It started with a wrong number. My friend, Shonali, was writing a weekly column for a woman’s magazine.. news snippets on the movie and telly world.
The 20-something star of a superhit soap had caught her eye. She thought it would be interesting to find out if the rona dhana drama had fetched him more offers. So, she tracked down his number and one lazy Sunday afternoon, gave him a call.
Those were the pre-mobile days when MTNL’s sturdy black instruments with their shrill screech and no added features like caller id, ruled. After a few rings, a deep male voice answered. “Is that Nikhil Kapoor?” Shonali asked tentatively.
“Who’s this?” the voice demanded. Shonali introduced herself and asked if he was free for a brief telephonic on career developments.
There was a longish pause, then the voice replied, “I’ve been getting so many calls like this from fans posing as journos. How do I know you are for real?”
Shonali rattled off the publication for which she worked and her designation. It didn’t cut ice with the suspicious stranger at the other end.
“How do I verify what you are telling me? Why don’t you give me your phone number? I’ll dig around a bit and if I’m convinced you are who you say you are, I’ll get back to you.”
In the spur of the moment, Shonali made a stupid mistake. Instead of her office number, she passed over her
residence number. And the nightmare began..
Wait and watch
The call came 15 minutes later. It was the same voice, “I made enquiries and now I’m convinced that you are a reporter. So why don’t we meet for coffee today? If I meet you across the table, I would be more comfortable talking to you. I could wait outside Eros cinema at Churchgate for you.”
A warning bell sounded for Shonali. Despite his well-bred courtesy and easy-to-believe logic, her instincts told her she had got the wrong guy. Why would a busy TV star want to meet a journalist for coffee for a five minute conversation? At the most he’d invite her to the sets. Somewhat curtly she told him that she had other plans that evening.
“How about tomorrow then?” he urged. “I’m okay with lunch, tea or dinner..”
She was right. He was not Nikhil. Shonali told him she was no longer interested in doing the write up on him and rang off.
But the calls didn’t stop. Over the next couple of days, the phone trilled several times through the day. If her parents or siblings picked up, they got the dial tone. If Shonali did, she got the same voice trying to set up another date.
“Why?” she once asked him exasperatedly. “I know you aren’t Nikhil Kapoor, so why would I want to meet you.” “Because I want to. I like your voice. And I’m sure once you meet me you’ll like me better than this Nikhil Kapoor,” he urged.
Search is on
She hung up on him again and again.. her brother abused him roundly.. her father threatened to trace his number and put the police onto him.. But the calls continued.
They did try to trace the calls. But by then the guy had got smart and they only got a PCO.
After a month, her father finally got their number changed, afraid that he might track down the address and stalk her. And the calls finally stopped.
But Shonali still gets the shivers when she remembers the episode. And today checks every number carefully before pushing the ‘talk’ button.