Updated: May 17, 2022
Chicago is an extreme place to be in with respect to the weather for the people who seek warmer habitat, more so for the people whose adaptability has been ruined by round-the-clock moderate weather of Bangalore. So here we were amidst the chilly frenzy cold of Chicago waiting for the week long stay to get over fighting with whatever little ammunitions we had. We had an early morning flight to catch and the night before that Chicago witnessed a huge amount of snowfall. We got a bit sceptical of getting an Uber so early with the consistent snowfall. Luckily though we did get one. Uber had definitely impressed us by its service in Bangalore and we expected it to be same in its originating country. And yes it didn’t disappoint us.
We sat in the car after the customary greetings with the Uber cabbie. It had stopped snowing, but he was driving carefully to make us feel comfortable. On introduction, we came to know that he belonged to Afghanistan. When he came to know we belonged to India, he felt pretty excited with the feel of good neighbours sinking in. Since it was around 4 am, we all were in half-sleep, half-awake mode when suddenly the voice of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan reached our ears. He had put on a CD of hindi songs for us. We turned towards him in surprise and a hidden pride asking the stupidest of questions: “Do you hear hindi songs?” (Stupid in the sense, he wouldn’t have a hindi songs CD if he didn’t like it)
This just brought out the love for Bollywood within him. Love, balanced with fair amount of appreciation and critique involved. He said he didn’t understand Hindi much but he just loved Bollywood movies, actors, songs as do most of Afghan people. He had been following Bollywood for long from the time of Amitabh Bachhan and still takes out time to watch the latest movies. Since the drive was bit long, we thought it to be a perfect set-up for a “Bollywood Masala Chat”.
We started with the obvious question as to who were his favourite actors. He kind of gave a generic answer that he liked everyone, all the three Khan superstars with a special mention of Akshay Kumar. Akshay’s comic timings in his recent movies had earned him fans abroad too. But the funny part was when he mentioned that he didn’t like Salman taking off his shirt in each movie to show his body. On asking the reason, he said this guy he was such a timid, lean and thin person in old movies like Sanam Bewafa that his voice will be like a kid in front of his dad (His dad’s role was played by Danny in that movie ) and he would say “Abbu, abbu !” The way he imitated these words made us roll with laughter and we could imagine 2 frames of Salman one the timid one in Sanam Bewafa and one the wrestler in Sultan.
Now came the turn for actresses and a comparison came up between Kareena and Katrina in which Kareena came up triumphantly as his favorite. He had a solid reason here too. He said models like Katrina can be found at every nook and corner in US but the culture and the Punjabi touch that Kareena carries is her USP and hence she is really at the top of the charts. And at the end of this part of conversation came up the name of luckiest Khan: Saif Ali Khan, obviously because he married to Kareena. There was a tone of sadness when he muttered that now they are going to have a baby too. Taimur Ali Khan Pataudi hadn’t arrived till that time, but now since he has taken birth he should know that he doesn’t have at least one man’s blessings.
There were also several shorter discussions around Bollywood. How he prefers the comedian Rajpal Yadav over Johnny Lever. He would not remember the name but start referring to a story and the kind of movie buff I am I would guess the movie name and the satisfaction used to show on his face. He talked about Shahrukh’s new movie in the same manner (Fan) but repenting that only his family saw the movie and he couldn’t watch it owing to the driving commitments and high ticket charges. ( He also mentioned ticket charges aren’t the only thing when you go for a movie. You need to buy popcorns for your family too. So it adds up. )
We always knew that Bollywood movies are big hits in Pakistan and Afghanistan but meeting one of such fans and watching his raw energy towards the aspects of Bollywood was one of the memorable experiences !!