'Don't you leave that girl. Marry her.'
If you're a Bollywood reporter of a certain vintage, chances are you'd have a Dev Anand story. You may have met him at the peak of his career, or when his career was flagging, or, like me, when it was over and Dev Saab like all aging superstars was struggling to stay relevant.
It was 2007 or so and he'd just released his memoirs and the editor of every publication, news channel, and a fledgling Web portal like the one I worked for then, wanted to interview him. For some reason I was put on the job. But Dev Anand wouldn't meet on camera before a pre-interview.
So, I went to meet him at his massive property in Bandra, questioning my career choices and generally petulant because I had been assigned to this old man. After some waiting, I am ushered into a massive room the size of a wedding hall furnished in '80s style upholstery. And there, sitting in one corner, sat a tiny man looking like he was about to go for a party.
We spoke about his book, his life, how we were going to put his video on the World Wide Web (a fact he was most fascinated by). It's 2007, I assured him, it's the future. Then as I got up to leave, he stopped me and said: Let's talk about you!
I told him a little about myself and began showing signa of leaving again he kept prodding like a man who was genuinely interested in my story. Chai and samosas were ordered and we were exchanging stories as two friends would.
At one point he asked me if I had a girlfriend or wife. "Or both?" I told him about Kermin and now he wanted to know about her and how we met. My friends at the time hated her and her family hated me, so I hadn't spoken about her or how I felt about her with anyone who mattered to either of us. And here I was pouring my heart out to a complete stranger, who btw was once a superstar.
He let me ramble on. At the end, he said, (and here you have to imagine Dev Anand speaking only as Dev Anand did): Don't you leave that girl. Marry her.
I intend to, I said.
I realised it later that it was the first time I ever expressed my intention about Kermin to anyone.
Dev Saab and I never met again; the interview never happened and I all but forgot about this very surreal meeting. Some years later, on a cold winter night, I asked Kermin to marry me; she said yes. We celebrated and went to bed, looking forward to a lifetime together.
The next morning, I woke up to a barrage of notifications on my BlackBerry. Dev Anand was no more. He'd died in London just a few hours earlier. My mind went back to that meeting all those years ago and how a superstar was genuinely interested in knowing about my life.
Every year on his death anniversary, I say a silent prayer and tell him that I'd taken his advice. That I'd asked her to marry me, she did. And that we're happy. I imagine him looking over us, smiling.
- EARLIER: Meeting Dev Anand
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com