The boy was perched on his mother’s lap. They were traveling through the dust and grime of the Andhra hinterland. His mother’s lap, warm and comfortable. Even though he didn’t have a seat of his own to claim in the stately old car he was traveling in, he felt at peace, chomping on his Phantom cigarette. It was the early 90’s, he was not yet nine and Chiranjeevi was the Megastar.
The Ambassador hurtled along the stony roads, leaving behind trails of black smoke and flying gravel. The driver had a wet napkin draped around his neck that was drying by the second. The air conditioning was laughable at best. It wasn’t the best of afternoon journeys. But the boy had something to look forward to. He knew his fans were waiting.
Beside the driver sat the boy’s grandfather. An old man and therefore believed to be noble, he was revered immensely among the family. The boy, however, felt he was a bore. A stoic and strict, grumpy excuse for a person. The grandfather had no tolerance for merriment or mirth, absolutely no love for cinema, and hated the idea of pelvic thrusts. The old man, therefore, detested Chiranjeevi, who of course was the boy’s hero in more ways than one.
The other inhabitants of the car who at this time do not need description were the boy’s sister and their father. The five of them along with the toweled driver was going to attend a wedding.
After expertly manoeuvring around an adamant cow in the middle of the road, the driver decided to spice up the ride. From his dashboard, emerged a very colourful cassette case and a tape was penetrated into the waiting music player.
A few seconds of anticipation and the boy stiffened on hearing the prelude to the song. Of course, it had to be that song, THE song. The entire State was grooving to it. He looked back at his mother, his eyes wide with excitement. She shushed him down.
“Up up hands up! Papa, hands up! Hah hah!”, Chiranjeevi crooned.
Ripples of excitement coursed through the boy’s veins. Finding it hard to contain himself, his slight pelvis started to come into its own. His gangly arms started to come apart. The body was in the groove.
Just as he was starting to find his rhythm, the music stopped abruptly. Aghast he looked at the music player. The grand old man in the front seat had shut it down. Instinctively the boy hunched his shoulders in disappointment looking back at his mother. She rolled her eyes in mock pity and gave him a kiss.
No more music was played throughout the rest of the journey and soon the dust paved the way to the wedding.
Everyone stood in line with respect for the boy’s grandfather. Once he was gone inside though, the boy was lifted off the ground and into the air by the waiting entourage. Large dollops of saliva were planted all over his face. He squealed in delight at the adoration. He was loved, much loved by the family. Especially for his moves, the dance moves.
Soon a rowdy group of aunts kidnapped him from his mother and whisked him away. It was performance time. Grumpy Grandfather was away.
Another copy of the colourful cassette tape was ushered into a tape player and Chiru was on, once again.
The boy, carried away with the adulation danced with gay abandon and aplomb. He thrust his pelvis provocatively at his aunts much to their delight. They egged him on, laughing their heart out, some dabbing at their eyes to contain the tears, others holding their sides to control their heaving amusement.
For the second time that day, the music was stopped unceremoniously. This time, the boy was in the midst of a move his very own. He had been attempting a Jacksonesque sequence, his hands guiding his crotch to the beat of Telugu music. A fusion of style, way before its time. But the music had stopped.
The next few minutes went by in a blur.
When he came to, he felt a searing pain in his little rhythmic bum. His cheeks were swollen, his once swivelling arms bruised. Worse, he was in total darkness.
In the distance, he could make out his mother’s voice shouting at someone or something. Was she fighting for him? He strained his ears to hear when he felt his cheeks burn. Touching them, he could feel his tears smattered across his face. The salt burned his skin. He tasted it on his lips, the crying had turned them saline.
He was on the floor, he could tell. It hurt to sit down. He tried to stand up but it hurt even more.
Resigning himself to where he was, he looked around, slowly getting himself accustomed to the darkness. He could make out things, large oblong shapes. Normally he would have explored his surroundings but he was in no mood to do so now. He longed for the warmth of his mother.
No more dance, he told himself. He would hate Chiranjeevi all his life.
The tears kept streaming involuntarily down the boy’s face. He kept brushing them away with his sleeve until it got wet. His mother’s voice, he realized, was not to be heard anymore. Had she given up? At the thought, a tiny snort escaped his mouth and he gave into a fresh stream of tears.
In the darkness, he remembered the love that was showered on him that day. None of the aunts had tried to stop the thrashing though. They had been the ones to orchestrate his performance. He had thought he was safe with them.
He had never seen the room he was in now before, not even during the day. He had no idea which corner the spider’s web was woven, he did not know the nook the ants frequented. If this was a room at home, he could have nursed his wounds in the company of the inhabitants he knew so well. This room was strange and frightening. An alien land.
Tired from the incessant weeping, he closed his eyes. Chiranjeevi in violet overalls on the docks, in pursuit of a scantily clad Disco Shanti. He shuddered and opened his eyes. Never again, he told himself. Never again.
He finally stopped weeping. He knew he had to wait. Would it take all night for the wretched man to let his grandson out?
After what seemed like hours, something creaked to his left. He started in surprise but looked toward the sound. A wooden frame moved in the darkness ushering in a beam of light, welcome light.
His heart leaped with relief. A silhouette was framed against the dim light. His father. The boy whimpering with joy got up and ran into his arms.
“Sorry Daddy, sorry, sorry. I will never dance again Daddy. Please tell Grandpa I will never dance again”.
The man, trapped between father and son, gulped back a tear and embraced him.
Write Club Hyderabad – The Trapped Dimension – October 2017.