For quite a few years, a jackal travelled with us on vacations around the world. Before you start visualising bloodshot eyes, a menacing snarl and a Phantom creature that we sneaked through customs, let me tell you that the animal was actually small, plastic and had been bought to pass off as an Eskimo dog for a geography project on the Arctics.
Somewhere along the way, it was misplaced and replaced by half-a-dozen Barbies. Then, it was Sunshine, Jasmine and Snow White who were smuggled into my suitcase. And emerged, one by one, from between the folds of a tee or when I shook out my jeans.My daughter’s doll family grew steadily. Every time the academic average tilted towards 80 per cent, we’d be yanked to a departmental store. A few weeks ago, I was told that it would have to be a Katrina Barbie next. That prompted me to take a close look at the plastic replica of the Bollywood star. I was relieved that she looked like a baby doll, in a froth of candy floss lace.
I’d expected a sexy Sheila, clutching a slithering sheet or a swinger in a dhoti-sari. I recalled coming home from work one evening to find that my budding fashion designer had stripped Sunshine of her buttercup dress. The toy was wrapped up, in a chocolate hanky that passed for a sarong, leaving the shoulders bare and one leg peeking out from beneath a dipping hemline..
“What happened to her?” I asked bemused. And got a God-don’t-you-get-it look, Apparently, Sunshine had metamorphosed overnight into Malaika Arora-Khan, the eye-candy judge of Nach Baliye Season 1 at the time. And ever since Dabangg hit the theatres, I’ve been waiting for a Badnaam Munni to pop out of Alladin’s Jasmine and for a Sheila to take over babe-in-the-woods Snow White.
Naturally, I couldn’t resist asking Katrina when we connected a few weeks ago if she was called Sheila or Barbie. The actor laughed, “Half Sheila, half Barbie.” Huh? My fears could still come true and a doll turn into an item girl! The Tees Maar Khan chartbuster has already become my welcome song, blaring lustily from my ma-in-law’s cell phone, most evenings. The poor lady who would much rather have a bhajan playing softly, has to make herself heard over the rising concerto of Justin Beiber, Sheila ki jawani… and some Turkish gibberish.
Fortunately, Katrina hasn’t changed much in the years that I’ve known her. Our first interview happened en route to the airport and ended as she ducked in for security check on her way to boarding a flight to Ludhiana or may be Patiala.
Our last one also happened en route to the airport, Katrina on her way to Bangkok for an ad shoot. The one in between was from Patiala while filming Mere Brother Ke Dulhan and the one before that, from Bangalore. So Alexander Graham Bell may not have made a single call to his family because his wife and daughter were deaf. But his invention, the telephone, has definitely brought Katrina Kaif closer.
Of course, the starling has now become a superstar. Is a little defensive oft times, a wee bit aggressive sometimes and diplomatic other times. But deep down, pretty Ms Kaif is still Miss Congeniality who takes me by surprise by suddenly coming through for a telephonic at a moment’s notice or after a night of waiting.
She will then floor me with an accent that mercifully doesn’t suddenly slip into a desi twang in between. She’s learnt to take on professional controversies head on and adroitly slip away when questioned about ishq vishk, Ranbir or Salman. She’s being called for a shot, her flight is being announced, the network’s cracking up… But before she rings off, will apologise with polite courtesy and promise that we’ll chat longer the next time.
Perhaps that’s why I have no objections to bringing a Kat Barbie home. Even if the lil’ pink dress is one day stripped off and replaced with a satin scarf that slips tantalisingly away. Hey, even Barbies can grow up to be item girls, right?