It’s raining in Kolkata. I am going through my old photographs stored in my Laptop with a cup of tea. Since COVID-19 has paused the travel, I travel through my old pictures. I love to visit those old lanes, been in the same place, in the same moment with those people again. It’s like reading an old book or watching a movie again. Each and every time you go through them, you learn a new thing again and wonder how you missed this point last time. Amazing human mind. I find some pictures of Juniang, a 64 years young dreamer. I met her in Ghoom station in 2019 and clicked these pictures there.
One evening, I was idly roaming around in Ghoom, then I sat on a bench. A tea seller gave me a hot cup. On the other corner there was Juniang. I did not notice her until she spoke.
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Juniang – The Dreamer
“where are you from?”. “Kolkata” I said. It was evening, she was sitting alone. So, I asked, “do you stay nearby?”. She said, “not very near. But this place is very close to me”. There was a debt in her words. She meant it and I felt it.
I asked, “what’s the story?”. “Do you have time?” she asked. “I am tourist”. And we both laughed.
“I am 64 years old, name Juniang. I have three sons and two grandchildren now. But every day I walk here, sit here and see them again. I was 13 years old, on my way to school, I saw a rush. We are hill people, our life is very difficult, but generally we go slow. But that day was different. I got to know Rajesh Khanna is shooting here. I have seen one of his movies, and my father used to play his songs on tape. It felt like I knew him really well. Like many I reach to Ghoom. I see a big crew, set up, a jeep, few people are around that jeep, nothing is really visible. And I never had experienced crowd like that before. I tried to make my way, tried hard to see the Rajesh Khanna.
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And Rajesh Khanna Happened
But for a long while it was just pushing, film people and police managing crowd. I gave up hope. But then somebody from some corner shout clear field. I saw him for the first and last time in real. He was looking at a mirror, one was fixing his green sweater’s collar, one combed his hair and placed a cap over his head. The man put some red color on his lip and powdered his face. It was clear like day; I can see him clearly. He is Rajesh Khanna. In one take, the director shot his portion of “mere Sapno ki Rani”. I was mesmerized.
When I went back home, I did not tell anybody at home that I bunked today school for cinema shooting. But you know what was more amazing, when I see Sharmila Tagore in the song too. She was never here. Her portion was not shot at Darjeeling. But how magically they placed her in the song. I felt like I lived a dream. This place became the magic place for me. Since then whenever there is a shoot in Darjeeling I go. I live my dream.”
“In my lifetime, I have seen a lot of stars here for shooting. Devanand, Dharmendra, Shahrukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor. Even I have seen Hollywood films getting shot here. But I don’t know the actor actress name. But each and every time when I managed to see them, I felt like I Am living my dream”.
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The Mastro Stroke
I was looking at her, attentively listening to her words. She stopped for a while and looked at me and said, “do you know, in the same bench I had seen Satyajit Roy sitting, sometimes he used to sketch, sometimes he used to write and sometimes just sit and smoke”. I felt a chill in my spine.