Vasant (Spring) 2021 Stories - Anjani George


Best Actor
By Anjani George


The crowd pushed and nudged, nearly creating a stampede. Dust rose from the ground as people craned their necks, standing tip toe to catch a glimpse. Sympathy was writ all over their faces and some even had tears in their eyes, while others whispered to one another.


They had a common aim, a cause, and a reason for why they had assembled in front of the court of justice. They had come to pledge their solidarity. It was more a show of strength vowing their support to what seemed very important for them. Many had worked only half day, come from afar, come the previous night, had borrowed, had stolen and had even forgone important family events to be present today.


She walked down the corridor of the court building, her side view visible to the thronging crowd standing below. They watched in dismay as a drop of tear fell to her cheek and as she leisurely wiped it off with her handkerchief. She looked plain in the ordinary white salwar and with no makeup. Her eyes were puffed and reddish.


“It’s from crying.”


“The poor thing looks so miserable”, the elderly among the crowd clucked sympathetically.


“See, she did not even have time to wear her makeup”, the younger ones lamented.


The press waited impatiently for her to descend the flight of steps, and then they surrounded her like a swarm of flies. Cameras clicked and she was pelted with questions. The crowd watched on, their eyes devouring their demi-goddess, their most favourite actor. They were her audience. They had elevated her to stardom, cradling her, fondling her with love.


They smiled when she smiled, laughed when she laughed and cried when she cried. For them, she was one who could never do wrong. They allowed her to float in a dream world and watched all her movies without fail. There were numerous fans associations that did a lot of work to promote her movies that toiled hard to see to it that her movies were big blockbusters. She was like a fairy princess to them, one whose wishes must be realized, who always did right. She was either a daughter or a sister or a mother or a friend or a lover to each one of them. She symbolized every elevated paradigm of womanhood.


When she fell in love and got married to the most eligible bachelor in town, a top shot businessman, filthy rich and handsome, many hearts were broken. Yet, the community took it up as their duty to be happy for her and wish her the very best for a wonderful life ahead.


“He loves her and will take good care of her”, they were sure.


She reduced to obscurity the following decade, appearing only at a very few major events with him and with their only child. She gave interviews with him, posed for photo shoots and attended award functions and charity shows but seemed unperturbed by the glitz and glamour, never for a moment seeming disdainful.


She was much attached to the child and created an impression, her world revolved round the child and her family. In her interviews she spoke of how much she enjoyed being at home and how comfortable she was just living as a mother, a daughter and a wife. A beautiful portrait of a loving family was painted no one would have suspected anything amiss.


By the time he had carved a niche for himself in the industry. His business grew manifold and they were on the seventh cloud of prosperity. He gave her credit for his success and claimed brought luck and fortune to him. The audience was so happy and seemed to declare “see, we told you so!”He was a good business man with a flair for business and so it was no surprise that he did so well. Life was sublime, or so it seemed…………


About this time, there began those rumours, about their marriage being on the rocks, that he was having an affair with another present top slot actress, that she was unhappy and imprisoned at home. He began making appearance in public alone and sometimes accompanied by their little daughter alone. She seemed to have disappeared all of a sudden.


Panic gripped her fans! They had been satisfied she was happy though each one silently wished she would make a come-back. It was as though they had married off a daughter and was content with her living a peaceful and happy family life. With all their hearts and souls they wished the best for her and prayed everything was fine for her.


The new development was startling!


Was she really unhappy?


Was she being tortured?


Was their little darling suffering?


They poked their noses into whatever little was available in the media about her present day status. They stalked her following her around from churches to markets, shopping malls and even began intruding into her personal spaces to get clues of what was actually going on. They felt it their right to know and felt indignant when any one questioned their liberty to do so.


Then one day their prayers were finally answered!


The social networking media was more than overjoyed when she re-launched herself in one of these sites. The sites got jammed many days and “likes” and comments flooded in thousand and ten thousand and even hundred thousand as loyal fans turned netizens to get a view into her personal life. She began reporting her life, slow and steady, revealing fact after fact as if painfully day after day. The wait tortured as they waited in sheer anticipation as to what she would have to tell them the next day.


She had taken up a new look altogether. Her skin glowed unnaturally, her short hair style suited her better and she was trimmer and much prettier than they had last seen her. She seemed less vulnerable, more confident and as though she now had a goal to achieve.


Her photographs were suddenly splashed all over. She was almost everywhere, on the net, in magazines, in newspapers, on advertisement boards and almost every where all at once! It was amazing! It proved that passion can get things done however difficult the task is, focusing and putting it on the right track is what counts.


She wrote she was unhappy at home. She felt frustrated and imprisoned, but she pleaded with them not to ask personal questions. She begged them not to talk about her husband or child. She was in tears when she requested them to leave her child out of the limelight and all the publicity. She said, like each of them she wanted her child to lead a normal life.


“Please support me. I want to come back to you”, she told them.


Her first movie was raving hit. There never had been a block buster with so much collection till then! She had created history and was lavishly flooded with many higher budget movie offers even in other languages.


It was around this time that she filed a case for divorce. She asked for only separation. She did not want his alimony and was even willing to sacrifice living without her only daughter, because her daughter opted for living with her father. She was heartbroken, it could be seen vividly when she gave an interview to a television channel.


“Please do not ask anything more. I do not want anything, neither money nor anything else from him. I will miss my daughter and though I love her so much, let her stay with her father if she wishes”, she was finding it so difficult to hold back tears.


The interview doubled the magic and more and more offers poured in.


Today was the d-day. It was the first hearing of the divorce case filed by her, the reason why they had all assembled outside the court building.


What would be the result?


What would happen?


They maintained dead silence to be able to hear what she had to say.


“The court asked us to try to reconcile differences. We will be staying apart. I will be with my parents. I take nothing from him, not even my daughter”. She wiped another tear.


“Will you be able to reconcile differences”, they asked her in anticipation.


“No!” her answer was swift and curt.


Slowly they gave way for her as her car drove up and the driver held open the door for her to step in. She waved, once again using her handkerchief to blow her nose, her eyes still watery. A sigh of sympathy resounded from the crowd. The special effect, created was perfect enough and the timing sublime.


Then they turned round to catch a glimpse of the villain, yes the husband. They would have loved to hound him … but for the child.


It was her child anyway wasn’t it?


If a little girl of seven years chose to live with her father, she must have seen something good in him, they reasoned. He held the child tight as if to protect her from the crowd and it was as if he feared the crowd would attack them. He looked haggard too but no one seemed to bother. The crowd just gave way to let him and the child go. He got into the car with the child.


He was a good driver and drove steady at a speed of 70km/hr. It was a seven hour drive to his guest house in Munnar. He turned to look at the child sleeping next to him. His eyes were full of affection as he ruffled her hair lightly.


Was he disturbed? Perhaps, just a little.


It had been a year since his business was not doing too well. The real estate business had been a bad idea after all. He had lost heavily. His bank accounts were fast diminishing and if something was not done, it was going to be really bad. He was practically sinking in debt. His mind was blank now; he did not want to think. It was night by the time he reached the guest house.


It puzzled him that the lights weren’t on. He carried the sleeping child on his shoulder, took out the keys from his pockets and opened the door.


It was empty!


Now he was worried, mighty worried!


What could have happened?


Had anything gone wrong?


Every inch, every move, every moment had been speculated, critically reviewed and perfectly timed. Yet, had there been a falter?


There was the sound of another car coming up the driveway. He laid the sleeping child on the bed, keeping a pillow at the edge of the bed so she did not fall off. He still did it out of habit even though she was seven now.


He moved with a little urgency to see who had come and heaved a huge sigh of relief!


“Where were you? I was worried. What happened?” he asked all at once.


She walked into his arms.


“I just went to the church to thank God all went well”. “It’s ok darling, everything is fine. This so-called “separation” and these hidden meetings will be only for a year and then we’ll find some excuse to get back together. By that time I’d have earned enough to clear our debts. The child being with you, they’ll be sympathetic to you.”


“But, don’t you feel you’re cheating them?” he asked.


She smiled with a wink “I’m in the race for Best Actor this year”.


Anjani George from India is a Civil Engineer with an MBA in HR. She works as DGM for a reputed Civil Construction Firm. She likes to be known as a “Slice of Life” writer and has written a few short stories and poems, of which a few have won prizes and some have been published.


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