I called back on the number of the deep-voiced lady. I was told that the number doesn’t exist.
I hung up. The silence was like a snake winding itself tight around me. The air felt heavier considerably. I thought it would be better to call the attendant back. I spun on my heels and turned towards the door. It was then that I heard her.
“I’m so glad you made it.” I turned. Slowly. Taking all my time in the world.
She looked a bit like Nargis on meth. Dark wavy hair was swept sideways casting a shadow on her face. She was petite – probably not more than five feet one. Voluptuous. Her grey chiffon sari revealed vintage style blouse underneath with pointed cups. “Pull up a chair, will you?”
I obeyed without hesitation. What a sneaky woman to pull a fast one on me! The hotel staff was involved, of course. Absolutely. She must have paid them in cash. Thick wads of five hundreds stashed into their sweaty palms. An old and, if I may add, very special acquaintance of the General Manager even. Mid thirties. Curvaceous. Mocha skin. I cleared my throat.
“We should get to know each other better.” Yeah right. About time too.
Her name was Rukhsana. Her real name was Chandni Mishra. She was spotted by a young movie producer while on a family trip with her family in Mumbai. They lived in Faridabad, UP. Landed property. Acres of agricultural land. But the family fell into misfortune over the same. Family dispute. Hard times. Father’s brother betrayed. The Mishras had to move to a smaller house. Chandni’s elder brother died early. Soon Chandni became the breadwinner. Same old sob story. I listened with patience.
“What exactly do you want from me?” I asked after two minutes’ silence.
“I want you to bring me back to the limelight again. I want you to reinstate my stardom. I want you to be my publicist. I want to be a success story. Again. And you will be the author.”
“I will pay you whatever you quote. By the day. Hour. Anything.”
By now her voice was almost shrill. Persuasive. Bordering on desperation. I let out a deep sigh. “Fine. But you have to play by my rules. I will draw up a contract whereby I will assign you as a client…”
The laugh that emanated from her sounded like a drumroll. It echoed in the musty dampness of the room before subsiding.
“Fucking paperworks. What are you? A clerk? Listen, young woman. I can pull many strings. And I don’t believe in paperwork. You either agree. Or you disagree.” She leaned in closer. Her burning eyes were deathly hollows. Her breath smelt of sweet supari and vodka. She placed her hand on my arm. I shivered. It was ice cold. Blue veins stood out. “I am pleading you. I won’t ask again.”
I drove back with a cloudy head. The moon played hide and seek from behind the smoky blackness. I couldn’t sleep that night. I thought of the most effective PR strategy to position this hapless heroine back to her fame and glory. I switched on my computer. Entered ‘Rukhsana + Chandni Mishra + Heroine’ in the search bar. And found the following news articles:
*POSTER GIRL OF THE FORTIES FOUND DEAD IN HER ROOM*
*RUKHSANA – THE FACE THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND SHIPS – NO MORE*
*ACTRESS FOUND DEAD, DOCS SUSPECT OVERDOSE*
*ASHOK KUMAR DENIES RELATIONSHIP WITH THE DECEASED RUKHSANA*
To be contd…