I was in my grandfather’s house that day. His was a house with a worshipping area, four bedrooms, an open space followed by kitchen and a washroom. All this on the ground floor lined up like a train. If my memory is to be believed, we got no milk and no newspaper that day as the city shops, including the groceries, were all closed for some nasty reasons. It’s always nasty when they close down the nation in order to protest against something a handful of people didn’t enjoy.
When I opened the door of the first bedroom in the house, I was flummoxed by what I saw.
A lady with short hair sat on her haunches placed carefully on the bed. She was wearing a white frock and smoking a cigarette.
I was as scared as angry. “Excuse me? Miss Marilyn Monroe, who the hell are you? And why on earth are you here?”
The lady turned to me. Her blonde hair, her red lipstick, and that mole right below her pink cheek reminded me of someone.
She spoke with confidence “You guessed it right!”
MARILYN MONROE in my home? Be it the nose or the ears or the eyes. I couldn’t trust my anatomical presence in the same room as that of the woman standing right in front of me.
I realized her dress was indeed ivory and not just white. And pleated. She was good in shape, neither skinny nor plump. And damn. She smelled so good. Do all actresses smell like that?
Before I could clear my throat, she turned to the window, as if snubbing me.
I snaffled the opportunity to close my eyes and pinch my arm hoping that I wasn’t dreaming.
“Can you bring us a lighter sweetie?” She flaunted her pearly whites.
Us? Does she mean grandfather?
“We are celebrating our success. I am the Talk of Hollywood while he gave us another hit…Oh come on, get us a lighter while Charlie explains me how Limelight tells a story that’s close to his childhood.”
I scanned the room. My heart skipped not one, but many beats when I found the legendary Charlie Chaplin sitting near the window.
My shout could have torn my throat but it couldn’t release any sound.
Limelight. Talk of Hollywood. 1950s.
A strange feeling gripped me. I started thinking of my dress, my grooming, my hair, my posture. I was nervous standing in front of a glamour queen and a genius who makes even a corpse burst into laughter. I held my breath and pulled my bulging stomach in.
I scurried towards the door to get a lighter for my guests, if not coffee.
I maneuvered my way into the third bedroom, took a deep breath and smiled.
Wow! Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. A dream of millions. Let’s prepare a questionnaire and get ready for a snap.
As I found the lighter resting on a table, a thought flew through my head.
How about a quick face wash?
The nimble-footed me hurriedly opened the door of the washroom connected to the room.
I could hear a hum. A lady laid in the bath tub filled with something that looked like milk.
“Who are you?”
“The city is sipping black coffee and you are bathing in milk!” I roared at her.
The milk I could have made coffee with.
She grumbled some words in a language I couldn’t understand. Her voice, however, was music. Her outlandish clothes and stone jewellery almost blanketed the modest bathroom floor.
The wash basin…There was something odd about it.
It had a crown in it. A huge crown embellished with gold, silver and colourful stones.
Is this woman in that filthy tub a queen?
I fixed my eyes on her as she dabbled herself in the milk. The radiance of her body paralleled that of milk.
She can’t be that…Though she has the traits of a queen. Her clothes tell a different story. Aah…She must be one of those actresses from the Mummy movies. No wonder!
But these gems and stones? They look so real. And who bathes in milk?
She threw her hand out of the tub and groped the floor.
“Eureka.” She whispered on finding a large emerald ring.
Her nose is not a millimeter fatter than I had seen in the google images of the famous marble bust. If this is not a dream…If that woman in frock is Marilyn Monroe and that man with wrinkles and moustache is Chaplin himself, then this is Cleopatra, the woman of incomparable beauty.
I wish I could speak in any of the nine languages she knew. I could have asked her about the Egyptian history that always intrigued me.
I realised how big leaps of time I had taken as I switched from one room to another.
Amazements and exploits overwhelmed me. I thought of the lighter in my hand and headed towards the room I found Marilyn and Chaplin in.
They were nowhere there in the room.
Bewilderment and stupefaction filled my mind.
I climbed up the staircase to talk to grandfather.
In the room, stood a man who looked like an Indian king of the past. I had enough experience not to ignore him as an actor of a drama institute.
I was exhausted. “Not again!”
“Relax. You are safe in Akbar’s kingdom.”
“Now, who are you? Akbar’s gem?”
“Fantastic! I’m not a kid to be wheedled.”
“Exactly.” And he vanished leaving bubbles of laughter behind.
He must have been Birbal. I thought.