When we were little, my sister and I were obsessed with Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. We would all watch the show together in the hall, where the big screen TV was — Mom, Dad, Mintu and I. Mom had to constantly shush my dad because he wouldn’t shut up. He would always have more questions than Simi Garewal.
Yen ante? Maduve aagalvanta avlu? Thu bevarsi saabi are some of things he said quite often.
Mintu and I would be sitting in two corners of the hall- far away but not so much that I couldn’t see her when I wanted to. Watching Simi Garewal together was also a way of watching my sister and checking. Checking to see if she nodded and smiled at the same points that I did, to see if she’s copying me, to later force her to pick another favourite show, and by extension — to make sure that we were living safely different lives.
Watching the show uninterrupted was of prime importance. Pees would be held in, thirsts would be quenched by gulping slivers of saliva and curses were muttered when phones rang or doorbells violated our sanctity.
An episode that I really liked a lot was the Preity Zinta one. She was well liked at home, except for dad who couldn’t stand her. He had read somewhere that she didn’t want to marry because she could never share a toilet with a man. Owing to my mother’s histrionic complaints about his fart smells — he decided to take offence on behalf of all men and has, since then, never forgiven Preity Zinta for that comment.
I, on the other hand, was simply nuts for her right after Kya Kehna. She was chirpy and funny. I had never seen an actress be funny outside of a movie before. And so I was glued right from the beginning. Here was the deal — if any actress on Simi Garewal had a nice English accent and spoke really well — she would be my sister’s and my favourite actress for weeks after that. We would fight and make each other promise that we would not like her, but secretly we would worship her. We didn’t like breaking rules we had set for ourselves — actresses couldn’t be shared. We had to have our own individual actresses to look up to.
An anecdote that PZ mentions on the show still makes me giggle. When she was 12 and wasn’t allowed anywhere near an army party, she went to her mother’s wardrobe, picked up some random bra, wore it and stuffed oranges down there.
‘Oranges?’, cried Simi Garewal. That was probably the first time someone mentioned bra at home and on TV. My father shifted in his seat a little bit but we continued watching the show. The remote control was safely tucked away under some newspapers so we were secure in the knowledge that the moment had passed and there would be no channel changing.
Another favourite was Sushmita Sen, someone I am still besotted with. Her black formals and light lavender lipstick were objects of desire for a long time. But that wasn’t all. It was the way she laughed so openly, the way she had something witty to say to each question and the fact that she had adopted a girl. Later, I would find out from another chat show called ‘Jeena Isika Naam Hai’ that she didn’t know English very well until she started to prep for the Miss Universe pageant. And also that the evening gown she wore in the final round – one that she was eventually crowned Miss Universe in, was stitched by a tailor who ran a small shop in her building.
Once these shows were over, Mintu and I had to get back to our sad little lives again. But I would still be hungover so I would walk back quietly into my room, lock it and stand before a mirror. Simi Garewal’s voice would come undulating from inside the mirror and I would answer all her questions patiently, knowing when to pause, when to brush hair off my face and put them behind my ears, knowing when to say, ‘um, wellll’
The questions would all be deeply personal but it was the answers that I gave more thought to. My answers ranged from thank you speeches to curt responses to jackasses in my life back then. Never mind that today, those jackasses seem like angels I would happily give away my kidney to.
A gnawing worry would be that my sister would be standing in front of her mirror and doing the same thing I was doing. I never got around to finding out the truth until a couple of years ago when she finally confessed. Turns out she did it more than me. And even more elaborately — with a shawl and combed hair and all.
Mintu was insanely ahead of me in all aspects. Hell, she was the one who told me that Rendezvous is pronounced ‘Rondayvoo’ and not ‘Rendezvas’ as I continued to pronounce just out of spite.