I am feeling unmoored and unanchored today, so I will turn to my anchor in time and space and life, and let Shahrukh remind me who I am.
I woke up this morning feeling stunned with nostalgia. Just before waking, I had a very vivid dream in which someone gave me a box of cassette tapes, and I could smell them, and the smell lingered after I woke up and threw me allllllllllllllllllllllll the way back in time. Remember cassette tapes? The clicky sound when you opened and closed the case? The plastic smell that was somehow kind of soft when you took them out? The sharp edges that dug into your fingers when you took out the tape and then slide it into the player? They were part of my life from 5 to 25 and then they just went away, and remembering that smell threw me all the way back again. I ended up with a very strange feeling of not knowing where I was or who I was or how old I was. A feeling that just increased as I went through my morning.
In my current bedroom, I have all the things that were on the wall of my childhood bedroom. In the hall outside, I have the array of family photos I put together for my dorm room in college. I’ve also lived in the same city since I was 18. So I got in my car to drive over and get coffee, my daily quarantine routine which should anchor me, and instead I found myself thrown back to when I went to this same strip mall 12 years ago to buy the last Twilight book from a bookstore that no longer exists, and when my Dad and I bought a lilac bush from the Home Depot across the street to give my mother for mother’s day, and when I went into the Indian store that used to be at the end of the street where I now live and bought cassette tapes.
The only thing that didn’t give me a strange feeling of timey-whimey being lost was my Shahrukh poster in the bathroom. Because he has grown with me. Shahrukh is not a snapshot in time, a phase that passed, he is something that has been steady for 16 years. So I am going to let Shahrukh sing me home and try to remember that it is 2021, I am 35 years old, and this is my life now.
When I was in college, the first DVD I bought was DDLJ and there was a skip in the middle of this song which I still brace for every time. Later, I showed this movie the first time my current closest friend came over for movie night. Another friend, when she moved away, I gave her that first DVD copy to remember me by. And she sent me a Blu-Ray copy of it as a thank you. 4 years after that, she moved back and now she lives half a mile from me again. And then I started blogging and DDLJ was the one movie I could go over frame by frame and never run out of things to say. That’s who I am, 19 to 35.
The year after I graduated college, I was living in the city and my parents were still back in the town where I grew up. Before I went home for Thanksgiving, literally between my house and the train station, I went to see Om Shanti Om. With my suitcase next to me. I saw it at the same theater where I had seen Paheli before, and would see Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and My Name is Khan later. And I was blown away, it was so amazing. I started traveling up to Devon Avenue once a week to ask at the DVD store if the DVD was out yet. It got so I would pop my head in and the owner would just say “Not yet” and then I would leave. It finally arrived like a miracle one weekend when my parents were visiting me, and I showed it to them, and they loved it too. Years later, I showed it to my friends at movie night, and they got addicted to “Dard-E-Disco” (of course) and started singing along with the subtitles. I got a poster for it in the special DVD edition and put it up in my bathroom, but over the years it got damaged and crinkly and tired. I ordered a fancy new version that came all the way from India and picked it up at the post office and then went straight to Target and bought a big fancy frame and put it in standing at the cart return at Target and took it straight home and hung it up. And every morning when I brush my teeth, I can see him in the mirror looking at me.
When I was just getting into Indian movies, my sister and I rented a bootleg songs DVD from the little local Indian grocery in our hometown. It had this song on it, totally without context, and knowing absolutely nothing about it we immediately loved it. Even my parents fell in love with it, when they would wander through and see me and my sister watching the songs DVD together they would say “oh oh! Play the ‘Dancing on the Train’ song!” Years later, I was in grad school starting to study film seriously and I ran into so many articles about this film, and this song in particular. It was one of the first where I journeyed from simply liking it as a fan to understanding it on a deeper level. And then 5 years ago, I got to see Shahrukh live in concert with Malika Arora and this was the closing number, and as soon as the music started the crowd was on their feet screaming so loud you couldn’t hear the words.
Okay, I think I am starting to remember who I am and where I am again. Isn’t it funny? Those moments of feeling lost in your own life? Do you ever have that? A day when you wake up and think “how can I have a husband and children? Aren’t a 20 year old college student still?” Or “wait, why aren’t Mom and Dad down the hall? Why am I so big, when did I grow up?”