We tooak things very slowly for the first couple of months. We were both aware that we came from different places and had different upbringings and consequently different lifestyles; we viewed things from very different perspectives and yet when we were together none of it mattered. All the troubles and worries of my work life seemed to fade away into oblivion when I was with her. It didn’t matter where we were; on a Sunday morning bike ride or a walk on Marine Drive in the middle of night or just sitting on her balcony sipping coffee and watching the rain, every moment with her was memorable and often at the end of the night I just lay in my bed thinking of all the time we spent together that day before falling asleep with a smile on my face.
I was distinctly aware that my expenses had gone up quite a bit but I didn’t want to be the guy who didn’t split the bill when he took a lady out for dinner. Sometimes we went to places that I frequented which meant getting a ton of stares and people occasionally coming up to her and asking if she was an actress. To whom she would reply in such a perfect south Indian accent that no one would suspect a thing. Often we went to places which were more to her liking, hardly anyone disturbed us in such joints. Just a few of our friends knew that we were meeting each other once or twice a week but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
It all started when a suspicious tabloid reporter spotted us at a couple of restaurants and tipped the waiter who spilt the beans. One fine morning, I was woken up from my sleep by my usually nocturnal roommate who kicked me out of bed and shoved the tabloid section in my face. Well, there I was sitting at a table with India’s leading lady in a photo which actually made me look quite good. The write-up though was less flattering as they had employed their journalists who were more suited to writing fiction and made me look like some glory hunting gold digging nobody. I wanted to take the rest of the week off and go hide in a cave till everyone forgot about me but Jennifer’s publicist called me before I could pack my bags and disappear for a few days.
‘Let’s make the most of this opportunity and bring you out in the open’, he said as he did he best to convince me to see the brighter side of things. My parents were predictably shocked since I hadn’t really told them the name of the girl who was spending time with me and like all middle class Indian parents they too thought that all actresses did was dance in skimpy outfits and sleep around. The guys at the office proved what jerks they always have been by pestering me with questions on how she was in bed. My phone kept ringing all day as journalists kept calling me for quotes. I was in way over my head.
Mr. Publicist insisted that I be seen with Jennifer for all big promotion events from then on and I’m not sure how but he managed to ensure that there was a photographer waiting for us every time we went out for dinner. Overnight I had become one half of India’s most captivating love story with everyone and their grandmothers wanting to know what was happening. I could no longer go to my favourite bakery for some tea and egg puffs without people asking me a 101 questions. I couldn’t walk down the street without someone or the other pointing at me as they passed by. I’m not really sure how celebrities handle the fame. I guess, they need to get the attention to continue to remain famous. Me, I’m just an ordinary bloke.
I realized that just as I wanted her to be a part of my admittedly ordinary life and circle of friends, she too wanted me by her side for events that were important to her. I started joining her for red carpet events, film premiers, launch shoots and pretty soon I was a known face on the film party circuit. It was a world I had read about in newspapers and magazines and one that I never expected to be a part of. Everyone was friendly and welcoming but there was always that nagging feeling that I just didn’t fit in. When every guy at the table talked about buying a new SUV or picking up a new flat, there was a level of awkwardness when I mentioned that I still rode a bike and stayed in a rented flat with two other guys.
Sometimes I really wished that I could just spend a Friday night sitting with my friends and discussing, as always, how much life sucked because of the 2 evil W’s that middle class Indian men cannot run away from – Women and Work. Of course I was seeing a lot less of my friends these days since Jennifer had to be seen at all the social dos and I couldn’t afford to not be there lest the gossip mills get into overdrive.
Some of my long time buddies were understanding and were ready to meet up whenever I had a free weekend which was when Jennifer was out of town on work. Others weren’t so and honestly I don’t blame them. I was caught in a veritable no-man’s land and there just didn’t seem to be any simple solution to keep everyone happy. Which had me asking myself some tough questions – Was I really happy? Life wasn’t as simple as being transported to another world when you were with someone, was it? Did I fit into her world and she into mine? Were we just being blind to what was staring us in the face?
As I dealt with these doubts, Jennifer’s movie career had hit something of a rough patch as movie offers stopped coming in. India’s fickle audiences had seemingly had enough of their golden girl and were clamouring for a change and there was no dearth of actresses to take her place at the top of the movie industry. She was obviously upset about the whole thing and became a little difficult to deal with on occasion and I did my best to cheer her up. Elvis Costello’s timeless classic She became a song which I played over and over again each night and it almost seemed as though Elvis had managed to pull the words straight out of my heart and showcase them to the world. All this was until the day she showed what I now know to be her true colours.
( Read Part IV here )