pains from your soul and

fills it up with peace.”

Allen could feel the peace, the release in his

own soul. The energy of this place had revived him.

He felt as though he now had the power to gather up

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the remnants of his torn dreams and accomplish what

he had set out to do. He didn’t know where he would

head from here, but he felt motivated to continue on

the path he had set out for himself so many months

ago. Somehow, somewhere, India would provide the

means for him to dedicate an offering to his Granny.

He turned to thank the old man, but he had

gone, disappeared into the night. His mind full, but

his step lighter, Allen headed for the hotel and dinner.

Suddenly he was famished.

All night, Allen worked on his story. The

meeting with the old man, the ritual, the shared

spiritual connection, they inspired him. Words that he

had struggled to force out now flowed in waves—

complete sentences, complete paragraphs appeared as

if by magic. He knew it wasn’t magic, that the words

had been in him all along, just waiting for him to see

the correct pattern. Allen had trained himself to write

every day, but only at certain times did his heart allow

him such liberties to express his feelings. This was one

of the times that his brain and his heart

synchronized—he could tell that this work would be a

masterpiece.

Though he had worked late into the night, he

woke after only a few hours’ sleep, surprisingly

refreshed. He quickly downed breakfast, eager to

continue his exploration of this amazing city, which

filled him with such peace and awareness. Banaras had

a religious and cultural identity that had so far

seemingly been unaffected by time and tide. While he

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had had his coffee and sweets this morning, he had

researched more of the city, and decided to begin his

exploration with the famous ‘Lanes of Banaras’ which

had provided the city its most commonly known

epithet – ‘City of Temples’.

Allen was surprised to see so many people up

and about at this hour of the day. They were gathered

at almost every stall and corner, laughing and joking

with one another. The smell of the tea wafting from

all around almost made him feel as though he had a

cup in his own hand, and was sipping from it.

A complete contrast soothed his senses when

he reached the Assi Ghat, the steps down to where the

Ganges used to flow. This area was deserted, with

shattered boats lying on the ancient, cracked river bed,

their life sunk away without water to support them.

Allen smiled to see a holy man sharing his bed

with a monkey. Banaras! He thought to himself, where

man and nature co-exist peacefully, each supporting

the other.

He sat on the steps, and enjoyed the sunrise.

This place would be perfect, if only he could see the

Ganga flow like the river she used to be. He leaned

back, to rest his elbows on the step above, but halted

as a sweet female voice called to him from behind.

“Excuse me, sir, would you please not move

for a few seconds? That’s a perfect view against the

sunrise. I want to capture it.”

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Allen sat back up and relaxed for the woman,

though he was impatient to see who was talking to

him.

“Hold it!” she said. “Hold it! Okay, cool! I got

it! I got the perfect shot. Thank you! Come see. Wait!

I’ll come down to you.”

Allen turned his head. The woman—or girl,

more like—seemed almost to float down the steps in

her pyjama bottoms, covered with a Khaadi printed

shirt. A scarf tied up most of her hair, but a few black

tendrils had escaped, and were blowing in the slight

breeze. She laughed as she tucked a lock of hair back

into the scarf, then leaned in close to show him the

picture on her camera.

“See how good this shot is? ‘A man who is

waiting for his sun to rise.’”

“That’s wonderful!” Allen said. “You really

captured the hopefulness of the sunrise, the start of a

new day.”

She sat down next to him and took a few more

pictures before she turned back to him.

“Hello,” she trilled, her voice a musical tone,

“I am Maya.”

“Nice to meet you, Maya. I am Allen.” They

shook hands and shared a smile. “These are wonderful

pictures, Maya. Are you a photographer?”

“Yeah. Actually it started as a hobby, but now

I’ve sold a few things, so I guess I am. And you?”

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“Right now,” Allen said, “I’m just a tourist.”

He did not want this perfect morning spoiled by

signing autographs.

“Why are you sitting here all alone?” Maya

asked in her casual way.

“I got in yesterday, and had heard so much

about this place that I wanted to come see it.”

“Yeah, nice idea, but sadly, there’s no river,

only some traces.” Maya dug her sandaled foot into the

river bank.

Allen couldn’t help noticing that Maya’s hair

fell into her face whenever the wind picked up. She

kept pushing it away, almost unconsciously, but the

next moment it was back. Allen had an almost

uncontrollable urge to tuck it back in for her. Even as

he watched, one tendril covered her right eye. She

blew at it to get it out of the way, then took another

series of pictures.

“So, do you come here every year?” Allen asked

her.

“Yeah, I know this place very well,” she nodded,

then exclaimed, “in fact, I have seen the river rise from

its bed and flow, during the rainy season!”

“Wow, you are luckier than me. I wish I could

also see the Ganga.” Allen scanned the dry river bed.

“So, what brings you here?” she asked.

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“I’m not sure. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.”

He smiled. He found her freshness and directness

compelling.

“I hope you get what you are looking for, your

heart’s desire!” She stood. “Now I have to go and see

what I can get for my camera. Hope to see you again.

Byee!”

Allen waved as she darted away. She had come

upon him like a rainbow and left quickly with smile.

She was still clicking pictures as she gradually

disappeared. Like the priest, Allen took her presence

as a sign. Something was about to break his way.

As the sun’s first rays struck the land, Allen got

up and went back to the hotel. It must have been

prayer time in all the temples, as the streets echoed

with the sound of chanting.

He didn’t leave the hotel for the rest of the

day. He wrote and wrote and wrote. His previous

despair had evaporated, leaving only good thoughts.

India was a large country and he had been in only a

couple of places. He simply hadn’t searched enough

yet. He well knew that anything worthwhile was bound

to be costly. He had just been expecting things to be

easy. But if the task was too easy, if everything fell into

place, what kind of a tribute would that be for the

woman who had given up so much for him?

He was deep in thought when he looked up,

hearing a distant chime, and wondered whether it was

prayer time again. It took him a moment to realize

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HINDI

that it was his phone, and there was a video message

from Kelly. He pressed Play.

“Hey, Honey, I am going out of town on a

business trip. I’ll be gone for about 20 days. I hope

you are fine. I have asked one of my friends to take

care of Granny, so no worries on that front. Hope you

are doing well. Wish you luck and love you a lot.

Toodles.”

“Love you, Honey,” Allen said to the blank

screen. Kelly was able to bring a smile to his face on

his darkest days. She was always so concerned about

him. He felt bad that he couldn’t give her all the time

that she deserved, but it was difficult when he was

immersed in his projects. She could root for his

successes, but she couldn’t really be a part of them.

Especially this one, that was so personal to him.

In his heart he truly loved Kelly, but his world

of making films was separate from her corporate

culture, and always had been. Theirs was a relationship

of being separate for a time then coming together. It

was probably best that she would be gone for some

days now, busy with her own life. Not having to check

in with Kelly would allow him to more fully immerse

himself in this new—or rather, old—culture that he

was studying. He wanted to become part of India, to

savor the influence of this ancient country before he

shared what he had learned with her. Perhaps, once

he had finished his story, he would be ready to open

up to Kelly, but for right now, the only person he

really wanted to talk to, the only person he thought

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could understand what he was going through, was

Granny.

֍֍֍

The next day Allen went out roaming the

streets of Banaras again. He wanted to see whether he

could find any trace of Hindi whatsoever. In the

window of one shop, he saw a board saying CLASSICAL

INDIAN MUSIC CLASSES. He went inside, but the

place was not only vacant, but had the dusty air of a

house that was taking its last breath of life. Feeling

suffocated, he hurried back to the fresh air of the

street.

Outside, a man dressed in hip-hop clothes

listened to music on his ear buds.

“Excuse me,” Allen tapped him on the

shoulder. When the man turned around, Allen could

only see his own eyes reflected in the man’s sunglasses.

“What?” the man asked, without turning off

his music or removing an ear bud.

“Isn’t it open?” Allen gestured to the vacant

store.

“Can’t you see it’s deserted? What are you,

blind?”

Discouraged, Allen went on to a nearby

restaurant. The place was obviously old and run down.

Here there was no touchscreen, just a stained,

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laminated menu. There was no food available at that

time, so Allen ordered tea.

When the owner set the cup and saucer down,

Allen asked him, “Why are the streets so empty?

Doesn’t anyone live here?”

“Most of the people have moved away to New

Banaras City,” the owner grunted. “That is one smart

place. With a city like that, no one wants to be here.”

“Then why are you hanging around here?”

“Sir, we were born here. How can we leave our

mother earth and move anywhere else? This is the

place we grew up, and learned everything. If we leave

then it would be like leaving our mother.”

Allen gestured to the shop down the street.

“That music shop. Why is it not open?”

The owner laughed harshly. “Who wants

classical Indian music these days? People want rock,

jazz, hip-hop, but classical Indian? Nahhh…”

Allen nodded and took a sip of tea. “And how

about Hindi? Have you left that behind, as well?”

A couple of other people sitting in the

restaurant perked up at this exchange.

“Yeah,” the owner said, scratching his belly,

“we left Hindi behind. But we didn’t have a choice.

Our parents,” he included the other patrons in a

gesture, and they nodded in affirmation, “wanted us

to learn Hindi, but we had no one to talk to.”

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A man a few tables away added, “When we

were kids, no one else was interested in learning Hindi.

Even in the schools, there were no books in Hindi.”

“But,” Allen persisted, “didn’t you ask your

parents why the schools would not let you read Hindi?”

“They wanted to,” everyone nodded as the man

at the table answered him, “but they were afraid that

if we didn’t learn English, it would be really difficult

for us to survive.”

Allen looked at them with concern. “But I saw

during evening prayers that priests were chanting in

Hindi.”

“No sir,” the owner contradicted him, “they

chant in Sanskrit, but there are only eight to ten

priests who can chant it. And that is all they know of

Sanskrit, nothing else.”

They all sipped their tea, each in silent

contemplation.

“But you are right, sir,” the owner said, “we

have left behind our mother tongue. And along with

it, our culture. In fact, our dealings with each other

have become much more formal since we began to

speak only English. Our parents could carry on casual

conversation in their own language, they were so

familiar with it, but we learned school English,

educated English. We speak that English to everyone

and have no way to distinguish between family, friends

and business acquaintances.”

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Allen rose and put his hand on the owner’s

shoulder. “What do I owe you?” he asked, but the

owner waved him off.

“It was a pleasure to speak to someone who is

interested in the language of Hindi, and in the old

ways.”

“Thank you, sir,” Allen bowed, “If I succeed in

my dream, perhaps this will not be the last time the

word Hindi is spoken in your cafe.”

Tired from traipsing all over the city, Allen

headed back to the hotel for a nap. When he woke up,

it was late afternoon. Sipping on tea, he wrote up all

of his morning’s adventures, then headed out to the

temple again. The evening stars were just coming out,

and the air had cooled. Allen hoped to find the old

priest again, in his favorite spot on the steps. He

smiled when the object of his quest gave him a gentle

wave.

“Hello, young man, good to see you.”

“Hello, how are you?” Allen dropped to a seat

next to the man.

“Good.”

After this exchange, the old man seemed to

content to enjoy his surroundings. Allen waited for

him to say more, but when the old man remained

silent, Allen asked, “Last night, when you were

chanting in Sanskrit, how did you learn that? Do you

have a book for that?”

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“No, I learned it from my father, but beside

that I cannot say anything in Sanskrit.”

“Have you taught anyone else these chants?

Your children, maybe?”

The old man shook his head. “My wish for my

children is to be successful, to become a CEO, or a

doctor, or an engineer. They would be held back if

they wasted the time they need to learn how to do

these things with learning Sanskrit instead.” He sighed.

“These things are important, I know, and if we do not

teach our children, after us there will be no one left.

But they will have no respect, no future if they speak

only Hindi.”

“Is that why you didn’t learn Hindi, or let your

children learn it?”

The old man considered the question carefully.

“That may be, yes. But a hundred years ago, people

felt that by speaking English they would be able to be

a part of the mainstream culture. To learn the

language of another people was to heighten their

prestige. We had no other option.”

Allen opened his mouth to speak, but stopped

short. He had been so caught up in making movies his

whole life that he had never really given any thought

to the fact that it wasn’t only Hindi that had gone

extinct. In the desire to learn English, there must be

many other languages around the world that were

threatened.

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“But why,” the old man glanced at Allen, “why

are you so worried about Hindi? In your country, you

have also lost many languages that the tribes who used

to live in England spoke. You no longer even speak

classic Queen’s English or even Middle English.”

The old priest was right. Almost every language

had gone through such changes that it had become

almost unrecognizable to its earliest speakers, or had

made its origins extinct. But why had such a thing

happened? Maybe no one had the answer to that

question. Maybe it was just the way of the world.

Languages reflected their cultures, and as cultures

evolved, the language of that culture evolved as well.

Allen carried on with that thought. “This world

evolves with time. Some things we carry forward and

some things we leave behind. What is good, what is

bad, is always up for discussion, but for the sake of all

mankind it is necessary for all societies to continue

forward on the journey. Otherwise, they would be left

behind, left to their own resources, while the rest of

the world progressed without them. We are all selfish

and short-sighted by nature. We adopt what we like

and reject what we don’t, sometimes without realizing

what is truly important to us. Sometimes we do realize

it, but decide to surrender to the situation anyway.

But there is a difference between languages that

change with their culture and languages that die off.

English is no longer what it once was, but we haven’t

gotten rid of it altogether.”

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HINDI

As a student of history he was well aware that

Hindi was not the only casualty of a changing world,

but languages were generally suppressed by

conquering cultures, not destroyed from within by the

very culture that had given rise to the language. What

was it about India that had caused her people to spurn

their own language so quickly and so completely?

Perhaps there was no one answer to this question, but

Allen felt that he needed to understand this strange

situation as best he could.

With a final blessing from the priest, Allen

took his leave. He went back to the hotel and started

writing like any other day. At least this trip was

proving useful, and for more than recharging his

wearied soul. In Banaras, he had made a point of

meeting as many people as he could. He wanted to get

as many views of Hindi as was possible and it seemed

that every person he had asked about the demise of

Hindi had a different reason for why the language went

extinct. The kind of knowledge he was picking up was

the type that was not possible to glean from the pages

of a book, or from even the best of teachers. It could

only be learned through new people and new

experiences. He wanted to be open to whatever might

come his way.

A few days later, he was resting for a moment

from his travels, sitting at a cafe table and watching

the passersby, when a familiar voice hailed him.

“Hold on, perfect shot! ‘Man Sitting at Cafe

Table, Much Too Solemn and Serious’.”

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Allen turned with a smile. “Maya!” Why he was

inordinately glad to see her, he didn’t want to examine

just now. “Hello, it’s good to see you. I see that you

have captured me inside your camera again.”

“Yes,” her laugh was like the tinkling of bells.

“That’s what I do. I capture people for the rest of their

life through my camera.”

“Please, sit,” he offered. “Would you like some

tea?”

“Oh, thanks,” she pulled her hair over one

shoulder and sat. Today, her hair was not in a scarf.

She had braided the front part, but the back half hung

free. Allen stared at her while she shared her morning’s

outings, not listening to her idle chatter, but trying to

memorize her features. Her eyes were just the same as

the other day, black and bright and somehow,

potentially life-transforming. Just now, though, they

were

shining

with

enchanting

experiences

remembered and yet to come.

“So, tell me, ‘I guess I’ll see what I get’ man,

which places have you seen so far? Have you found

your heart’s desire, here on the streets of Banaras?”

Thinking through his experiences in Banaras,

Allen’s heart soared. He grinned with pleasure as he

said, “I am still new here, so I am just roaming.

Whatever comes my way is beautiful and amazing for

me.”

“Good! I hoped you’d say that!” She stood up,

her tea untouched. She held out her hand to him.

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“Come with me. I will take you for a ride through the

city. Do you mind?”

“Not at all!” Allen hoped that his grin didn’t

look as goofy on the outside as it felt on the inside.

Maya had hired a scooter, and she sat down on the

seat. He threw a leg over behind her, and she handed

him a helmet.

“Put it on,” she ordered, as she fastened her

own strap under her chin. “I won’t pay any fines for

you.”

“Don’t worry,” Allen smiled. “I always obey the

rules.”

Riding on the back of Maya’s scooter was like

a dream come true. A huge smile on his face, Allen

put aside all thoughts of Kelly. After all, how could

any man deny such a request from a beautiful girl?

And it wasn’t as though he was planning to do

anything. He was simply engaged in more research. No

one said that all research had to be boring or dry.

He knew that Maya was out of reach. He just

wanted to enjoy himself while he was in Banaras. Life

was difficult enough without him denying himself all

pleasures.

He grabbed Maya around the waist as she took

a corner fast. She was whipping through the streets,

her hair dancing all around his face, her smell running

through his veins.

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They reached Ramnagar Fort, a sandstone

edifice on what had been the bank of the Ganga River.

The fort included mosaics of precious marble stones,

and even Allen’s untrained eye could distinguish the

blend of Indian and Islamic architecture. The sun

sparkled on each glossy stone, creating a truly eye-

catching appearance.

Maya told him that the fort had been built

back in the 1700’s, and it was home to a maharajah.

She continued relating each detail of the fort that she

knew, and Allen nodded every so often, but all of his

attention was centered on her.

On the far side of the fort were steps that once

led to the Ganga, but now opened onto another man-

made lake. It was getting on toward dusk, and trees

shaded the spot where they sat. They stayed there for

awhile, cooling off from their ride, enjoying the view

and the breeze. The sun was done with his day and

was ready to go home. The birds were bunched in the

sky, wending their paths home to their nests.

Maya tucked her skirt around her legs, then

reached into her pocket and took out a packet of

cookies. She offered one to Allen.

“Thank you.” He sat on the step below hers

and slightly to one side, so that he could lean back on

his elbows and study her face. He continued to watch

her as they slowly chewed their goodies.

“So, what do you think of this place?” she tilted

her head in a questioning manner.

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“It’s beautiful, so peaceful,” he enthused, and

more romantic with you by my side, he didn’t add out

loud.

“So, it’s time, Allen. If you don’t tell me what

you do, I will leave you here to find your own way

back.”

“Is it so important to you?” he teased.

“Yes,” she said sternly, but her eyes were

smiling.

“Well, then,” he waited for the inevitable

reaction, “I am a movie director.”

“Oh, wow,” she took another bite of cookie

and chewed it, obviously not impressed. “And are you

still trying to make one?”

“Yes, I am trying to make a movie.”

“Good for you.” Her own cookie gone, she

offered him another one, then held the packet up and

took her time selecting a cookie for herself. Cookie in

hand, she set down the packet on the step next to her,

studied the treat intently, then took a small bite.

“Don’t be discouraged. It takes time for first-time

directors to make a film. If you keep pursuing your

dreams, one day you will surely accomplish it.”

Allen suppressed a grin. “Thank you for your

sage advice.”

She nodded. “Do you have any experience?”

she asked politely.

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“Oh, yes. I have directed a few movies.”

“Hmmm. Really. So, what is your last movie?

Would I have heard of it?”

“‘LOST & FOUND’,” Allen said casually. He

took another bite of cookie.

It took a moment to sink in, then her mouth

gaped open. “Oh my God, don’t tell me that you are

the one who won the Oscar for Best Director!” she

screamed in surprise.

“Yes,” he smiled. “Have you seen it?”

“Sorry,” she shook her head. “I don’t have

much time to watch movies, but now I will be sure to

make time to watch yours.” She reached into the

packet of cookies at her side, but they were all gone.

Undaunted, she reached into her pocket and pulled

out another packet. She offered one to Allen.

“Do you only eat cookies?” Allen teased, as he

snagged another one.

“Mostly,” she laughed, “but I confess. I love

cookies.”

They chatted for an hour or so, just enjoying

the day and each other’s company. This was a whole

new world for Allen, or at least, one he had not

inhabited for a long time. Over the past few years, he

had fallen into a routine. It was comfortable, but rarely

did his heart beat faster in response to a new sensation.

His life with Kelly was warm and familiar, like an old

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sock, he thought and immediately cursed himself for

that description. But he couldn’t get it out of his mind.

Maya was a shock of cold water, bracing and

invigorating. He had been lost in the world of making

movies for so long, it was as though all of his senses

had been dulled over the years. He had forgotten what

it was to be truly alive. In one brief encounter, Maya

had re-awakened him. Her smell was intoxicating, the

very air itself, vital to his being. He felt as if he would

suffocate if it were ever taken away. Her hair, a

thousand curls he wanted to wrap around his fingers,

to plunge his hands in, to bury his face in. The way

she looked at him, tempting him with forbidden

pleasures, his pulse quickened every time they

exchanged glances. When he had had his arms around

her waist on that wild ride to the fort, he had thought

he would never let go, could never let go.

In trading living for making movies, he had

grown weary, had forgotten that such feelings were

possible. Maybe, in his excitement to build his dream,

he had forgotten the true value and meaning of life.

Maybe this was the real heritage he had been meant

to find in India. Perhaps there was a reason that he

was having no luck finding Hindi. Maybe Granny had

been right in giving up her language and her culture.

Maybe he was meant to find a new way of life in this

ancient place.

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Allen hung on tightly while Maya roared up to

the Karshu hotel, where Allen was staying. She had

barely missed some pedestrians who had been foolish

enough to try to cross the street in front of her, and

his heart was still pounding at the near miss. He almost

thought she was going to zip on by the entrance to

the hotel, but she halted the scooter with a screech

that frightened a troop of foraging gulls. They flapped

into the sky with angry skeers, and Maya burst into

laughter when one of them shat on Allen’s helmet.

With a rueful grin, he undid the strap and handed it

to her.

“I guess you’ll need to wash this before you

turn it in,” he said.

“Won’t you need it tomorrow?” she asked

archly.

He smiled. “How could I say no to a free ride.”

He wanted desperately to ask her up to his room, just

to clean the helmet, but he dared not. He was enjoying

himself and these new-found feelings too much. He

knew that what he should do was thank her politely

for the ride and just say goodbye now, but he couldn’t

make himself break this connection.

“How does that sound?”

“What?”

Maya laughed. “You haven’t heard a word I’ve

said, have you? You aren’t paying the slightest

attention to me,” she pouted prettily, her bowed

mouth just begging for a kiss. Allen hesitated, and the

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moment passed. Maya took his helmet and stuck it

under her arm, careful not to touch the bird droppings

smearing one side. “I said, I’ll pick you up after noon.

How does that sound?”

Allen nodded, smiling, and waved as he headed

inside.

Back in his room, Allen kept sniffing his sleeves

and his hands, inhaling Maya’s scent that had

transferred to him when he had held her waist so

tightly. She felt so near that he kept opening the

window and looking outside, convinced that he’d

heard her on the street, calling his name. He lay face-

up on his bed, his arm over his eyes, trying to recall

every second of his time with Maya. He tried to figure

out what he wanted to do the next day, but he

couldn’t concentrate. Just being with Maya was

enough. He could spend all day with her on the steps

of the Ghat and drink her in.

He considered working on his computer, but

he was too restless. He wanted to sleep, but she lurked

behind his eyelids. Knowing that he had to get some

rest, he took off the shirt that smelled more of her

than it did of him, and determined to have a shower,

to clear his body of her smell. Unbuttoning his shirt,

he almost yanked it off and tossed it into the laundry

bag, but at the last minute, he tucked it under his

pillow. He knew it was ridiculous. It was hopeless. He

was in love with Kelly, wasn’t he? But he wanted to

preserve this moment of being so alive for just a little

156 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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while longer. There would be all too much time to

return to the hum-drum soon enough.

The next morning, Allen rushed through

breakfast, hardly tasting anything, thinking about the

time to come with Maya. He was ready to go by 11

am, then caught sight of himself in the mirror.

Disgusted with himself, “What was I thinking?” he said

as he quickly unbuttoned the yellow Oxford and

searched out his blue pullover—the one that Granny

said matched his eyes. Then it was 11:10, and he still

had an hour to wait. He found himself pacing back

and forth in the hotel room. The third time he hit his

hip on the table as he strode by it he forced himself

to sit down, but a mere 30 seconds later he had

popped up again and resumed pacing.

His breakfast sat heavy on his stomach, and he

was sorry that he’d eaten so much, so quickly. He had

butterflies, a feeling that he hadn’t felt with Kelly in

he didn’t know how long. 11:20 am. How was he going

to live through this interminable morning? Maybe I

should have another shower. That’ll take some time.

Don’t be an idiot! It’s just a meeting, a nice, normal,

non-romantic meeting with a girl you just met. There’s

no need to be so nervous. But when Allen put his

fingers on his wrist to check his pulse, it was beating

like a metronome at top speed.

He flopped back in his chair and pulled up an

Indian drama on the internet. At first, the distraction

was just irritating, but slowly he found himself

becoming involved in the story. When the guy finally

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got the girl after an unbelievable set of machinations,

the closing titles and music brought Allen back to

reality. He checked the time. 12:10.

“Bloody hell! I’m late!” He picked up his phone

and slammed the door behind him as he left the room.

Though he searched the lobby once, twice, three times,

Maya wasn’t there. Desperate, thinking that she might

have come and gone already, he questioned everyone,

but no one had seen her. I don’t even know her last

name, or how to get in touch with her! What a fool I

am! When the staff began to look at him strangely, he

decided it was time to step outside.

He had made three complete circuits of the

hotel before he heard the distinctive note of Maya’s

scooter and was able to relax. With her casual air and

her bright smile, even wearing a helmet she looked

more beautiful than she had the day before. She took

off the helmet and shook out her hair and Allen

suddenly felt the world spin around him.

“Well?” she asked, seemingly oblivious to the

effect she was having on him. “Are you ready for an

adventure?” Today she was dressed in jeans, covered

with another striking Khaadi top printed with chants.

“Here’s your helmet,” she grinned, “all clean. See that

you take better care of it today.”

“I will.” Reaching for the helmet, Allen

couldn’t control the trembling in his hands, but once

again, Maya didn’t seem to notice. How can she not

know the effect she has on me? To him, her eyes, her

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smell, her hair, her face, her perfume were the entire

world. He felt like a raw schoolboy again, with a crush

on an older, unattainable girl.

In the market, Maya pointed out the fruits, the

vegetables and the clothes, so quickly that Allen

couldn’t keep up.

“Ooooh, I love this necklace!” she held up a

string of beads, then handed them back to the vendor

before Allen could react and hurried on. Two stalls

down from him, she called, “Come on. Hurry up!

Look!” Before he knew what she was pointing at, she

had picked up a hat from the counter and plunked it

on his head. “It’s adorable, Allen, you must buy it!”

“But I—” he had never negotiated in such a

market in his life.

Maya smiled in anticipation and began

bartering. With her lightning-fast speech and her

fetching grin, the vendor had no chance.

“Pay him, Allen,” she ordered, and took off

again further down the aisle while Allen was digging

in his pocket. “Ooh, I know just the thing.” As soon

as he caught up, she captured his hand, and they were

off again. “It’s the old section!” she announced. “Don’t

you love it? I just love looking at these old things,

wondering what life was like centuries ago. Are you

hungry?” she asked with that abrupt way she changed

subjects that always caught Allen off guard. “You know

people say that you must go to Banaras especially for

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Ganga and food. Now there is no Ganga, so we might

as enjoy the food!”

Coming quick around a corner, they scared

some tourists who had just exited the small hotel

where they had stopped to eat, but all was forgiven in

the light of Maya’s magnificent smile. She was too

funny. Allen had never laughed so much in his life.

She had a way of saying things, with such an expression

of enthusiasm that everyone around them picked up

on her sense of fun. The whole atmosphere lightened

around her. Even the grumpiest of vendors broke into

a smile when she picked up his wares.

“How’s the food?” Maya asked a little while

later, that ever-present twinkle in her eye as she

glanced at Allen’s empty plate. Allen could never tell

whether the twinkle meant she was about to be

mischievous, or was passionate about whatever she was

talking about—or both. Whichever it was, Allen was

thrilled to be a part of it.

“Best ever, I guess,” he grinned. With you,

everything is the best ever.

“What?” she cocked her head at him.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“There is something you are not saying,” Maya

accused him. “Are you not enjoying yourself? Are you

not happy to be spending the day with me?”

“Of course I am!” he protested. “I can’t recall

when I’ve had a better time.”

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“That’s better,” she smiled. “Sometimes you go

away, and I think that I am boring you.”

“Boring me?” He almost choked on his tea. “No,

Maya, I have to say that I have never yet found you

boring. It’s just, I came to Banaras for my work. I’m

trying to find people who speak Hindi. But I haven’t

found anyone here who knows any Hindi at all.”

“Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever in my life heard

anyone speaking Hindi.” Maya took a bite and went

on, “But at least now in India we all speak English, so

there is no language barrier.”

“But you could do that with Hindi, also. What

if you all could understand Hindi?” Allen countered.

“I want the whole world to communicate in

one language. And the language I pick is English.”

Maya pouted again, and, staring at her luscious lips,

Allen almost gave up the whole idea of arguing with

her. “I mean, that would be good for all of society.

There wouldn’t be any difference, any disparity

between people.”

Allen nodded, any intellectual response that he

may have come up with dissipated by her charming

naivete. He took a bite, to give himself time to get his

thoughts in order. “So you are saying that, if only we

all had one religion, one economic class, one skin color

and one language, that would solve all of the problems

in the world. No one would fight any more, there’d

be happy faces all over?”

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Maya pursed her lips in thought. “Hmmm. I

guess not. That is a very good point. I applaud you.”

She clapped loudly, and Allen blushed when the other

diners turned to stare at them.

֍֍֍

Allen now had a new routine in Banaras.

Instead of spending every day traipsing to meetings

with strangers in the hope that eventually he would

stumble upon someone who knew Hindi, he met only

Maya and they zoomed around the city together.

He felt as though he was in limbo, in a world

far distant from what he expected to find when he

came to India, far distant from the path that he had

thought would lead to his dreams. Was it possible that

Maya was meant to be his new dream?

One night, when Maya dropped Allen off at his

hotel, he didn’t go inside immediately. He watched her

drive away with a languid wave in her direction. When

she had disappeared into the busy street, he slowly

lowered his hand to his face. Again, the scent of her

that lingered on his hand was stronger than his own,

and he stood for a time, inhaling her essence and

recalling every minute of their day, oblivious to the

concerned looks the hotel patrons gave him as they

passed in and out of the door.

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“Sir?” Allen was startled at the unexpected

voice coming from the hotel. “Sir? Please, sir, I must

ask you to remove yourself from our doorway.”

“Oh, oh,” he said to the manager, leaning out

of the doorway. “I am staying here.”

“Then, sir, won’t you please come inside?”

“No, no, thank you. I think I’ll…I guess I’ll take

a walk.” Allen stuck his hands in his pockets and took

a few faltering steps, his head down in thought. How

long he wandered, he couldn’t say, nor what shops or

restaurants he passed.

Can I just give up my life, my dreams, that

easily? But she makes me feel more alive than any of

my old dreams do. My dream of India—it seems to be

all dust now, anyway. I may never find anyone who

speaks Hindi, never make my movie. Maybe I’m just

not meant to. And Kelly—she seems so pale, so washed

out, next to Maya. Maya is so alive, so free, while Kelly

is content in that ho-hum job of hers. Maya is like the

rainbow, while Kelly is the dust on the windowsill.

I know that Kelly has been a part of my life

forever, but is Maya meant to be my new dream, my

new life? And if so, what would I do then? I can’t just

ride around the streets of Banaras with her for the rest

of my life. And just what is this thing we have? Is it

for real, or is it just an infatuation? If it is love, then

what did I have with Kelly? Was that real? If I truly

love Kelly, then why doesn’t she make me feel this

way? If I love Kelly, why do I feel that I can’t live

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without Maya? I haven’t seen Kelly for months. Why

don’t I suffer when she’s gone for months, the way

that I do when Maya is away from me for hours?

“Aargh!” he moaned, and kicked at an empty

cup on the ground. How can I tell? What should I do?

Should I go to Maya, tell her how I feel? I know only

this, that I don’t want to give up Maya. The memories

that I have of her are too precious, our time together

too enchanting.

“God!” he shook his fist in the air and yelled

at the heavens, “Why are you testing me this way? First

you tease me, giving me hints about my ancestors,

then when I come here to learn about them, you hide

all trace of Hindi from me! Then you send Maya…oh,

Maya,” he buried his face in his hands, “Oh, Kelly…is

this cheating on Kelly, or saying good-bye to her? I

don’t know. I don’t know!” He hit the wall with his

fist and jerked back at the pain, but the shock seemed

to clear his mind.

I must forget Maya. That is what is best. That

is what is right. I should go back to Kelly and continue

with my dream. But if that was the right thing to do,

why did just the thought make him feel as though he

was tearing his very heart from his chest? He trudged

back to the hotel, cradling his hurt hand in his good

one, in the same way that he longed to ease the agony

of his heartache.

When he tried to get some rest, lose himself

in sleep, a shower didn’t help, nor did tea, hours on

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the internet, fluffing his pillow, opening—or closing—

the window, nor did an aborted late night call to Kelly.

He never knew what ultimately did the trick, but when

he woke up hours later, he was stretched across the

bed, his left hand flung across his eyes, his right hand

throbbing to the beat of his heart, a plan of action

running through his brain.

After a quick shower and breakfast, he headed

back to the Ganga. He strode impatiently across the

temple plaza, to the steps where the old man usually

sat. So sure had he been that he would spy the old

man that at first he thought it was a trick of the light

that he couldn’t spot the priest. Frustrated, Allen

remembered his wounded hand and resisted blowing

off steam in some physical way. Instead, he curbed his

impatience and sat down, trying to induce the same

measure of peace that he seen in the old man in

himself. He didn’t know why he felt so sure that the

priest would have the answers that he sought, but even

the act of believing there was a solution to his troubles

acted as a balm on his tortured soul. As he sat in the

sun, the heat made him lethargic, and slowed his

breathing. This, too, worked to calm Allen, and by the

time the old man did appear, Allen could face him

serenely.

“Hello, young man,” the priest greeted him,

“we just finished with prayers. You look as though you

could have done with some yourself.”

So much for looking calm, Allen thought.

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HINDI

“What brings you to my step today?”

“I have an important decision to make in my

life, and I feel that you are the only one who can help

me,” Allen confessed.

“With every question arises its answer. Tell me,

what is troubling you on this beautiful day in Banaras?”

“Well, sir, I came to India to achieve something.

I have—I had—some goals, a reason to be in India. But

while I’ve been here, I met a girl who showed me a

whole new meaning to life. When I’m with her, I feel

completely different. She has brought new colour to

my life. The old goals don’t seem to be important any

more. But I am not sure that she is my ultimate goal.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to decide

between what I had always thought was important and

the new life that I could make for myself with her.

What should I do? Should I forget my old dreams and

be happy with her? Or should I forget her, and go

back to my old life?”

The priest was silent for so long that Allen

thought he was not going to speak. He sat and looked

at what passed for the Ganga in these days for a long

while before he pointed at the pond with his chin.

“Nothing ever stays the same,” he began slowly.

“But change is difficult. It is hard to accept. When life

is hard, it is easy to take the simple path. Look at that

pond. We knew that the Ganga was struggling, that

she needed our help. Yet it was easier to build this

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pond than to do what was necessary to save the entire

river.

“You, young man. You came here with a

struggle in your heart. The path that you had chosen

was very difficult. Along came a woman who made you

feel good, who gave you a simpler path. Of course you

are drawn to this. Life is much easier when it is simple

than when it is hard. But remember, you cannot get

everything that you want out of life. That is impossible

even for the most enlightened of us. My son,” he

turned and smiled at Allen, “it is not I who will make

this decision for you. You had already decided when

you came to ask me.”

“What do you mean?” asked Allen.

“If you had decided to be with this woman,

you would have already gone in that direction. It is

because you have decided to go back to your old life,

to take up your goals again, that you needed my help.

You were looking for support in your struggle.” He

shook his head. “You are not in need in of such

support, but we can sit together and enjoy the day.”

Although Allen still felt torn, some measure of

peace must have transferred to him from the priest,

for one of the tourists who was busy clicking away at

all of the holy relics snapped a photo of him as he

continued to lounge on the steps, just as though he

himself were one of the priests.

After listening to the priest, Allen knew what

he needed to do, knew where his path lay, but

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somehow he could not shake off the torpor and make

himself rise. The sun had spread his wings of rays and

the stone steps were warming up, yet there was a cool

breeze that instantly dried his sweat.

Some time passed in this calm manner before

the priest ventured to speak again. “Life is a journey,”

he continued, as though there had been no pause

between the last thought and this one, “and we all

have a destination to reach, a final goal to achieve. Our

destiny is to keep walking until we arrive. But this

journey is not so easy sometimes. There are hurdles

we must overcome, obstacles we must face. We get

tired. We long to rest. And so sometimes, we sit and

relax under a tree. In the shadow of the tree, we relax,

we sleep, and we wake refreshed. We don’t want to

leave the comfort of that tree. So, do we stay? No.

Because we have our goals to reach, our destiny to

fulfill. The rest under the tree renews us, restores our

energy, but it is not where we are meant to live our

lives. Such trees are good for a time, but the real

happiness is achieving our destination. My son, it is

time for you to go for your goal. Show gratitude to

the tree for the ease it has given you, for the pleasure

you have received in the middle of this difficult

journey, but then you must be on your way.”

Allen was stunned by the priest’s complete

grasp of his situation. He could do nothing at that

moment but stand and bow to the old man, the way

he had been taught. He could not believe the depth

of the old man’s insight, the way he seemed to know

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Allen’s thoughts, to reach into his very soul and

discover his innermost truths.

There is something about this very land that

endows its people with such knowledge, such spiritual

value. Some of that knowledge must have come from

Hindi—the language itself imparted wisdom to the

people who used it. I must find a way to show that in

my movie, to honor my Granny for the person she is

because of the language she grew up with.

“You have showed me the path,” he told the

priest gratefully, “like Lord Krishna did to Arjuna. You

have helped to break the illusion I was living under,

to come back to the reality of the life that I want.

Thank you so much.”

The old man gave Allen his blessing and Allen

bent down to give the priest a gentle hug, careful not

to break any fragile old bones.

Allen and Maya had already made plans to meet

that afternoon. He had been pacing in front of the

hotel for some time before she whirred up on the

scooter. She smiled at him as she removed her helmet,

but there was something in his answering smile that

puzzled her.

“Hullo,” Allen greeted her as though today was

just another day.

“Why are you so early?” she asked, frowning at

him. “What is it? What is wrong?”

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“Let us go to the river. I want to talk to you

there.”

That ride on the scooter was the wildest yet.

Maya seemed to want to get to the river before they’d

even left the hotel. Allen felt bad for making her wait

for his explanation, but he needed to be away from

prying eyes when he spoke to Maya. When she heard

what he had to say, he thought she would appreciate

being alone with him as well.

At the pond, he took her hand and led her

away from the tourists and the priests. When they had

put some distance between themselves and the others,

he stopped and looked her in the eye.

“Maya,” he said, “I have something to tell you.”

He held her gaze. He would not be a coward now, and

look away. He would freely confess his emotions, and

embrace whatever life gave to him. He had been lucky

to be able to spend time with Maya, and he wouldn’t

destroy those memories for either one of them by

shying away from what needed to be said. “I am leaving

tonight for Mumbai.” Her eyes flew open in shock.

“Maya, I have goals. I have a dream. I came to India

for a reason. I have to complete my mission. I will

treasure the time that we have had together, but after

today I won’t be able to see you any more.”

She began to shiver. He longed to hold her, to

provide comfort, but instead he stuffed his hands into

his pockets.

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“Maya,” he went on, “you have been the best

thing to happen to me in India. But I—”

“But, while I am the best thing to happen to

you in India, I am not the best thing to happen to you

in your life,” she guessed.

“That is right,” he bowed his head. “There is

someone else. Someone I have loved as long as I can

remember. Maya, I—”

“No,” she said, “I will not make this difficult

for you. I think I could have loved you, Allen.” Tears

trembled on the lashes of her dark eyes.

“And I you, Maya. Not the same way I love

Kelly, but you—”

Again, she wouldn’t let him finish. “No, Allen.

I don’t want any regrets. When I look back on this,

I—” her breath caught in a sob and she buried her face

in her hands. Filled with sorrow, he could only inhale

her fragrance and watch her hair caress her downcast

face. He felt as though only his willpower was keeping

his heart from bursting out of his chest.

“I—” he began, but she shook her head.

“We are travelers, you and I, and we are

destined for separate journeys. Before you go, there is

something. Something you can remember me by.”

“Oh, Maya, I will never forget you,” he

groaned.

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She reached into her bag and pulled out a

small box.

“What is this?”

“Open it.”

Allen lifted the flaps and upended the box over

his hand. “It’s a miniature of the Taj Mahal,” Maya

explained. “It is a symbol of love. I had planned to give

it to you—” she broke off, shaking her head to drive

the tears from her eyes.

“This is beautiful, Maya. But I have nothing for

you.”

She smiled the most breathtaking, tentative

smile he’d ever seen, and reached cautiously above his

head. “Then I will have this,” she grinned shakily, as

she plopped his hat on her head.

“Oh, Maya,” Allen didn’t think he could stand

here and take much more of this. “May I have one last

hug?”

“Of course!” She was already in his arms. They

held on tight to each other, to the promise that would

always remain unfulfilled, to the journey that would

never be complete. Then Allen put his hands on her

arms and put her from him for the last time.

“Be sure to let me know when your movie

comes out.”

“But you don’t watch movies.”

“I will make an exception in your case.”

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Allen took her hand in his. “Goodbye, Maya.

May God shower all his blessings and love on you.”

Maya shook hands firmly, then let go and

stepped back. “Thank you so much, Allen.”

They stared into each others’ eyes, trying to

keep the tears from rolling down their faces. They

both pretended to smile. They stood that way for a

long time, taking their last glimpse of each other,

imprinting the image to remember it for the rest of

their lives. Such images do not come with the click of

a camera. They can only be captured forever on the

surface of a heart.

When Allen turned and started walking away,

Maya forced herself to turn away also. They both

moved slowly, as though their feet were encased in

concrete. Allen wanted desperately to look back, but

to give her some privacy, he just kept walking. He

could hear when she climbed on her scooter. When it

roared into life. When she hesitated before zooming

off. When the sound of the scooter had died away,

there was nothing left but silence, the only witness to

this completely incomplete story.

Wrapped up in his memories of Banaras, Allen

left for Mumbai that night.

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CHAPTER – 5

*JACK ANGEL *

t ten o’clock the following morning,

Allen was back in Mumbai, still wrapped

A up in his pillows and bed sheet in the

Taj Mahal Hotel, thinking about his last meeting with

Maya. The sun’s rays were knocking on his eyelids, but

he ignored their invitation to rise and meet the day.

He wanted to sleep a few more minutes so he could

think of Maya, but a knock on the door alerted him

to someone’s presence.

Sighing, he stretched, then got up and opened

the door. A thin man in his early thirties, dressed in a

safari suit, hat, and jacket, was standing at the door.

“Good morning, sir. May I come in?” He

stepped inside before Allen could respond. “Sir,” he

swept off his hat, “please allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Jack, but people call me Jack Angel, as I

make their lives simple and free them from all worries.”

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Jack picked up the video phone and called

room service, “Please send up two cups of tea. Wait,”

he turned to Allen. “Please, sir, what would you like?”

Wow, Allen thought, a real-life angel in the

morning. “Coffee,” he responded out loud.

“Make that one cup of tea and one coffee,

along with some brown bread and cheese biscuits.”

“But I don’t eat biscuits,” Allen said, then

recalled downing an entire package of cookies on the

steps of Ramnagar Fort. Except for the ones Maya and

I shared, he silently amended, and smiled at the

thought.

Jack smiled back sheepishly, “It is for me, sir.

Sorry, but I can’t go long without eating.”

Allen headed for the washroom to freshen up.

By the time he came out, hair combed and drying his

face, the tea and coffee had arrived.

“Sugar, sir?”

“Yeah, one spoon,” Allen replied. He sat down,

and Jack set his coffee on the table next to him.

“Thank you,” Allen said. “Nice coffee.”

“My pleasure, sir.”

“Mr. Angel,” Allen leaned back and crossed his

left ankle over his right knee, “now would you like to

tell me why are you here without an appointment?”

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“Of course, sir,” Jack set his teacup down, “we

Indians respect our guests a lot, especially when they

are from European countries.” Allen looked puzzled.

Jack went on, “I heard you that you are looking for

artists for your film.”

“Yes,” Allen replied, still not understanding

the unexpected intrusion.

“I can help you out, whether you need artists,

production assistance, or any other requirements. I am

what you call an all-round talent. A complete

production package.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m afraid you

cannot help me,” Allen was blunt.

“But I can,” Jack persisted.

Allen shook his head, “I told you, you cannot

help me.”

“Sir, I have been in this business for the last

15 years. I know each and every actor, technician and

location of this country. I have provided many artists

to foreign directors in the past. If you do not believe

me, you can check out my name in many Hollywood

movies.”

Allen sipped his coffee, then looked directly at

Jack. “I do not doubt your capabilities, but I am not

sure what I want is really feasible.”

“Trust me sir, I will help you out.” Jack smiled

confidently.

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“All right, then, I want one hundred people of

all age groups who can work in my movie.” Allen held

up a hand as Jack started nodding. “This movie will be

in the Hindi language only. Now the condition is that

they all should know how to speak in Hindi.”

Despite his troubles, Allen had to grin as Jack’s

face fell. Jack took a handkerchief from his pocket and

wiped his face.

“The air conditioning is on,” Allen teased.

“Why are you sweating?” He toyed with his coffee cup.

“I haven’t heard even a single word in Hindi since I

came to India. Now you show up, and you are very

sure that you can provide me exactly what I want.”

Allen glanced at the Taj Mahal souvenir, set on

the nightstand near the left side of his bed. As he

waited for Jack to compose himself, he reveled in

memories of Maya’s smell, her touch.

Jack tucked his handkerchief away and spread

his hands wide. “I don’t know about Hindi-speaking

artists, and I cannot promise that, but if you want to

hear the Hindi language, that I can do.”

Allen looked up in surprise. “Where? Let’s go

right now.” He jumped up, flew across the room,

gathered his clothes and raced into the washroom. “I’ll

be right back. Don’t go anywhere!”

Jack drove. Allen was silent in anticipation. In

just a few minutes, Jack stopped in front of a building.

It was newly constructed, with a huge electronic

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signboard advertising the ‘Museum of Indian

Languages’’.

“Here, sir, you will be able to hear all the

languages that used to be spoken one hundred years

ago. All of the language-related documents and

elements have been collected here.” A few people were

queued at the ticket window. “As you can see, not

many people bother to learn about their own

languages, languages which their own forefathers used

to speak.”

Jack paid the admission, 5,000 rupees, then

ushered Allen into the museum. They entered a large

hall with many exhibits on all the national and regional

languages. The museum was a unique concept in

preserving lost languages. Though there were only a

few Indians inside, many foreigners crowded the halls.

First was the Gujarati exhibit. Jack asked Allen

to stand in front of the screen and say something in

English.

“What is your name?” Allen asked.

Within a second a voice said, “THARO NAAM

SU CHE.”

“The Gujarati language was spoken in the state

of Gujarat long ago,” Jack explained.

Allen was thrilled to hear these new languages.

At the next stall which was the Punjabi exhibit, and

again Jack gestured to Allen to say something.

“How are you?” Allen complied.

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This time he heard, “TUHADA KI HAAL HAIN.”

Slowly they moved through all the stalls: Bihari,

Marathi, Assamese, Bengali, Telugu, Kannada,

Malayalam, and on and on. Allen beamed for the first

time since he’d gotten to India.

“Wow! So many new languages! I cannot

believe that there were billions of speakers of these

languages, and now there is no one.”

Finally they came to the Hindi stall.

Allen said, ““Hello. My name is Allen. I want

to learn Hindi.”

“NAMASTE. MERA NAAM ALLEN HAIN. AUR

MAIN HINDI SEEKHNA CHAHTA HU.”

Allen’s eyes were bright in the dimly-lit room.

He turned to Jack. “Did you understand what it said?”

“The same as you asked in English,” Jack

grinned.

Allen gave him an angry look. “Duffer,” he

muttered.

“How would I know what it is saying in Hindi?”

Jack explained. “We don’t know anything about these

languages now. We have even forgotten how to swear

in Hindi.”

“That’s the only good thing you did!”

Jack noticed a pair of headphones and stuck

them on his head.

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“Swearing in Hindi,” he said to the screen. As

he listened, he began to laugh.

“Do you understand that?” Allen asked in

amazement.

“No,” Jack shook his head, “it is saying

something like MAA KI, BAHAN KI….but I’m sure that

swearing at someone in Hindi must be great fun!”

With a final chuckle, he set the headphones down, and

they looked around the rest of the room. “This whole

museum is about languages we used to speak one

hundred years ago,” Jack mused sadly. They left the

room, their heads bowed in thought.

In the next room, Jack cheered up. “Look, sir,

this is where they keep Hindi road signs!”

He pointed at a sign, and Allen read the

English translation, “Walk carefully. Pothole ahead.”

“Look! Here’s another!” exclaimed Jack. “This

used to hang on a shop.”

“‘Do not pee on the wall,’” Allen said, “And

here. ‘Don’t spit in public.’” He turned to Jack. “Really?

You people needed signs for that?”

Jack laughed.

“Why are you laughing?”

“We still pee whenever no one is looking.”

They smiled at each other and moved on.

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“You know what, Jack, I saw something like

this written in the streets of Banaras. I didn’t know

how important these were.”

Allen excitedly checked out each of the signs.

It was like finding an old library with a whole lot of

new books.

In the next stall were various movie posters in

all of the languages of India. Each was handmade and

painted in glorious colors. The clothes and faces of the

actors shown as though in ethereal light.

“Sir, these are the legends of Indian cinema.

People used to worship them like Gods. But nowadays

you don’t find that kind of hero worship for actors.”

Entranced, Allen took some photographs with

his phone. “Jack, this is a precious treasure you’ve

shown me.” He stood and soaked it all in for a bit,

then they wandered into the digital library.

Jack waved his arm around the room. “Here are

stored billions of data in Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi,

Punjabi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and

many more lost Indian languages.”

“This is truly a national treasure, Jack,” Allen

was awestruck. “I can’t believe all these beautiful

languages have been removed from your lives.”

“Well, sir,” Jack was apologetic, “we didn’t

seem to feel the need of languages other than English.”

He changed the subject. “I saw the Taj Mahal souvenir

in your hotel room.”

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“Yes.” Allen’s eyes grew bright. “Someone

special gave that to me.”

“Once, the Taj Mahal was among the seven

wonders of the world.” Jack moved away, ran a hand

across a shelf. “You are asking me about languages.

But if you go to see the Taj Mahal, you will find it a

yellowish dusty structure covered in a glass shelf.”

Allen raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking

about?”

“Yes,” Jack turned back to him, “our

grandfathers couldn’t save that monument, either. The

Taj Mahal was a physical structure, a pure symbol of

love. Hindi was ephemeral, a mixture of many

languages. And now we have lost both of them.” Allen

had no reply to this. Jack stood a moment longer, then

put a hand on Allen’s shoulder. “Let’s go back, sir. I

have done everything that I could for you here.”

“Thank you, Jack, for that,” Allen said, as Jack

drove him back to the hotel. “But this doesn’t help me

any in making my movie.”

“I understand, sir, but that is all that I can do

for you now. Please call me if you need anything else.”

“I will,” said Allen. “I surely will.” They shook

hands and went their separate ways. As Allen reached

his hotel room, he could hear his phone ringing.

“Hello, son, how have you been?”

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“Granny! It is so good to hear from you.” Allen

sank into a chair. “I’ve had a great day. I saw some

incredible things.”

“So, you found what you were looking for?”

“Not yet, Granny.”

“Don’t worry, son, it will come to you.

Tomorrow is Diwali, one of the biggest festivals in

India. Visit a temple. God will bless you with what you

want. Tomorrow,” added Granny, “you will get a gift

parcel from me.”

“What is it?”

Granny smiled. “You will just have to wait, my

son.”

“Okay, Granny.”

“Good night, son. Take care.”

“You too, Granny, and Happy Diwali in

advance.” After he hung up with Granny, Allen

ordered coffee. He sipped it as he thought things over.

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CHAPTER – 6

*DIWALI *

ith the holiday, there were no

meetings. Allen lounged around in

W his room until after lunch. He

Googled “Diwali” to learn why this day was important,

and how it was celebrated.

“How fortuitous!” He exclaimed. Diwali, or the

Festival of Lights, celebrated the victory of light over

darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance,

and hope over despair. “This is truly a good sign for

my movie,” he said, just as there was a knock on the

door.

“For you, sir,” a courier handed him a package.

There was a video message from Granny.

“Hello, son, I have sent you a traditional Indian

dress—a Kurta pyjama. It is basically a tunic and pants,

which are worn on Diwali days in India. Your

grandfather used to wear this every year on this

occasion. I hope you’ll like it.”

Allen carefully opened the package. Inside was

white cloth—silk, with beautiful embroidery on the

neck. The sleeves also were embroidered with flowers.

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He put on the tunic and pants and examined himself

in the mirror. “Not bad, Mr. Allen. You look quite

handsome in this.”

There was another knock at the door.

“Mr. Ranga! What a surprise! My dear friend!

Happy Diwali!”

“Same to you, sir.”

They hugged each other. Ranga had brought

sweets and chocolates for Allen.

“This is for you, sir.”

“Ohh, that is so sweet of you, Mr. Ranga. I am

so pleased to accept your lovely gifts,” Allen said.

“What are you wearing?” Ranga pointed at

Allen’s clothes.

“It is your own traditional dress.” Allen was

shocked at the question.

“Yeah, I know that, but who wears this kind

of thing these days?”

“What? You should also be dressed this way.

Why are you wearing western attire when Diwali is

your biggest festival?”

“Most people like to wear western clothes

these days,” Ranga objected.

“Yeah, but there are some who wear traditional

dress as well.”

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Ranga stubbornly shook his head. “Even my

father’s generation wore western wear.”

“Oh, you’ve gone yet another step, beyond

burying your native language. You guys have uprooted

your tradition, also.” Allen gave Ranga a sarcastic smile.

“I’d like to go to a temple, since it is Diwali. Can we

manage that?”

“Sure, sir. My taxi awaits. By the way, you are

looking great in this traditional dress.”

“Mr. Ranga, you missed the chance to look as

good as I do today.” Allen winked at him.

The entire city glittered like a diamond. It was

an amazing experience. Allen could see firecrackers

bursting around the high-rise buildings. Loud music

played everywhere. The streets were more crowded

than usual and the drive was not an easy one.

“Why ain’t you celebrating Diwali with your

family?” Allen asked.

“They all went to celebrate Diwali in my

hometown. Since I am the only one who has a job, I

chose to stay here.” Ranga’s disappointment was

obvious.

“Don’t worry. I hope you’ll be able to celebrate

it next year with your family,” Allen tried to cheer him

up.

“Maybe,” Ranga smiled.

It took some time to get to the temple through

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the crowded streets. Once they got there, the temple

was also crowded. People were standing in a queue for

the escalator to take them inside. Allen noticed that

everyone was openly staring at him in surprise. There

were only a few people besides him wearing traditional

Indian dress.

“I hope I don’t look like an alien here,” he

murmured.

Inside the temple, the head priest was blessing

worshipers. Although Allen fidgeted during the long

wait, once they were finally inside, he felt a sense of

peace come over him. Leaving the temple, he felt clean

and refreshed.

After the ceremony, Ranga took Allen to

another part of the city. Allen was mesmerized by the

beauty of Mumbai. Ranga took a turn onto an empty

street, and Allen gasped. The entire street had been

decorated with colorful lights, which showed the

status of the local residents. Ranga drove slowly, so

that they had time to admire everything around them.

“Stop the car,” Allen ordered. “Did you hear

something?”

“No.”

“I think someone is chanting in Hindi.”

“Really? You go. I will wait here with the car.”

Allen followed the sound of the chanting to a

bungalow. He had not seen many of these expensive

homes in Mumbai, so he assumed that this must be a

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well-to-do neighborhood. He hesitated for a moment

before ringing the bell. A middle-aged man opened the

door.

“Yes? How may I help you?”

“Happy Diwali,” Allen wished him. “I’m sorry

to bother you, but I heard someone chanting.”

“Yes. It is Diwali, so we are offering prayers to

our God and Goddess.”

“This may seem rather a strange request, but

may I join you?”

The man understandably looked taken aback,

so Allen explained, “My name is Allen. I am a film

maker from the UK. I’m here to make a film about

India, and I am trying to soak up the local culture.”

“Ah,” the man murmured. He still looked

skeptical, but he stepped back so that Allen could

enter the house. “It’s Diwali time, and only family

members are here, but we welcome you. Please come

in.” He led Allen to the parlor, where several family

members were standing in front of a small temple.

They all turned to see the newcomer. The man

introduced Allen.

Allen smiled and said, “Namaste. Happy Diwali

to all of you,” while glancing around eagerly for the

source of the chanting. He could not see a priest, but

he did notice that the house was decorated with many

colorful candles and ribbons.

“What are you looking for, sir?” the man asked.

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“Who is chanting in Hindi?” Allen asked.

“Oh. Nobody here. These are Shloka in the

Sanskrit language. No one knows these Shloka, so we

are playing a recorded track.”

“Shloka?”

“Verses, sir.”

“And they are in Sanskrit? I thought it was

Hindi.” Allen was crestfallen.

“Well, sir,” seeing Allen’s disappointment, the

man added, “Since we do not know how to do prayers

in Hindi, either, we purchased recordings in Hindi and

Sanskrit. Every year we play them and perform our

Diwali prayers like this.”

“So you do have sayings in Hindi. May I ask,

where do you order them from?”

“Here. We order it online.” A younger man

showed him the website, then copied down the name

and web address of the distributor, and handed the

paper to Allen.

Allen looked at it and tucked the information

away in his tunic. “Wow, that’s a great technology. If

only all of our problems could be solved so easily.”

The tension from Allen’s abrupt intrusion

eased and they all laughed.

“We were just about to take a break from our

prayers and have lunch. Would you like something to

eat and drink?” the man asked.

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HINDI

“Thank you,” Allen graciously accepted his

hospitality. “Do you mind if I ask you about Hindi?”

“Of course, sir.” A small boy led the way to the

dining area and they all sat and made themselves

comfortable. The woman of the house served him

various types of sweets.

“I have noticed,” Allen said, “that in the Metro,

the bus station, on the train, in offices, restaurants

and malls, everywhere people speak English. Why is

that? Where once everyone spoke Hindi, now you all

speak English.”

They all looked to the oldest man, who seemed

to be in his mid-80s. He was undoubtedly the head of

the family. He looked silently at Allen for a moment

before clearing his throat.

“I did speak Hindi once,” he said. “But I have

not done so for so long that I cannot remember the

words. Back when I was my son’s age, we were trying

to better the circumstances for our people. We had

too many people and not enough resources. We

wanted to become part of the world of success, but

speaking a different language than the rest of the

world separated us and cut us off from the future.”

“But people of many countries speak English

alongside their own languages. Even now, the Chinese,

Russians, Germans, Spanish, none of them have given

up their language altogether.”

The old man nodded. “Yes. We may have taken

it too far. The professionals and the elite learned

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English, so we considered those who spoke English as

more successful. English was seen as the route to

economic advantage. The old language and culture

were associated with backwardness and poverty. Over

time, those who spoke only Hindi felt uneducated and

inferior. They also worked to learn English. Actually,

they were left with no other options.”

“I wish you could have taught it to your

children also.” Allen showed his concern.

“This language is spoken by grandparents and

older generations only. While the parent generation

may understand it, they do not speak it to children or

among themselves. Maybe they are ashamed to speak

their native language. This is the reason we lost Hindi

bit by bit from one generation to another generation

and today we are left to survive on foreign language

alone. This is not true only of us. There are many of

us who have felt this loss in the country.”

The man who had opened the door spoke up.

“My father speaks the truth. By the time I was in

school, the emphasis was on English. We wanted to,

we needed to, communicate in the business world.

Knowing English opened up that world, especially the

online world, and changed the lives of many of our

people for the better. We started looking at language

as a tool of communication instead of as a part of our

culture. Everyone wanted to have the chance to learn

English, to better themselves. The problem was that

India didn’t have enough resources to teach children

both Hindi and English. A sad state of affairs. We

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became obsessed with English for the way it would

lead to success in business. For people who had

struggled so long to provide merely the basics, English

was a lifesaver. We didn’t think about the effect it

would have on our native culture. So here we are,

listening to a recording of prayers that we should know

by heart.”

Allen was silent for a time, absorbing this latest

rationale. When he spoke, his tone was muted. “Thank

you for taking the time to explain this to me.” He

shook hands all around. “It was good to meet all of

you. I understand your point…but in the end I wanna

say one thing. I wish you guys could speak Hindi.

Maybe then you would not have to pray to God with

these recordings. Chanting should come directly from

the heart and that comes when you do it speaking in

your mother tongue. Then God will listen to it.”

The father said, “We do the best we can, sir.”

“I’m sure you do,” agreed Allen, “and I applaud

your efforts. I just wish there was no need for such

things as these recordings.” He said a solemn goodbye

to the family.

Ranga was waiting for him outside.

“I thought you weren’t coming out until you

learned Hindi from them,” Ranga teased him.

“I am really sorry, my friend. We were talking

and the time passed quickly. I did not learn Hindi

there, but I found someone who knows Hindi.”

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“Whaattt?” Ranga got really excited. “Eureka..!!”

“His name is Narang,” said Allen, “He lives in

Chennai. I have to go there tomorrow.”

“Thank God,” Ranga said fervently, “finally you

got a clue. You are true filmmaker. You look for

something while others do not.”

They both laughed…and the car moved on.

193 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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CHAPTER – 7

*CHENNAI *

he next morning Ranga dropped Allen at

the Mumbai airport. Allen was dismayed

T to find that, once again, everywhere he

looked, now that he was paying attention, all the signs

were in English.

“Thank you so much, Ranga. I will be back

soon.”

“Good luck getting people for your movie. If

you get someone who knows Hindi, then I will also

learn it and work in your film.”

Ranga shook hands with Allen.

“Definitely.”

“And I hope that you give me all your dates in

advance,” Ranga laughed.

“Actually, I might be busy. Hahaha.”

“Now you are joking with me, sir.”

On this happy note they said goodbye.

At the Chennai airport, Allen asked the taxi

driver to go directly to Narang’s place, a half-hour

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drive away. Narang’s flat was on 15th floor of an old-

style tenant structure. A middle-aged man, of dark

complexion, dressed in a blue silk shirt and white

slacks, opened the door.

“Mr. Vim Narang?”

“Yes.”

“Hello. I am Allen. I’m a movie director from

the UK. I’m sorry to show up without an appointment,

but I wanted to meet you.”

“Please come in,” Narang ushered Allen into

his parlor. The walls of his home were covered with

screens of the Hindu Gods. Immediately Allen felt at

home, felt comfortable. He could feel his muscles relax,

the tension ease out. He was receiving positive,

calming energy from this house.

“You are India’s guest and guests are

considered as Gods in India,” Narang welcomed Allen.

“So tell me, how may I help you?”

“I heard that you provide recordings of

religious chants of Hindi and Sanskrit.”

“Yes, in fact I am the only one in the India

who records these in all of the Indian languages.”

“You know all these languages, then? I mean

Hindi and Sanskrit, and other regional languages?”

Allen was becoming more excited.

“No, sir. I know none of these languages.”

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“But, you are the one who records religious

chants in Indian languages!”

“No, sir, how could I do that? I do not know

any other language but English.”

“And your regional language?” Allen asks.

“Tamil?”

“It has also gone with the days,” Narang said.

“That one also? Why is that?” Allen asked in

frustration.

“People felt ashamed to speak their regional

languages in public. At home, they would speak their

own languages, but outside they would pretend that

they only spoke English. My parents went even further.

I never heard my parents talking in any other language

but English in front of me.”

“That is so strange. Don’t any of you guys think

that is strange? What about in school? You must have

had friends who knew the regional language.”

“No,” Narang shook his head, “especially in

school we were not allowed. If someone was found

speaking any regional language, he would be punished.”

“May I know why?”

Narang made a vague gesture. “One hundred

years ago, if someone could not speak English, he

would be considered illiterate. He would never be able

to rise in society. We Indians did not appreciate our

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own culture and our own identity. In punishing Indian

language speakers, we killed our own languages.”

“I keep hearing that same thing over and over.

Only the uneducated spoke Hindi. Or Tamil. Or any

other regional language. But there is no harm in

speaking a national language,” Allen objected. They

were both silent for a time.

Finally, Narang went on. His voice shook as he

said, “We were proud to be able to learn English, but

we felt ashamed of our own national languages. After

we gained our independence from the British, some

people tried to make Hindi the national language of

India, but southern states—especially ours—strongly

opposed that, because our local politicians felt that it

would be a threat to our regional language.” He

shrugged. “They succeeded in keeping Hindi from

becoming our national language. Now we have no

regional languages, and we haven’t even been able to

save Hindi. Hindi was used for political benefit and

then discarded.”

“That’s really a sad story.” For the first time,

Allen felt a deep sympathy for the people of India. He

had been told over and over that giving up regional

languages had been a status symbol, but it seemed

there was more involved than that. He looked up as a

young man entered the room with a tray of two glasses

filled with water.

“Please,” Mr. Narang offered. “You must be

thirsty after your trip.”

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“Thank you,” Allen said. He took a long drink.

The flight to Chennai had lasted two hours, and he

had only had a soda on the plane. Mr. Narang gestured

to a table, and Allen set down the glass to speak. “But

wasn’t the youth at that time not keen on learning

their mother tongue?”

Mr. Narang motioned Allen to a seat, then

settled himself. “The southern states were producing

the top technical students, who eventually relocated

all over the world. Most of them were attracted to the

west, obviously, and had the need to speak English.

Even those who remained in India, well, a hundred

years ago, call centers began to become very lucrative.”

“Call centers?”

“Yes, customer service centers. Many Indians

were employed in answering questions from customers

in the west, UK, USA, Europe. However, the

customers sometimes had trouble understanding the

Indian representatives, because of their accents, and

the business owners were unhappy. Not wanting to

lose a good source of income, the owners of the call

centers put pressure on the government schools to

teach unaccented English to younger and younger

students. With the increasing influence of English,

Hindi gradually vanished, first from the classrooms,

then from the school books, and finally, even from the

libraries.”

“But English is a language just like any other.

It could have been learned and mastered along with

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your own mother tongue. Why did they push aside

their own language so completely?” Allen wanted to

get to the bottom of this question.

“That, I am afraid,” Narang chuckled, “you will

have to ask every Indian for himself. And, of course,

Mr. Allen, it is not only Indian languages that have

gone by the wayside. In your own country, have you

not lost ancient languages as well? Why did your

people give them up? This is a global issue, not

confined to India.”

“In our case,” Allen objected, “and in many

situations around the world, the native language was

suppressed by the conquering people. But in your case,

in India, it was only once the conquerors were gone,

once the British left, that your own people neglected

your mother tongue.”

Narang was quiet for a moment, then asked,

“Anyway, why are you asking about this?”

“As I said,” Allen leaned forward, “I am a

filmmaker. I have chosen to come to India to make a

movie in Hindi, but I didn’t realize that Hindi is no

more. I am sad at the loss of my ancestors’ native

language, and at a loss about why that has occurred. I

have traveled India looking for people who still speak

Hindi, but am having no luck. Now I am here in

Chennai, looking for anyone who can speak Hindi for

my movie.”

“I think you are late by 50 years then,” Narang

joked.

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“I don’t understand. If no one speaks Hindi,

who records these chants for you?”

“Ah, that. There are a few people in distant

places who still remember their own languages. For

Hindi, it is a quaint town in the north, called Jaipuria.

In Jaipuria there lives a man named Bharat. Once a

year, Bharat records these Chants for me.”

“Can I get his contact details from you?” Allen

asked eagerly. “May be he could help me out.”

“Sure. Why not,” Narang pulled out a file and

wrote the numbers down for Allen. “Maybe he’ll be

able to assist you.”

“Thank you so much, Mr. Narang.”

“My pleasure. For myself, I would like to see

all of the Indian languages spoken throughout India

once more. I want movies to be made in Indian

languages again. I’m sure every Indian would love to

have the opportunity to learn their ancestors’ language

once again.”

“You are not the only one who feels that way.

I have noticed that many people are unhappy that they

cannot speak Hindi, that they were not allowed to

learn Hindi. It was not my intention when I began,

but my movie might help that situation.” He chuckled

sourly. “I am not even sure whether I’ll be able to

make a movie in Hindi, but I will try my best.”

“All the best, Mr. Allen.”

200 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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Allen felt better as he exited the building. Each

piece of information that he received helped him to

build up a context for the extinction of the Indian

languages, and made his vision stronger and clearer.

He thought of his life before, how he had never

considered the genocide of languages, even those in

his own country. In researching Hindi, he had also

looked up some of the history of Great Britain. While

the loss of Pict and Celt, Angle and Saxon languages

was also a sad thing, it seemed more of a dictate that

was forced on the native peoples of Briton. The loss of

Hindi and other mother tongues of India, however,

seemed to have been self-imposed. It was that self-

immolation that perplexed him, that bid him to dig

deeper into the circumstances that caused that result.

From the moment he had stepped off the plane

in Mumbai, he had felt that he had entered his true

homeland, even though he’d never been there before.

But his homeland had cut off its own foot. He needed

to know why that had happened, in order to

understand his own roots. His grandparents had turned

their back on Hindi, but they had turned their backs

on all of India. He could somewhat understand that

attitude, but it was hard for him to comprehend how

those who stayed in India had turned their backs on

their own language in favor of one that was imported.

Besides, he consoled himself, making a movie

about the loss of Hindi could also give rise to

conversations about the losses of other languages,

including those of the first settlers of Great Britain.

201 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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As he walked around the city, Allen pulled up

Chennai on his phone. Wandering around the

downtown area, he read about the capital of the Indian

state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the Coromandel Coast

off the Bay of Bengal, Chennai was the biggest cultural,

economic and educational centre in South India. Home

to many high-rises, Chennai also boasted lovely green

spaces, like the SkyBird Park near downtown.

Allen admired the pictures of the park on his

phone, feeling more peaceful just looking at the

pleasant scenes. As Allen stared closer at the screen

though, he realized that something was not quite

correct. He pulled one of the images off his phone and

created a hologram in front of him. He strolled

through the holographic image, then pulled out

another. Looking at a collection of photos from

different seasons of the year, he noticed that the trees

and plants remained exactly the same.

All of the trees and plants that he had thought

were natural were actually artificial. The SkyBird Park,

like so many other things in modern India, was man-

made. Allen almost threw his phone on the ground in

disgust. Government idiocy, global warming, failure to

pay attention, the reason for the loss of so much was

not important—it was the loss of an entire bygone

world that he mourned. He had found India only to

lose it before he ever had a chance to explore it.

Hot, thirsty, hungry, and angry, Allen stopped

in front of a restaurant with the French name of

Chennai Corto. He decided to improve his mood by

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resting there and having something to eat. A waiter

brought him water while he perused the touch screen

menu. He noticed that all of the dishes on the menu

had English, French, German, or Russian names. He

shook his head in disgust, but put aside those thoughts,

trying to stay calm.

He asked the waiter, “Do you serve any Indian

dishes here?”

“Yes sir,” the waiter pointed to the menu,

“these all are Indian dishes.”

“But they all sound like foreign dishes to me,”

Allen noted.

“Sir,” the waiter assured him, “those are only

names, but the taste is 100 percent Indian. Do not

worry. You will enjoy them immensely.”

“I’d like your signature dish, then please.”

“Very good, sir. That would be our famous

Vegetarian Quiche Lorraine.”

“That sounds great,” Allen said, “but I’ve had

Quiche Lorraine, in Paris. I didn’t know it was an

Indian dish.”

“It is our own special take on that dish, sir.”

He kissed his fingers in the French style. “Delicious.

Our patrons love it.”

While waiting for his order, Allen scanned the

restaurant. The decor was nicely done, very tasteful,

although at this time of day, there were not many

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other patrons. When the food arrived, he dug right in.

The waiter was right. The dish was delicious, although

for a food with a name like Quiche Lorraine, known

for eggs and cheese, it had a ferocious bite.

“How is it, sir?” The waiter had re-appeared to

fill Allen’s water glass. “Is it to your liking?”

“It’s awesome,” Allen said through bites,

“although it is nothing like what I was expecting. Very,”

he fanned his mouth, “tasty, but too spicy.”

He could see the other diners giggling at his

struggles to deal with the food, but he didn’t care.

Despite the heat and the way it made him sweat, he

was relishing this strange dish with the familiar name.

Ready to pay his bill, he asked to see the

manager.

“Was your food not to your liking, sir?” The

manager was sweating in concern.

“Oh, no, sir,” Allen hastened to put him at

ease. “It was delicious. I loved it. Your waiter made a

fine choice for me. No, I just wanted to ask you a

question. Why do your Indian dishes not have Indian

names?”

“Ah,” said the manager, visibly relaxing, “All of

the items on our menu used to have Indian names,”

he explained, “but our customers preferred items with

foreign names. Gradually, we all changed the names to

sound like foreign dishes. And voila! We saw the result.

More people started to order them.” He shrugged.

204 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“Same food, different name. A name can do magic to

the taste of food. It’s all about foreign branding,” he

added slyly.

“Thank you so much,” Allen smiled. “I really

enjoyed your food.”

The manager held out his hand. “Please do

come back again.”

Allen’s phone rang as he was strolling along

the footpath between the high-rise buildings. A

hologram of Kelly appeared before him. He went to

find a place to sit down, and the hologram followed

him.

“Hello, Honey, how are you?” she asked.

“Don’t you miss me?”

“Of course I do, Sweetheart.”

“Then why don’t you ever call me? Just like a

man.”

Allen laughed. “I’m sorry. I do miss you, but I

haven’t had a chance to call. I’ve been travelling all

over India. I’m in Chennai right now.”

“How’s it going?” Kelly asked.

“It is going great. I’m learning many interesting

things.”

“So, when are you coming back?”

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“Well, I cannot tell you right now. I’ll have to

see. But I am seriously missing you both. I wish you

both could be here.”

“How long are you going to be in Chennai?

Maybe we could meet you,” she smiled impishly.

Allen shook his head with a smile. “I wish. But

I am leaving today. Are you back in London?”

“Yeah, I’m on my way to see Granny. Anything

you want me to tell her?” He could see her exit her

car.

“Nothing new, just give my love to my old

sweetheart,” Allen grinned.

“Brilliant. Love you, honey. Please take care.

Ta Ta.”

As he hung up, Allen noticed a school nearby.

He went to go in, but a guard stopped him at the gate.

“Do you have an appointment, sir?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t, but can you please give my

card to the principal and tell him that I’d like to meet

with him?”

“Wait here.” The guard called the office, then

waved Allen over. “Sir, he’d like to see you now.”

The principal was very westernized. He was

dressed in a suit, and the air conditioning in his office

had made it as chilly as Mount Everest. He recognized

Allen’s name on the card, and was effusive in his

greeting.

206 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“Thank you for seeing me,” Allen said.

“I could not believe that an Oscar-winning

director came to visit our little school. Please be seated.

What can I do for you?”

“I’d like to make a movie here in India. As part

of the research, I want to have children’s viewpoint. Is

there any way I might be able to meet any of your

students?”

“Sure, sure, why not, sir. They will be very

lucky to meet you. As a very successful man who is

half-Indian you are an inspiration for many of them.”

“How did you know that I am half-Indian?”

“Ah, sir, you are all over our social media. You

and your search for Hindi.”

“I’m glad to know that you know so much

about me.”

The principal nodded. “And I hope that you

have given up that subversive idea and decided to make

an uplifting movie, one that our children would be

proud to star in.”

“We’ll see,” Allen evaded the question with a

non-committal smile. He didn’t want to get into an

argument before he had a chance to meet the children.

The principal nodded as though Allen had

agreed with him and asked his assistant to show Allen

to a tenth-grade class.

“Thank you, sir,” said Allen.

207 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“You are most welcome,” the principal replied.

“I will join you soon.”

The assistant opened the classroom door, and

Allen entered. To his surprise, there was no teacher.

All the kids were playing and making noise. When they

saw him, they all stopped and stared.

One of the students said, “I know who you are!

You just won an Academy Award. You are Allen!”

Everyone fell silent and rose in respect.

“Hello, everyone,” Allen greeted them. “You

are right. I am Allen, and I came here to meet all of

you guys.”

“We want to be in your next movie,” one of

the students called out. “Please let us audition. We

want to have a great future as film actors.”

One boy said, “Take me sir, I know how to

dance. I have participated in many school dramas.”

“Please take me for your next movie,” another

boy chimed in.

“Okay, okay,” Allen waved his hands for quiet.

“I will take you all, but there is one problem. My next

movie will be in Hindi.”

One boy said to everyone else, “Look, everyone!

He is making ‘Hindi’ of us all!”

They all started laughing.

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“This is how we use Hindi,” another boy

explained. “As a way of mocking people. Except for

that, we do not know anything about Hindi.”

“Great,” said Allen sarcastically. “So, there is

no one here who can speak Hindi?” They all shook

their heads. “I am sorry, then, guys. I have to look for

someone else.”

“Wait, wait, sir. At least take a photograph

with all of us.” They all gathered for a picture. Then

one boy asked for an autograph, and the rest piled in.

As they were crowding around Allen, the principal

opened the door. As soon as they saw the principal,

the students immediately lined up quietly.

The principal asked Allen, “Why do you want

to bring back Hindi?”

“But why not?” Allen said. “I want to re-

discover it through this movie so that people here will

know its significance.” Allen looked him in the eye,

but the principal met his challenge directly.

“Never mind, Mr. Allen. We have left behind

Bharat and Hindustan long ago, and moved forward to

make Indians synonymous with English.”

“May I know why?”

“A hundred years ago we were carrying the

burden of too many languages. There was so much

difference on the basis of language that we were not

united. South was south, north was north, east was

nothing like west. So we started fighting on the basis

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of caste, region, religion and language. There was only

one solution. Make a single language, that would unite

all of us.”

“But why English? Couldn’t Hindi unite you

all?” Allen asked.

The principal was silent for a moment.

Allen continued, “Sir, these are just excuses for

leaving behind something you were ashamed of. You

all deliberately removed it from your life. This country

had a history of fighting for freedom and Hindi was

the language that played a crucial part in that moment.”

The principal got angry. “If you think that we

have not kept our language preserved and we are not

loyal, then why did your great-grandfather leave this

country to emigrate to the UK? Did you ask him? Isn’t

he responsible for rejecting his mother tongue? Why

didn’t he teach you Hindi? If everyone who left India

had a right not to teach Hindi to their children, why

don’t we have the right to teach English to our

children?”

Now both were silent. Allen didn’t know what

to say. He looked around the room as though there

was an answer on the wall.

“It is easy to blame us, Mr. Allen, but all

Indians must take responsibility for forgetting our

languages. Thank you for coming,” he dismissed Allen

and walked towards his office.

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Allen watched him go. He didn’t have an

answer for the principal’s questions. He didn’t know

what to say, who to ask for advice. He took a cab back

to the airport. Along the way, he called Granny.

“Hello, son. How are you?”

“Granny, why was it so important for Grandpa

and his parents to speak English? Why were they so

set against Hindi?”

Granny didn’t know how to answer. Instead,

she asked, “What happened, son? Are you all right?”

“And if you were so interested in speaking

Hindi, why didn’t you start again once they were gone?

My grandfather died when I was small. Even my father

left when I was little. Why didn’t you teach me Hindi

then? Who was there to stop you then? Why did I

never even hear about Hindi?” In this face of this tirade,

Granny was silent.

“You know what?” Allen was disgusted. “This

country has killed its own mother tongue. And who is

to blame for…for a people that try to forget their

language, try to forget their country?” He saw her face

turn white and was instantly contrite. “I’m sorry,

Granny, I have to go.” He cut the call, very upset.

He sent a text to Jessica, asking her to check

on Granny, and promised himself to call back when

he’d calm down.

Granny kept sitting helplessly in front of the

video phone screen. She could feel Allen’s pain, but

211 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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she was not able to answer his questions. She was

stunned to hear his recrimination but there was no

way to share what was going on in her heart.

֍֍֍

Waiting at the airport, his flight to Mumbai

ready to board, Allen thought over the principal’s

accusation. Since arrival to India, he had asked others

why they had given up Hindi, but it was the first time

the question had been addressed specifically to him,

to his family. The implications of that question

haunted him all through the flight and the taxi ride to

the Taj hotel. The warm water of the shower seemed

to revive his sluggish brain, and as he dried his hair,

he called Ranga.

“Hello, sir. I am most happy to hear from you.

Were you able to meet with the man who knows

Hindi?”

“Not yet, but I have his address.”

“Congratulations, sir.” Ranga sounded truly

excited for Allen. “Please, let’s go there. I want to hear,

to know how it feels when someone speaks in Hindi.”

Allen smiled. “Well, that might be a little

difficult for you. He lives in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

I’m going there tomorrow to meet him.”

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HINDI

“Oh.” Ranga was disappointed. “Would you

mind making a video for me, so that I can watch it

later?”

“Sure. Happy to. For now, though, I’d like to

visit a mall. I’ve some shopping to do.”

“I’ll be right over.”

Allen was once again astonished at the number

of people wandering the mall.

“Oh, sir,” Ranga said, “That is not so unusual.

See, the Indian middle class is so rich that people can

afford to spend many lakhs each month on shopping.”

“I see that,” Allen commented. “What is it that

they are all buying?”

Ranga smiled. “Anything which is costly is good

for us.”

They both laughed.

“That’s not just an Indian attitude,” Allen said.

“I think everyone thinks that way.”

“Here, sir,” Ranga pointed, “the garment

section is this way.”

“May I help you?” asked the clerk.

“I’d like some traditional Indian print shirts,”

Allen explained.

“I’m very sorry, sir,” apologised the clerk, “but

we don’t have much demand for traditional Indian

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HINDI

clothes here. They are all exported. We don’t keep any

in stock.”

Allen shot Ranga a look of exasperation.

“Thank you, anyway,” he nodded to the clerk.

“No Indian prints!” he muttered as they left the store.

“Didn’t you people keep anything of your culture?” he

accused Ranga.

“Perhaps over here, sir,” Ranga led him further

along the mall.

Allen kept an eye out for a clothing store with

traditional patterns. “Oh, look!” he exclaimed.

“There’s Jack Angel. Hey, Jack, how are you?”

“Ah, Mr. Allen, it is good to see you. How are

you?”

“I’m—”

“Fine,” Ranga interjected, before Allen could

begin a harangue on the loss of Indian culture.

“What brings you to the mall?” Jack asked.

“I’m heading to Uttar Pradesh State tomorrow,”

Allen said, “and I wanted some garments.”

“I’m sorry that you have not been able to find

anyone who speaks Hindi,” Jack said.

“In fact,” Allen said, “that’s why I’m headed to

Uttar Pradesh State. I’ve found someone in the town

of Jaipuria there who speaks Hindi.”

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HINDI

“You’re kidding!” Jack said. “That’s great!

Where? How?”

Allen grinned. “Calm down, Jack. Let me talk

to this man, and then maybe I’ll need your help. Just…”

he sobered, “pray for me.”

Jack nodded. “Always, sir.”

“Thank you, Jack.” He held out his hand to

shake. “Sorry, Jack, but we have to go. I have an early

flight.”

“No problem, sir, I will wait for your call.”

On the way back to the hotel, a teenage boy

approached as they stopped at a traffic signal. The

boy’s arms were full of books, and he was sweating

profusely.

“See, sir,” Ranga said, “although we have given

up so much, so many things have changed, we have

adopted so many new developments, we do keep one

tradition, child labour. This is the one tradition which

India doesn’t seem to stop, even in the 22nd century.”

“Yes, the wrong choice,” Allen muttered, but

he had to smile at Ranga’s joke. He gestured to the

boy that he wanted to see the books. The boy smiled

and handed over a few of them at a time. Allen looked

through all of the books, and was surprised to see a

copy of The Bhagavad Gita in English.

“How much for this one?” he held it up so the

boy could see it, and handed the rest back.

215 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Only Rs.2000.00, sir,” the boy replied. Allen

pulled out his wallet and handed the money to the

boy.

“Thank you, sir,” the boy smiled and gathered

the rest of his books, wandering away in pursuit of

another buyer.

Allen thumbed through The Bhagavad Gita.

“This book really showed me a path I wasn’t even

aware of before,” he said.

“Hmmm,” Ranga said, his gaze still following

the boy, “it’s very sad to see such poor boys having to

earn their keep like this, under the burning sun,

inhaling this polluted air.” He shook his head sadly.

“He speaks perfect English, but still has to sell books

like this on the street.”

“Do you think that people who speak English

are educated?” Allen asked.

“That is what I have been told by my father,”

Ranga said.

“So, most of the people in Russia, China, Spain,

Germany and the Middle East are illiterate?”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because most of them don’t know English.

They prefer their own languages.”

Ranga thought for some time. “You are a wise

man, sir. But once, my grandfather asked the same

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thing to his boss. Why is there so much

discrimination?”

“And what did your grandfather’s boss say to

him?”

“Because English pays you well,” Ranga replied.

They exchanged looks.

“Good luck to you on your journey, sir,” Ranga

said, as they pulled into the Taj. “I will not be able to

take you to the airport in the morning.”

“Why not?”

“My car needs servicing.”

“Okay, then, I’ll see you when I get back.”

They shook hands.

“Have a safe journey.”

“Thank you, Ranga.”

217 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

CHAPTER – 8

*NEW DELHI *

lthough Allen had been impressed by

the beauty of Mumbai, he was

A awestruck by the way the city of Delhi

interspersed greenways with high-tech buildings.

Between the more modern skyscrapers, traditional

architecture lent an open feel to the city center. The

capital of India, Delhi was much greener than Mumbai,

but was very polluted.

Also, unlike Mumbai, most of the people here

got around in smart cars, where they could watch

movies and videos instead of having to concentrate on

driving. In addition, Allen noticed as he glanced up,

many workers made their daily commutes inside the

comfort and safety of drones.

Allen wished that he had time to visit the many

underground markets and artificial cities that dotted

the capital, but his business was with the people, not

the infrastructure. He checked into a hotel that was

decent, but came nowhere near the Taj. Still, he was

happy to drop his bag and collapse onto the bed.

218 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Sitting up again, he dug into his bag and pulled out

the souvenir of the Taj Mahal.

“I don’t know why, but sometimes I really miss

you, Maya.” He smiled and set the Taj on nightstand

next to the bed, then lay back down to rest for a few

minutes. He woke up two hours later, ready to take

on the world again, and headed for the National

Library.

“Hullo,” he greeted the librarian, “I’m looking

for books in Hindi.”

The librarian, a gray-haired gent in his late 50’s,

stared at Allen for a moment.

“Hindi?” he asked blankly. “No, no, sir. In all

my life, no one has ever asked me for a book in Hindi.

In fact, I have never even seen any books written in

Hindi.”

“Okay.” By this time, that response no longer

surprised Allen. “May I do a search on your digital

library?”

“Of course, you are welcome to do that,” the

man said, “but I don’t expect you to have any success.”

He conducted Allen to an area set up with keyboards

and monitors. “Here you are, sir.”

He watched while Allen began typing. When

Allen noticed that the librarian was still there, he

turned and looked at the man. The librarian

immediately smiled and left. When he got back to his

desk, he picked up the phone, dialed a number and

219 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

spoke softly. Meanwhile, Allen began digging. He used

every search term he could think of, but found no

records of any books or even documents written in

Hindi.

Frustrated, he returned to the librarian’s desk.

“I hate to admit it, but you were right. I couldn’t find

anything in Hindi. Are there no documents available

at all, written in Hindi?”

“That’s right. It seems that no one is in need

of Hindi any more. May I ask, why are you taking such

an interest in a language that no one cares about

anymore?”

“I care!” Allen shot back. “I have every right to

ask about this. I have Indian roots, and I wish to know

each and everything that is related to the country my

grandparents came from.”

Allen hadn’t realized that he had raised his

voice until other patrons of the library began to gather

around him and the librarian.

The librarian played to the crowd. With a

sweeping gesture, he said, “This gentleman is looking

for books written in Hindi. He is not Indian. He has

nothing to do with us, yet he is trying to interfere. He

keeps asking me why we don’t have any documents in

Hindi.”

One man stepped closer to Allen. “We decide

what to read or what to not read in our country,

Britisher. Why are you interested in all this?”

220 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen said, “But your language is related to

your culture.”

Another man poked Allen in the chest as he

shouted, “Who the hell are you to decide our culture?

We live here, and we are the ones who decide which

culture to follow!”

“But, don’t you understand that it is your own

mother tongue, yet no one in this country can speak

Hindi!” Allen yelled back.

“We are happy with the way things are. We do

not need any other language besides English!” The

man who had poked Allen now drew back and punched

him on the nose. “How dare you try to ruin our culture!

Go back to the UK, where you belong!”

Allen fell, his nose bleeding. He tried to get

up, but the men crowded closer. One of them made

ready to kick Allen, but just then, the cops showed up.

“What’s going on? Break it up. Quiet!” one of

the cops shouted. “Everyone calm down and back

away.”

The librarian said, “This man,” he pointed at

Allen, still prostrate on the floor, “this man is trying

to ruin our culture.”

Allen tried to speak, but the policeman cut

him off, “This is a serious crime, sir.” He bent over

and helped Allen up. “Come with us. We will let you

find out all about our culture.”

221 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

At the police station, Allen sat facing the

Assistant Commissioner of Police of the area. He was

still dabbing at his nose, and trying to explain. “I am

a movie director, from the UK. Perhaps you’ve heard

of me? I recently won an Oscar for Best Director, for

my movie ‘LOST & FOUND’.” When the ACP seemed

unimpressed with his credentials, Allen continued,

“Really, sir, this was a simple scuffle. There is no need

to involve yourself in this routine matter.”

“I think that I can decide what is routine, and

what is a threat to our culture, sir,” the ACP tapped

his pencil on his desk as he spoke. “Why don’t you

just go back home to the UK and make your films

there. I’m sure there are many more Oscars waiting for

you in the U.S. You people may be very emotional

about these things, very intense, but we are not. We

believe that movies should be fun.”

“But I agree. I am only here to make a film,”

Allen protested. “Entertainment. I don’t know why you

people are taking this so seriously.”

“Who knows what your true intention is, sir?

For all we know, you might be engaged in a conspiracy

against our culture.”

“What?” Allen was flabbergasted. “What do

you mean by that? How in the world would I even do

that?”

“See,” the policeman said, “you are going

around, looking for documents in Hindi which we do

not have. What is your intention behind that? No

222 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Indian is interested in that language. We are happy

with what we have. Why are you so curious?”

“I am just trying to rediscover the language, so

that I can make a movie in Hindi. I’m trying to learn

more about your culture, not destroy it.”

“So, you are trying to tell the world that we

are a Hindi-speaking country. Do you understand what

that means?” The ACP shook his head then starting

yelling. “We are flourishing because we all speak

English!” He pounded the desk. “If multinational

companies thought that we only spoke Hindi, that

would cost us millions of jobs.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Allen moaned, “this is completely

ridiculous! I have no such intentions!”

“These are very serious charges against you, sir.

You are trying to defame the image of this country.”

the ACP said in a threatening manner.

“No, I am not,” Allen repeated, “you are

getting me all wrong.”

The ACP ordered one of the constables to put

Allen in the jail.

“No way! Can I make a call?” Allen asked.

“No,” the ACP said. “Put him behind bars, and

let him learn about our culture there,” he ordered.

“Please listen to me,” Allen begged, as they

pushed him inside a cell, “I haven’t done anything. Let

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HINDI

me talk to the British embassy. You cannot do this to

me.”

But none of the cops gave a damn what Allen

said. When he was left alone, he punched his fist

against the bars. He was really pissed off this time. He

did not know how long he would be locked up, or

whether anyone he knew would learn about where he

was.

What will people at home think? They will all

laugh at me. They all were right. I was the one who

thought it would be a good idea to make a movie in

India.

Time crept along. The clock on the wall was

teasing him, enjoying making time pass slowly. All the

while Allen realized that he would have to spend the

whole night here. He paced back and forth in

frustration. He felt as though it was his dreams, not

him, that were being locked up behind bars. His gaze

darted all around the walls, searching for some escape

from this place. Suddenly his eyes lit on a quote

written on the wall. It was from The Bhagavad Gita.

Reshape yourself through the power of your

will…Those who have conquered themselves…live in

peace, alike in cold and heat, pleasure and pain, praise

and blame…To such people a clod of dirt, a stone, and

gold are the same…Because they are impartial, they

rise to great heights.

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HINDI

He felt as though Granny was speaking to him

in his cell, as though she was telling him not to give

up his quest. Unsure what the morning would bring,

he sat down and leaned his head on the wall, hoping

for some miracle to happen. Slowly, slowly he fell

asleep.

The next day morning, he was despondent in

his cell, wondering what he had done wrong, and how

to correct the situation, when one of the cops gestured

to him.

“Someone has posted bail for you,” he said.

“Come on out.”

Allen was astonished to see Mr. Kapoor sitting

with the ACP.

“I am really sorry, Allen,” apologised Mr.

Kapoor, “that you are having to face all this in my

country.”

“I didn’t realize that making a movie would

raise such a storm,” Allen said ruefully.

“I think it would be better if you stopped doing

all this and went back to your own country,” the ACP

suggested.

“Thank you for your kind advice,” Allen

responded.

“Let’s go, Mr. Allen,” Mr. Kapoor rose.

225 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

The ACP stopped them. “Be careful yourself,

Mr. Kapoor. You have celebrity status here, but if you

play in dirt, your hands will get dirty, too.”

Mr. Kapoor nodded and led Allen out.

“Thank you so much, sir, for helping me out,

but how did you know that I was in jail?”

“Our media is super-fast, Allen. You are all

over India. The Century Times was full of the story.

There was also news about your arrest all over social

media.”

They both smiled.

“Mr. Allen, I don’t know whether what you are

doing is right,” Mr. Kapoor offered, “but to be honest,

it is risky and dangerous for you.”

“I hear you, but I have to admit, I don’t

understand what the problem is. My asking about

Hindi can’t be enough to stop the economic progress

of this huge country. Sorry, Mr. Kapoor, but this

incident made me more determined than ever to

celebrate Hindi and mourn its loss.”

“Good, keep it up. I still have plenty of lakhs

for bail.” Mr. Kapoor chuckled and patted Allen’s

shoulder. “Where shall I drop you?”

“Can you please drop me at hospital? My nose,”

he touched it gingerly, “was bleeding yesterday. I’d

better have it checked out by a doctor.”

226 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it’s nothing

serious.”

“No, no need to worry. Just a local man

expressing concern about my movie.”

Mr. Kapoor dropped him at hospital and they

shook hands.

“Thank you so much, sir. I will never forget

this favour from you,” Allen said.

“It is okay, Mr. Allen. You do what you are

going to do, and I will do everything I can to help

you.”

Allen immediately got lost in the huge hospital.

He walked around until he found a reception area, and

they directed him across the courtyard to the general

ward, for non-emergency treatment. Outside the

doctor’s office, the queue was so long that he figured

he wouldn’t be seen until nighttime. People were lying

down, waiting their turns, roasting under the noonday

sun.

“Why there is such a long queue, or is this

normal?” Allen asked the person in front of him.

“Oh, this is not bad, sir,” the man answered,

looking around him. “Sometimes it takes a month to

get an appointment.”

Allen looked at the queue again. It was painful

for him to see aged people and small children standing

in the sun, hoping their number would be called soon.

227 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“How can there be so much concern about my

asking about Hindi, when people are truly suffering

here? Sometimes it seems that humans are the real

threat to humanity. Will we be the cause of our own

destruction?”

He had no answer for that. Even as the

business people were telling him how much progress

the country had made because they had dropped Hindi

in favor of English, these people were unable to afford

the most basic care. Who was responsible for this

situation? Who were the real cheats, and who was

living in a fool’s paradise?

He was so disappointed in the upside down

priorities that he had forgotten about his nose.

Dejected, he gave his number to an old woman who

had just joined the queue and trudged back to his

hotel. Looking at the developments on the way, the

buildings and the roads, he thought, This place may

be modern, but inside the buildings, life hasn’t

changed a bit for the past hundred years.

In his hotel room, Allen showered and ordered

something to eat. His phone rang. He looked at it in

trepidation, but relaxed when he saw that it was

Granny.

“Hello, my dear son. What happened to you? I

heard the news.”

“Yeah, you heard it right,” Allen said.

“Are you all right? I can see bruises on your

face. Where are you now?” Granny wanted to touch

228 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen, to heal his wounds. But she could only touch

the video screen. Her eyes filled and she began to

tremble.

“I’m okay, Granny,” he soothed her. “I am back

at the hotel.”

“But who knows what will happen next? Please

come home, Allen. This was a mistake. You can do

your work from here.”

“No, Granny. My great-grandfather thought

that, and left the country. I can’t leave, not when I

have been asking so many people why they didn’t try

to preserve their language. If I leave like this, I am no

better than they are. I would have no right to make a

movie honoring a language that I ran from, too. I

would blame myself for not serving the country my

ancestors belonged to.”

Allen smiled, then winced and touched his face.

“I know how persistent you can be. Still,” she

turned serious, “think about it.”

“Granny, what kind of man would I be if I

could be turned so easily? Instead, you should wish me

luck in achieving my goals.”

“This is exactly the reason why your great-

grandfather decided to leave the country, so that he

could do what he wanted.”

“It means he gave up too easily,” Allen

countered. “I do not want to give up so easily. It is as

though someone were asking me to leave my mother.

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HINDI

That’s what my grandparents did years ago, but I do

not want to do that. I do not want to set a wrong

example. I want to stay here and make it right. Please

don’t ask me to come back now.”

“Okay, son, I respect your decision, but I am

worried about you. Since your father moved away, I

have no one but you in this world. Your father…you

are not like him, at all. For the first time, you have

truly shown me that I can believe that.” She looked

down and took a breath, then gazed back at Allen.

“Remember the day you asked me why I didn’t tell you

about Hindi, why I never taught you Hindi?”

Allen went still. He hardly dared to breathe.

He had begun to lose hope that Granny would explain

the past to him.

“Then listen,” she said. Allen took in

everything she had to say. When she was done, he felt

more alone than before. He longed to go to her, to

hug her and tell her how much she meant to him.

They both had tears in their eyes as they gazed at each

other across the miles.

“I am sorry, Granny,” he choked out. “I had no

idea. I love you so much.” He had to look away, to

regain control of his emotions.

Granny was silent for a time, fighting back

tears of joy that Allen had accepted her explanation,

had accepted her.

She sighed, “I love you, too, son. I wish you

luck. God bless you. Please take care of yourself.” She

230 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

was upset to see Allen so down, and desperate to find

a way to cheer him up.

When she hung up, Allen felt a moment of

despair. Granny’s words were hammering in his mind.

He felt bad for her, but her words had strengthened

his resolve. After talking with Granny, he was more

determined than ever that he would make this movie.

He decided he would face whatever fight he had to

face, but this movie in Hindi would be made. He felt

like a bird that wanted to fly, but there was no sky for

him to fly in. So what if there is no sky? I will make

my own sky.

He fell asleep with this conviction firm in his

mind. He was awakened by a knock on the door. The

hotel manager apologized, “Sorry sir, I heard about

you, that you had to be in the jail for a night.”

“Yes, it happened, but there is nothing to

worry about, now,” Allen said.

“Sorry, sir,” the manager corrected him, “the

owner of the hotel asked me to tell you that you have

to leave this hotel now.”

“What?” Allen was shocked.

“Sorry, sir,” he repeated, “but this is the order

and I have to abide by it.”

“But it wasn’t my fault. And I have paid in

advance.”

“We will give you your money back, sir, but

the owner said that you have been found guilty in

231 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

some anti-national activity, so you have to vacate the

hotel immediately.” The manager looked down

helplessly.

Though he longed to take his anger out on the

manager, Allen controlled his urge to punch the man.

“Okay, can you do me a favour?”

“It depends,” the manager hesitated. “I cannot

go against our laws.”

“Don’t worry,” Allen said bitterly. “It’s nothing

so bad as that. I would just like you to arrange a cab

for one day. I want to go to a town called Jaipuria.”

“Yes, sir, that I can do. Please be down in the

reception area with all your luggage in 15 minutes. I

will meet you there to arrange your refund.”

“Thank you.”

Allen shut the door and sat quietly. Almost as

though to mock his renewed determination, each day

offered some new setback, some way of becoming

more difficult for him. When Allen got to the hotel

reception area, the manager pulled him off to one side.

“Your taxi is waiting outside,” the manager

said, “and we have credited your refund.”

“And you have told the authorities that I plan

to go to Jaipuria,” Allen guessed. When the manager

couldn’t meet his eyes, he added, “I understand, my

friend,” Allen said, “you don’t need to be ashamed.

232 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

You are just doing your duty.”

֍֍֎

“Where to, sir?”

“Jaipuria,” Allen told the taxi driver, “it’s a

small town.”

“Yeah, the manager told me. Have you been

there before?”

“No.”

“It’s a smart town, sir,” the driver said proudly.

“We have developed in a big way.”

Allen didn’t say anything.

“Sir, I heard lot about you. You are very

famous film director.”

Allen nodded.

“Then why are you creating problems for

yourself? You should know that people are always

ready to take political advantage of any situation.”

Allen frowned. “My mistake.”

“Good. Now that you have realized that, you

should be able to keep yourself out of trouble.” Allen

didn’t respond. “Who do you want to meet in Jaipuria?”

Allen glared at him but said nothing. “I know you are

getting irritated by my questions, but I will still ask,

because if I stop talking I will fall asleep while driving.”

233 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Do you know a man named Ranga?” Allen

muttered, but aloud he said, “Anupam Bharat.”

“Oh, I know him. I live in the same town.”

Allen was interested now. “What do you know

about Mr. Bharat?”

“He is a man like you and me,” the driver

replied.

“Anything specific?”

“Yes, he is going to meet with an Academy

Award winner soon. He will get to work in a

Hollywood film,” the driver smiled.

Allen gritted his teeth. “No, what I am asking

you is, does he speak Hindi?”

“Yes, he does, but to his family members only.”

“Why so?”

“Because no one else in India knows that much

Hindi.” The driver smiled at Allen. “Poor guy…..His

English is not as good as ours. That is why he is doing

odd jobs to make ends meet. He is Brahman, a high

priest, so he performs pujas. That’s it.”

Allen listened to him silently, then spoke up.

“What are pujas?”

“Pujas, sir, are prayers. Reverence to the Gods.

Mr. Bharat leads the invocations, the songs and rituals.”

234 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“That seems to be pretty important work to

me. Do you think by speaking good English he could

do better?”

“Why not, sir? The job of priest is not

synonymous with worldly success. English has become

an important tool for business and growth in the

current globalized world. Almost every company is

looking for a person with good command of English.

That is why English has become a basic necessity for

almost all organizations. English helps you to compete

at a global level.”

“That’s true. But in China, Japan…people still

prefer their local language over English,” Allen

rehashed his same argument.

The driver replied, “Maybe they do. But in our

case…my son, he got his position because he learned

English. He speaks better than me,” he added proudly.

“You know Indian information technology got its edge

over China and European countries mainly because of

the availability of English-speaking people. Good

English helped us to crack the biggest competitive

exams for higher studies and opened opportunities to

work in the USA, UK, Canada or Australia. In Andhra

Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and other Indian

states, knowing English was very valuable for Indian

families, including my own.”

“That is why you have forgotten your own

regional language,” Allen said.

235 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“What were we to do, sir? There were no other

options. Almost every digital application or web tool

is mainly based on English. English gets us connected

to the world via news channels like the BBC and Fox

News. Many international platforms are English based.

Most books, novels, journals, websites etc., are

available in English. Ask my wife. English helps us

watch Hollywood movies or even any other language

movies with English subtitles. An English speaker

today may be simply called a ‘Global Citizen’.”

Allen defended his theory. “Fair enough. It is

always good to learn other languages, especially a

language which is spoken worldwide. But it is not fair

to forget your own language at the same time. If you

can learn French, Russian or Spanish, then why cannot

you learn your own Telgu, Tamil, Kannad, Bengali, or

Hindi? It is not about a national language or an official

language. You dropped all your other languages

because speaking English would prove that you were

an ‘elite’ people. You all feel that Hindi and other

Indian languages are inferior compared to English.”

The driver shrugged. “But that doesn’t change

reality, and the reality is that we all are happy with

the change. Indian languages will not pay our bills.”

Allen had no answer to this. “At least you have

kept a few words, important words, like ‘pujas’,” he

commented. “There is hope for Indian languages yet.”

While they had been talking, the driver had

been navigating to Jaipuria. Allen asked him for a

236 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

recommendation for a hotel and the driver took him

to the one of the best hotels in the town.

As Allen said good-bye, the driver asked, “By

the way, you are English, man, why are you so keen

to know about Hindi?” When Allen didn’t answer, he

added, “I’m afraid you are going to get yourself in more

trouble, if you’re not careful.”

Allen just smiled and walked away. It was

already evening, and he was worn out from the day,

so once he checked in, he hit the bed a little earlier

than usual.

237 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

CHAPTER – 9

*JAIPURIA *

llen awoke and stretched in a room

bright with new promise. He threw

A open the drapes and drank in the

spectacular scenery. He had thought that Jaipuria

would be a crowded town, but there was green

everywhere. He opened the window and inhaled deeply.

The breeze that filled his lungs lifted his heart, as well.

Off in the distance, he could hear chanting and a

temple bell tolling. The sounds soothed him with their

positive energy. He turned away from the window,

ready for breakfast and whatever the day might bring.

After breakfast, he headed for the temple. Even

this late in the morning, people were still chanting

and offering puja according to ancient Hindu rituals.

Allen waited until they were finished, and had touched

the feet of the main priest of the temple. While he

waited, he could hear the imam call Muslim worshipers

to prayers through loudspeakers outside the Islamic

mosque.

Thank God, now I’ll hear some other language

besides English, at least. I must be going crazy—I’m

seeing everything in terms of language, now.

238 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

He smiled at the thought.

Finally the worshipers began to leave the

temple, one by one. Allen waited outside, and

eventually a short, stout, middle-aged priest

approached him and offered him a crust of food.

“Thank you,” Allen said politely, though he

was puzzled by the offering. He held out his left hand

to accept the food, but the priest shook his head.

“This is prasad,” the priest explained. “It is to

be taken in your right hand.” When Allen held out his

right hand, the priest went on, “Prasad is a traditional

offering of food after prayers. You accept it in your

right hand because it of the belief that the left hand

is used to accept a borrowing, or something that you

would later return in cash or kind. The right hand is

used for donations and to give something pious. It is

also used to accept something pious.”

“Hmm,” said Allen. “That’s interesting. Thank

you. I’m actually here looking for someone. A priest.

Would you please tell me whether you know Mr.

Anupam Bharat?”

The man smiled. “You are talking to Bharat,

and asking me about myself.”

It took Allen a minute to understand what the

priest was saying, “Oh, you are Mr. Bharat. It’s a

pleasure to meet you. Namaste.”

Mr. Bharat looked surprised, but touched his

hands together and repeated, “Namaste. That’s the first

239 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

time I have heard that greeting from an outsider. In

2117, not many even in Jaipuria say Namaste any more.

Anyway, you came here to meet me?”

“Yes,” Allen said.

“Then,” Mr. Bharat ushered Allen away from

the temple, “come to my house. We will speak there.”

Mr. Bharat’s home was nearby. It was decorated

in a combination of traditional, ethnic wall hangings

and modern furnishings, but the total effect was very

pleasing to the eye. There was an open space in the

centre of the house, which allowed sunlight to

brighten all the rooms. At the far end, a small kitchen

led out to a garden at the side. The entire house

exuded peace and harmony.

Mr. Bharat introduced Allen to everyone in the

house, and they all greeted him with, “Namaste.”

One small child asked Allen whether he cared

for water. Parched from his long wait at the temple,

Allen said yes and gratefully drank down the glass.

“You are our guest,” Mr. Bharat invited, “you

have lunch with us.”

“Oh no,” Allen declined humbly, “no, thank

you. I will eat at the hotel.”

Bharat nodded his acceptance. “I’m sorry, I

didn’t ask you your name,” he said.

“I am Allen. I am from the UK. I am a

filmmaker.”

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Almost for the first time since Allen had arrived

in India, the mention of his name had no effect. Bharat

and his family were not much interested in movies.

“So, how can I help you, Mr. Allen?”

“Well, I am here to make a film with Indian

people. There are very talented people in all

departments, but this film has to be in the Hindi

language.” When Bharat didn’t respond, Allen went on,

“I have heard that you speak Hindi, and I think that

you are the one person who could help me out.”

Bharat hesitated for a moment, then said

regretfully, “I am sorry that you have traveled all this

way, but I cannot help you, Mr. Allen.”

“But why, Mr. Bharat? I want to make a movie

in Hindi, you speak Hindi, we can help each other out.

I will pay you well.”

“No, sir. Hindi is gone. We should let it be.”

“But Mr. Bharat. You record prayers and

chants in Hindi.”

“That is for prayers, for reverence. Your movie

is something different. I am sorry, Mr. Allen, but I

must ask you to go now.”

Allen left, disappointed, but not yet ready to

surrender. The Gods were obviously testing his resolve

in every way possible. The only way this movie was

going to come off would be a miracle. He wondered

which Gods he had offended, and which ones he

should pray to.

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He got up early the next day to make it to the

temple while Bharat was still offering prayers. When

he peeked inside, Bharat was engrossed in his service,

surrounded by followers. The smell of the burning

incense gave Allen so much energy and confidence that

he felt sure of his mission, felt sure that he would be

able to convince Bharat to change his mind. He didn’t

want to interrupt the ritual, however, so he decided

to wait outside.

After the prayers Bharat came out. “You again,”

he said when he spied Allen. “You know my answer.”

He turned to greet the worshipers who were leaving

the temple.

“Please, sir, may I have a few minutes of your

time?” Allen made obeisance. “Even if you decide not

to help, I ask you to listen to what I have to say. As a

wise man, you know that there can be nothing bad in

merely listening to someone’s ideas.”

Bharat considered Allen’s request for a moment,

then nodded and sat down on the temple stairs.

“Thank you, Mr. Bharat,” Allen was very

relieved. He sat next to Bharat. He raised his hand in

a questioning gesture. “I just want to know the reason

that you feel you can’t help me.”

Bharat looked at Allen. “To be honest, I do not

want to contribute to making a film in the Hindi

language. I won’t gain anything out of it, and it’s likely

to cost me a lot.”

“What can I do to help? I’m willing to pay you.”

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“Can you pay me enough to take care of my

family for the rest of our lives?” Bharat’s tone was

accusatory and Allen flinched. Bharat took a deep

breath to calm himself and apologized. “I am sorry.”

His voice had grown softer, more sing-song, as he

adopted a storytelling mode. “My father did not know

English. He spent his life as a priest in a temple. He

couldn’t get any other job. He was not able to help us

get into good schools. When he died, he left us

nothing. I am struggling here today, as my English is

not so good. If I helped you with a film in Hindi, I

would be mocked. I would not be able to improve my

circumstances, or circumstances for my family. Do you

know what it’s like to struggle to earn bread and butter

because the only language you know is your own

mother tongue? We already feel like aliens in our own

country.” He looked over at the trees in the distance.

“I used to work in an office. For seven long years I was

not promoted. Each review said the same thing, ‘His

English is sub-par.’” He looked back at Allen. “My

employers, they did not see my talent, they did not

recognize my hard work, they did not take note of my

skills. For them, it was only English that determined

my status.” Bharat looked down and wiped his eyes.

“It is not so much for myself that I mind. But my

children…my children,” he broke off. “I do not want

anyone’s children to face what we have had to face,”

he continued after a moment. “If you make a movie in

Hindi, you will be ruining the futures of so many

people. I hate my mother tongue Hindi!” he shouted,

“Even as it is a part of my very being.” He sobbed.

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Allen felt terrible. He placed a consoling hand

on Bharat’s shoulder. “I am so sorry, sir. I did not

understand.” He stood up. “But you do not realize how

rich you are. You have something all of these people,”

he waved his hand, “do not have. You have the Indian

values and traditions that have survived for thousands

of years. You have your culture. You have kept the

knowledge of the ancients. You have years of

experience of the Hindi language. Mr. Bharat, you are

one of the richest men in the country, because you

have all of these things.”

Allen knelt down in front of Bharat and put a

hand on his knee. “May be not today, but one day the

world will come to recognize what they have lost.”

Bharat looked at him. “Language carries a lot of

information and knowledge, which will all be lost if it

is not transmitted to the next generation. Don’t you

want your prayers to be offered in Hindi and Sanskrit?

Don’t you want your people to know what you know,

don’t you want them to have the treasure and heritage

of your language?”

He stood up again, and took measured steps in

time with his words, “This is the time to serve your

mother tongue. Perhaps this movie will be the thing

that inspires so many other who are like you, who

know other Indian regional languages and who are

thinking of abandoning these languages. A country

that is run on a foreign language cannot expand its

culture. It cannot even maintain the culture which

brought it to life. For many millennia, India has had a

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rich culture and a strong foundation because her

people knew the values in life and respected her

customs.” Bharat straightened up as he took in Allen’s

words. “I am not asking you to ignore English or forget

it, but at the same time you could help me to bring

this language back to life through the movie. The

choice is yours, Mr. Bharat. But know this, you are my

only hope. I will wait until tomorrow for you to give

me your answer. If I do not hear from you,” he swept

his hand in a dismissive motion, “then I will respect

your decision. I will leave for the UK forever.”

Allen was shaking at the end of this speech. He

had put all of his hopes and dreams into the hands of

Bharat. All he could do now was wait. He bowed to

Bharat and walked away. Where in the past few

months he had marveled at every exotic and modern

thing he had seen, whereas, now he saw nothing. He

wandered for hours through the town, but couldn’t

have said where he stepped.

He had spent the past eight months in India,

but still had nothing to show for his time and effort.

Though he had tried to remain positive, it was hard to

keep from sinking into depression. He kept walking

until the physical exertion forced his mind to relax.

The sun was ready to embrace the evening

when he finally turned back to his hotel. Despite his

promise to himself, he couldn’t even look at the

keyboard, let alone write. By this time tomorrow, all

of his dreams could be in ashes. He pulled up a game

to distract himself, to kill time until he knew what his

245 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

future might hold. Although he wasn’t aware of paying

close attention to the game, he found that he was

killing everyone and everything in his path. He won

each stage, no matter how close, and kept moving to

the next level. As he moved up, he became more

excited. Through his efforts, he was progressing

through more and more difficult stages.

He almost starting feeling superstitious, that if

he could just keep leveling up in the game, that he

would also be able to overcome the obstacles in the

way of his movie. Hour after hour he went on. He

hesitated only at the last level—if this didn’t work, if

he lost at this high level, what would that mean? He

paused the game and took a break. He splashed some

water on his face and ordered coffee and snacks. Only

when he felt ready to face the final challenge did he

sit down again. To his surprise, the game seemed to

become easier—so ridiculously easy that he won almost

with no effort.

“This is what I have been afraid of?” he asked

himself. “How could I have worried so much?” As the

game flashed “You Won! You Won!” he felt like he

could take on the world.

Allen’s blurry, sleep-filled eyes could barely

make out 10:00 a.m. on the clock next to the bed. He

touched the tiny Taj Mahal for luck, then got ready

and went down to the cafeteria for breakfast. Despite

his good feelings of the previous night, he was so

nervous that he could only manage toast and juice this

morning.

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HINDI

“Sir,” the manager approached his table, “Mr.

Bharat has been here, but you were not up yet, so he

left you this note.”

Allen’s hand trembled as he reached for the

note. “Thank you.” He waited until the manager

walked away before opening it.

Good morning, Mr. Allen. I am really sorry for

my behaviour. I was rude to you. You are our guest

and for us, guests are equivalent to God. I thought a

lot about what you said to me, and I think this is the

time that I can do something to serve my nation’s

language. I think that your arrival to India was a good

sign. I think God wants me to contribute to your effort,

so I am ready to work along with you. With best

regards, Bharat.

Allen jumped up from the table, almost

knocking the waiter’s plate from his hand. “Sorry,”

he mumbled. “I gotta go.”

“But sir, your breakfast,” the waiter held out

the plate.

“You have it.” He raced away from the open-

mouthed waiter and ran all the way to Bharat’s house.

The gate was already open, and Allen pounded on the

door, then leaned against the wall, trying to catch his

breath.

Mr. Bharat opened the door, then looked

around, puzzled, until he saw Allen leaning against his

house. “Ah, Mr. Allen,” he smiled, “welcome to my

home.”

247 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Thank you…Mr. Bharat,” Allen was still

winded. “I’m…so glad…to be here…you don’t know.”

“I think I have an idea, Mr. Allen,” Bharat was

still smiling. “Won’t you please come in—when you

feel you are able?” He stood away from the door in

invitation.

“I am sorry, Mr. Allen,” Bharat said, as he led

Allen into the living room, “I am embarrassed about

the way I treated you.”

“No, no, no,” Allen waved his apology away,

“you are my saviour, Mr. Bharat. You gave me some

hope. Thank you so much.”

“Please, sit, Mr. Allen,” Mr. Bharat gestured to

a chair, “compose yourself. Then we can talk.”

Bharat sat himself down, adjusted his clothing,

then crossed his hands in his lap and waited patiently.

He nodded when a young boy came in and asked if

they wanted refreshments, but otherwise did not move.

He merely watched Allen’s face calmly while Allen’s

breathing slowed.

“Thank you, again, Mr. Bharat, for agreeing to

this.” He took a glass of water off the tray the young

boy offered. “It means the world to me that you are

on board.”

Bharat bowed his head slightly in

acknowledgment. “I understand your desire to

resurrect a language, an entire culture, according to

what you’ve said. As I recall, however, the last Hindi

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film was made around 50 years ago. I must ask you,

sir, who will watch your movie? Nobody understands

Hindi any more.”

Allen held up his hand. “That shouldn’t make

any difference. People have watched many movies in

languages they don’t understand. Indians used to

watch English movies with Hindi subtitles, so why

can’t they watch Hindi movies with English subtitles?”

The priest considered what he had said.

“And I heard that a long time ago Hindi movies

in overseas markets used to be released with English

subtitles for Non Resident Indians, is that not so?”

Allen continued.

“You have a point, Mr. Allen,” Mr. Bharat

conceded. “But if you will indulge my curiosity, may I

know why you want to make a film in Hindi?”

“I also have Indian roots,” Allen was eager to

enlighten him. “My great-grandparents moved to the

UK almost 100 years ago. I came here to honor the

country of my ancestors, but when I got here, I found

that no one remembers any of the Indian languages. I

thought that was strange. I wanted to make a movie

in the language my grandparents spoke, to make a

connection with them, but I have been really

disappointed to realize that no such language exists

any more.”

“So, that means that I will be the only one in

your movie to act.” Mr. Bharat and Allen laughed.

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“As of now yes, I guess. Can you speak very

good Hindi?”

In reply, Mr. Bharat said, “Ji main hindi acchi

tarah se bol sakta hu, padh sakta hu, aur likh bhi sakta

hu.”

“What does that mean?” Despite the afternoon

in the language museum, and his online studies, Allen

was clueless.

“It means yes, I can speak, read and write Hindi

very well.”

“That’s great! How many people do you know

who can speak Hindi well?” Allen was excited, but

Bharat dashed his hopes with a mere shake of the head.

“Well, sadly, the only people I know of are one

family of six members. As far as I know, that’s the last

Hindi-speaking family in India.”

“Six?” Allen’s face drained of color. He felt like

a drought-stricken field still waiting for drenching

rainfall to revive him. “How in the world do they

communicate with anybody else?”

“It is really sad. Despite knowing a language,

they are reduced to using signs to communicate or

sometimes they come to me for help.”

“Poor people!” Allen exclaimed. “In their own

nation they cannot survive knowing only their mother

tongue.”

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HINDI

Seeing the look on Allen’s face, Bharat took

pity on him and added, “But besides this family, there

are other people who can speak a little bit of Hindi,

in addition to being good English speakers. And if they

are trained well, then they will be ready to speak Hindi

in your movie.”

This was the spark Allen had been awaiting for

a long time. His eyes widened with joy. He could feel

a sense of pride, a sense of achieving something. Finally,

there was some hope for him. He took Bharat’s hand

and kissed it.

Bharat warned him, “But I am not sure if they

can act.”

“Leave that part to me. Thank you sooo much.

I don’t know how to thank you, Mr. Bharat.”

“Hold on, Mr. Allen, I said there is a possibility,

but it is not so easy to find actors and train them to

speak Hindi.”

“Yeah, but where there is a will, there is a way.

Believe in yourself and others will too. If you help me

out, then I am sure together we can do it.”

“To see Hindi alive again, I would do my best,

Mr. Allen,” Bharat assured him.

In the meantime, one of the priest’s daughters

came to let them know that lunch was ready. She

repeated Bharat’s invitation of the previous day, but

once again, Allen said that he would take it at the

hotel.

251 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“You are already too late for lunch there.

Please do us the honor of dining with us.”

“Okay, then, thank you very much.”

When they all gathered around, Allen noticed

that all family members were speaking in Hindi. The

luncheon was altogether a very traditional Indian meal.

The food was excellent, and Bharat suggested that

Allen try eating the rice with his fingers, as the others

were doing.

After lunch they basked in the winter sun in

the courtyard. “How come you still speak Hindi, Mr.

Bharat?” Allen asked.

Mr. Bharat leaned back in his chair and laced

his fingers over his stomach. “It is just that we were

more comfortable in Hindi. It was our parents who

taught us that a language carries its own knowledge

and culture with it, so they inspired us to stick with

it.”

“Why do you think that Hindi just disappeared

in India?” Each person Allen had asked had given him

a different reason and Allen was eager to hear what

the priest would add to the discussion.

Bharat had obviously already given this subject

much thought. “People were more inclined to other

foreign languages and cultures. Initially in the 20th

century the Indian government tried to save the

language by celebrating Hindi Day on 14 September.

Every year, that day is still celebrated in foreign

countries like Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Australia,

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HINDI

but here the vast majority of the people are unaware

of this day.”

“This cultural genocide is a world-wide

problem, yet the menace is invisible,” Allen said.

They sat for a long time deliberating on the

causes and effects of the eradication of Hindi. When

that subject seemed to be spent for the time being,

Allen broached the movie. The rest of the afternoon

passed in working out the details of their collaboration.

As the late day shade crept across the courtyard, Allen

roused himself. “Thank you, Mr. Bharat, for your warm

welcome and a most enjoyable afternoon.”

“It is my pleasure, Mr. Allen. After all, it is you

who are doing the favour for us. Can you be ready

early tomorrow?”

“Sure. For what?”

Bharat smiled. “Mr. Allen, we have much work

to do. We have many people to visit. Certainly you will

want to get an early start.”

“Of course!” Allen agreed. “I’ll be here at 8 am

sharp.”

Leaving Bharat’s, Allen roamed the streets of

Jaipuria. He was impressed with the buildings, but was

surprised to notice that the roads were full of potholes.

A man riding a superbike passed him, but his tyre

caught in a pothole and he went down. Allen rushed

over to help.

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HINDI

“Thank you so much for your help,” the man

dusted himself off.

“Be careful, man, there are lots of potholes.”

The man nodded wearily. “It has been broken

for ages, and will remain broken till the end of the

time.” Allen laughed, but the man sternly said, “No I

am serious. From the outside, everything looks

amazing, but as you dig deep, you discover the reality

of the situation. Sometimes I feel that in the 22nd

century, we are actually going backward.”

“Calm down, chum. Everything has its time,”

Allen tried soothing him. He was in a good mood.

After so many days of frustration, he had something to

cheer about.

As he continued on, he saw many people

hanging around by shops, talking and making jokes.

As soon as he got to his room, he called Kelly.

“Hello, Sweetheart.”

“Hey, Allen. How are you? Where are you? It

has been a looong, long time! Where have you been?”

“Oh, so many questions! I have only one

answer: I am doing great!”

“You look so happy! Have you made your

movie?”

“No, no, not yet, but tomorrow I will start

hunting for non-actors to act in my movie.”

“So, what is the name of your movie?”

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HINDI

Allen had to think for a moment before the

obvious answer popped into his head, “HINDI!”

“Oh wow, that’s a nice name, Allen. I’ll keep

my fingers crossed for you. I hope to see you grabbing

another Oscar for this.”

“No, no,” Allen said, “this movie is not for any

award. This is for personal reasons, you know that.”

“Hmm, I am so happy for you, Allen,” Kelly

was beaming.

“Me, too. Do me a favor, tell Granny this. She

must be worried about me.”

“Yeah, sure. I will.”

“Okay, I’ve got to go now. I’ll talk to you soon,

Honey.”

“I love you, Allen. Take care of yourself.”

Allen worked late into the night on his script.

Every day he was getting good ideas about how to

progress the story. Even so he knew that, until the

film was made and released, he would need to

continue to fiddle with it. He would never feel that

the script was complete. Since he was at his computer

the whole night long, still woke without the need for

an alarm. For the past five months he had been writing

and re-writing, developing the script that would

change his life. He had all the tireless energy of a

newborn colt.

255 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

When he arrived at Bharat’s home, Bharat was

already waiting for him on the front stoop.

“Hello, Mr. Allen. Good morning,” Bharat

welcomed him.

“Good morning, Mr. Bharat. I hope I am not

too late.”

“No, no, you are absolutely on time.” Bharat

smiled, to ease Allen’s anxiety. “Let us be on our way.”

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HINDI

CHAPTER – 10

*ACTOR HUNT *

r. Bharat directed the driver to a

small town. The trip took awhile, due

M to the bad state of the roads. While

they rode, Bharat made a video call on his phone,

“Hello. Please gather everyone at MG Garden.”

Allen gave him a puzzled look.

“I asked the Mayor to collect everyone so that

we could speak with all of them at once.”

Allen nodded. “Good idea.”

This little town was not as developed as

Jaipuria. There were many traditional structures, but

the people were wearing western clothes. The older

people wore hats, and the youngsters wandered around

in various shades of hair color. The women mostly

wore jeans with tunic tops over them. They were quite

generous and polite. Many of them greeted Bharat

with “Namaste.”

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HINDI

Allen was pleased and relieved to hear the word

spoken by so many, and was anxious to speak to these

people.

At the appointed time, Bharat climbed onto a

stage at the garden. He shook hands with the Mayor,

then spoke into a mike, “Hello, everyone. Namaste.

Thank you all for showing up here, today. I have two

pieces of news for you. One is good, and the other is

bad.”

Everyone glanced at each other.

“The good news is, I am pleased to announce

that we are very fortunate to have Mr. Allen with us.

He has come from the UK, and wants to make a film

in India, using Indian actors.” The crowd murmured

approval. “More surprising than this is that the stars

will be chosen from amongst you guys.”

A great cheer arose from those gathered, and

they began to clap and whistle. Mr. Bharat raised a

hand for quiet. “Now for the bad news.” There was

instant silence. “The film will be made in the Hindi

language.”

Everyone looked around in consternation.

“Now, now, it is not so bad,” Bharat calmed them,

“We are now looking for people who think they can

speak Hindi, or have at least some knowledge of the

language. Raise your hands if you think you can

manage it.”

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HINDI

Slowly, fifteen to twenty hands made their way

into the air. Allen found the response a good sign. He

nodded to Mr. Bharat and took the mike.

“Namaste, everyone,” he began. “My name is

Allen. As Mr. Bharat has said, I am here to make a film

in Hindi. All I need from you is some knowledge of

Hindi. Mr. Bharat has said that he will teach you

whatever else you need to know.” He strode back and

forth on the stage, stopping every so often when he

wanted to emphasize a certain point. “See, this is the

language your grandparents used to speak. The

language my own grandparents spoke. This is the

language which played a major role during the

Freedom movement. There were many Hindi slogans

that had the power to raise millions of Indians against

the British. But in this time, more than 100 years later,

we have forgotten almost all of them. Hindi is the

language which ruled India long before the English

came,” he reminded his audience. “Don’t you want the

identity of your ancestors to come out? Don’t you want

to feel proud of your language? Wouldn’t you like to

make a film in tribute to your mother tongue?”

Slowly, three or four more hands inched up.

“Great, great!” Allen applauded. “I really

appreciate your effort.”

Someone in the crowd yelled, “I hope this

movie is not for charity! You won’t let our acting on

behalf of our language go to waste, will you?”

Allen and Bharat burst out laughing.

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HINDI

“No, no,” Allen said, “I assure you. You will all

have written contracts, spelling out all the terms. I’d

like everyone who is interested to meet on the first of

next month in Jaipuria. I will tell Mr. Bharat when and

where, and he can arrange it all. So, be ready for a

great adventure, chaps! Thank you all.” Allen left the

stage to more cheering.

The Mayor stopped him. “You English always

do the opposite of us. When we spoke Hindi, you had

us speak English. Now that we all speak English, you

want us to speak Hindi.” Allen smiled. “I don’t

understand how you will get all these people to speak

Hindi in the 22nd century.”

Bharat touched the Mayor’s arm. “Don’t worry,

brother. My family and I will teach them.” When the

Mayor frowned, Bharat added encouragingly, “Even if

we don’t succeed, we should at least give it a try.”

“Okay, Mr. Bharat,” but the Mayor was clearly

not convinced. “If you say so. I won’t interfere. I

respect you.”

Allen and Bharat headed to the next town on

Bharat’s list. While Bharat called ahead for the

arrangements, Allen pulled out some snacks he had

brought along, and offered some to Bharat and the

driver.

Allen mused, “Two hundred years ago, there

were many languages spoken in India. Now there is

only one, and it was imported.”

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HINDI

Bharat nodded. “I would like to share a

personal experience.” Allen gave him his full attention.

“I went to Paris for some work. I found that every

French citizen feels proud of their native language.

Unless it is really important to speak in English they

prefer to talk in their own language. In one restaurant,

the cashier told me I had to speak French, as they

don’t understand English. When I told her I didn’t

speak French, she lectured me. She said that everyone

should learn their language before we visit her

country.” He frowned. “Everybody feels proud of their

native language except us Indians. That’s why we

would often find people speaking English in public,

rather than Hindi or some other Indian language. It is

very depressing! English is a very beautiful language,

but that doesn’t mean that you denigrate other

languages and give them less priority just because you

feel pride in speaking English.”

Allen nodded in agreement. “What I don’t

understand is why it is only in India that people have

that mentality. It must have started somewhere. Where

did it start? How did it grow?”

“It may be because of our history with the

British,” Bharat conceded. “Before independence,

those who wanted to work for the government had to

pass an exam. The exam was in English. People were

desperate for those jobs, because of their stability and

the retirement pensions that went along with them.

After independence, in 1947, the elite, the educated

Indians, who spoke English, ended up with the

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HINDI

government jobs. The situation was made worse by the

caste system—the lower classes were not taught

English. They were worse off, while the fortunes of

the English-speakers improved greatly. Soon everyone

wanted to speak English, to better their lives for

themselves and their children.”

Allen was listening him carefully and was about

to say something, but the driver interrupted to tell

them that they had arrived. The driver was not much

interested in this conversation. Hauling the two men

around was just a job to him.

֍֍֍

The meeting place was already packed with

people. As a head priest of many towns in the district,

Bharat commanded a great deal of respect. Once they

had greeted the Mayor of this town, they went through

the same routine as before. This time no fewer than

30 people were interested in working with him. Once

again, Allen told them to meet him in Jaipuria on the

first of the month.

Allen and Bharat traveled to many other towns

for entire week, and were able to line up about 500

people to audition for the movie. It proved to Allen

that there were still a few people left who knew how

to speak Hindi. They just needed to be inspired to go

public in their mother tongue. It turned out that not

everyone in India wanted to speak English, but the

262 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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times and the system had imposed that language on

them.

Enjoying their dinner at Bharat’s place, both

men were exhausted, but pleased with their efforts.

“I am really thankful to you,” Allen enthused.

“I have been here for long time in India looking for

people. I can’t believe that now we are able to get so

many people interested in our film.”

“If our intentions are good,” Bharat lifted his

hands, “then God Himself will help us.”

Allen nodded contently. “That is true, Mr.

Bharat.”

“Aur rice lenge?” Bharat asked Allen. “Would

you like to have more rice?”

“Ji ha. Yes,” Allen replied.

“That is good, Mr. Allen,” Bharat said. “You

are learning something useful already.”

Everyone at the table laughed.

Later that evening, at the hotel, Allen called

up Jack Angel.

“Hello, Mr. Angel.”

“Hello, sir. What a pleasant surprise,” Jack was

overjoyed to hear from Allen. “I hope your calling me

means that all is going well for you.”

“Very well, indeed,” Allen confirmed. “I am

finally going to start my movie.”

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“Oh, that is great news, sir. Does that mean

that you found Hindi-speaking actors?”

“No and yes,” Allen replied. “I found some

people who speak some Hindi, and I have also found

teachers to teach them whatever else they need to

know. We begin the acting workshop and pre-

production on the first of the month. It might take us

up to two months from then to start shooting.”

“Great.”

“So, is it possible for you to start working with

me officially? The actors I have found are not actually

professional actors, but most of them have theatre

experience, so first thing we will have to hold auditions

and prepare them to act.”

“Why not, sir. Tell me where you want me to

be, and I’ll meet you there on the first.”

“Great. I will send you the details. I am

planning to call up my people from the UK to assist.

Also, I will need a few good actors, an art director and

technicians from your industry as well.”

“Do not worry sir,” Jack said confidently, “I

will be able to provide you all possible support.”

“Okay, then. See you soon.” Allen hung up and

pulled up his outline. Fueled by caffeine and

enthusiasm, he was able to work late into the night.

As soon as it was decent in the UK, he called

Martin Chillingsworth, his scriptwriter.

264 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“Hello, Martin. How are you, man?”

“I am great, Allen. Where have you been

keeping yourself? It has been a really long time. You

have been trending in social media.”

“Oh really! Yes, I was preparing for the next

movie. It will be shot in India with Indian people.”

“Terrific! When do we start?”

“I’m sending you the idea and the story with

the characters and locations for this movie. I want you

to write the detailed screenplay from that. Since it is

based on India, you might need to do some research,

as we are not familiar with their culture.”

“Brilliant,” Martin said.

“One more thing. This move will be shot in

the Hindi language, so after finishing the screenplay

you have to come to India for its development and

translation.”

“Who have you got to help us in translating

dialogue?”

“Mr. Anupam Bharat.”

“Never heard of him. I hope he knows his stuff.”

“He knows Hindi,” Allen said. “That’s enough

for me.”

For an entire week Allen worked hard to

coordinate with many people from the UK and India

265 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

to arrange everything. One fine morning he headed to

Bharat’s house. He gave Bharat an envelope.

“What is this, Mr. Allen?” Bharat asked.

“It’s a contract. You are now officially working

with me on this project. I hope you won’t say no.”

Bharat teared up. His hands shook slightly.

“Even if you hadn’t offered me a contract, I would have

worked with you. We are all excited about this project.”

“Well, I’d better leave you to it. You have lot

of work to do, Mr. Bharat. You are the crucial part of

this movie. It may be my dream, but you are the one

who is going to shape it up.”

“It is my privilege, sir.” They shook hands.

֍֍֍

One day before D-Day, Allen called up Granny.

“Hello, son. How are you?” Granny’s concern

was evident in her voice.

“I am doing great! Hope you are keeping well,”

Allen allayed her fears. “I’m starting my movie

tomorrow.”

“That is great news, Allen. So you were able to

find Hindi-speaking people?”

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HINDI

“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of people who understand

at least some Hindi. And I got some other people who

can teach them everything they need to know.”

“Very good,” Granny said. “You know what,

Allen, I speak Hindi, so if you ever need my help, just

let me know. I’d also like the chance to serve my

mother tongue.” Granny stopped and pressed her hand

to her mouth, overcome for a moment.

“Wow, Granny, I will surely take your help.

Thank you so much!”

“You take care, and let me know whenever you

need me.”

Pleased with his progress, Allen cut the call.

The screen vanished within a fraction of a second, but

Allen’s contented smile lingered on.

267 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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CHAPTER – 11

*AUDITION *

llen had hired a big hall for the

auditions, but even so, the room was

A crowded. Up on stage, Bharat’s entire

family was gathered, ready to teach Hindi to those who

passed the auditions. With so many people, Allen

video’ed all of the auditions so that he could review

them later.

Some of the people were laughing and joking,

while others were so nervous they could barely speak.

It was hard to control the crowd. Some people were

serious and for some it was just a lark. Allen had the

feeling that there was lack of sincerity and dedication

amongst many people. But he was sure that it would

just take time to train them and get into the action.

Some actors were not fit and it was bigger task to get

them in shape.

Bharat’s family members were coaching people

through the auditions, but their teaching didn’t seem

to be sticking very well. Maybe the method was just

not right. He’d have a talk with Bharat after the

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HINDI

auditions. For now, he just needed people who were

willing to give it a try.

֍֍֍

One month of tutoring later, things had still

not improved to Allen’s satisfaction, nor Bharat’s for

that matter.

“What do you think, Mr. Bharat? In how much

time they would be able to speak good Hindi?”

Bharat shrugged. “It is a language. It took them

100 years to forget, so learning it back it would take

some time at least. No one is yet able to read it, but

at least we can try to get them to speak correctly.”

“Let’s hope for the best,” Allen consoled him.

“One hundred years ago,” Bharat said, “when

people would see wrong English, they would

immediately tell people to correct it or take a photo

to put it on social media with a caption R.I.P. English,

but when Hindi was wrong on signboards, no one

bothered about it.”

“I just can’t understand why they did that.” As

always, the reminder of the loss of a piece of his past

brought Allen down in the dumps.

Fortunately, before he could wallow in sorrow

too long, Martin arrived. Even in winter, he was

dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. On his feet were his

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HINDI

trademark orange and red trainers. Allen jumped up

to hug him.

Martin looked around in awe. “Wow! This is

great! So many people! Good going, man.”

Just seeing his face gave Allen a much-needed

lift. Martin was the kind of guy who could pick the

slightest smidgen of good out of even the worst days.

The perpetual smile on his face inevitably brought out

a smile from everyone around him. Allen had relied on

him for the past ten years not only for his writing

ability, but because he was a calming balance for

Allen’s own excitability.

“Mr. Bharat, meet Martin Chillingsworth. He

is our screenwriter,” Allen introduced them, “Martin,

Mr. Bharat is the pillar of the movie. He will help us

translate dialogue into Hindi.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Bharat,” Martin and

Bharat shook hands.

“So, when can we start working on it?” Bharat

asked Martin.

“Whenever you say, sir. I am ready for your

baby, waiting for you to deliver,” Martin held out a

copy of the script. They all laughed.

“I feel that the cast is not inspired enough,”

Allen explained. “They are not taking much interest.

Instead of teaching them Hindi, we should try to teach

them how to deliver dialogues in Hindi. I think it

would be better for them to start practicing their lines

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HINDI

in Hindi,” he went on, “so they can become more

proficient faster.”

Bharat and Martin nodded in agreement.

“Since Martin is an expert in training actors,

we could surely use his methodology.”

“Not just me, Allen,” Martin said. “I have

already talked to Jo Ryan about this. He’ll be along to

help.”

Allen was relieved. Jo Ryan had been an acting

guru in the UK for many years. He specialized in

teaching acting skills and had been responsible for

many innovations in the field.

“That’s great, Martin. It’s a real load off my

mind. All right, then, men, let’s get back to work.”

“That’s what I am here for, brother,” Martin

patted Allen’s back.

“As I cannot teach them acting,” Bharat said,

“I will help them by correcting their Hindi and accent.”

Allen had asked the crew he usually worked

with to come to India and Jack Angel showed up the

next day with an entire team of assistant directors, art

directors and technicians. Everyone was introduced all

around.

“We’ll need a lot of name tags!” Bharat joked.

“Good idea, Mr. Bharat. Jack would you please

make that happen?”

271 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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“Anything you desire from Jack Angel, Mr.

Allen, you will receive.”

With most of the people in place, starting their

work, the excitement from the whole team, both cast

and crew, was almost palpable. Everyone was happy

and excited to be working on such an unusual project.

The first evening that everyone was present, Allen

arranged for dinner at the hall, so that he could give

an introductory speech.

“I know that it will not be so easy to work in

a language that none of us is familiar with,” he

acknowledged. “But with hard work and complete

focus, we will make this happen. My philosophy is that

movies are more than mere entertainment. This movie,”

he slapped the back of his right hand against the palm

of his left, “will send a message to everyone who sees

it.” Nodding heads filled the room. “There will be

many conflicts to work out, many problems along the

way, but these are all only parts of the journey. Half

of our units are from India and half from the UK, so

this will be a good learning experience for all of us.

The rest is up to Martin Chillingsworth, our

screenwriter. He will give you the gist of the plot, but

please keep in mind that suggestions are always

welcome from anyone.”

Allen stepped back, and Martin pulled out a

script. He began to narrate, scene by scene, and the

cast and crew jotted down copious notes.

272 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

While Martin was speaking, Jack asked Allen,

“Have we finalized the actors, who will play what

character?”

Allen shook his head. “Not yet. Martin, Mr.

Bharat and I will look at each performance again before

we make a decision.”

The next day, Allen met with the costume

designer, Ms. J. She was waiting with Jack in the

workshop set up by Allen.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Allen said as he

entered. He studied Ms. J, not sure if she was right for

what he wanted. The costume designer was in her early

30’s, with auburn hair, obviously dyed to make her

look more American than Indian. She was glamorous,

no doubt, but her style and accent put him off. He

wanted to make a film about India, in Hindi, and his

costume designer was pretending to be American. It

was very off-putting.

Seeing the frown on Allen’s face, Jack stepped

forward. “No problem, sir. Meet Ms. J. She is a very

renowned costume designer and stylist in the Indian

industry.”

“It will be my pleasure to work with you, Mr.

Allen,” Ms. J said.

“Same here,” Allen replied, keeping his

trepidation to himself for now. “I am looking forward

to working with the best talent in India.”

“May I show you the costume samples?”

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HINDI

“Sure.” The quality of her work would make

his decision for him.

Ms. J leafed through her portfolio, showing

Allen the costumes she herself designed for various

movies.

“Wow, nice work, Ms. J,” Allen whistled. “Now,

this movie is set in India in the 21st century. The year

is 2017. It will be in the Hindi language, and I want

costumes according to that era.”

Ms. J lit a cigarette and offered one to Allen.

Allen declined. “No, thank you.”

“You mean the women should be dressed in

saris? That kind of traditional wear?”

“Yes. They should look Indian, not pseudo-

Indian, in their own culture and costume.”

“But, Mr. Allen, for men there shouldn’t be

any problem, but no woman dresses like that any

more.”

“But Ms. J, this is not a movie set in the

modern era.” Allen forced a smile. He wanted to work

with this woman, if possible.

Ms. J ashed her cigarette, then took another

drag. “To be honest, there is no reference about

traditional wear available on the internet. Also, I’m not

that familiar with that era.” Ms. J was obviously out of

sorts with Allen’s unusual request.

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HINDI

Allen thought for a while. He looked at Jack.

“Would it be possible to refer to old Hindi movies,

from the National Language Museum in Mumbai?”

“Ah, that’s a good idea,” Ms. J immediately

replied.

“Great. You can have a look and do some

research, then make the costumes.”

Ms. J nodded. “Don’t worry, I love taking on

challenges. I can make the costumes per your

requirement. Once I have everything ready, I will let

you know, then it’s up to you.” She took another drag

and puffed out the smoke, then peered at him. “I can

make the costumes, but how are you going to get the

actors to wear saris?”

Allen smiled, “Fortunately, that’s not my

department, but we will sort this out for sure. One of

my Assistant Directors will be in charge of persuasion.

She will be the one you will coordinate with. She will

explain the story to you, and you can base your samples

on that. Then, before we shoot, we will give you the

specific requirements. Please feel free to make

suggestions, if you find something interesting.”

“That’s fine, Mr. Allen. I’ll be heading back to

Mumbai tonight. I’ll be in touch within ten days’ time.

Does that work for you?”

“That’s fine with me.”

Ms. J held out her hand and Allen shook it

lightly, mindful of her many rings. “Then I take my

275 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

leave,” he said. “There are plenty of refreshments in

the hall,” he indicated the large auditorium. “Please

eat and rest yourself before you head all the way back

to Mumbai.”

“Thank you so much, Mr. Allen.”

Before long, Allen had everyone going 24/7.

Bharat and Martin rehearsed the cast in Hindi. Bharat

focused on the pronunciation, while Martin paid

attention to the performances. The set designer was

busily creating a 100-year-old India, with input from

the creative director Allen had brought in.

For the city of Jaipuria, making this movie was

like hosting a cultural festival. News of “HINDI” was

spreading everywhere. Allen had forbidden any of the

cast or crew to talk about their work, but even so, this

project was the top trender in India social media.

Reaction to the movie was mixed: some appreciated

Allen’s effort to resurrect Hindi and the culture that

surrounded it, while others felt that the past lay better

dead and buried. Some simply wanted Allen to go

home. The media were saturated with daily updates

from interested bystanders and reporters who hung

around the set, waiting for a story.

At the Y R Studio, Mr. Chopra couldn’t read

the newspaper without running across a story about

“HINDI” the movie. Every day he grew more livid

about Allen’s impudence, very much displeased with

this foreigner who was bypassing all of the accepted

story lines in favor of a high-brow movie that Chopra

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HINDI

himself would never have been able to make. Chopra

placed a few calls and smiled to himself after he got

some answers about the Indian crew on the set.

“The actors working on this movie are

breaking the law!” he yelled into his phone. “They will

be thrown out of the union. How can they work on a

foreign project without any permission? Send notice to

all of them that their membership is being canceled.

If they continue to work without permission after that,

they will be facing charges.” Mr. Chopra slammed

down the phone, and called his secretary into his office.

“We cannot let this movie be made here. How does he

think he can make this movie without my permission.

I am the Movie Mogul of India.” He thumped his chest.

“No one dares to work without my say-so.”

Mr. Chopra called a meeting of all the

association presidents. “That man is here to ruin the

culture of India. He is trying to defame the image of

our beloved country.” He paused to make sure that

every head was bobbing in agreement, then pounded

the table, smirking when everyone jumped. “You are

supposedly the presidents of your associations, the

ones in charge,” he pointed all around the room, “yet

you have allowed your people to work on this movie.

How could you do that?”

Excited mutterings and denials echoed around

the table. Many faces were red, but no one dared to

stand and face Mr. Chopra.

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“Mr. Chopra,” one man began timidly,

nervously tugging at his collar, “we didn’t know about

this. We were not aware of the content of this movie

at all.”

“Exactly!” Another man hastened to support

the first. “We thought it was like any other foreign

project in India.”

“Fools!” Another pound, another jump. “See

here.” Mr. Chopra’s voice had turned silky smooth,

but not a single one of the men at the table was taken

in. “I do not know how you guys are going to stop

them, but we all understand that this Mr. Allen needs

to be stopped, do we not?” He smiled as several heads

bobbed as though tied to his string. “Otherwise, you

will be supporting a man who is doing his best to cast

a slur on India. I am sure that no one in this room

wants to be brought up on charges of sedition.”

The profound silence that greeted this remark

implied agreement with Mr. Chopra’s assertion.

“Do not worry, Mr. Chopra.” The man who

had nervously fingered his collar assured him, “We are

as Indian as you are. This will be stopped.”

“Thank you, gentlemen for saving our country

from these fake well-wishers.” Mr. Chopra took the

time to shake hands with each person, but none of

them met his direct gaze.

As they scurried down the hall, one whispered

to another, “Listen to the laugh of that man! It’s

unholy! I am glad that I am not this Mr. Allen.”

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“You’re right,” came the answering whisper.

“That Mr. Chopra is determined to stop him by

whatever means necessary.”

֍֍֍

Next morning, the mood on the set was

uncharacteristically somber. Allen and Martin had

arrived together and were discussing that day’s

dialogue as they walked along, when Allen became

aware that something was not right. Raising his hand

to halt Martin’s recital of the latest change, Allen

strode over to the nearest group of people.

“What’s going on?”

For answer, one of them handed him his phone.

“What is this?” Allen asked.

“We’ve been told that we can’t work here any

longer, or we’ll be kicked out of the union,” another

man explained.

“And worse,” another crew member added.

“What?” Allen quickly read the notice, then

handed the phone back.

“We are really sorry, sir, but we cannot work

with you on this project. We are not allowed to work

without permission from our association,” the

spokesman said helplessly. “We were just waiting to

tell you ourselves.”

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HINDI

“Thank you for that courtesy,” Allen said.

“Sorry, Mr. Allen,” each man mumbled as one

by one they gathered their personal effects and left the

set. Allen didn’t move during the whole long process.

He was stunned, broken. At each tortured step of the

way towards making this movie, he had felt a

momentary failure, but he had persevered. Each time

he had broken through, only to meet with another

obstacle. So far he had found a way past each obstacle,

but every setback had made him feel a little more

defeated. This time, he couldn’t even fathom where to

start to deal with a problem of this magnitude. If no

Indians would be able to work on a movie that was to

be made in India, he didn’t know where to turn next.

Martin came up to him and put his hand on Allen’s

shoulder, but Allen shook him off.

When all the Indian personnel had left and

only the people from the UK were aimlessly milling

around and trying not to stare at him, Allen turned on

his heel and walked away. He didn’t speak to anyone.

He just went to his hotel room and shut the door

behind him.

He clenched his fists and kicked the table. He

felt like a first-time director again, struggling to get

his movie off the ground. It had been a long time since

he had had to deal with so much reaction before he

could say his first, “Action!”

Making a movie is like a creating a life. On the

set, the director is like God. He makes the whole thing

280 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

happen. Directors know that they will have to deal

with many obstacles on their way to the final reel, but

this particular obstacle had Allen stymied. He slumped

into the chair next to his table. On the table, just out

of reach of his fingers, was his script. The word

“HINDI” mocked him. Frustrated beyond belief, he

grabbed for the script, but the pages fluttered in the

breeze coming through the window. The script blew

about, then fell to the floor.

Allen kicked the script across the room in

frustration. Both he and his “HINDI” were struggling

to keep their place. He had such high hopes for this

movie that carried along all of the cast and the crew,

and now he didn’t have the guts to face any of them.

He felt as though he had been stabbed in the

heart. His dreams had shattered like glass, leaving him

bleeding inside. His hopes were fading with the sunset.

He didn’t know whether the morning sun would

breathe new life into his hopes or not.

֍֍֍

Deep in his dreams, Allen heard the phone

ring. He almost didn’t answer, but just in case it was

a member of the crew, he murmured “Hullo?” without

opening his eyes.

“Hello, son, how are you?”

Allen choked up. He couldn’t speak.

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“Are you all right, Allen? What has happened?”

“Nothing much, Granny,” he managed. “I just

don’t believe that I will ever be able to make this

movie.”

“You are a fighter, son,” Granny chastised him.

“One thing your grandfather used to say is that Indians

don’t give up so easily and the British have traits of

achieving against all odds. They always fight back. And

you have both Indian and British roots, Allen.”

“But, Granny, everything is set against me here.

No one believes that I am here to make something

good,” Allen complained.

“If you have faith in yourself, then you don’t

have to care about the others. Do you believe in

yourself, that you can make this movie?”

“Yes,” Allen said, with a bit of hope rising in

his breast.

“Then go capture your dream, son. Nothing

great comes without hard work. There is a price to pay

for all things that we want, and we can’t have them

until we pay that price. Remember what The Bhagavad

Gita says, ‘No one who does good work will ever come

to a bad end, either here or in the world to come.’”

“Do you really think so, Granny?”

“Son, if we do not have our basic values, then

what do we have?”

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“You’re right, Granny. That’s just what I am

trying to say in this movie.”

“Then I won’t keep you awake. You need your

rest, so that you can continue your work when the sun

kisses your face in the morning. All the best, son,

tomorrow is waiting for you. Good-bye, and take care.”

Allen was so thrilled at Granny’s re-affirmation

of his mission that he kissed the phone. He didn’t

know whether it was a miracle, or whether Granny

was a mind-reader, or whether it was just dumb luck,

but whenever he was shattered or depressed it was

Granny who showed him the path, just like Lord

Krishna did for Arjuna. We all have a Krishna in our

life, he thought, we need to know who that person is,

and respect him or her regardless of age, caste, or

religion. He resolved to ask Mr. Bharat to help him

study Hindi and The Bhagavad Gita. He needed all the

help he could get from the Gods if he was going to

make this movie a worthwhile effort.

The next morning he got up with a determined

look on his face. Seeing his set features in the mirror

scared him, though, and he deliberately softened his

attitude and relaxed his facial muscles. He was relieved

to see a smile cross his face that charmed even him

and made him grin.

“Keep cool, Allen,” he reminded himself, “you

want them to think you’ve got everything under

control, not that you’ve gone off the deep end.” He

practiced in the mirror until his smile had just the

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right amount of humor mixed with confidence before

he dared face anyone at the studio.

At the workshop, he was surprised and pleased

to see some of the cast rehearsing with Bharat and

Martin. They all turned to look at Allen, responding

with smiles to his new confident air.

“I hope you guys are working hard,” he patted

Martin on the back. “Don’t worry about what

happened yesterday,” he advised them. “I know this

much: we are genuine and honest and we have to make

this movie. I’m going to Mumbai and get this whole

thing sorted out. So cheer up.” He gave them a thumbs

up.

“All the best, Mr. Allen, we are all with you,”

Bharat told him. They all exchanged hugs amid the

lightened atmosphere, then set back to work,

chattering excitedly in a lighter tone.

When Allen arrived at his Mumbai hotel, he

called Ranga up, and the taxi driver took him over to

Mr. Kapoor’s house.

“Welcome, Mr. Allen,” Mr. Kapoor was sitting

on his couch, enjoying the view out the window. “I

heard about what happened.”

“How did you find out?”

“I’ve been in this business for many years.

There is nothing major that happens that I don’t know

about,” a grin lifted the corner of his mouth. “And of

course, you are all over the TV and the internet. I

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must have received 100 phone calls about you, as well.”

Mr. Kapoor winked at him, but Allen remained serious.

“Sir, please tell me what to do now. You know

this project is really important to me. I was about to

start the shoot, but at the last moment I am having to

deal with this.”

Mr. Kapoor stood up and lit a cigar. He led

Allen to the hall. “You see all my ancestors here,” he

aimed his cigar at the pictures. “You know how we

were able to survive for 200 years in this industry?”

Allen looked at him with anticipation. “I will tell you

the secret. You must teach a lesson to someone in the

language which they understand.” Allen frowned in

confusion. “Do you know what I mean? The presidents

of the associations are not allowing their people to

work on this foreign project. However, nowadays, most

of the Indian film shoots are done in Europe. When

Indian crews travel to Europe to make their movies,

they will need foreign crews to assist them. Now do

you know what I mean, Mr. Allen?”

Allen looked puzzled for a moment longer,

then nodded.

Seeing his nod, Mr. Kapoor continued, “I know

ethically it is not the right thing to make threats and

hold future collaboration hostage, but, as the old

saying goes, ‘To make an omelette, you have to break

a few eggs.’”

A smile grew on Allen’s face to match his

dawning comprehension.

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“Thank you so much, Mr. Kapoor,” Allen’s

initial excitement had re-surfaced. “Let’s see if this

works.”

“I hope you are able to manage it. I have faith

and confidence in you, Mr. Allen.”

They shook hands, and Allen went back to

Ranga’s taxi with a lighter heart.

“Sir,” Ranga said, “everyone is talking about

you in the news. They say that you are going to do

something which we ourselves cannot do. I even heard

that Mr. Chopra will not let you do this, as he feels

that if he cannot make a movie about something which

belongs to India, then no one, especially an outsider,

will ever be allowed to make such a movie.”

“That may be their mentality, Ranga. They can

believe whatever they want to believe. I only know

that I have to do it. Let them try however hard they

might to stop me, but they will not succeed.”

“Good luck, sir. You are truly an inspiration.”

They were still laughing when Ranga dropped

Allen at the hotel.

That night Allen got a call from producer Jack

Morgan.

“Hello, Allen, how are you?”

“I am very well.”

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“I heard about what is happening with you

there. I suggest that you come back and work here.

We have got everything you need.”

“You may be right, but this is the first time in

my life that I am really struggling to make a movie. It

seems right that I should be putting so much of myself

into something that means so much to me. In London

everything is easily available. I would not have to work

so hard and I would not be putting so much of myself

into the movie. If I am able to complete this here,

then it would be bigger than any award for me.” Allen

nodded a couple of times as it dawned on him, “I feel

alive here, Jack, really alive. India has done something

for me. I haven’t felt this way in a long time, but now

I feel…” he trailed off.

Jack grinned. “…alive. I get it. So, you won’t

come back to the UK until after the shoot. I know

you …stubborn.”

Allen just smiled.

“I know you are an experienced producer-

director,” Jack encouraged him, “still, I have a

suggestion for you. As a director, you come across

many problems. There might be a situation where you

feel that you will never be able to complete your movie,

that everything is conspiring against you. Keep this in

mind: you need to believe in only one person and

listen to him. That person is you. Good luck, my boy,”

He gave Allen a thumbs up. “I’ll be waiting to see your

movie.”

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“Thank you so much,” Allen gave him a

thumbs up back.

֍֍֍

“It must be disheartening, Mr. Allen, that your

crew members have been denied the ability to work

on your project,” Mr. Chopra smoothly commiserated

with Allen. His blatantly insincere sympathy was being

extended at a meeting of all the big producers and

association presidents, a meeting that Allen had called

at the TAJ Hotel conference hall.

In the face of the bleak smile and dark tone of

voice which had scared so many in the film industry

and had shattered the dreams of so many more, Allen

calmly answered, “Yeah. But do not worry. If you are

with me, then nothing will go wrong. We will be able

to start the shoot.”

Mr. Chopra was not the only person who

expressed surprise at Allen’s confidence. None of the

people Allen had gathered together was expecting

anything like this. Mutters around the room reflected

the members’ guesses about what Allen had planned

for this meeting.

Ignoring the whispered comments, Allen called

the conference to order. He stood at the podium, and

stared down at everyone else seated in chairs. From

this vantage point, he could see all the signs of

nervousness exhibited by the association presidents.

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Mr. Chopra was seated directly in front of him. He

looked more puzzled than anything else.

“Thank you, gentlemen, for coming so

promptly,” Allen greeted them. “I am really delighted

to see you all here this morning. We are all from the

same fraternity, and it is always good to meet and

know each other. You are all great filmmakers, and

you know that great films are not possible without a

great supporting crew.” Everyone nodded.

One of the producers nudged Mr. Chopra.

“What is he doing? Why has he called us here?”

Chopra shrugged, his eyes wide.

“As most of you know,” Allen went on, “I

came to India to make a movie. We are currently on

location in the town of Jaipuria, in the state of Uttar

Pradesh. Two days ago, I was informed that the Indian

members of my crew had been ordered not to work

on my movie, on penalty of being kicked out of the

union. What could they do? They all left.”

“Maybe they didn’t want to work on it in the

first place,” Mr. Chopra offered. The others all nodded

in agreement.

Allen shook his head. “They all signed

contracts. Believe me, they were willing.”

“See, I don’t know what is wrong with working

on a foreign movie, but maybe it is not good for our

community. Did you get permission from all

departments and government authorities, Mr. Allen?”

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Mr. Chopra had apparently appointed himself

spokesman for the group.

“Not from all, yet, but I have been abiding by

the rules. I have made sure to get permission as

needed.”

“Well, maybe you are doing something which

is not acceptable in India,” Mr. Chopra persisted. “Or

maybe the idea or concept of your movie might be a

dangerous threat to the culture of our country.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Chopra? What kind

of culture are you talking about? Every language has

its culture. The English language comes from Britain,

which has built up its culture over centuries. India

used to have a culture that was built up over millennia.

A proud culture, a culture that was reflected in its

many regional languages. Now those languages are no

more. A country that couldn’t save its national

languages has no right to talk about preserving its

culture.”

“It appears that you are trying to put blame on

us. This might be the very reason why crew members

do not want to work with you,” Mr. Chopra said

smugly.

“That is not the case, I tell you. The Indian

cast and crew who were working on my movie were

pleased to be celebrating the life of the language of

Hindi. This movie is not at all a threat to Indian

culture. Rather, it is trying to bring back the glory of

this country.” Allen was getting heated.

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“Why are you so bothered about our culture

and glory, Mr. Allen?” another producer chimed in.

“Because I am half-Indian, myself. My ancestors

were from India, I have Indian blood in my veins, and

I have every right to create something which helps to

bring back the pride that Indians used to feel in their

country and in their culture. If I don’t shoot it here,

then I will shoot it in the UK, but this movie will be

made.” He paused, to let the proclamation settle, then

went on in a calmer manner. “With all due regard, I

want to know if you guys will allow me to shoot in

India with an Indian crew.”

“We are nobody. It is up to the cast and crew

themselves.” Mr. Chopra lifted his hands in a helpless

gesture.

Allen hid a smile. With Mr. Chopra publicly

ceding control to the association members, he was able

to exert direct pressure on the association presidents.

“Look, you guys also shoot many movies in

Europe. As you are aware, we have our own

associations and unions there. If the unions in Europe

find out that I didn’t get any support for my project

here, then you guys can understand what you may have

to face there.”

Everyone was silent as they considered the

import of Allen’s statement. They exchanged looks. It

wasn’t long before the first of the association

presidents capitulated.

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“As long as Indian crew members are ready to

work in your film, we won’t have any problem in

Europe?”

“What do you say, Mr. Chopra?” one of the

presidents wanted to make sure that everyone knew

where the ultimate decision had come from. “You

produce more movies abroad than does anyone else.”

“Well, why would I have any problem with that?

It is good that he is making a film in India with an

Indian crew.” Mr. Chopra was graciousness itself. The

others knew not to trust this face of Chopra. The man

was slippery as an eel, but they also knew enough to

go along with whatever he said—at least, in public.

“Great!” Allen clapped his hands together. His

palms were damp in reaction to the stress of making

the association presidents believe he had the power to

affect film crews in all parts of Europe. “So I ask all of

you to give written approval to your members, so they

can start working tomorrow.”

Everyone in the hall nodded and promised

Allen that he would not face any kind of problem

because of crew members. They even promised him

that if he ever needed any sort of support he could ask

them directly. Allen quickly dried his hands on his

jeans before one by one, the producers shook hands

with him and headed out the door. Only Mr. Chopra

was still seated, one leg crossed over the other, his

hands clasped in his lap, his sneer undisguised now

that they were alone.

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“What is the boxing term?” he asked

rhetorically, “Oh, yes. This round to you, Mr. Allen.

Still,” his eyes were hard, his voice steely, “this is

merely one problem you will face. There will be many

more to come, you mark my words. You will find that

it is not so easy to make a film in India.” A smile so

serene that Allen almost thought he’d imagined that

look of contempt crossed the producer’s face.

“I am prepared now,” Allen shot back. “I always

compose the shot first, before I say action. I don’t wait

for the right time, I make the time right for myself.”

They exchanged warm smiles, like crocodiles

sizing up easy prey, and shook hands.

Back in his hotel room, Allen hastened to call

Mr. Kapoor.

“Thank you so much. It really worked.”

“I knew it, Mr. Allen. Not because you are

confident, but because your intentions are honest.

When you do something with a good intention and

dedication, then opportunity herself opens the door of

success.”

“So kind of you to say so, Mr. Kapoor.”

“By the way, if you are looking for an Indian

who wants to practice Hindi, please let me audition

for your movie. I would like to act in Hindi for the

first time ever in my life.”

Allen was astounded by the offer. Not only was

Mr. Kapoor’s acting ability of the highest quality,

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having Mr. Kapoor in his movie would make many

more people open to allowing Allen to complete his

work.

“Mr. Kapoor, you would never have to audition.

In fact, I have just the part for you. We need an elder

statesman, and you would be perfect. It’s a small part,

not too taxing, but integral to the entire plot.”

“That sounds delightful.”

“Great. I’ll give you a call when we’re ready for

you.”

With Mr. Kapoor cast, Allen found he had a

hearty appetite, and ate with relish.

The next morning, Allen was prepared to sleep

in, but an insistent knock dragged him from his bed.

He knuckled his gritty eyes, trying to force them open,

as the knocking continued.

“Good morning, Mr. Allen. I am the manager

here.” Allen was in no mood for entertaining, but he

managed a polite “Hi,” with a large question mark

behind it.

“I’m really sorry to wake you like this, but I

think you should look outside your window.”

Allen tried, but he could make no sense of

what the manager was saying. He stared at the man,

but the manager just lifted a hand toward the window.

Finally, Allen crossed the room and opened the drapes.

A group of people were holding up placards and

banners, and protesting something.

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Allen looked at the manager in confusion.

“What are they protesting?”

“I think you know the answer to that.”

“What do you mean?”

The manager picked up the remote and aimed

it at the TV. Live footage of the protest came on the

screen, and Allen could see his name on one of the

banners. “No more Hindi! No more Allen!” was the

slogan. The sign next to it said, “We won’t let you ruin

our culture!”

A TV reporter stated that people were

protesting and marching against an Academy-award

winning director, because they felt that he was making

a movie in India which was designed to ruin their

culture.

“What the fuck?” Allen couldn’t believe his

eyes and ears. This was all rubbish. The reporter was

trying to sensationalize the protest.

The reporter on the scene stuck his

microphone into the faces of some of the protestors.

“We want him to go back and stop making a

movie which runs down Indian culture,” one protester

said.

“Why is he doing this?” another protester

asked. “We will not let him do this.”

295 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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The reporter summed it up, “A Taj official

stated that they are not aware of Mr. Allen’s activities,

and they have no comment on this matter.”

Back in the studio, the anchors showed footage

from some of Allen’s movies.

Allen turned to the manager. “I don’t know

what to say.”

“I don’t know what the matter is, sir, but you

must be careful. These people are not actually

sentimental about their culture, but they are

pretending to be. They can be really harmful. They

will do anything for political gain.”

“But believe me,” Allen assured him, “I am not

doing what they’re accusing me of.”

As they watched, the cops showed up, and

began pushing the protesters, to make them leave. The

protesters shoved back and the cops started dragging

them into police vans.

Allen’s phone rang. He ignored it. On TV, they

had cut back to the live scene. Reporters were making

their own conclusions on live debates with jobless

political spokespersons. Protesters were yelling back

and forth, some in favor of Allen, some against.

Allen shut the window. He didn’t know what

to do, what might happen. He sat down. He just

wanted to forget all this, to go to the set and make

his movie. The manager put a hand on his shoulder.

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“Don’t worry, sir. They will be gone as soon as

the sun gets high. This kind of thing is normal in the

months leading up to a national election.”

“Ah,” said Allen, “that explains some of it.”

The manager left with a reassuring smile that

reminded Allen of Granny. She would not want him

to just sit here, feeling sorry for himself. She would

expect him to forge ahead and find a solution. She

always said that problems come with the solution at

hand. If there is something negative, then there will

also be something positive around. You just need to

look for it.

Maybe a cold shower would start his sluggish

brain to working. If nothing else, being clean always

gave him the feeling of a fresh start, caused his

problems to look not so monumental. He wiped

himself all over with the soap.

If only I could wipe away all of my problems,

just as I wipe away the dirt.

He felt refreshed after the shower. Drying off,

he felt a new man. But still, he didn’t feel like doing

anything. He opened the window for an update on the

situation. Most of the protestors were gone. Only a

few reporters were on the empty street, wrapping up

their stories.

His phone was still ringing continuously. He

wanted to escape, to breathe easy, to take his mind off

the mess. He searched his closet for something bright

and cheerful to wear. Smiling, he found just the thing.

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He tucked his red t-shirt into his jeans, put on his

sunglasses, switched off his cellphone, and whistled as

he shut the hotel room door behind him.

֍֍֍

The platform at the railway station was so

crowded that Allen couldn’t get anywhere near the

local train. Frustrated, he backed up and watched the

train leave the station without him. Fortunately, the

next train was only minutes away, but he was once

again shoved away from the coach by the press of

people. The third time, he was ready. He pushed and

shoved with the best of them, and landed a squinched

space half his size, smashed against the wall of the

coach, just as the door closed behind him. Fortunately,

the coach had an efficient A/C system, or he would

have spent the trip bathed in the aroma of his sweaty

neighbors. As it was, to his surprise, he was enjoying

the whole process.

He looked around at the other commuters.

They were all flexing shoulders and hips, trying to

adjust themselves to the tiny spaces they could call

their own for the remaining trip. Some of them even

gushed out air, pressing their bellies in to make extra

room. He chuckled to himself. It wasn’t a pleasant trip,

but it was certainly an awesome experience.

His disembarking was the reverse. Now he had

to shove his way off the train, vying with people

hurrying in all directions, in quest of things that

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seemed so important in the moment, but were in

reality insubstantial treasures. We only have one life to

live, but somehow our definition of living life has

changed to chasing material dreams at full speed. By

the time most of these people realized the true

meaning of life, most of it would have passed them by.

He promised himself that he would not be one of them.

Catching a passerby by the sleeve, he asked, “Is

there a good mall nearby?”

The man nodded and pointed, then hurried on

his way. Left with nowhere to hurry, Allen meandered

in the direction the man had pointed. He was

surrounded by a sea of buildings, artificial structures

that had crowded out and buried any natural creations.

He had no real need to buy anything, so he merely

made a go-round of the entire mall. On his second lap,

he sank into a chair at a coffee shop and ordered a

drink.

The waiter set the coffee down, and Allen

turned off the small screen built into his table before

he became depressed. His face was all over the media,

his dream just more fodder for the insatiable maw that

was the news. Today he wanted to forget everything

and just enjoy the day by himself. There would be time

enough for struggle tomorrow. After he finished his

coffee, he hailed a cab.

“Where to, sir?”

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“The hotel Taj. But,” Allen leaned forward, “I

want some peace and quiet first. I want the scenic

route. Show me the entire city.”

“It is really difficult to understand these British

sometimes,” the driver murmured, but a grin lit his

face, as he calculated the fare for such a trip.

Allen spent the ride looking at the people on

the way. Even where there were so many problems,

even in such a crowded city, the people looked happy.

Every day this city was teaching a lot to Allen. Being

happy was apparently just a state of mind. Someone

who set his mind to it could be happy in any situation.

The driver turned onto a coastal road. Even

with multiple bridges across the Arabian Sea tying the

island city to the Western Suburbs, the roads were

congested. It seemed that nowhere in India could the

government keep up with what was necessary. Still, it

was a pleasant drive and Allen could put the painful

protest at the Taj behind him. When he got back to

the hotel at 10 pm the place was quiet. He had dinner

alone in his room, and went to bed without checking

his phone or his messages.

300 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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CHAPTER – 12

[*PRE-PRODUCTION *]

he next morning, Allen called up Ranga

for the drive to the airport for his flight

T to Delhi. There was no airport at

Jaipuria, so he would have to take a cab from Delhi to

Jaipuria. The flight and cab ride were long and wearing,

and it was evening before he arrived. His weariness

slipped away, though, as everyone greeted him

enthusiastically, giving him a grand welcome for his

win over injustice.

“We knew it, Mr. Allen. We knew that you’d

bring back good news. We are all so happy,” Bharat’s

expansive gesture took in the whole group. “We all

believed that we would surely be making this movie

here.”

“Then let’s not waste any more time. Back to

work!” Allen gave everyone a thumbs up.

In no time at all, the crew was in full swing.

Allen undertook finalizing the cast and making sure

that the construction of the set was coming along as

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planned. This close to the beginning of the shoot, he

wanted to keep a close eye on everything.

One morning, as he wandered into rehearsal,

Bharat, Martin and Jo were working hard with each

artist to get the dialogue delivered in the proper body

language. The process was time-consuming. Bharat

listened to the actors deliver their lines while Jo and

Martin judged whether they came across as true to

their characters. Most of the cast had some theatre

experience, and had to adapt their acting skills for the

movie, hence, they were all coming along quite well.

After watching for awhile, Allen told them all to take

a break for lunch.

“When do you think we’ll start shooting, Mr.

Allen?” one of the men asked to Allen.

“I’m planning for the beginning of next week,”

Allen responded.

“Oh no,” Jo objected. “I don’t think that our

actors are fully prepared to do that. Some are not able

to act properly, and some are not able to speak Hindi

properly. I really think that we need more time to train

them.”

“I really want to get this underway before we

come up against any more obstacles,” Allen said. “Do

you have any ideas on how to speed up this process?”

“Well, yes,” Bharat put in. “As a matter of fact,

we will have the solution tomorrow morning.” He

exchanged a knowing look with Martin.

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“What are you guys up to?” Allen asked

suspiciously.

“I said tomorrow, Mr. Allen, so you must wait

until the sun rises.”

“Okay,” Allen gave up graciously. “I have faith

in you.” He put the matter out of his mind during the

rest of the meal.

Later, while the crew went back to

construction and the cast went back to work with Jo

and Bharat, he went over the next scene with his

assistant directors, the cinematographer, Roger Gibson,

and Martin. Roger, whose pierced ear and tattooed

arms made him look as though he’d just escaped from

Hell’s Angels, had worked with Allen since Allen’s

earliest days as a director. A tall man, Roger liked to

lean in when he talked, and emphasized his arguments

with much use of lifted eyebrows and rolls of his heavy-

lidded brown eyes.

These were the moments Allen lived for, when

his baby first started coming to life in the minds of his

co-workers. He knew that, once he got his concepts

across, he could rely on the talented crew he had

gathered over the years to put down on film the same

vision that he had in his head. The animated give-and-

take went on till the wee hours of the morning, Allen

so intent that he forgot to eat supper.

When he finally yawned and stretched in his

hotel bed till late in the next morning, he realized that

the sun was already up and his stomach was empty. He

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shaded his eyes as he opened the drapes. The sun’s rays

had brightened everything in sight, and lent positive

energy to the entire scene outside. He touched the Taj

miniature as though in benediction and smiled as he

rushed to dress, then ordered a quick breakfast. He

didn’t want to waste any time this morning. Now I’ll

find out what those two guys were up to.

In the workshop, Martin and Bharat were

seated side-by-side, discussing dialogue and marking

up sheets. Allen glared at them.

“If you two guys are in here, then who is

training the actors? Did you leave Jo in there by

himself? You know that we’re behind schedule already!”

“Oooh, what a grumpy Gus,” said Martin,

grinning. “Do you think he got up on the wrong side

of the bed?” he asked Bharat.

“I can only pray for him. Namaste, Mr. Allen,”

Bharat put his hands together while Allen steamed.

“Great job, Mr. Bharat,” said Martin, “He looks

much improved already.”

“What is going on?” Allen put his hands on his

back.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Director,” Martin teased.

“We have the very best coach working for us now.

Come, have a look.”

Allen raced onto the set. A small, white-haired,

woman, her hair braided and pinned, faced the actors,

her back to him. She was leaning her right hand on a

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cane and raising and dropping her left hand in the air,

and the actors were chanting in time to her

movements.

Allen stared in confusion for a moment, then

his face cleared and he ran to the woman. He grabbed

her from behind and kissed her cheeks with joy.

“Granny! When did you get here?” he asked. “I

love you, Granny. I knew that you would come to my

rescue.”

“Not only me, my son, look around,” Granny

smiled.

Allen saw that Granny was not the only

foreigner training the actors how to speak Hindi

correctly. There were a group of Chinese people Allen

had never seen before, scattered amongst the actors.

“Oh, my God,” he exclaimed, “I cannot believe

this! Who are these people, and how come they are

teaching Hindi to Indians?”

“Maybe the Indians have forgotten Hindi, but

abroad there are many universities in the world where

Hindi is being taught to foreigners. These tutors have

been specially invited from China,” put in Bharat, who

had come up behind Allen.

“Oh, my,” Allen was still awestruck. “Whose

idea was that?”

“Someone who lives in your heart and soul, Mr.

Director,” came a well-known voice. Allen turned

around in disbelief.

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“Kelly?” He had never seen her look lovelier.

Her eyes, set off by the exquisite colors of the perfectly

draped sari she wore, were lit with pleasure at seeing

him, at the success of her efforts and at being in India.

Allen could do nothing more than stare. Titters

and laughter from the crowd broke his paralysis, and

he pulled Kelly into his arms and hugged her tightly.

“Thank you, Sweetheart,” he whispered in her

ear.

The laughter gave way to fond smiles and even

a few circumspect dabs at moist eyes. Besides the

reunion of the lovers, everyone was beginning to

believe that Allen’s dream of making this movie would

be realized. Allen paid no attention to the people

surrounding him and Kelly. He held her hand and

tenderly kissed her fingertips.

“I always knew you were beautiful,” he said,

“but today…” he wanted to tease, but words failed him.

Kelly grinned. “You like it?” She spun slowly

around in the sari for his inspection. “No, you don’t

have to answer.” She put a hand on his lips. “Everyone

here knows how you feel.” The crowd cheered and

clapped, as Allen blushed.

“Now, son,” Granny ordered, “Let her go and

tell her how wonderful she looks in that sari.”

Kelly’s face turned beet-red, and she tried to

hide behind Allen, but he took her hand and pulled

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her in front of him. He stepped back, and looked her

up and down.

“You do look wonderful in that sari,” was all

he said, but his eyes were filled with so much more

than words.

“Mr. Director,” Granny spoke up, “would you

please let us work? Can’t you two lovebirds see that

actors are rehearsing?”

Martin couldn’t stop laughing. “Okay, Miss

Kelly, you are free to go. We can all see that you are

too busy to work now.”

Allen swept the room with his glance. He was

so overjoyed that it was hard to express his emotion.

“Good job, Granny, thank you so much.”

He found a chair to stand on and addressed all

the cast members. “The shoot will begin the first week

of next month. The schedule will be forwarded to each

one of you.” His voice was full of pride; these were the

very words they had all wanted to hear for days. Jo

nodded in agreement and gave a thumbs-up.

They all cheered up and clapped. “I welcome

our new members and thank them for helping out in

such a critical situation,” Allen said to the Chinese

members of the crew. “Now I firmly believe that we

will re-create history for a better tomorrow.

Remember, everyone, this is not my movie. It is our

movie. Each one of us will put our heart and soul into

this project to make it happen.”

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More cheers drowned out his voice. Some

people held up V’s for victory, and Allen joined in.

֍֍֍

The news that foreigners had come to India to

teach Hindi to Indians spread like wildfire. TV and

social media discussions fueled the fire on its way to

Parliament. For some it was a shameful thing that

Hindi was being resurrected, even in so small a way.

Others were scared that India’s image in the world

would be forever tarnished by the humiliation of

having foreigners teach Indians their own mother

tongue. Still others thought that all of the foreigners,

especially Allen, should be forced to leave India.

Unaware of all of the controversy surrounding

him, Allen was completely engrossed in his project.

They were only two days from the start of shooting.

As the moment crept nearer and nearer, Allen became

more nervous than he’d ever been—more nervous,

even than his first time directing. Knowing how much

was riding on this film, though, he masked his

trepidation, and went around with a smile on his face,

asking questions out of concern for the cast and crew,

and making sure everyone else was at ease.

Wrapping up progress for the day, Allen

headed back to the hotel. Granny was already asleep

in her room, but Kelly was stretched out on the bed,

so absorbed in a book that she did not hear him come

in until he lowered himself onto the bed beside her.

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She turned and smiled, and he smiled back, trying to

hide his fear and nervousness. Not too successfully, for

she took his hand, attempting to calm him with her

healing touch. Even her strength was not enough,

though. He rose and began to pace, unable to keep his

anxiety at bay.

He felt dirty, worn. All day he had chased all

over the set, exhorting the crew to work harder,

encouraging the cast. When he looked down at Kelly,

his face was drawn, austere in cruelty, ascetic in

passion. His cheeks were sunken, his lips pulled down.

Seeing him so distressed, Kelly stood, proud

and tall and strong. Her arms were thrown back, her

fingers spread apart. Allen did not move, but the veins

on his neck stood out. His heart started beating faster.

He went to her and clutched her to him, then lay them

both down on the bed. She relaxed against him, lay

still in his arms. He could feel her skin against his.

Maybe this is what he has been missing, Kelly

thought. She could feel him moving against her,

smelling her hair, forgetting his anxiety. He laid the

palm of his hand against her cheek and kissed her in

casual, intimate tenderness.

“Do you know that I love you more everyday?”

he murmured. When she made to answer him, he put

a finger on her lips. “Shush.”

She touched the remote control, and the room

went dark. Only the moon was witness to the magic

of two opposite souls, sharing feelings of tenderness

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after so long. Allen’s voice was low, his eyes hooded.

His eyes were as blue as the ocean. Dark hair barely

touching his shoulders looked too soft not to touch.

She reached up and moved a lock of it from his

forehead before he caught her wrist. Being in her arms

liberated him to do everything he wished for. Her

touch made him complete and confident every time.

Maybe this was the best way to release the fear that

was burning him inside.

She whispered in his ear, “Somebody rightly

said that creative people are the most passionate and

romantic. They make you feel their love and their

sense of completeness.”

But by that time, Allen was deep asleep. His

face was calm and relaxed for the first time since he

came to India.

Kelly stroked his cheek and nuzzled his hair.

She sighed deeply with contentment and adjusted the

covers over both of them. She looked across him to

the nightstand next to the bed, where a miniature Taj

Mahal had caught her eye. She frowned and looked

back at Allen.

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CHAPTER – 13

*FIRST DAY OF SHOOT *

he following morning, everyone was on

the set even before they were scheduled

T to be. The sun in the clear sky welcomed

everyone and blessed them all with the spirit of never

giving up. So far, they had met every challenge that

had come up in preparation. Now they were ready to

start in earnest. Everyone knew what they were

supposed to do. Allen may not have had the most

experienced of actors, but he had faith. He believed in

them.

The very first shot was an interior scene. This

movie was all about how a foreigner came to India and

rediscovered a language which had become extinct,

like the tigers. It was obviously inspired by a true event,

and movies can capture pieces of reality just as easily

as pieces of imagination.

Before they started, Bharat offered prayers to

the Lord and asked Allen to break a coconut according

to the Indian tradition.

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“I never knew that the Gods were involved in

so many customs of this country,” Allen marveled. He

turned at a sound behind him. Granny was clapping

her hands in pleasure.

“It has been so long since I have seen this!” she

exclaimed. She put her hand on Allen’s arm. “My son,”

she explained, “the coconut is broken, then placed

before the Lord. It is offered to please the Lord, or to

fulfill our desires. Later, it is given out as prasada.”

She let go of his arm and ushered him toward Bharat,

who held out the knife.

Allen gladly took the knife and cut the coconut

as Bharat directed. He did not know how much effect

prayers really had on things, but they did affect his

mind in a positive way. He took a piece of the coconut

and asked everyone to share it.

Granny had been given the honor of clapping

the board for the first shot. Even before Allen had cut

the coconut, she had snatched up the clapboard and

was carrying it around as though it was her baby. Allen

could see the name “HINDI” flashing on the screen, as

though the movie was proclaiming its own presence.

To no one’s surprise, everyone was ready at their place

before Allen took his chair. All eyes were on Allen to

say the one word they were anxious to hear.

He picked up his mike, gave last-minute

instructions to everyone, then, as was his habit, he

went to the actors individually to explain everything

to them again. He checked the camera angle and its

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frame, and nodded to Roger, who took out a cigarette

and rolled it between his lips, then flicked his lighter

and lit it. Through rings of smoke he questioned Allen

with his eyes. Everything okay?

Allen winked and smiled and began to walk

faster. It was as though he was on a mission. His long-

awaited quest had begun. It was time to wake up, to

make his dream a reality. Each movement

communicated his excitement to everyone standing

nearby.

He had picked an auspicious day for the first

shoot. It was a beautiful, breezy day, but even so,

people rushing around were breaking into a sweat,

especially the lighting boys, making sure that the

lighting perfectly set the mood, that no one was

accidentally cast into shadow, that a scene that was

supposed to convey a moonlit scene had not been

transformed into the sunniest of days.

Kelly was stationed behind one of the camera’s

monitors, along with the other supporting crew

members. The makeup crew were busy applying last-

minute touch-ups to the actors. One of the leads who

looked more European than Indian was fussing with

his hair, asking everyone around him in his British

accent, “How do I look?” He was concerned that Allen

would pull him at the last minute because he wasn’t

Indian enough.

A final check of the scene and the actors, then

of the sound. A thumbs up, then—

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“Silence, everyone,” the assistant director

called. Allen was ready to begin.

“Actors on their first mark.” The actors were

in place.

“Clap in.” Granny moved the clapboard into

the camera frame as though she’d been doing this for

years.

“Roll sound.”

“Rolling, sir.”

“Roll camera.”

“Rolling.”

“Clap.”

“Scene Number 9 Shot Number 1” was

captured on film as Granny moved out of the frame.

“ACTION!” It was as though thunder had

broken across the set. The actors had received their

cue. “HINDI” was truly underway.

Lead Actor : I’m in India to make a movie. That

movie will be shot with Indian actors on Indian soil.

Bad Guy : That’s great news. I think you are in

the right place.

The actor playing the bad guy got up and

walked around the room. The rest of the cast and crew

were holding their breath and watching every move.

For many of them, it was a new experience altogether.

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The Bad Guy continued : No foreign film can

be made without my consent.

Lead Actor : Then do me a favour.

Bad Guy : Yes, of course. That is why I am

here.

The actors were so engrossed in the shot that

they came across as very professional. They were saying

their dialogue perfectly, even though most of them

could not understand the words. Allen didn’t

understand much of the dialogue either, but he knew

what they were supposed to be saying since he had

written the story, and he had been working on his

Hindi for months now. A smile played about his lips

as the scene progressed, though he seemed to be

entirely unaware of it.

Kelly kept an eye on the monitor. Allen’s

assistants kept a sharp lookout for anything that was

not supposed to happen. Everyone else not in the

scene had nothing to do but watch it patiently. Allen

had asked everyone to keep their mobile phones inside

their pockets to prevent a selfie culture on the set.

Lead Actor : I want to make this film in Hindi.

Bad Guy : What

The actor playing the bad guy almost fell back

into his chair, making some of the onlookers giggle.

Allen glanced sharply at the sound man, but he shook

his head, and Allen gave a sigh of relief. The

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microphone hadn’t picked up the soft sound. The actor

continued on without noticing any problems.

Bad Guy : I am sorry, sir, but Hindi is no more.

The lead actor looked shocked as the

cameraman zoomed in for a tight close-up. The lead

actor held his look until Allen called “Cut!”

“Very nice,” he added. “You both were

amazing.” Everybody clapped. Allen asked the video

monitor to play back the scene, and everyone crowded

close. All of Allen’s attention to detail had worked out.

Everything had turned out perfectly. Allen shook

hands with both actors, then turned to Bharat for his

opinion.

Bharat had listened closely to the Hindi in the

shot. Even with the arrival of Granny and the other

tutors, the movie rested on his shoulders. He was

Allen’s angel, who had suddenly appeared out of

nowhere and was helping Allen achieve his greatest

goal. He nodded and gave Allen a thumbs up.

Having the first shot go well was a good sign

for the film. Everyone relaxed, loosened up, and

settled into their jobs. With all of the pre-planning,

they could move along smartly. Little did they know

that, while here in Jaipuria, one director was well on

his way to achieving his dreams, back in Mumbai

another director was burning in agony and revenge,

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plotting to destroy those dreams.

֍֍֍

Mr. Chopra paced in his office, waiting

impatiently for his secretary. Even before the door was

fully open, he demanded, “What’s going on in Jaipuria?”

All over social media accounts people were

praising Allen’s courage and his determination to make

the impossible possible.

“As far as I know,” the secretary was calm, used

to Mr. Chopra’s testiness, “the shoot has started. I

think they are planning to wrap it up in two months’

time.”

His secretary filled him in while Mr. Chopra

checked the latest updates online. His face flushed at

Allen’s continuing insult to his status. Enraged, he

threw his phone at the holographic computer screen.

Both pieces of equipment shattered, scattering bits of

glass and electronic parts all over the room.

A well-known actor picked that unfortunate

moment to burst into the office. Full of himself, in his

shirt with the sleeves cut short to show off the tattoo

on his biceps, and his skinny jeans, he shook his fist

at Mr. Chopra.

“Mr. Chopra, what is this? I have been told

that I can’t come in! That I have to wait! I can’t work

like this! Is this how you treat a superstar?”

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“Get out, you bastard! Get out of my office

before I kick you out of this movie!” The actor almost

fell over himself racing to get out of Mr. Chopra’s

office.

Mr. Chopra’s shouting could be heard all the

way down in the studio. The crew shuddered and

thanked the Gods they were not facing Mr. Chopra’s

tantrum.

“This shoot has to stop!” Mr. Chopra was livid.

“Did you hear me? This has to be stopped! I’m going

to Delhi tomorrow. By that time, you must come up

with a way to run that movie off the rails.” He stuck

his cigar into the ashtray and squeezed it to rubble.

Then he stalked out of the room in anger. Shaken by

his intensity, his secretary made a quick phone call.

֍֍֍

Five days of shooting had gone by. Five tense,

wonderful days, that flew on wings, tiring out cast and

crew alike, but leaving them in good spirits. Everyone

had been putting in 10- and 12-hour days on the set,

but each day the entire cast and crew showed up as

fresh and ready as they had been on the first day. For

all of the uncomfortable clothes and lack of knowledge

of the language, everyone somehow managed to

maintain great attitudes, and the set was daily

populated by a willing and excited crew.

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The actors were becoming more comfortable

speaking their lines. They had been practicing for so

long that almost everyone else knew the lines as well

as they did.

On the other hand, the actresses were having

trouble with the saris. There were so many actresses

in traditional garb that Ms. J couldn’t dress them all

each day, and they had all tried their hand at learning

how to drape the saris. Mrs. Bharat had also lent her

talents, but there were still many ridiculous and

hilarious results, with many actresses ending up

unintentionally partially disrobed.

That wasn’t the worst of it, though. One scene

called for an actress to run in her sari, but she tripped

and fell over her long skirt. When Allen raced over to

her, alarmed, she was laughing.

“I’m okay, I’m okay,” she assured him with a

smile. “Just not used to this.”

Ms. J carefully examined the sari, but it had

suffered no damage in the fall. Granny came over and

showed the actress how to adjust her sari so that she

wouldn’t trip, and Allen flashed her a grateful look.

Four takes later and the scene was in the can.

Allen was poised in his director’s chair, ready

for the next shot, when he noticed some policemen

striding toward him.

“Jack,” he asked his production manager with

a sigh, “will you please see what those policemen want?”

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“Sure thing, Allen.” Jack headed the policemen

off, and carried on a quiet conversation with them

away from the action. Still waiting for everything to

be set up, Allen couldn’t keep his mind, or his gaze,

off the two officers. Finally, he couldn’t stand the

suspense any longer, and walked over to them.

“May I ask why you are here?”

“Sir,” one of the policemen answered him,

“You must stop the shoot right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Sir, you don’t have permission from the local

authorities to shoot in this town.”

Jack interrupted. “I told them that I have

already taken care of all the permissions.”

“Maybe so,” the policeman persisted, “but you

did not submit the necessary copy of your script and

permission letter from the local mayor. We have

information that your film may agitate the locals, that

it may stir up riots here.”

“What are you saying?” Allen was taken aback

by this unexpected development. “I never heard of

anything like this.”

“Sir,” the policeman said loudly, “this is India.

The rules are different here. We have our orders, and

we will not allow this shoot to happen.”

Allen looked at Jack. Seeing Allen’s

disappointment, Jack held up his hands in defense.

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“I have been doing this job for fifteen years,

and I never heard of anything of the sort.”

But his explanations and experience were in

vain. The policemen refused to listen.

“Okay,” Allen conceded, “We will get

permission from whomever you say, but let us finish

this. These delays are costing me a lot of money.”

“Sir,” the policeman say, “We do not have the

authority. We only have the authority to shut you

down.”

Allen signaled to his Assistant Director.

“Everyone take a break for lunch!” the AD called out.

Allen ushered the policemen inside his office.

“Please, have something to eat. Jack?” Jack

served the policemen, and Allen talked while they ate.

“This is really important. All of these people are

counting on us. The whole time that we are shut down,

none of these people will be paid. Think about them.

Think about their families.”

“Does that sound like justice to you?” Jack

tried his own brand of convincing.

The policemen looked at each other. They

thought for some time, then ate some more. They

looked at Allen, then back at each other. Back and

forth, as they stuffed their mouths full of the savory

snacks that Jack had brought in. Jack and Allen

watched them in anticipation. Allen tried to keep too

much hope from showing in his eyes.

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Finally, the older one shrugged and said, “Okay.

For five lakh, for offending the principles of our great

town, we will let you shoot today. But only for today.”

“Done!” Allen said quickly. “But, please, let us

continue. I want everyone involved in this movie to be

able to be paid.”

Their five lakh in hand, the policemen readied

to leave. “Make sure you get permission, or you will

have to stop shooting,” he warned Allen.

It is said that luck favors the brave. Once again,

Allen’s bluff had worked. That day was the last day of

shooting in that area. After that, they would be moving

on anyhow. The next shoot in the next location wasn’t

scheduled for another week, so they were safe for the

moment. It may be true that money can’t buy anything

important, but that day, money bought one thing—

the dignity of a man.

Although paying bribes and lying to the police

was not something Allen was proud of, he was in such

a bind that he was constantly having to decide which

was the greater good, and what was the best way—

sometimes it appeared the only way—to achieve it.

In this particular case, the outcome more than

compensated for that twinge of conscience. The

policemen went away, and the shoot resumed. Kelly

and Granny walked over, asking what the matter was.

Allen reassured them, asking them to relax and

pretend as though nothing had gone on. At the end of

the day, Allen told everyone to pack up, and they all

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crowded around to congratulate him for the successful

schedule.

Before he left the set, though, he resolved to

talk to Jack Angel to make sure that all of the

paperwork was complete, and that all of the authorities

had been consulted and all permissions were arranged

prior to the beginning of each shoot, so that they

wouldn’t have to face such a situation again.

At dinner, everyone was rejoicing and having

fun. Allen asked the actors about their experience on

the shoot.

One of them joked, “I wish it would have been

in either German or French. That would have been

easy.”

That brought a big laugh around the table.

The truth was, the entire cast and crew had been

following Allen’s example by learning Hindi. Their

curiosity had been piqued by Allen’s choice of language,

and Bharat’s devotion to his mother tongue had

aroused their own interest in reviving Hindi. In

addition to his other duties, Bharat had been urged to

tutor many members of the cast and crew in Hindi.

Speaking the language fluently was becoming a real

status symbol and Bharat was the guru for everyone.

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CHAPTER – 14

*THE BURNING SET *

he following day brought a new location.

Since they had to create an entire set for

T the upcoming series of scenes, they

chose a place near town. The first shoot had been a

little farther away, but now everyone could relax a bit,

as they wouldn’t have to travel so far to work. There

would be two days’ break for most of the crew while

the set designers and the creative department worked

day and night getting everything ready in time.

Allen continued his work with Martin, Roger,

Bharat and the assistant directors. It was late, and

Granny and Kelly had gone off to the hotel hours

before. In Allen’s makeshift office, downing their third

pot of coffee, the men discussed the new shoot. The

work was involved, but the men were refreshed by the

cool breeze coming from the window.

But there was something else on Allen’s mind.

“I don’t know why I have a bad feeling about this,” he

said.

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“Everything is going smoothly now, dearie,”

Martin put his hand on Allen’s shoulder. “You should

think positively now. This is not the first time you’ve

gone into battle, and it won’t be the last. There may

be obstacles in your path, but you just need to keep

your mind on your goal.”

Allen relaxed, if only slightly. He appreciated

what Martin was saying, and nodded his gratitude. He

and Martin had stuck together over the years because

Martin’s ability to inspire people enhanced Allen’s own

intensity and determination. Martin had a true gift. He

could always pluck just the right words out of the air

to help others deal with their struggles.

As they bent back to their work, the phone

rang. They looked at each other in consternation. No

phone call that came so late could be good.

Bharat picked up the phone. The others could

hear the urgent tone in the voice at the other end,

but they couldn’t understand the words. Bharat’s face

paled and he dropped the phone.

“What is it? What’s going on?” Martin and

Allen spoke over each other in their anxiety.

Allen placed a hand on Bharat’s arm, and

Martin got him a glass of water. Roger smashed his

cigarette out in the ashtray. Bharat gulped the water,

then whispered, “We must go to the set immediately.”

Allen tried to ask why, but Bharat had already

hurried away. Allen couldn’t believe that the old priest

could move so quickly. Something truly serious had

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happened. Allen ran faster, worried beyond belief, his

mind full of dire possibilities. As he ran, Allen could

see others heading in the same direction.

As they neared the set, they could see smoke,

and smelled something burning. Closer still, they saw

flames licking the set. Some of the crew had already

tried to put out the fire, and that the fire brigade had

arrived and were doing their best to get the fire under

control, but as he watched, the flames were burning

his dreams in front of his eyes.

He edged closer to the flames. He could feel

the heat, but it felt as though it was his heart that was

melting, releasing his emotions in tears. Making this

movie had itself become a movie. Some stories come

to life of their own volition, and as they unfold, they

leave you without the story you wanted to tell.

Eventually, the fire brigade managed to douse

enough flames to get the fire under control. They

moved closer and closer and were finally were able to

put out the entire fire. Smoke filled the room and

fumes wafted up to the sky, making a cloud of tears

that rained down and made everyone’s heart cry. No

one knew what to say, no one knew what had

happened, or who could have done such a terrible

thing. They all had questions, but no one had a clue

about the right answer.

Everyone’s face showed the same sad story.

Tears threatened, but most were able to hold them

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back. If I cry, they’ll cry, Allen thought. If my dream

is broken, their dreams will also blow up in their faces.

The thought gave him pause. A director is like

the leader of an army, who must inspire them to

complete their task, no matter what the conditions

may be. He was reminded of William Shakespeare,

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the

valiant never taste of death but once.”

I am no coward. I am shattered, but I am not

broken. I fall, but I will rise. If I fall again, then I will

rise again. I get up, because that is what will keep me

alive. I will not stop until I take my last shot and say

pack up.

Allen’s mind started working again. He forced

his heart to realize that his dreams were still alive. He

looked around, to get his bearings, and saw that Kelly

and Granny had come to the set. They were standing

to one side, tears rolling down their faces. He

straightened up and walked toward them. He was

strong enough to hold the huge weight of sorrow he

carried in his heart and comfort them as well.

“Ah, son,” said Granny. “When you spoke to

me on the phone, told me how bad things were, I had

no idea. I was wrong to tell you to continue. The Gods

are truly against you, my boy. I see that it is time to

pack up and go home.”

“No, Granny,” he said calmly, “That is not so.

That fire is a good sign, actually.” They stared at him,

stupefied. “When good things happen,” he explained,

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“you have to pay the price, and now we are paying.

The path to success has never been easy for anyone,

including us.” He wiped their tears away. “This is a

real test for us. Now it is up to us how we respond.

Let’s take it as a challenge, and attack all obstacles in

our path.” He went to the middle of the room and

spread his hands out wide.

Smiling, he raised his voice so that everyone

could hear. “Let’s celebrate this sign of success, my

friends! Let’s not waste time. The set can be ready

again in only three or four days. Nothing will keep us

down. We have to make this movie, and we will!”

Martin came over and shook his hand. Allen

shouted, “Let’s do it!”

Everyone was excited to hear Allen say this.

They started working right away, with more energy

than ever before.

“I did not know that my son was a true leader,”

Granny blessed Allen with a kiss on his forehead. Kelly

gave him a great big hug.

“Kelly! You guys, go back to the hotel. I will

stay until everything is done. Everything will be all

right by morning.”

Allen joined the crew removing rubble from

the set. They cleared away each and every burnt piece

of the set, and removed it from the area. The set

designer started remodeling the set as soon as it was

cleared. Allen did not know that he had fallen asleep

on the hard floor until the sun woke him up. He could

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barely open his eyes, but what he couldn’t believe what

he saw. The basic structure had already been rebuilt.

“Oh, my God,” he said in awe, “It’s as though

last night never happened.”

It was truly a new day for Allen. “You have

done amazing work,” he applauded Mark and Mac

Desai, the set designer, whom everyone called MD.

“Thank you so much for getting it back in order so

quickly.”

MD was glad to hear such words from the

director. He had never had such a big project before,

to re-create an entire era, and now he had done so

twice.

“After such a motivating speech, I think we

could have rebuilt an entire city overnight.” Their

laughter was as full of relief as joy.

As the others continued forward, Allen went

back to the hotel, to catch up on his rest. Bharat and

Mark could handle the rest of the work. He was quite

relieved. He could feel the positive energy flowing

through him once more. Last night’s incident had only

made him stronger. He felt like a star sprinter at the

Olympics, who had just won the last heat before the

finals. With his sooty face and hands, stained shirt and

jeans, his head held high and a sparkle in his eye, he

caught the attention of everyone he passed. He greeted

them all with a heartfelt, “Namaste.”

In his hotel room, he lay down on the bed.

Kelly and Granny had already left for the workshop

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with the others. He slept, undisturbed, until his phone

rang. Rubbing his sleep-clogged eyes, he stretched.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Allen. I was so sorry to

hear the news.” Allen immediately recognized Mr.

Chopra’s voice.

“Oh, hi, Mr. Chopra. How are you? You have

no need of being sorry on my account. I’m glad that it

happened.” Allen closed his eyes. He couldn’t keep

from smiling. He moved the phone so that the sun

would reflect off the screen, hiding his face.

“What do you mean? Didn’t you have a fire on

the set last night?”

“Yes, sir, we did. It was a great experience for

me and my team.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

Mr. Chopra couldn’t hide his irritation.

“Calm down, Mr. Chopra. You are behaving

like the fire was your plan, and it didn’t go the way

you wanted.”

Mr. Chopra laughed derisively. He took a drag

of his cigarette. He lay back on his sofa, blue smoke

swirling around his face. He puffed out some smoke

and said, “I told you, Mr. Allen, that it is not easy to

make a movie here. This is just the beginning.”

“Thank you for reminding me, Mr. Chopra,

but I am much more prepared now. All of my fears

and misgivings were burned up in the fire. What is left

330 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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is a core of determination, and it is strong as steel.

There is no way to break me now.”

“All the best, then.” Mr. Chopra bit out, and

hung up. His secretary watched as the smile vanished

from his face.

“What happened, sir?”

“If you can’t make a proper fire, then I will fire

you. Now get out of here!”

The secretary scooted out of the room. Mr.

Chopra had lost control of his temper, and there was

no handling him now.

֍֍֍

Showered, fed and rested, Allen joined the

rehearsal, already in full swing.

“Oh, God! This is really tough, to speak in

Hindi!” one of the cast collapsed on the floor in mock

exhaustion.

One of the Chinese instructors held his hand.

“Don’t worry. Ho Jaayega. That means it will be done,”

he translated as everyone laughed.

The cast member dragged himself off the floor,

and made ready to rehearse again.

Allen was glad to see everyone pulling together.

The whole group had become like a family. They all

celebrated their togetherness. Each person knew what

331 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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their responsibilities were, and eagerly took on those

and more.

Every day of this movie was a learning

experience for Allen. One of the first things he had

had to learn when he began as a director was how to

make a film. He had long ago learned how to put the

right actors, reading the right script, into the right

scenes, then how to put all of those scenes together

to tell a coherent story that people cared about. He

had always been able to visualize his dreams, he just

needed to learn how to execute the ideas to become a

great director.

Now, with “HINDI”, he had to find a way to

have everyone involved really share his vision. In his

previous movies, it had been enough that each person

knew his craft. But this cast was not made of

experienced actors. He could not rely on them being

able to pull a good performance out of a bag of tricks

even when they were not sure about this movie, or

confident about their own abilities. These people did

not know the techniques that make a good

performance. They barely knew the language in which

their lines were written. They could only give their

best performance if they were willing to work hard and

be dedicated to achieving Allen’s vision. Each day, he

had to find a way to not only get himself past all of

the obstacles, but his cast and crew as well.

He meditated and prayed every day, to keep

himself calm on the set. This movie was being shot on

a very tight schedule. Even if everything and everyone

332 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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else spun out of control and caused delays or hard

feelings, as the director he had to keep everyone

working as a unit. He had always gotten by through

his natural persistence, one of the key attributes of any

successful film director. Now he had to practice

patience as well, something that had tended to elude

him in the past. He could tell that he was being

successful at reining in his usual intensity when

everyone complimented him on his enthusiasm and his

on-set direction. Through this literal trial by fire, he

had managed to incorporate a new element into his

natural ability as a filmmaker.

He was happy to have built such a great team.

They had really pulled together and were a great

support in helping him to bring out his visualization

of the reel. He was especially pleased to see Kelly like

this, involved with people outside her usual group.

Even though she didn’t have any knowledge of film

making, the way she had taken an interest in this work

and given suggestions was nothing short of incredible.

She had suggested such good shots and angles that

Allen wondered whether it was really necessary to have

film making experience to become a director, or

whether all you really needed was the power of

visualization.

She was also handling all the accounts on the

set and managing all the expenses during the shoot,

which made a big difference with the tight budget

they were working with. Her PR skills were helping

Allen to deal with all the small budget issues that

333 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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continually cropped up. She was a very involved

Executive Producer for this project.

During the dinner break, Allen’s phone rang.

He looked at the screen. Unknown number. Taking a

deep breath, he said, “Hullo?”

“Am I speaking with Mr. Allen?” The voice was

a deep baritone.

Allen cleared his throat. “Yes. May I know who

this is?”

“Sir, I am speaking from the Cultural Ministry

of India. Our Minister wishes to meet with you in

Delhi.”

“Oh.” This was totally unexpected. “Oh, sure.

I can be there.”

Two of his scheduled shoots had been

completed. There was only one left to go, which wasn’t

to start for another four days, in another part of India.

Allen told everyone that he has a meeting with

the Cultural Minister the next day. Guesses as to the

purpose of the meeting were freely passed around the

table. They were still trying to figure it out while he

headed for the train station. This time, he had decided

not to take a car to Delhi, but a train. It would be

more relaxing, and the train network was very

extensive. He could easily find a train to anywhere

from any station.

334 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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CHAPTER – 15

*POLITICAL PRESSURE *

harat and Jack went with him to the

station. Allen was dismayed to find that

B the bullet train would be 30 minutes

late. Bharat and Jack offered to wait with him, but he

sent them back, to prepare for the next shoot.

While he waited, Allen watched the other

people gathered on the platform. Apparently, his was

not the only train that was late. He noticed that only

a few of the people were dressed for traveling, but they

were surrounded by many more people. With a bit

more study and thought, he figured out that many

members of extended families had come to see their

relatives off. In India, it seemed, there was a tradition

of a big send-off for anyone leaving on a trip.

To help during the long wait, some of the

people were engaged in buying spicy food. The smell

of it wafted over the platform, and made Allen hungry.

He considered buying some food himself, but just then,

a train pulled in. It wasn’t his train, but he watched as

335 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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some of the people on the platform boarded, and as

many people were discharged.

As quickly as they set foot on the ground, these

people were absorbed into the loving embrace of their

families. For some, the arrival of the train brought the

joy and happiness of the return of those close to them.

For others, the train meant the pain and sorrow of

departure and loss. Some people met, and some people

separated. The train brought happiness and sorrow,

and was oblivious to both. Allen couldn’t decide

whether to laugh or feel sorrow himself, and was glad

when the arrival of his own train was announced. The

rush to the train reminded him of his experience with

the subway.

Even as he was jostled, Allen could see looks

of recognition on the faces of his fellow passengers. He

tried to look away, to not catch their eye. He didn’t

want to talk about any of his experiences just then. He

didn’t want to be a famous director. He just wanted

to observe. One of the most enjoyable parts of his job

was observing others.

During the course of his career, he had noticed

that observation was part and parcel of imaginative

people. Such people, especially writers and directors,

are in the habit of observing whatever is around them.

They are always looking for the characters in every

person they meet. Movies are merely the depiction of

their day-to-day observations. There is no dearth of

ideas. They are around all of us all the time, but there

336 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

are people who can see that, and people who couldn’t

recognize that if their noses are rubbed in it.

On the train, conductors greeted each

passenger, and one showed Allen to his berth, next to

a window. Allen found a seat and got comfortable. This

train was well-maintained, and was stocked as well as

the average home. As the train pulled out of the

station, people were already deep in conversation. To

Allen’s surprise, some of the talk was gossip about the

very people who had dropped everything to see the

passengers off. The passengers could hardly wait for

the train to leave so that they could curse their

relatives and exchange dirt on them. Allen couldn’t

figure out why people would pretend to like someone

to his face, when really they didn’t respect that person

at all. They tried to fool everyone with their fake smiles.

A pantry boy brought Allen a sandwich. He

munched it as the train made progress down the track.

The sandwich wasn’t bad, but it could have been

tasteless for all the notice Allen took of it—his mind

was on the upcoming meeting, and all of his senses

had shut down in favor of paying attention to the

scenes going on in his mind.

Despite the success he was having with his

movie, he was disconsolate. He had come to India to

make a movie about how valuable the language of

Hindi had been to the culture of India, but at every

turn he came face to face with objections. He couldn’t

understand it. Hindi was part of India’s identity. The

language had played a pivotal role in making the

337 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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country. It was mysteries that, in abroad people were

studying Hindi, but here the scenario was completely

different. He simply couldn’t understand a culture that

would commit suicide like that.

Allen took a cautious look around. In one

corner, a beautiful girl was constantly on her phone,

clicking photos every five minutes. The girl’s bright

smile and long hair, the clicking of the camera, all

reminded him of Maya. Every so often, she moved a

certain way, it came as a flash in Allen’s eyes where a

lovely girl in Banaras had walked an important part

with him on his journey.

Sometimes the memories were so dear that he

had to look away. As he gazed around the carriage, he

noticed that many of the other passengers were

chatting on their phones. He shook his head. It seemed

that relationships had come down to quick texts over

phones these days, instead of true face-to-face

conversations. He thought of Kelly and Granny and

the long talks they shared and grew melancholy.

Life is like a train. People sitting in this berth

are like my blood relatives. People in the front berths,

like distant relatives. People who are in other

compartments are like people from other states. And

there are many other people who are sitting in other

coaches, whom I cannot see. Those are people from

other countries. Each and every, one of us has a

destination. We all have our stations and have to get

down somewhere. I could talk with these people, be

friendly with them, even get to like them, but they all

338 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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have their station, and they will leave me forever. It is

painful, but I have also got my station. That is life.

One by one, we all have to reach our final destination.

After a time, a beautiful female voice

announced that the Delhi station had been reached,

and that passengers should prepare themselves for

disembarking. Off the train, Allen searched for a taxi

stand, and asked the driver to go to A P J Abdul Kalam

Road. The driver listened in surprise and immediately

said yes.

“Do you live there?” The driver looked at Allen

through the rear view mirror.

“No. I have a meeting with the Cultural

Minister,” Allen replied without looking at him.

“Then are you a politician or a celebrity?”

“Neither.” Allen again replied reluctantly.

“Then you are definitely some relative of the

Minister.”

Allen tried to ignore the driver, to shut his

voice out of his head. Ranga told me there were two

kinds of taxi drivers in India, talkers and non-talkers.

How come I always get the talkers?

He looked at the driver, “Why can’t you just

mind your own business and drop me at my

destination.”

The next few minutes passed in total silence.

Traffic was light enough that, even though Allen’s

339 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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train had been late, he was early for the appointment.

The area on Abdul Kalam Road was where all of the

VVIPs of Indian politics, the Members of Parliament,

had their homes. On his phone, Allen found the exact

address for the Cultural Minister and the driver headed

that way without comment.

The bungalows were enclosed by high walls

and elaborate fences. It was obvious that this was a

neighborhood that catered to the high and mighty.

Only a handful of the residents had bothered to put a

nameplate on the gate. Even so, the heavy police

presence was enough to discourage most people from

asking the gatekeeper for the names of the residents.

Everything in the area was peaceful and clean,

the roads as well as the trees. The architecture of the

bungalows as elegant as the Taj, that had stood for

200 years or more, gave their own version of Indian

history. Allen read the nameplate for the Cultural

Minister, and told the guard at the gate about his

appointment.

Inside the bungalow, the receptionist asked

Allen to have a seat, as the Minister was already in a

meeting. Instead of sitting, Allen wandered down the

hallway, peering at the decor along the way. At one

end, he paused in front of a prayer room. As he

lingered there, inhaling the smell of patchouli, a

waiter asked whether he would care for water or other

refreshments. He politely refused, with a smile. He was

too busy preparing for the upcoming interview,

340 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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readying himself for the next challenge on his path to

creating his movie.

Soon, an aide ushered him into the Minister’s

study. Although the house was residential, the

Minister kept the study for working at home. The

Minister was busy with some files on his computer,

but he stood and greeted Allen with great respect.

“Welcome, Mr. Allen. Thank you for meeting

me on such short notice.”

“Thank you, sir. Thank you for inviting me,”

Allen responded very humbly, determined to sway this

Minister to his cause.

“Please, have a seat,” the Minister invited, and

asked his aide to get some coffee and biscuits. “Well,

how is your movie getting on?”

“Ah…very well, sir.” Allen was surprised that

the Minister got down to business so fast. Usually

much more ceremony attended matters of great

consequence, and Allen had been prepared to spend

many hours in tedious small talk with the Minister.

Obviously, the Minister had other plans. This movie

must have made a great many important people very

upset—people who needed Allen and his movie taken

care of as soon as possible.

“To cut things short,” the Minister said, “We

have received some information that you are making a

movie on a topic which might create a bit of a problem

in India. Though I am personally not very well-versed

341 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

in this topic, this is of course something that we would

find very concerning.”

The Minister leaned forward in his chair and

clasped his hands.

Allen looked him in the eyes. “Sir,” he said

earnestly, “I respect this country, and I respect its

culture. My ancestors had just as much connection to

it as you have.”

“That may be, young man,” admonished the

Minister, “but the fact is that you are not an Indian

national.”

“That is true,” Allen conceded, “I am British

by birth. I came here to make a movie on a language

which has disappeared, that’s all.” He leaned back in

his chair. “Do you think that making a movie in the

Hindi language is a cultural threat?” He raised a finger

in emphasis. “I am not being violent in any manner. I

am not shooting any explicit content that is against

society’s values.”

As he was speaking, an aide entered and set

coffee and biscuits between Allen and the Minister.

“What I do not understand,” the Minister

ignored the refreshments, “is why you are so keen on

re-discovering the Hindi language? It seems as though

no one but you knows or is interested in this subject.”

He waved his hand to indicate the untold millions of

disinterested souls, then leaned back against his chair

and folded his arms across his belly. “We Indians are

all comfortable with what we are speaking. We do not

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need, or require, any other national or official

languages. And we certainly do not need a foreigner

trying to teach us about our own culture.” Now he

reached for a glass of water and took a sip.

“Each language has its own culture,” Allen

argued. “When you forget your language, you forget

your culture. You forget the knowledge of medicine,

of health remedies. India had a long tradition, which

was bound together by a common language. Your

ancestors, my ancestors, obtained their freedom

through that language. All the slogans for freedom

were written in Hindi. It is up to an individual person

to decide whether he wants to speak Hindi or not, but

it is not right for an entire culture to forget a language

completely just because they do not feel the need for

it any more. In the last few months, I have seen that

people in other countries adopt foreign languages in

addition to their own, but the language that India had,

that helped to maintain Indian culture, has gone out

of memory, out of books, has even been erased from

the internet. It is nowhere. In effect, India is nowhere.”

The Minister listened silently, then looked

down at the table for a moment before speaking. “You

know, Mr. Allen, once India was a poor country. We

had a dearth of jobs here. We were on the list of

developing countries. Then we started inviting foreign

investment here, so that multinational companies

would operate from India. That kind of openness to

change helped to create many jobs. It was only possible

because of the many young people at the time who

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HINDI

could understand English very well. Those who did not

learn English tended to lag behind.”

Allen interrupted, “That is fine. In fact, it is

always good to learn new languages. But my point is

that you still must respect your mother tongue. It’s

like in school,” he said, “if my friend’s mother makes

better food than my mother does, would I say to my

mother ‘I’m going to leave you because you could not

provide me better food’? Do you think that justifies

me in leaving my mother?”

The Minister waved off that argument. “Mr.

Allen, if you try to re-invent Hindi and revolutionize

the culture of speaking Hindi, we might all end up

with a terrific job problem. If the multinational

corporations were to learn that there are not many

people in India who spoke English, we would suffer

huge losses in terms of business. Our reputation in the

whole world would diminish. You see, Indians are

spread all over the world because they made the effort

to learn English and to speak it as well as any

European.”

“My little movie will not make Indians give up

speaking English. Your fear is only that businesses will

not come to India if they think that the Indian people

are not capable of the work. Your objection has

nothing to do with language, at all. Do you not

understand? A hundred years ago, there was a

conspiracy about Indian languages. Decade by decade,

people were forced to not speak Hindi in school,

offices, their social circles. The number of people

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speaking Hindi lessened, books in Hindi were reduced,

people who spoke only Hindi were denied jobs, school

children were not allowed to speak Hindi, parents were

ashamed to hear their children speak regional

languages or dialects, Hindi literature disappeared

from libraries, Hindi speaking writers were

discouraged…why? Because a few people wanted

English to be the official language of this country, to

rule over every native language. And they have

succeeded. “How come there is nothing available in

Hindi in all of India? We have made ‘MAA’ into ‘mom’

and ‘PITA’ into ‘pop’. A country is valued on its culture

and tradition. If you do not value your own culture,

then no one else is going to take you seriously.

Attitudes are the key to whether languages are

maintained or abandoned. Negative attitudes are often

internalized by speakers, and use of a minority

language comes to be stigmatized, so that speakers feel

ashamed of it. Speakers are then less likely to transmit

the language to their children, leading to a self-

perpetuating downward spiral. When the children

object to speaking a language, gradually forget it or

pretend to have forgotten it because they are ashamed

of it, its future is much less assured.

“Mr. Minister,” Allen leaned forward, “I am

just making a movie in Hindi. I am not asking or

forcing anyone to speak Hindi or forget English. Hindi

is gone. Even if I were trying to bring it back, that

might take another 100 years.”

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After this long speech, Allen took a sip of water.

The Minister watched him closely, then nodded, as

Allen’s argument took hold.

“You might think there was some conspiracy

behind stamping out Hindi,” the Minister responded,

“but it was only to make a better future for our

country. Once, India struggled with a stereotype

mentality. There was a disparity between all the classes.

People fought over caste, religion, class, and many

social and economic differences. All of this in-fighting

created a bad image in the world. The only solution

was to educate people. The government of India

wanted to change those associations and improve the

reputation of India in the world. To accomplish that

goal, it was necessary to push Hindi out in favor of

English. It was English that helped us to level the

playing field for all Indians.”

“Are you explaining what happened, or making

an excuse to defend your stand?”

The Minister was taken aback by this direct

attack.

“Caste, religion, class, and many socio-

economic differences were heavily used to influence

votes,” Allen went on. “This excuse doesn’t deny the

fact that people here, and all over the world, still have

differences over these issues. It will forever be that way.

Educating people doesn’t mean that they have to

forget all Indian languages. To overcome these issues

it is up to you leaders to set examples for your people.”

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HINDI

“Are you trying to prove us wrong? Do you

think that migrating to the UK has given you the right

to point a finger at us?” The Minister was incensed.

“I am really sorry if I have offended you, sir.”

Allen immediately backed down and tried to calm the

Minister. “I am British. My mother tongue is English.

It doesn’t matter to me whether the people of India

speak English, Hindi or any other language. My only

question is how can it happen that such rich Indian

languages can be eliminated by their own people in

the name of status, prosperity and development? All of

that could have been accomplished without the need

for destroying any Indian languages. That, sir, is what

my movie is about—that is all my movie is about. That

India has lost some measure of itself as a result of

losing Hindi. I cannot believe that you don’t agree with

me on that, even if you feel that it was a good decision

to embark on English in Hindi’s stead.

“I am sure that there is a censorship board in

this country,” Allen continued. “If you guys feel that

my film is a threat to Indian culture, then why don’t

you simply put a ban on it?”

There was a long moment of silence. The

Minister looked at Allen thoughtfully. Allen looked

back. He was seeking logical answers to his questions,

and it was all too obvious that the Minister had none

to give.

“Okay, Mr. Allen, I am convinced by your

explanation. I think you should move ahead. But do

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HINDI

remember one thing. We are closely observing you.

Where you go, what you do, who you meet. If we find

anything suspicious, anything at all,” he waved his

fingers in a warning gesture, “your passport will be

taken away. In that case,” his dark eyes glittered

menacingly, “not even your embassy will be able to

save you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Allen said earnestly, “but

trust me. I am just making a movie. My intention is

not to bring a revolution. I am an entertainer whose

responsibility is to entertain, and maybe get across a

message or two.”

“Then we are in accord, Mr. Allen.” The

minister rose, and Allen immediately stood up as well

at this sign of dismissal. The minister held out his hand.

“All the best in making your movie, but make

sure that you do not release it without the proper

authorization.”

Allen shook hands, thankful that his grip was

firm and steady. “Thank you, Mr. Minister, for this

discussion. It has been quite enlightening.”

The Minister beckoned an aide, who had been

patiently waiting by the door. “Please drop Mr. Allen

off wherever he desires to go.” The aide nodded, and

ushered Allen out.

“Thank you, Mr. Minister,” Allen bowed his

head at this courtesy before he turned to leave. The

aide was quiet as he led Allen out of the bungalow,

which Allen appreciated. This chat with the Minister

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HINDI

had been less than helpful. He didn’t know whether to

be pleased or frightened, whether he had been

threatened or motivated.

He chose to take this latest encounter as just

one more hurdle to be overcome. He was certainly

getting used to those, in this adventure of making a

movie, the likes of which he had never seen before.

Diva actresses, lost costumes, delays in set building,

the wrong lighting, finances falling through, all of

these he had had to deal with before, all of these

things he had been prepared for, but threats of jail for

filming in a bygone language? That was definitely a

new challenge for him.

He recalled the old priest from Banaras. A

journey takes one step after another. Just keep walking,

and eventually you will arrive at your destination.

There might be many good or bad things along the

way, but don’t get hung up on them, don’t get

distracted in celebration or regrets, just keep moving

forward. And that’s just what Allen intended to do.

“The airport,” he told the driver. On the way

there, he called Bharat and told him there was nothing

to worry about. It had been a friendly meeting that

ended on a good note. He asked Bharat to be ready

for the Mumbai shooting, scheduled to begin in five

days, and to bring the cast and crew to Mumbai.

In Mumbai, Jack Angel had already been

meeting with MD to arrange things for the new set.

Allen had become a true fan of MD’s since the set

349 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

designer had managed to rebuild an entire set

overnight after the fire.

“I’m headed to Mumbai myself to recce the

shooting locations,” he told Bharat.

As production manager, Jack Angel had also

already selected a few locations. He was eager to show

them to Allen and would be waiting for Allen at the

Mumbai airport.

350 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

CHAPTER – 16

SHOOT IN MUMBAI

  • *

t was a half an hour flight to Mumbai on

the Superjet, but the journey was so

I smooth that he didn’t knew when the plane

took off, or when it landed, or anything in between.

Before he knew it, he had exited the plane, and Jack

was coming forward to greet him with an outstretched

hand.

“How was the meeting in Delhi, sir?”

“Fine,” Allen shook his head to clear it of all

the concerns that threatened to overwhelm him, “just

the same old usual difficulties. Paperwork, headaches,

meeting with the Minister.”

He mustered up a smile for Jack’s benefit and

began to move down the corridor, expecting Jack to

follow, but Jack stood still, and touched his arm.

“Sir,” Jack hesitated.

“What is it, Jack?”

“I have received threatening phone calls.”

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“What types of threatening phone calls?”

“I have been told that I must leave the project.”

“Who’s telling you this?” Allen demanded.

Jack pressed his lips together. “I don’t know,

sir. They didn’t say.”

“So, you’re leaving?”

“No, sir!” Jack was emphatic. “I didn’t mean for

you to think that! I just wanted to let you know about

them. No, sir,” he repeated, “I have been in this

business for 15 years. I think I know how to handle a

few phone calls from people who are so cowardly they

won’t come out and tell me their names.”

“Thank God, Mr. Angel,” Allen said, “I would

hate to lose you.”

“But you must know, Mr. Allen that my wife

has been making comments, as well. She said, imagine

if our son learned Hindi, and then he couldn’t get into

a good school. His career would be ruined.”

“What

kind

of

rubbish

is

that?”

Jack shrugged. “I only wish you to know what

is going on.” Allen began walking, and Jack followed

him. “I wanted you to know,” he caught up to Allen

and touched his arm again, halting them both. He

looked Allen in the eye, “I am concerned, also. My

wife has made a good point.”

“Good God!” Allen exploded. “I don’t

understand all of this nonsense! Why do you people

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HINDI

spend so much time on this? We are just making a

movie, to entertain people. We’re not trying to change

the world. You should just relax, Jack. Just enjoy life

as it comes.” Allen looked out the bank of windows as

they walked, not saying another word to Jack until

they reached the location.

Allen slipped on his sunglasses to shade his eyes

from the brilliant sun as he stepped out of the car.

“I scouted several locations,” Jack informed

him, as they walked along, “and this one had the

perfect setting for the scene you had in mind.”

“I hope you got all the permits this time,”

Allen warned him, “or everything will fall apart again.”

“Don’t worry, sir,” Jack was almost skipping in

his haste to keep up with Allen’s lengthy strides,

“Everything is fine. I have been in this profession for

15 years. I know what I am doing. You don’t need to

have any worries about that. If you approve this

location, I will book it immediately.”

Up ahead, MD and an assistant director were

engaged in an earnest discussion, replete with many

pointings of their fingers, and shakes and nods of their

heads. They broke off their discussion as Allen strode

up, and greeted him. Allen shook hands briefly, then

got right down to business.

“Did you show the cinematographer the 360

degree view via the drone?”

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Three nods answered him. Allen put his hands

on his hips and surveyed the area from stem to stern

while the others waited quietly. Jack made as if to say

something, but the assistant director made a shushing

gesture.

“It won’t matter what you say,” he said in a

low voice. “When he gets like this, he won’t hear you

anyhow.”

After making a complete circle, hands up as

though framing the scene, Allen finally nodded.

“Jack, you start the negotiations for this

location. Get together with Kelly on the budget.”

“Yes, sir.” Jack took a few steps away, pulled

out his phone and began talking. The others continued

talking, turning this way and that, waving their hands

to accentuate points.

The schedule called for them to shoot in this

location for five days, then the last three days of

shooting would be taken care of at three other

locations within the city.

The cast and crew arrived and were booked

into a block of hotel rooms for the duration of the

shooting. Jack had also arranged rental of studio space

for storage of costumes, props and material for set

construction, and lights and other gear. One room had

been set aside for rehearsal, and Jo and Mark were

both working hard with the unpolished actors. Under

Jo’s tutelage, the actors had grown in confidence and

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skills, but Allen wanted to make sure they were ready

for the added stress of the action scene coming up.

His movie was an exaggerated parallel to his

own experiences in India, complete with official and

public disapproval of his concept, and the upcoming

scene involved a protest scene that turned violent, to

really bring home the point. Because of the action

sequences, Jack had also brought in an action director.

While Allen had brought over a lot of his usual crew,

but he used Indian cast and crew whenever possible.

He had been wary of using an Indian action director,

though, because he had heard that even Bollywood

directors hired foreign action directors instead of

going with locals. Jack assured him, however, that in

recent years, Indian action directors were on a par with

any others. Since Allen hadn’t worked with the man

before, he wanted to meticulously go over each aspect

of the scenes involved. He felt reassured when the man

seemed to immediately grasp Allen’s vision of the

scenes and was able to brainstorm some interesting,

effective ideas in a few short minutes. Satisfied that

the action director had everything under control, Allen

went off to check on the actors. Now that everything

else was falling into place, the ability of raw, untested

talent, working in a foreign language, to bring his

movie to life was pressing most on his mind.

Mr. Bharat had set up workshops for the actors

that went from 9 am to 6 pm, coaching them on

pronunciation, proper poise, nuances of the old

culture and customs, and methods to improve their

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acting and memorization abilities. Each day, Allen

made time to stop in himself, to see how things were

progressing.

The biggest problem, it turned out, was not

the language, but the high-tech equipment involved

in the production. The untrained actors tried their

best to handle the physical movements required, but

their lack of expertise and fear of getting hurt came

across all too well.

“Should we use body doubles for the action

scenes?” Jo suggested. “Your actors can’t get over their

fear enough to relax into the moment. They look stiff

and uncomfortable. I just don’t think we’ll be able to

get the shots you’re looking for.”

“What do you think?” Allen asked the action

director. “Will they be ready in time? Will they come

across as believable?”

The action director studied the actors for a few

moments. His mouth twisted, and he sighed. “I’ve been

hoping for a miracle, but…” he trailed off. “I think you

should consider Jo’s suggestion.”

“Before I take that step,” Allen decided, “let’s

have them run through it at least once. Maybe that’ll

shake the jitters out of them.” He had the assistant

director call all of the actors together. “I appreciate

your efforts,” he told them, “I can see that you guys

are really trying hard, but it’s just not working. Instead

of fluid movements, you are too jerky. It’s really

detracting from the scene.” Seeing their dejected faces,

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he decided to try inspiring them instead of scolding

them.

“A good script and good actors will

complement each other,” he began. “Without good

actors, a good script is like an empty sky.” He pointed

up. “And a bad script with good actors is like stars

with no sky.” He held out his left hand, palm up, as

though holding stars waiting for their firmament. “It

takes both to make a beautiful sky full of stars.” He

clasped his right hand over his left, raised his hands as

one then slowly separated them as though freeing the

stars to live in the sky. “And the most important piece

is the director,” he pointed to himself, “who must

know how to encourage and execute, to do justice to

both actors and scripts and create a good movie.” He

paced back and forth, then turned to face them again.

“There is a difference between a good movie and a hit

movie. A hit movie is determined by its box office. A

good movie, on the other hand, is described by its

content. Content which leaves a long-lasting

impression on the viewers. It is not necessary that a

good movie must make a lot of money. Sometimes it

doesn’t. But good movies are alike in that they all

create a memory that you can keep revisiting

throughout your life. So keep in mind, you all are

going to be remembered for making a good movie,

because you are honest and genuine in your work. I

hope you won’t let our effort and dream down. Now,

let’s take it from the top, and this time, really nail it!”

Allen gave them all a thumbs up, as the actors

applauded and cheered with new-found energy.

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“And that’s what makes you a great director,

Allen,” Martin applauded Allen as well, after the

rehearsal had gone off without a hitch. “Sometimes,

it’s not only experience that is telling, but you also

have to know how to motivate your team. Well done.”

As they broke for the day, the atmosphere was

still charged. The actors were talking and laughing

among themselves, still riding the high of Allen’s words,

even after a long day of work.

“What do you think now, Mr. Jo?” Allen asked.

“I say, that’s why you are the director, Mr.

Allen,” Jo smiled. “It is the small things that sometimes

make the biggest difference.” Jo shook Allen’s hand.

The last shoot was about to start. The previous

night Allen had had dinner with the cast and crew,

and the exotic food had drawn a lot of comments from

the group from the UK. Though Kelly and others were

not used to this kind of spiciness, they had gradually

developed a taste for it and started to enjoy it. Even

Granny had to get used to it all over again, as she had

given up eating Indian food long ago.

As pumped as they were, and having gained

confidence over the weeks of trying new dishes, they

had ordered some famous Indian food, like Kadai

Paneer and Biryani. One Hindi teacher from China,

Peidong Yang, could feel his mouth watering with the

smell of the food and excitedly said “Muh mein paani

aa gaya”. Everyone suddenly looked at him. He got

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nervous as the rest of the crew stared at him as though

he had said something offensive.

“Sorry guys, the food seems to be so delicious

that I can’t wait to eat.”

Bharat invited, “Well then, Peidong, let’s start!”

“Hey, wait!” Allen exclaimed. Everyone froze,

their hands in mid-air. Allen laughed. “I didn’t mean

for you to stop. I just wanted to say, all those months

of learning Hindi have paid off. Peidong, you just said

that the smell of food made your mouth water, didn’t

you?” Peidong nodded, and Allen did a fist pump while

everyone else cheered.

“Okay, everyone who has a mouth that is

watering, dig in,” invited Bharat.

As they ate, however, many of them broke out

in a sweat, the spiciness still too much to handle.

“I think we should have a doctor in the crew,

also,” Granny said, “to calm these butterflies in our

stomachs.”

The others laughed.

Bharat had been listening, and now he went to

Granny and said in Hindi, “You are our special guest.

You can ask us for anything.”

“What about us, Mr. Bharat?” Allen teased.

“Won’t you take care of us?”

“I am all yours,” Bharat bent his head

respectfully, “We Indians never disappoint our guests,

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especially if they are from the UK.” He took another

bite of rice.

The food smelled so good that even when most

of them had trouble eating it, they kept putting more

on their plates.

“Life is also like that,” Bharat said to the group,

“spicy but delicious. Even if you sometimes find it

difficult, you ultimately enjoy it.”

They all stuffed themselves until they could

hold no more, then sat talking quietly as they digested

their food. Finally, Allen glanced at the time and stood

up to take his leave. The others followed his lead.

Reluctantly, they headed off to bed.

Allen had gone over and over the budget and

had sent the latest figures to Kelly. He had played a

large part in investing in his own movies in the past,

but basing this movie in India and the added months

of trying to locate Hindi speakers had really added to

the expense. He had already invested most of his

savings in this production and in the last few months

money had been slipping away from him like water

from the Ganga River.

Although he had been approached by

producers after the success of ‘LOST & FOUND’,

initially he had wanted to fund the entire venture by

himself. However, with all of the setbacks in India, he

found himself running through money much faster

than he had expected. He had decided to bring in at

least one of the producers who had been practically

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thrusting their checkbooks at him during his Oscar

celebration party, but when he had announced his

quest to create a movie bemoaning the fate of Hindi,

suddenly none of the money men was returning his

phone calls. He hadn’t yet made it all the way through

his list of possibilities, though, and this time he dialed

Peter Kelton’s number.

“Hey, Peter, how are you?”

“Allen?” Peter’s voice was warm, joking. “I had

to check my phone twice to be sure. It’s been so long,

I’d thought you’d forgotten all about me.”

Allen chuckled. “No, no, that’d never happen.

It’s just that I’ve been so busy here in India.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that. You are all people are

talking about.”

“I—”

“Allen,” Peter had turned serious, “you are a

laughingstock here. Nobody can understand what you

are trying to do.”

“And you, Peter, what do you think?”

“What are you asking me, Allen?”

“I’m asking you for a favor, Peter. I’m asking

you to co-produce my film. I’ve invested everything I’ve

got, and I’m running short.”

“Producing films is a business, Allen. I’m not

in a position to do favors.”

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“But Peter—”

“Sorry, Allen. You’re asking me to sail in the

Titanic.”

“Peter, you know me. You know my track

record. I haven’t lost money on a movie yet.”

“There’s always a first time, Allen. And this

venture, well, it has all the earmarks of a real stinker.

Sorry, chum, I just can’t get involved in it. Give me a

call when you’ve got a higher concept story. This thing

is just too parochial.”

“How can you say that? This story is a

microcosm of what’s going on all over the world! What

has been going on, what the world is losing—”

“Allen, I’ve been paying attention to what’s

going on there. Did you know that the Indian

government is ready to kick you out on your heels?

Sorry, chum. I’ve got another call. Gotta go.” Allen

stared at his phone in disbelief. He shook off his

disappointment and went to the next name on his list,

Joe Lamb of Movie Mesh Studios.

“Joe Lamb,” Allen said to his phone, but as

soon as he heard the first ring, he cut the call. “How

can I possibly convince him?” He stared at the wall as

though the answer was there, but nothing came to

him. “But I don’t have a choice,” he muttered. He

heaved a sigh and spoke to his phone again, but when

Joe greeted him, Allen couldn’t summon any

enthusiasm. He’d already conceded defeat before he

began.

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“How’s your movie coming along, Allen?”

“The movie is going well, Joe, but I have to

admit, I’m running short of funds. That’s why I’m

calling.”

“Wow. Right to the point. Don’t I even get a

stroke or two, old chap?”

“Sorry,” Allen apologized. “I’m on my last legs,

here.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Allen, but as I recall, I

told you it was a stupid idea to make a movie in India,

and use Indian actors. Whyn’t you come back to the

UK and start over? I’d be happy to talk things over

with you here in London.”

“Can’t do that, Joe. I’m committed to this

project.”

“Well, then, Allen, I wish you all the best, but

I’m not sure I can come aboard at this time.”

“Okay, Joe, well, thanks—” Joe held up a hand

and looked away for a moment.

“Okay, babe,” he called to someone off screen.

“Be right there.” He turned back to Allen. “I’ve—”

“I know,” Allen said dejectedly. “You’ve got to

go.” He cut the call. He put his face in hands.

He was still slumped over when Kelly came in

the office.

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“Allen!” she said, “What’s wrong? What

happened?”

Allen looked up, his face contorted. “I don’t

know what to do. The budget…the money…” he waved

a hand over the paperwork covering his desk. “I can’t

find anybody willing to put any money into this movie.

At the Oscar party, everybody was so friendly, so

enthusiastic about my next project, but now, when I

really need them, they call me crazy.”

Kelly approached and put her arms around

Allen, her face close to his hair. “Don’t worry, dear.

‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ I’m sure something

will turn up.”

“I’m trying to sell my L.A. apartment, but that

will take too long.”

“Oh, no, Allen,” she protested, “Don’t act like

everything is lost! I am an executive producer on this

film. You should have told me you were having such

trouble. The budget is my responsibility.”

“But what can you do, Sweetheart?”

“Remember Garry Singleton, the CEO of

VIEW-TV Group Network?” Allen nodded. “I’ve spoken

to him a few times, and he is really interested in

investing in movies—I guess he wants to see his name

on the screen. I told him I’d get back to him, so I’ll

set up an online meeting with him and his accountants

and lawyers, to see what we can work out.”

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“Oh, Kelly, that’s unbelievable!” Allen stood

and hugged her. “I don’t know how you always manage

to pull things off. Thank you so much!”

“Well, this movie isn’t just yours, Sweetheart.

There are many people involved in this dream and who

have high hopes for this movie.”

That evening, Allen was in a much better mood.

They were supposed to be getting ready for dinner,

but Allen was watching Kelly comb her hair.

“What are you looking at?” she asked.

“Beauty,” he said. He was leaning against the

washroom doorway, his arms folded across his chest,

so relaxed, just enjoying her presence. “You are so

beautiful that I can’t look away. My eyes can see

nothing but you.”

He came up behind her and hugged her,

inhaling her jasmine scent. He moved one hand to her

waist, and she squeezed it. They looked at each other

in the mirror. Half of Kelly’s face was covered by her

hair, and Allen rubbed his cheek against hers to brush

it away.

“Aah,” he murmured, “I am feeling warm. Do

you know what that means?”

“Hmmm, no,” she smiled, “once you ignite a

fire, my dear director, it is not easy to put out the

spark. Sometimes it ends up burning two souls.”

Allen’s smile lit up his eyes. He let go of her

waist and reached a hand into his shirt pocket. He

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pulled out a pearl necklace, and held it up to her

shoulder. Kelly looked at him in surprise. “That is so

beautiful.

“You are my source of inspiration,” he told

her, “even if I don’t get to spend enough time with

you. Even if I am not able to talk to you for long

periods of time, still, I know that you are there forever

to complete me.” He put the necklace on her.

She slid her finger back and forth along the

creamy white pearls that adorned her neck. “When a

storm rolls through there is nothing more beautiful

than watching nature in all its majesty.”

“I can see how you’d be drawn to it. Most

women fantasize about making love in a storm.”

Kelly closed her eyes and touched her lips to

his forehead.

“A man who comes back to his girl without her

having to demand it is a true soul mate. And I know

that you are mine. No matter where you are, you come

back…”

“Shhhhhhh……..” Allen put his finger on her

lips. He whispered in her ear, “I love you.”

Kelly blossomed like the earth when it rains

for the first time. It was not that Allen hadn’t expressed

his love to her before, but this time it was his heart

that bowed to hers. He was making this love like a

romantic fiction. Writers and directors tend to live

each moment like a screenplay. Each moment becomes

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the perfect scene for them. Whatever they do, they

get into the detail to get the meaning of it.

He was making love to her, and each moment

was writing its story on the wall of their hearts. She

glanced over her shoulder at him. The handsome

director slipped his hand into her hair and lifted her

face to his. She turned with his efforts, closing her

eyes just before his lips pressed to hers. The burn of

desire washed over her, the smell of his body

reminding her of a dried earth which liberates its

pungent odor at the first drop of rain. She slid her

arms around his neck, completely in the moment. He

groaned into her mouth, his hands moving to cup her

butt as he tucked her against him. She responded with

a soft sound of appreciation for his aggression. Love is

beautiful and powerful. It sustains us in our time of

need until we are reunited with the one we love.

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CHAPTER – 17

YOUTH PROTEST

  • *

he next morning, the entire cast and

crew was on the set. The day’s setup had

T been going smoothly and Allen was bent

over his phone, taking notes of everything he wanted

to remember later.

He smiled as the cinematographer shouted at

someone that something was not right. Roger was

stalking around the room, measuring the height of the

actors, the angle of the camera, checking the light

with his meter, asking to have the light adjusted

accordingly. He was the most active man on the set.

Allen knew that most cinematographers suddenly get

so charged up on the set so that sometimes it feels as

if they would either wrap up this movie in a day, or

not finish even one scene in an entire day.

Camera technology was so advanced that Roger

could have operated the camera by remote from

anywhere in the world, but for this movie he was all

hands-on, following along with the actors to get the

perfect shot. If the screenplay is the backbone of the

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film, Roger told the actors, the cinematography is the

body, which perfectly executes each scene of the movie.

“But don’t worry,” he reassured them, his long arms

draped across their shoulders, “the best actors provide

the face of this creative structure.”

When Roger was finally satisfied, they started

shooting for the day. Allen had noted early on that the

Indian working style was a bit different from that of

UK filmmakers. Initially it was difficult for both

countries’ technicians to gel with each other, but

gradually they adjusted themselves accordingly. In an

eight-hour shift, they quickly wrapped up three scenes.

After the day’s shoot, Allen checked all the

shots and sat with his editor to finalize the shots. He

would himself churn out the best cut, with the help

of Nick, his editor, who had come all the way from

London to assist. With his looks, Nick could have been

an actor himself. His soul patch and lean body and the

way he would make circles with his cigarettes made

him quite attractive. Sometimes looks matter the most,

especially in this industry…anyone can be deceived by

looks and your presence. But Nick was the real deal.

Editors work in frames and even a second is

too long for them. Nick’s fingers would fly over the

edit machine like a rocket. It was difficult sometimes

to see his moves. He knew how to tailor the movie and

adjust the pace of it. A good editor is a true craftsman,

but Nick was more than that. He was a funny guy. He

would crack jokes about anything. Some of the jokes

would be senseless, but Nick just had the quality of

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making people laugh at nothing whatsoever, and he

was truly enjoying this project as he got to meet

people who shared his interests.

The final scenes would be shot in the UK, so

Allen planned to do all of the post-production, the

final edit and background score there. Meanwhile,

there were three days left on the schedule in India. So

far, even with all of the delays, the inexperienced

actors, and the added language coaching, they had

stayed pretty much well on track. Everyone had been

incredibly focused and professional during this shoot—

Allen’s attitude that this movie was a mission of love

had rubbed off on everyone involved. Today was no

exception. The lighting guys had performed their last

check, the sound man had given his thumbs up, the

assistant director had shooed off all non-essential

personnel from the set, and Allen had just called,

“Action!” when he became aware of a commotion at

the back door of the set.

“Cut!” he yelled, when the sound man sliced a

finger across his throat, signaling that he was picking

up the noise. Allen jerked a thumb at the back door,

and Jack ran off to see what the problem was. Allen

impatiently tapped his fingers on his chair as he waited

for order to be restored. Jack was back within a minute,

whispering urgently in Allen’s ear. Allen jumped out

of his chair and raced for the back door.

He carefully opened the door just a couple of

inches, and peered out.

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“Go home, Englishman! No more Allen!”

“Go, Go, Go! Go home, British!” A line of

protestors were shaking placards and holding up signs.

“Oh God, not again.” Allen could have

cheerfully strangled somebody.

“Don’t worry sir, I will call the police, have

them removed,” Jack offered.

Allen rubbed at his hair and thought for a time.

“No, no, that’s no good. Things could get out of

control.”

“Then what should we do?”

“Can I speak with one of their leaders? And ask

them to be quiet until we’re done talking?”

“Okay, sir.”

Allen left Mark, his chief assistant director, in

charge of shooting, and headed to his van. Jack

brought over one of the protestors, a well-built man

in his late 20’s. Allen asked him to have a seat, and

asked Jack to get him some refreshments.

“In fact,” Allen said, “get something for all of

them, would you?” Jack nodded and left. “Now,” Allen

turned to the protestor, “I’m Allen. What is your

name?”

“Jay,” the protestor muttered.

Allen waited for him to say his last name, but

when the protestor didn’t add anything, he just moved

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on. “Okay, Jay, may I ask you, what is it that you want?”

He had decided to be direct. There was no point in

beating around the bush. His frustration was evident

in his voice.

“We are against this movie, and we cannot let

it happen,” Jay replied.

“Is this some kind of political protest? Do you

think this will gain you votes in the election?”

Jay was taken aback. “This is not about votes.

This is about our culture, which you are trying to root

out.”

Allen smiled. “I’m trying to root it out?” He

leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “That

is the problem with today’s youth. You know nothing,

yet you think you are an expert on culture. Tell me,

do you have a job?”

“No.”

Allen grimaced. “Go get a job. Don’t waste

your time on these freelance jobs, where you do

whatever the person who’s paying you wants. You

don’t even know why you’re here, what effect your

protests have. For God’s sake, go get a proper job at

some company. Life is too short. You keep this up,

you will end up with nothing when you grow old.

You’re not going up to end up as a politician. You are

just a pawn in the game.”

“No, sir, you’re wrong. Nobody asked me to do

this. I am responding to a threat to my country’s

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culture,” Jay explained. Jack entered with some bottles

of water, and rolled his eyes when he heard this. Allen

nodded his thanks, and Jack left.

“What culture?” Allen asked. “Can you explain

your culture to me?” He handed the protestor a bottle

of water.

Jay didn’t know what to say. He was in fix,

gazing left and right, not able to meet Allen’s eyes.

“You do not know what to say, because you

aren’t protesting against me destroying your culture. I

can’t be destroying your culture, because you don’t

have any. What you had you lost, and now you have

to reinvent it. You know nothing. You just protest,

without any real reason.”

Jay listened to him silently. He felt embarrassed.

He looked down.

“See,” Allen explained, rolling his bottle of

water between his hands, “I don’t know what made

you do this, but this movie I’m making, it is good for

everyone. It may be just part-time work for you to

protest, but for me,” he gestured outside the van, “I

have many people whose very livelihood is dependent

on this movie. Movie directors are always at risk. We

make movies not to earn money, but because we have

a passion for the art of cinema. Our whole career

depends on the movie. Whether it is a flop or a hit,

we still have to entertain people. And entertaining

people is not a work which just anyone can do.”

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“Sorry, sir. I didn’t know.” The protester was

sweating even in the chilled room.

Allen gentled his voice. “Once you have figured

out your purpose in life, Jay, you will be focused and

successful. Now, please go. Tell your friends. Tell them

the difference between right and wrong.”

The protester stood up. Allen held up a hand

to stop him. “I’m sorry if I upset you.”

“No sir, I think you are right. There is no point

of protesting for this.”

Jay went back to speak with the others. After

some time they all left without saying anything else.

Allen was glad that this situation had been disposed of

much easier than in the protest scene he had written

for his movie.

By the time he got back to the set, the last

shot of the day was already in progress. He was happy

to see that there had been no other interruptions. Jack

was so impressed with the way that Allen had run the

shoots that he kept staring at him. Feeling eyes on his

back, Allen turned. Jack shook hands with him and

gave him a thumbs up.

After packing up, most of the people went back

to their rooms, exhausted. Kelly had left before Allen,

to take Granny back to her room. When he showed

up at the hotel, she asked him where he had gone to

so suddenly.

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“Nothing important,” he said. He rubbed the

back of his neck. “This movie has been like a battle

for me. I was having to fight at every stage. But now I

know that I will be able to make it. To fight a battle,

one must believe that he is fighting to win.” He smiled

at her. “Don’t worry, honey, everything will come out

all right in the end.”

“I know it will, Hon,” she smiled at him as she

glanced over at the empty nightstand, where the

miniature Taj Mahal no longer stood, “I know it will.”

Although Allen had managed to get the

protesters off his set, there were people all over India

who were protesting on the streets. People had divided

in two groups. Some were in favour of Allen and some

were against. News people were trying to get Allen to

comment, but Allen refused all requests for a press

conference.

Allen’s movie was a hot topic even in

Parliament. During the session, opposition members

rose to ask the members of government why they had

permitted this foreigner to shoot an anti-Indian movie.

“Respected Members of the house,” the leader

of the opposition said in the parliament, “I want to

bring this issue in front of everyone. Indian youth are

full of anger. They are scared. Their future is in danger.

We owe it to them to think about their futures and

their career opportunities, but the Government is still

silent. They are not taking action against this Allen. I

request all members of the House to take immediate

375 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

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action against him. We won our independence once!

It’s time to once again save our great country from the

British!”

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” The opposition

members all shouted together.

Another leader of the party stood. “I agree that

tension is high amongst the youth of India. People are

in the streets, demanding to stop Mr. Allen. It is our

responsibility to listen to them. My own son has

stopped going to college these days. He feels that if

Hindi is brought back and made our national language,

it will destroy all his efforts to succeed. He won’t be

able to read English, he won’t be able to qualify for a

job in a foreign firm here, or to get a job abroad. We

are on the verge of going backward! This is an alarming

situation for all of us! On my party’s behalf I request

that the Prime Minister take strict action against Allen

and send him back to his country. Whatever he has

shot so far should be scrapped!” Lusty cheers broke

out in the chamber.

Opposition members shouted at the

government members, and the parliament speaker

shouted and waved his hands, trying to calm down

everyone. But nobody was listening. In the meantime,

the Prime Minister was engaged in urgent, whispered

discussion with the Cultural Minister.

“If a movie about Hindi is so important, then

we should make it ourselves. Why is an outsider trying

to tell us about our culture?” One member shouted.

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HINDI

“Why is the Prime Minister silent on this? He

needs to answer!” another opposition member voiced

her concern.

“Shame! Shame!” ricocheted around the room.

Some members pounded on their desks. The

Cultural Minister rose. He harrumphed a little as he

adjusted his jacket. He took his time getting prepared

to speak, waiting for the commotion to die down as

people waited to hear from him. He glanced around

the room, nodding at some members, glaring at others

until they subsided and sat down. When the room was

finally quiet, he began softly, to force everyone to pay

close attention.

“Honorable speaker, respected leader of the

house, senior members.” He paused, certain that every

eye was on him, every ear was tuned to his voice. “The

government is quite aware of this Allen issue. We

understand your concern, and the concern of all

citizens of India. As responsible leaders, we are keeping

a close eye on this matter. We have spent a great deal

of time debating this very issue. I myself have met with

Mr. Allen.”

Boos and hisses erupted from the chamber, but

the Cultural Minister held up his hands and waited for

the resumption of silence. “I met with Mr. Allen and

asked him about his project. He seemed to be a

reasonable man. He said that he did not have the

intention of creating a cultural debacle in India, and

was merely mourning the loss of one of the world’s

great languages. A loss, my fellow members, that we

377 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

should all feel keenly as well.” Confused murmurings

accompanied this pronouncement. “We have been

following Mr. Allen’s activities day and night, and have

found nothing suspicious in what he has been doing.

He is here in India to make a movie, entertainment

only, my fellow members! Even so, even though it is

only a movie, I have had many discussions with the

Honorable Prime Minister. Together, we have decided

that it is too early to reach a conclusion about Mr.

Allen’s project. We have plenty of time, fellow

members. I feel we should wait until the movie is

finished, until Mr. Allen is ready to release it to the

general public. Then we will see exactly what he

intends. And only then can we decide whether to let

it be released in India or not.”

Suddenly some members of the opposition

were shouting, “It is a government conspiracy. The

government wants to deprive our youth of jobs.”

“You want us to adopt a new culture!”

“Shame!”

The Cultural Minister smiled and calmly

surveyed the room. When he spoke, it was no louder

than before, yet his voice carried throughout the

chamber. “I assure you that nothing will come of this.

Mr. Allen is trying to make a movie. The purpose of

that movie is to give a positive message. Mr. Allen is

trying to tell us how important languages are, a

message that we have forgotten. I, personally,” he went

on, “was shocked to discover that India has blocked all

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HINDI

Indian-language content from the internet for a long

time.” He shook his head sadly. “It is surprising that

today no data is available in India related to any of

Indian languages. We must ask ourselves why it was

that in 1947, after our independence from Britain,

English was chosen as the official language, when there

were hardly any English speakers in the country. Why

was the Constitution of India written in English? Why

was there such opposition to Hindi becoming the

national language? Our leaders at that time used our

divisiveness over Indian languages for their own

political gain.”

One opposition member got up, “Why are you

bringing up old history? We are happy with English

being our national language. Because of English, India

is growing faster than other countries.”

“Here! Here!” Other members broke in.

The Cultural Minister said, “Yes, it is true that

India’s economy is growing, but what about our

culture? What about our values? Where are the

customs which governed our forefathers’ lives? Do we

still abide by the principles that Mahatma Gandhi laid

down for us, upon which he wanted us to found our

country? You have all seen the State Emblem of India

numerous times. Can anyone tell me here what is

written under the Emblem?”

He waited, scanned the room, but the chamber

was absolutely still. “I didn’t know, and I am sure that

no one else here knows, either, because we no longer

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know our own language. Our own emblem, and none

of us understand it. How, if we don’t know the

meaning, can we pass our culture, our values, on to

the next generation? To my own shame, I had to ask

one of the few people who still has knowledge of the

old ways, someone who still speaks Sanskrit, the

language that adorns our emblem. And that message?

Under the emblem is written in Sanskrit “Satymeva

Jayate”. That means “Truth Alone Triumphs”. Such an

important message, but we are not aware because we

have forgotten this. That, my fellow members, is why

today’s youth are impatient. Politicians lie, and the

people lose faith in them. Without our language, we

are unaware of our culture, and we fail to respect

Indian values.”

The debate was being covered on the

government channel. Millions of people were watching

the debate live. News channels were having their own

debates. Families at home, workers in their offices and

people in the streets were glued to their TV screens

or phones. College students watched the debate online,

though they never before had been interested in

parliament politics.

The Cultural Minister continued among

applause from ruling members. “We earn money, we

buy property, we improve our bank balance, all so we

have something to pass onto the next generation. We

had such a precious treasure, our language, to forward

to our children, but now we are so poor that we no

longer possess it. We have to beg our language from a

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foreigner. We are still struggling to be at the TOP as

a world leader, but we are not and we cannot be

because we could not save our heritage. I’m sorry to

say it, but no one else is to blame for this. We are all

somewhat responsible for this state of things. We

thrashed our own language, humiliated it, raped it, so

that this language would never again exist in this

country.

“Language

is

much

more

than

a

communication. It is a way handed down from one

generation to another. A vanishing language means

that poetry, stories, culture, tradition, history all are

vanishing with it. Language is the common treasure of

our people. It is an identity which we have forgotten.

“Language is an infinite system, which cannot

be exhausted. Language allows infinite combinations

of new things over a finite set of building blocks. I

request that all members have patience. It may be that

Mr. Allen’s project will prove to be beneficial, to be of

infinite value to our country. Finally, I request that all

of you show some tolerance. Don’t degrade this great

country of ours by stopping artistic freedom for

illogical reasons. Thank you.”

381 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

CHAPTER – 18

*LAST DAY OF THE SHOOT *

n Mumbai, Allen was discussing the next

day’s shoot with Mark, Bharat, Jack, and the

I assistant directors. Glancing over his notes,

Mark asked Jack to arrange for a taxi.

Looking up from his own notes, Allen said,

“Wait, Jack. Hold off. I’ll take care of the taxi. I know

just the guy.”

He picked up his phone. “Hullo, Ranga. How

are you, my dear friend?”

“Hello, sir.” Ranga was his usual smiling self.

“It is good to hear from you. I saw that you are

shooting here in Mumbai.”

“Really? Why didn’t you call me up?”

“I thought you would be busy. I didn’t want to

impose.”

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Allen laughed. “Don’t you want to act in my

movie, Mr. Ranga?”

“Oh, sir, that is my dream. I want to be an

actor, so that I can go to Hollywood.”

“Ha, ha! Then I have a treat for you. Come to

the location of the shoot tomorrow. We will be waiting

for you. I’ll message you the address.”

“Okay, sir, great!” He cut the call.

“Just a couple more items,” Allen said to the

others as he made a check mark. “Jack, please send a

copy of the script to Mr. Kapoor’s house.”

“Is Mr. Kapoor himself in the film?”

“Yes,” Allen confirmed. “I have already spoken

to him, so you just need to coordinate with his

manager.”

“Don’t worry, sir.”

“There are only two days of shooting left, but

they are in various locations in Mumbai,” Allen noted.

He compared lists. “Jack, everything is set—you have

planned it out very well.”

“I have been working in this industry for the

last fifteen years, so there’s no need to worry.”

Allen and Mark burst out laughing. Jack just

looked confused. Finally, he simply laughed as well.

֍֍֍

383 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

The first location was near the sea. When

Ranga arrived, Allen introduced him all around. He

told Ranga that he would be driving the lead actor.

“Sir, you want to use my car?” Ranga began to

head toward the vehicle.

“No, no,” Allen said. “Don’t worry. We have

everything arranged already. Just wait here until we

call you.”

The technical crew was working on the lights,

and other members of the cast and crew were milling

around. There were also lots of extras in this scene.

There were so many people wandering around while

they waited that it was difficult for Jack to maintain

order.

In the scene, the lead actor was to speak to

people who were walking up and down the beach,

then he was to sit and look at the sun. Most of the

scene Allen had created from his own experiences.

Suddenly Mark came up to Allen. “The lead

actor’s costumes, they’re not here yet. You’ll have to

wait.”

“Where is Ms. J?”

“On the way, but stuck in heavy traffic. She

said it’ll be an hour or more before she gets here.”

Allen thought for a moment. He took off his

shirt and exchanged it with the lead actor.

“What are you doing?” asked Mark.

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HINDI

“Just trying to save some time…I cannot wait

for one hour….this is a new scene, so we won’t have a

problem with continuity, but one hour lost will cost

us a lot.”

“Sometimes, even well-known directors have to

compromise,” Mark said.

In no time, they were all set up, and began to

run the series of shots on the beach. Allen had Ranga

act as a taxi driver, since he already was one. Allen

explained the shot to him, and showed him the mark

where he was supposed to stop the taxi.

In the scene, the lead actor was standing at the

beach and looking for a taxi to hire. As he called for a

taxi, the taxi driver (Ranga) would stop and pick him

up. Sadly for Ranga, he had no dialogue except to say

“Thank you” at the end, when the actor paid his fare.

Everything was ready, everyone was in his proper place,

and Allen was ready to take the shot.

“Action!”

The taxi came in at speed, then stopped way

before the mark. Allen called “Cut!” He told Ranga to

look normal, but to be sure to stop on the mark. He

called “Action!” again, but this time, when the actor

called, “Taxi!” Ranga overshot the mark.

Allen went to Ranga. “Look here. You don’t

have to try to act. Just behave like what you are. You

are Ranga, you drive a taxi every day. This is your

passenger, and you have to stop the car on the mark.

Just be yourself.”

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HINDI

Ranga nodded. “Let’s do it again. I’ll try my

best.”

“Action!”

This time, Ranga stopped in exactly the right

spot. Allen got his shot, and everyone clapped for

Ranga, to give him a boost.

Next came the shots where Ranga was taking

the lead actor to his destination. Here he just had to

look straight ahead and drive his car just like he

normally would. This set of shots went quickly.

Everything was perfect, and the work was going

smoothly. Then came the night shoot in the mall.

For this shot, they only had permission to

begin shooting after 10 p.m. By that time, they all

needed a break. Granny went back to the hotel with

Kelly, as she didn’t have the energy to keep going for

so long.

Finishing the shoot took until morning. Then

they all headed back for some much-needed rest, as

they had yet another shoot later that evening. This one

was again outdoors, and they had to travel to several

parts of the city.

While Allen was resting in his hotel room,

Bharat came to visit him, to let him know that a

reporter wanted to interview him. Although Allen had

continually refused all attempts at interviews, Bharat

said that this reporter was different. Resigned, Allen

headed to the lobby, but Bharat appeared to be right.

With his bi-focals and gray hair, the reporter looked

386 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

too experienced for this kind of story. He told Allen

that there were many protests against the movie and

he wanted to do live interviews with Allen at the studio,

with people from various fields. He wanted students

and other protesters to be able to ask Allen questions,

in a head-to-head type face-off.

Thinking it over, Allen thought that this might

be a good platform to be able to make his point, so

he agreed to do the show the day after the India part

of the shooting finished.

The last day, everyone looked very happy that

this part of the movie was just about complete. They

gathered at the airport for exterior shots. The airport

authorities had granted them permission to film in

only one specific area. The first scene was of the lead

actor’s arrival in India, where he had come to discover

the culture. Then came the scene where he was leaving

India.

After the airport, they had some fill-in shots,

where the lead actor went to different people to ask

for their help. They were supposed to start one of their

last shots around 4 pm. In this scene, the protagonist

was supposed to meet a renowned actor at a restaurant,

to ask him to be in his movie. It was for this shot that

Allen had saved Mr. Kapoor. He had kept the identity

of the actor a secret, so that crowds would not be

gathering for the chance to see the megastar in person.

At the restaurant, Allen called “Action!” as

usual. Mr. Kapoor was such a dominating presence

that he filled the screen. With such a role model to

387 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

follow, the actor playing the protagonist rose to the

occasion, and the scene came off very powerfully.

The last two scenes were set to be shot at the

high-rise that housed Mr. Kapoor’s residence, but here

was where things started to go wrong. The presence

of Mr. Kapoor had gotten out, and a crowd of fans and

protestors had begun to form. Most of the actors and

crew had already headed for the top floor, and only

Allen and a few people were still in the street. Jack

had called for extra security for the shoot, but even so,

the crowd started to get out of control.

Someone shouted, “You are destroying the

peace and not letting us live!”

A bottle flew from somewhere in the crowd

and splattered just inches from Allen. It was followed

by rocks and more bottles. Allen ducked into the

building, as the crowd surged and traffic halted. People

began to shake signs and placards, and Bharat was hit

on the head by a bottle. He began to bleed, and one

of the security personnel quickly pulled him inside.

Some of the others went after the protester who had

thrown the bottle.

The police showed up. Allen asked Jack to take

Bharat to hospital, but Bharat shook his head. “Don’t

worry about me. It is not serious. I am fine.”

“But Mr. Bharat, you are bleeding!”

“I just need a compress. Right now the

important thing is to finish this shoot.”

388 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

“No!” Allen insisted. “You are more important.

I will never put a movie above people, especially my

friends.”

“Then, as your friend, I suggest you begin

shooting.”

Allen gave in. As he and Martin helped Bharat

to the elevator, he turned to look outside. Across the

street, he could see a man getting into a car. The man

looked familiar, but Allen couldn’t place him.

Up on the top floor, the sets and lighting were

already in place. Allen asked Jack to take care of Bharat

while he directed the shoot. The last two scenes went

like clockwork. Allen gave last-minute instructions to

the actors, told Roger how he visualized the shots, and

admired the look of the Mumbai skyline as seen

through the lens of the camera.

By 8 am, Allen had called “Cut!” for the last

time. The last shot of the movie was complete, and

there was only going home and post-production to

accomplish.

Allen sought out Bharat. Bharat was resting on

a chair, the bleeding stopped. Allen shook hands

gratefully. “I don’t know whether I’d have been able to

finish this movie without your help. You stood by me

every step of the way, supported me and made me

believe that it could happen. Thank you, my dear

friend.” He bent over and hugged Bharat.

“You know what, Mr. Allen,” Bharat responded,

“I never told you this before, but you have helped us

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HINDI

to recognize our values, that we had lost along the

way. You were the true inspiration and leader. You

taught us how to reach the milestones when there was

no clear road to the destination. You paved the road

of victory to success. You will live in our hearts

forever.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bharat. I will never forget my

time in India, and your wonderful tutoring.” Jack put

his hand on Bharat’s shoulder. “Now get yourself to

hospital,” Allen ordered. While Jack ushered Bharat to

the elevator, Allen hunted for Mr. Kapoor.

“I really enjoyed this movie, Mr. Allen,” Mr.

Kapoor enthused, “Although I had been concerned

about it, Hindi wasn’t tough for me. To be honest, I

was able to express myself in a better way. Though it

was a small roll, believe me I really had fun practicing

and acting in my ancestor’s mother tongue. Thank you

so much for giving me the role.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kapoor. You are the one who

never let me down. It’s true, to be a better actor, first

one should become a better person.”

The two men exchanged an affectionate hug,

then Allen turned to the room at large. “Thank you

everyone who helped me to make this dream a reality.

We all lived it together, we all made it together, and

we will all celebrate it together, tomorrow evening

beginning at 9 pm, and going on till whenever.”

Everyone cheered, then began cleaning up.

390 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Escaping from the noise and confusion, Allen

went into the corner and called up Mr. Chopra.

“Happy, Mr. Allen?” Mr. Chopra asked. “I

understand that you have wrapped up your shooting

in our country.” His displeasure was evident in his tone.

“Why, yes, I am, Mr. Chopra. I just called to

say, Thank you. This movie wouldn’t have been

possible without you. I saw you out at my shoot last

night, so I thought I would call you up to express my

gratitude.” At Mr. Chopra’s look of surprise and rage,

Allen went on, “‘The stronger the bad guy, the better

the hero’. As a filmmaker yourself, you are aware of

this saying, of course.”

“Yes,” Chopra sputtered.

“The more you tried to stopped me, the more

I gained confidence. You, sir, singlehandedly, are the

one who kept my will ignited to make my film.”

This time Mr. Chopra had no response.

“I have one suggestion, Mr. Chopra. Being the

most powerful man in the movie industry, you have an

obligation to help your fellow filmmakers. I know it is

hard to watch someone reach greater heights than you,

but when that person gives credit to you for your help,

the whole world likes you. Never underestimate

anyone in our field. The Gods who give talent

sometimes also give luck, as well. Perhaps it’s time for

you to wish that my film will do well. Tootles, Mr.

Chopra.”

391 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

Allen cut the call. Mr. Chopra tried to hide his

shame and pain at Allen’s success, but his evil laughter

rang hollow in the studio. He stood up and aimed a

savage kick at the table, his laughter echoing

maniacally.

392 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

CHAPTER – 19

*LIVE SHOW *

llen and the crew left for the hotel to

rest, but they found they were too keyed

A up to sleep. Granny and Kelly, the two

integral parts of Allen’s life, were on hand to greet him.

Granny hugged him and blessed him. It was a great

moment for all of them. Allen had never experienced

such a feeling even when he had made his first movie.

This feeling was special, because of the way he had

struggled for it. The sun arrived to acknowledge Allen’s

effort, but he was blissfully asleep, a relief on his face

that he had been missing for many months.

At 2 pm, Allen’s phone rang. It was the

reporter. “Sorry to bother you, sir. This is just a

reminder that we will be doing the live show around

7 pm.”

Allen promised to be there early. He reached

the studio by 6:30. Even though he had not had a

sound night’s sleep for many days, he was looking fresh.

His smile held all of its old charm, now that his worries

were over.

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The managing editor of the news channel

welcomed him, and a makeup artist offered to do some

touch-ups, as Allen and the managing editor discussed

the show. News of the show had gone viral, and the

whole country was talking about it. Many protests of

the show had already occurred.

Finally, everyone was ready to go on air. There

were four cameras, with three facing them and one

facing the audience. The engineer cued the anchor.

“We are going live in ten seconds,” the anchor

told Allen. Allen was shining bright under the intense

lights. He felt like an angel under a halo.

A clock timer counted in reverse. 10, 9, 8,

7….a lot of people were glued to their TV sets, their

computers, their mobile phones, anything they could

use to watch the show.

When the clock hit one, the anchor began,

“Hello, and welcome to this special edition. Today, I

am with an Oscar winner for Best Director. He came

all the way from the UK to India, the country where

his ancestors lived centuries ago. He came to make a

movie about a language that has gone extinct. Please

welcome, with a huge round of applause, Mr. Allen.”

Everyone clapped, and Allen nodded hello to

the audience.

The anchor waited until the applause had died

down some, then asked, “After winning the award for

Best Director, what made you decide to make a movie

in India?”

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“First of all,” Allen answered, “Namaste to

everyone. Well,” he considered his response, “India

belonged to my ancestors, so in a way, it is like coming

home.”

“But why Hindi, when you know that it doesn’t

exist anymore?”

“When I first came here, I didn’t know that

Hindi no longer existed. And by the time I realized

that Hindi had been buried, I thought, Why not Hindi?

Movies can be in any language. What you need in a

movie is a soul, and I feel that Hindi was once the soul

of Hindustan—I mean India.”

“It may have been in history, but now we are

in the 22nd century. India has adopted English very

well, we are doing well, India is developing, and have

become a 100 percent English-speaking nation. Most

of the English-speaking people of the world are now

in India. Don’t you think that making a movie in Hindi

will impact negatively on India?”

Everyone in the whole country was watching

this conversation. Controversies over movies were not

a new thing, and this type of discussion had become a

tradition that had been going on for ages.

Allen went on, “India is developing because

Indians are hardworking. They are sincere and

intelligent. Judging people on the basis on their

language is totally wrong. Two hundred years ago, it

was Hindi-speaking people who stood up against

English rulers. It was Hindi-speaking people who

395 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

fought with them. Are you saying that they weren’t

capable? That they were dumb? It was not until the

21st century that someone who was a post-graduate

but didn’t know English would be considered illiterate.

Isn’t Russia growing? Isn’t China far ahead in their

economy? Spain, Germany, the U.S. They all are

keeping their national languages intact. And they all

are doing better than India. That is why your most

talented people are immigrating to these countries.

And yes, this movie will impact India. It will be an eye-

opener for the current generation and future

generations as well.”

The anchor nodded at this, and immediately

fired the next question at Allen. “Hindi isn’t, and never

was the national language of India. It was limited to

certain regions only. There was very stiff opposition

from the southern states of India against Hindi, as they

prefer English to Hindi.”

Allen agreed, “North hated south, south hated

north, eastern languages were not considered. Why

was this? Only because they hated each other’s

languages. What happens then…get rid of languages

entirely? There was a time when there were 21 official

languages in India, but where they are now? Language

is language. This is a status symbol we should be proud

of. I am not against any language. After all, mankind

only invented language to impart knowledge from one

generation to another. Don’t let down your mother

tongue. That’s what all Indians did.

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“In southern India they did not speak Hindi as

they were not comfortable in speaking Hindi, but they

also forgot their own language. So now, they know

only English. Can you give me any logic for this?”

Back in the hotel room, everyone clapped at

this. Granny and Kelly couldn’t take their eyes off the

screen. Mr. Chopra and Mr. Kapoor were with their

families watching the live show.

The anchor went on to ask his next question.

“Why can’t we have a single language around the world?

Then people would face no language barrier, no biases.

It would open new business opportunities also.”

“Fair enough,” Allen nodded. “We could do

that, but still we wouldn’t be able to get rid of

differences until we all have same religion, same caste,

same skin color, the same looks, same social and

economic class. If there were slightest difference in any

of these, then there would be clashes between the

people and the society. It is often assumed that shifting

from one language to another will bring economic

benefits. But linguistic intolerance can mask other

discrimination, especially racism. Languages are often

seen as symbols of ethnic and national identity. When

a language dies out, a unique way of looking at the

world also disappears. So, I think we are fortunate to

have so many languages. Now it is up to us to decide

whether to be happy with only one language or learn

many.”

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LCDs on the roads and streets came on, as

people gathered to listen to the interview. In the

studio, someone from the audience, a well-known

politician, raised his hand to ask a question. The

anchor asked someone to give him the mike so he

could ask a question.

The politician stood up. “Don’t you think that

bringing back Hindi or other languages of India would

be a cultural threat, as we have already developed our

culture with English?”

Allen shot back, “First of all, I am here only to

make a movie. I’m not trying to bring any change here.

But think about this. What kind of culture have you

developed by throwing out Hindi in favor of English?

A western one? I am sure that you would all agree with

me that each language has its own culture embedded

in it. A Punjabi culture developed along with the

language Punjabi. Bihari culture developed through

Bihari. Marathi culture arose with the Marathi

language, and so on. Do you think this was a bad thing?

Is this the reason that we have removed all of these

languages out of our lives? I will tell you one thing.

When you go back home, instead of hugging or say hi

or hello to your mom, just touch your mother’s feet

and say MAA….You will then know the culture,

because that word MAA in Hindi has its own emotion,

a feeling which only she could understand. In return,

when she puts her hand on your head to bless you,

this would be like living one more life. Learn about

the rituals you guys had a hundred years ago, and you

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will begin to understand the values this country once

had. There used to be Sanskrit. At the time Sanskrit

was the accepted language, this country was amongst

the most developed nations in the world, but now this

country is no longer where it should be.”

“Who do you think is responsible for this?” the

anchor asked.

“We all are,” Allen answered, “because we took

it as a pride that Hindi and other regional languages

were not allowed to be spoken in English schools.

Good books were not available in schools. Parents

would not let their children know their mother tongue.

In offices managers would prefer an English-speaking

guy over a Hindi-speaking guy, even if he was more

talented and deserved to get the job. Parents would

look for an English-speaking life partner for their son

or daughter to marry. Movie actors became stars by

doing Hindi movies or regional cinema, but besides

movies, everyone preferred English. People would

laugh at someone who wrote or spoke English wrong,

but speaking wrong Hindi was considered so cool.”

The anchor interrupted Allen. “But that was

the system at that time. It was evolved or was set up

by the senior people who used to run societies.”

“Right,” Allen nodded. “They did it, and

everyone else supported them. First you forgot how to

write these languages, then you forgot how to read

them, and finally you forgot how to speak…so all

Indians were involved in this gradual process.”

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Another person from the audience raised his

hand. “So you think there was a conspiracy?”

“That’s a good question. I am not sure about

that, but I feel the answer is yes. India is the biggest

market and has always been because of its large

population…Multinational companies wanted to rule

the market and the economy. So, the first rule of

dominance is to attack the culture. Culture can be

shaken by degrading the language. That’s how it

started. Later on, it started vanishing from books, from

libraries, then from TV, films and slowly from the

internet, and finally it was pulled out of our brains.

Now, is that a conspiracy? That’s up to you guys to

think about and decide.”

A student asked, “Sir, don’t you think that, if

we spoke Hindi only, we wouldn’t be able to get a

higher education? We would not be able to connect

with the rest of the world. With this movie you want

to say that we should not give much preference to

English and bring back Indian languages.”

Allen listened carefully. He responded, “First, I

am not asking anyone to give up learning English. I

am asking only that you not give up your mother

tongue in the pursuit of that goal. You must know

that you can go and get a higher education when your

foundation of knowledge is strong. This is where

knowing your own mother tongue helps you. The

mother tongue is the language of the heart and the

mind, which helps in a child’s emotional and mental

growth. The mother tongue is an indicator of cultural

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HINDI

identity. A child connects to his parents, family,

relatives, culture, history, identity and religion

through his mother tongue. When a child doesn’t

know his mother tongue, he doesn’t know his native

culture, for the relationship between language and

culture is deeply rooted. It is only when you first know

your mother tongue that you have a foundation for

learning another language.

“So, to learn anything well, first you must have

command of your mother tongue. I want to make the

further point that learning only English as another

language should also not be your goal. Why only learn

English, why not Chinese, why not Japanese, and why

not Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, and why not those other

languages of India which are on the brink of extinction?

There are still a few people left in India who have

command over Indian languages. Learn from them

while there is still time. There are few speakers left.

They will not survive until the end of this 22nd century,

if the illusion of English being the highest level of

language continues. I think if you want to preserve the

diversity and culture of India, first you need to respect

other languages of India, and try to preserve each and

every language of India.”

Another student stood up. “What inspired you

to come to India and make a movie in Hindi when you

yourself cannot speak this language?”

Allen thought about it. This was the question

everyone wanted to know, finally Allen began to speak.

“For me, making movies is a personal matter. Every

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one of my movies has a piece of my heart in it. I do

not make movies to be blockbusters. I make movies

because they speak to me. They resonate in my heart.”

He looked intently at the student who had asked the

question. He spoke only to him. “Like many others,

my Granny was born in India. She married a man who

had moved from India to the UK when he was a young

boy. They had a son. He was their only child.

“After her marriage, Granny found it difficult

to keep speaking Hindi in London. Her in-laws, all of

their friends, did not like her to speak in Hindi. Even

her son, her only child, would feel shame in front of

his friends when his mother spoke Hindi. But he could

not understand that she was comfortable speaking her

mother tongue. He was irritated, but he couldn’t

understand that a mother is only comfortable speaking

to her son in her mother tongue. My Granny tried very

hard to speak in English, but she couldn’t, as she

didn’t know the language very well. She tried, but as

far as her son was concerned, she failed. When she

failed to speak the language he wanted her to speak,

he felt that she failed as a mother, as well.” Allen took

a deep breath. “And one day, he left her.”

Everyone back in the hotel looked at Granny,

their emotions running high. Granny felt their eyes on

her, but she kept her gaze on the screen. Kelly gripped

her hand more tightly.

In the studio, there was silence as everyone

waited while Allen composed himself. The anchor gave

Allen a glass of water, and Allen gripped it tightly. “He

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left her with her grandson and he left her with a fear.

A fear that one day her grandson would also come to

see her as a failure and leave her. She worked harder

than ever to speak English. From that day, she never

spoke Hindi to anyone. It wasn’t until a very short time

ago that I learned about Hindi, that I learned about

the mother tongue of the woman who raised me.

When I saw the joy and happiness and the love for the

language in my Granny’s eyes, I wanted to give her a

tribute. I am a director. I make movies. I thought, as

a director and as a grandson, I would make a Hindi

film for my Granny.” A slight twist of the lips was the

only frustration he would show, then he went on,

“When I came here, I was shocked to find out the

current situation. The scenario was totally different

from what I had expected. But,” he turned from the

student and looked directly into the camera, “I

promise you, Granny, I will finish this movie. I believe

that there are still some people who have the same

love for their mother tongue that you do. It is in your

honor and theirs that I make this tribute.” At the end

of this speech, he looked down at his hands, working

in his lap. The studio was absolutely still.

Granny broke down in Kelly’s arms. It was not

a sad moment for her. It was a proud moment,

punctuated with a joy that flowed from her eyes.

The anchor’s eyes, too, were moist, as he stood

and led the resounding standing ovation joined in by

the entire audience. It was some minutes before the

overwhelming emotion had exhausted itself, and the

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HINDI

clapping and cheering had died down, and the anchor

could wave everyone back to their seats.

Allen, too, had regained control of himself, and

was able to answer in a strong voice when the anchor

asked him, “What impact do you think your movie will

leave on viewers’ minds?”

“That I don’t know, how people will take it. A

movie director speaks with his heart and showcases

what he sees in society. We observe it, develop it and

show it to entertain everyone, but with a message, so

that it serves as a good cause for humanity for anyone

who watches it. And my message is, respect all

languages. No language is bad. In the last 100 years,

the world has lost more than 3000 languages, some of

which were hundreds of years old. Don’t get me wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with speaking a foreign

language. It is, in fact, a good idea to learn as many

languages as you can. But you should never feel

ashamed to speak and learn the language, which is

your own language. Be it unknown to other people,

feel pride in speaking your own language. And it is not

only about India. That is true for any nation in the

world. Respect your language. Do not demean it or

any other language. Feel proud to speak your own

mother tongue and your country will be proud of you.

Hindi is gone. I cannot bring it back. Personally, I

want its values to be recognized and remembered for

generations to come. Hindi is not just a language, it is

part of the identity of a nation. Hindi is every language

which is fading away from the world. Hindi is tradition.

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HINDI

It is culture, history and knowledge. You are Hindi. I

am Hindi. We are all Hindi. Let us not go it away from

our lives. Thank you.”

With these final words, everyone again rose

and clapped for Allen. They talked and murmured to

each other, nodding their heads in agreement and

acceptance. Allen stood and smiled at the audience.

He bowed and nodded to them, and clapped for the

audience. Everyone in the country and abroad who was

watching this show was thrilled. This was something

no one had thought of in the larger perspective.

Allen’s speech set the tone for a new era, where

everyone understood the importance and value of

language. Hindi may have been the beginning, but

people couldn’t help thinking about all languages in a

whole new way. People gathered around Allen. They

wanted his autograph. They wanted to take

photographs with him. Another four months, and

Allen’s movie was released worldwide. His dream had

been fulfilled. His journey, which started with an

ambition, carried on with a struggle, but finally

managed to reach its destination. For a director, a

movie is a life. A seed of an idea is created, then a

story is born. It is developed further, then executed

through a long procedure where it has to face lots of

difficulties but finally manages to present itself to the

theater. Everyone sees it, enjoys it, and then

remembers it for a lifetime.

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QUOTES

❝The limits of my language are the limits of my

world.❞

- Ludwig Wittgenstein

❝Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you

where it’s people come from and where they are

going.❞

- Rita Mae Brown

❝I think English is a fantastic, rich and musical

language, but of course your mother tongue is the

most important for an actor. ❞ – Max von Sydow

❝A Nation is dumb without a national language❞

- Mahatma Gandhi

❝A country that does not take pride in its language

and literature can never progress. ❞

- Dr. Rajendra Prasad

❝One does not inhabit a country; one inhabits a

language. ❞

- E.M Cioran

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HINDI

HINDI

ekQ+ djuk Çgnh] rq>s eSa Hkwyuk pkgrk gw¡]

nnZ gSa fny esa exj] Çgnh rq>ls eSa nwj tkuk pkgrk gw¡]

Çgnh] rq>s cksyus ls eq>s ukSdjh ugÈ feyrh]

Çgnh] rsjk ft+Ø djus ls eq>s bT+t+r ugÈ feyrh]

esjs ns’k esa esjh ek¡ Çgnh] rq>s txg ugÈ feyrh]

pkgrk gw¡ rq>s cgqr Çgnh] exj rq>s NksM+uk pkgrk gw¡]

ekQ+ djuk Çgnh] rq>s eSa Hkwyuk pkgrk gw¡AA

ek¡ Hkh esjh fdruh uknku fudyh]

tc gqvk cM+k eSa] eq>dks fl[kk nh Çgnh]

xoZ ugÈ fdlh dks vkt rsjk uke ysus esa]

g¡lrs gSa yksx ;gk¡ rsjk lkFk nsus esa]

eku djrk gw¡ rsjk] ij rq>s ywVrs ns[kuk pkgrk gw¡]

ekQ+ djuk Çgnh] rq>s eSa Hkwyuk pkgrk gw¡AA

vkt+knh esa rw Çgnh] cgqr dke vk;h]

ek¡ dks igyh ckj ek¡ cqykus esa rw lkFk vk;h]

ij vc rsjk Çgnh ;gk¡ dksà dke ugÈ]

rsjs lkFk thuk Çgnh] bl ns’k esa vklku ugÈ]

rq>ls rsjh gLrh dks feVkuk pkgrk gw¡]

ekQ+ djuk Çgnh] rq>s eSa Hkwyuk pkgrk gw¡AA

uhjt Çl?ky

407 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _

HINDI

REFERENCES

- The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages

edited by Peter K. Austin, Julia Sallabank

- http://www.un.org/

- http://www.gla.ac.uk

- UNESCO’s language vitality and Endangerment

framework

- Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They

Have to Tell Us- Nicholas Evans

- Language Endangerment: Problems and Solutions-

Dr. Julia Sallabank

- Wikipedia and Online sources

- When Languages Die- K. David Harrison, Assistant

Professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College,

Philadelphia

408 NEERAJ SINGHAL _ _


HINDI

In the year 2117, Allen, an acclaimed Oscar-winning director from the United Kingdom, comes across a book in his deceased grandfather's library. Upon asking his grandmother about the unfamiliar language, she says that the book was written in Hindi, one of the languages of India, and was her mother tongue. Fascinated by this previously over-looked aspect of his heritage, Allen decides to honour his grandmother and his other ancestors by travelling to India and making a movie in Hindi. When he arrives in India, however, nothing turns out to be as he had imagined. HINDI holds the biggest shocking truth of the 22nd Century, a truth which it shames us to accept. It is the disturbing story of a people so ashamed of their own mother tongue that they would prefer it to die out completely than admit they have any knowledge of it whatsoever; the story of the complicit rejection of native civilizations that is often overlooked in this era of globalization. This ground-breaking novel examines how the loss of a language carries away with it an entire culture; a sense of identity and a way of living that will never be seen again.

  • Author: Neeraj Singhal
  • Published: 2017-02-13 19:50:27
  • Words: 93955
HINDI HINDI