Have you ever met an Indian God or his living incarnation? I have. So close an approximation in the flesh I could have never imagined, until that night in Mumbai.
Brown skin tight and taut, muscles rippling like waves you could swim in. Black hair shiny as satin sheets you could lie in, snow white teeth and a perfect mouth. Eyes luminescent as fire, one could warm oneself for aeons looking into their mystery.
How did I come to be so close that I could smell the warmth of his skin and feel his charisma? This glorious man loved by millions of women, who would kill to be me? I can die happy I have seen the smile of those pink lips and heard his voice. He sings like a nightingale but speaks with boldness. He has a frown that speaks of warrior strength. He is dressed all in white as befits a romantic hero and his clothes cling to him. If I had been a maenad, one of those wild women who followed the Greek God Dionysus, I would have torn those clothes off to see that beautiful skin pulsing with life and laid my head in adoration on that remarkably flat stomach. Then put my ears to that golden mountain lion chest and heard his heart beating in love. Yes Dionysus knows all about ecstasy!
However, I cannot behave in such a way even though I am on a film set. My role calls me to be a British woman at a garden party, one of hundreds of extras. I am standing very demurely on a green lawn, in a long purple and white dress and a purple hat. This is how I came to be there.
The tout must have spotted me immediately. Less than 24 hours in Mumbai, wearing my Melbourne black and sweating profusely in the heat, my face was turning tomato red and my blonde hair was stuck to my head.
“Do you want to be an extra in a Bollywood movie – Veer? We need Europeans to play teachers”.
What magic words! I have white skin, pale white grub under the earth skin. Legs so white my Australian friends recoil in horror. But white skin here in Mumbai is a commodity, so desirable that I am wanted for Bollywood! My companion is wanted too as she also has pale skin! We arrive on set with a bevy of young beauties; I think we must be the chaperones in the movie, teachers to these girls.
A small stocky woman apprises these girls and sends them off to a dressing room.
“Teacher”, I say.
She shrugs her shoulders. Doggedly I follow the others. They are dressing up in off the shoulder dresses revealing collarbones, and backs. Am American girl sits crying on the bed. She is too fat to get into a dress. Now powdered and made up, the girls disappear laughing into the night. It’s me and my friend and the fat girl all alone.
“Teacher”, I say imperiously to the male dresser. I pick up a dress. .”Teacher “, I repeat.
“No! Dresses come now”, he replies.
A runner brings a handful of dresses which seem no different from the others. My friend dresses in the banana custard yellow one; I opt for the sauerkraut cabbage coloured dress with a peculiar hat with frayed straw. We get ourselves in the makeup chair and our make up artist whitens our faces like ghosts’ .Then calling ourselves Jane and Harriet, we promenade arm in arm down to the set leaving the American girl crying. Everything is in full swing, all the girls carefully placed. So we have a plan.
I say,” We need to stand near the Indian actors Jane, and then we might be in shot.”
“What a splendid idea Harriet.”
We pick up glasses and chink them and then the magic happens. By chance Salman Khan and his fellow actor start their scene close to us! Salman Khan looks young and old. The skin on his face is smooth yet he feels as if he has lived for many years. I imagine if that skin was distilled it would taste like the nectar of the Gods.
Shout action again Mr Director; make them walk past us, in take after take.
“Its cold “, says Jane, “no one will notice us on camera,” and she wraps her black shawl around her. I am on fire. I feel so warm, even after my hero passes by and climbs Romeo style some colonnade. The hours pass in the cool Mumbai night. Jane is tired and has a nap on the discarded dresses in the dressing room, where the American girl is still crying. At 4 am in the morning she comes back to find me half asleep.
“Harriet!” she says. I open my eyes.
Salman Khan but a step away is staring at me with those intense brown eyes,” Would you like me to make you a coffee?”
I swear this is true. This is not a dream. I am in shock as if a thunderbolt passed through my body. The great and gorgeous one speaking to me, not the beauties in strings of pearls, but me of the white skin, me of the purple hat. His charm makes me blush.
I say in the strangest primmest voice, “Oh thank you I am fine”.
Small beads of sweat cling to the sheen of my lips.
He smiles at me, one of the most beautiful men on this earth.
To prove my story, go and hire the movie Veer 2010. At the garden party scene before intermission, he says” This is a royal party we will find her here”. And as you press pause, there in the frame behind him are Harriet in her purple and white dress and Jane in her very yellow hat and black shawl.
There we are with Salman Khan, united forever in the cling wrap skin of celluloid.