(Based on True Incidents and Characters)
With no idea in the world, I took the phone. SHAHRUKH KHAN... a kid’s voice almost sobbing, SHAHRUKH KHAN.... SHAHRUKH KHAN.... now he was almost crying... I stood there frozen. I had no idea why there was a kid sobbing at the other end of the phone, sobbing saying SHAHRUKH KHAN again and again.
SHAHRUKH KHAN... he repeated almost tenth time. Hello... h h h ee lllo.... I was not a good mimic, but I thought I could do a decent job for a kid. I didn’t know why I was doing this, but I said hello like the bollywood actor does in films. The kid at the other end came to life. SHAHRUKH ITS YOU ?? I said yes it’s me.... it’s me Shahrukh khan... who are you.....? Now I wanted this conversation to happen, I saw her sitting beside me, looking at me, still wiping the tears as i mimicked shahrukh. Though I was talking to the kid on the phone my eyes were still questioning her. They must have asked about 1000 questions to her and she didn’t say a word but the kid on the phone was answering all my questions now. I am Krunal he said. Oh Krunal, so how are you? Do you watch my movies, yes yes he said. I have seen them all, I want to meet you. Hey Krunal, cannot meet you, I am quite busy you know.
But we can talk, tell me about you, your school, your friends. My God !! I was doing a hell of a job as Shahrukh, perhaps the stage thing I did in college was coming out of hibernation inside me. The kid was not answering any of my questions, he had his own, I answered them all, and when i realised his questions weren’t ending, I told him I will call him back later, I had to go for shooting. He didn’t agree at first but then I promised to call him back and I said bye, as Shahrukh says in his movies. bbb bb yyyeee kkkkkk Krrrunaalll, he liked the kkkk rrruuu naalll part very much and laughed but the girl sitting beside me was still wiping her tears, damn the handkerchief. If only I had carried a clean one.
As I disconnected the phone, she started speaking as if she had all the reasons in the world, why this kid on the phone wanted to speak to shahrukh khan.
Was i ok ?? The out of hibernation actor in me asked, asked before she could explain anything.
Yes you were, you were perfect. I knew you could do this. That’s why I chose u didn’t I ? Then she told me, he was a boy, a small boy 8 yrs old, had severe autistic problems, had occasional fits and his conditions was deteriorating day by day. But one thing he was very close to his teacher, the girl I was standing right next to. The girl, who still had her eyes moist.
His favourite hero was Shahrukh khan and occasionally during those fits, he would repeat Shahrukh khan I want to meet shahrukh khan and one fine day, she promised that if he behaves well, she will make him speak to Shahrukh khan. And thus all happened. I seemed to have impressed him, he really thought that he was speaking to Shahrukh.
The Shahrukh talked once or twice in a week and his voice was getting better and better,but the kid on the other side wasn’t. It seemed his condition was getting worse day by day. The “hellos” on the phone got a little softer and the questions fewer. But still Shahrukh had to talk, every time me and her met, Shahrukh spoke and trust me it was like a stage performance for me doing it before her.
I was now quite attached to the kid, the same way she was attached, I asked a lot about him. It seemed his training was going on well with her but he wasn’t doing that good, he would now cough between our conversations, would go mum, I had to now coax him into talking. I asked questions, but they all weren’t answered. Still his love for Shahrukh was there, the happiness in his voice that he was speaking to Shahrukh was always there, it never faded. It was the same when we first talked, and the best gift I got, while talking to him was the smile on her face, the way she kept looking at me, when I talked.
Then one day, she called, she wasn’t sounding good. Something had happened it seemed. One word she told me and it would like paragraphs for me, one word and I would know everything she had in mind. Even if she didn’t say anything I would read her eyes.
I knew, Krunal was not ok, there was something wrong. She told me he was now in serious condition and she wanted to see him. I picked her up from her home. On way to the hospital, a fifteen minutes drive, tears were rolling down her eyes. But she was not crying, but she was tough she was courageous.
We reached; she straight away got down and was on her way up. She knew me, she knew that I wouldn’t have the courage to face him, to see him. I was the weaker one at heart amongst us. I understood her silence and her way of exit. I parked the car and sat on a bench just outside the hospital gate. She knew how I weak I was, she knew me.
Thinking what would be going on up there, how was the kid, what would his condition be and would she be able to control her tears in front of him. She was his teacher after all. Teachers never cry before their students, never. I knew she wouldn’t. I kept waiting, kept thinking.
After ten minutes I could hear someone running down the stairs. The steps were fast, loud perhaps because of the silence in the hospital. The bench was close to the hospital gate, she looked at me, waved her hand, gesturing me to come inside. She didn’t look in my eyes, she just gestured. I got up fast and when I was just about to reach near her, she started running back towards the room. I held her hand stopped her and asked, what happened? Why are you running? She stopped, I looked in her eyes. We don’t have time, he doesn’t have time, he is sinking, he is almost unconscious, but he was mumbling shahrukh khan, that’s the only thing he is saying now, I want you to see him, do something. She said all this in one single breadth. I was silent now, what I should do, what I can do, I cannot face the child. Over the phone it was ok, but facing him? You know, I can’t, I just can’t, i am not as strong as you are, I am not...
Just be there, just come, she said with a stern voice, like a teacher. We reached the room, there were people standing outside the room, perhaps, relatives, hoards of them. He was there, on the bed, unconscious. His mother was sitting beside him, she was not crying, she was prepared, perhaps she had accepted what was coming. No one in the room knew me, besides her, no one…
I went near to the bed, she held my hand, held it very tightly. She knew how weak I was, she knew I could break down at any moment. She was the one who cried in movies, but she knew, how weak I was, how soft I was. She would always stare at me at traffic signals, when people used to knock at our car window to ask for money and when subconsciously my hand went to my pocket, she would hold it and say, you melt down so easily, you are too soft. I would listen to her as I knew she was correct.
But I really didn’t know how to handle this, there he was lying down. I had never met him before, never seen him before. But I was supposed to be his hero, Shahrukh the hero I was.
I stood beside his bed, his hand was still, with a needle inserted inside a small vein, and it was still, life less but the fingers still moving now and then. I felt her pinching me, she was still holding my hand standing just behind me, I looked at her, looked into her eyes. I understood, I moved my hand closer towards his, I touched his hand and as I touched his hand. I saw his eyes open. He looked here and there, looking for the one who was touching his hand and then he found me. He looked in my eyes, kept looking, I didn’t know what to say, what to do. I pressed her hand, she pressed mine. I again looked into his eyes, then his lips tried to move, tried to say something. I bent over, held my ear close to his mouth, to hear what he wanted to say, I kept waiting, to understand what he was trying to say, to hear what he was trying to say. I kept waiting, with her holding my other hand. I heard some voice, I put my ear closer to his mouth and I heard "Shahrukh Khan….. Shahrukh khan" then he was silent… silent forever. The Shahrukh stood there, looking at his closed eyes, the Shahrukh he created, the Shahrukh he wanted to meet, tears rolled down my eyes.
I looked back towards her. She was not there, the Shahrukh stood there alone, wondering, how he recognized me.
Years after.. I still wonder….