Today, my friends, let me share with you an anecdote. This happened to me. It tells us a lot about the person that was Dev Anand.
"What are you doing here, son?", he asked in a trembling voice characteristic of his personality. I looked back at him and there he was, with squinted eyes looking at me with the dorsal plane of his person at around 30 degrees to the object of his curiosity, me. That was him. He spoke like that, he walked like that, he led his life like that - with the dorsal plane at 30 degrees to the object of his curiosity - a simile that is [as] hard to grasp as it is absurdly under-thought. His forearms were at 45 degrees to his arms (formal usage) and his hand were hanging loose, careless, nonchalant much like his demeanor. He walked in a slant manner - a bit like John Wayne, a bit like Gregory Peck - but it was his original inimitable (hyperbole) style.
No, it was not Dev Anand. It was my father. My father was one of the millions of young Indians of the 'swinging' sixties and - well, 'the' seventies whom, according to the Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Earth Sciences and amateur Dev Anand Scholar, Vilasrao Deshmukh, "Dev Anand taught how to love"
My father is not a Dev Anand impersonator, nor is he a big fan of Dev Anand. Never the less, the influence of Dev Anand on his generation was so immense that if you closely look at the men and women of the generation they all look like programmed automatons coded to act exactly like Dev Anand.
"What are you doing here, son? Don't you want to go to Dev Uncle's house?", my father asked me. I was startled. ADD and heavy coursework of the 2nd grade had made me forget about the audition. The yea was 1987. Dev Anand was at the peak of his career, shooting his latest film, the Jackie Shrof starrer expected block buster, Sachche Ka Bol Bala. Dev Saab had seen me at the party of some random Gujarati person - Patel, Mehta, Shah or something (irony) - in Juhu and told me in RP accent, "Why don't you come for an audition at Navketan, Santa Cruz, I will see what we can do..." Now, from the - "I will see what we can do", it was clear to me that my parents had put in a word. Ambitious parents was, even in those pre-economic liberalization days, a typical feature of parenting in India.
I hurriedly put on my new clothes - short pants, a bow tie and suspenders. Typical of children's clothing at the time. We hurried to Santa Cruz. In those days, there were hardly any cars in Bombay. In those days, it was still Bombay - none of this Mumbai nonsense. We reached an hour late. Dev Saab was sitting on his high backed chair smoking pipe with a fake moustache on. He stared at me in anger and asked me, "Do you know how Napolean lost his war?"
I asked him, the precocious pre-wikipedian brat that I was, "Disambiguate Napolean please and which war?"
He said, "But of course the one at Barras in 1765. He lost it because he was late by 3 minutes"
I said, "Well, we are late by an hour - which is twenty times worse. If Loss in War for Napolean is analogous to me losing out on this audition, by that token - you need to invite me twenty times for the same audition and reject me twenty times, for this analogy to work"
Dev saab said, "The little rascal has spirit. Reminds me of 'Gap', an old friend of mine from Lahore. Well, he wasn't old then. The friendship was old. I wasn't in to old people or anything. Nothing funny was going on, just in case. Anyway he wasn't old. We were both young. I don't mean like - we were both young and something happened. Nothing happened. I am only saying, we were both young - factually - numerically, age wise.
"Any how, my friend Gap - his name was Ganpatrao but we called him Gap. Gap and I, studied in Lahore. O the beautiful city of Lahore. The Paris of the East. The Pearl of Punjab. We used to play badminton at the YMCAA, meet girls at National College of Arts, go to races at the Lahore Race Club and attend Congress Party Meetings. Those were the days."
"What's the relevance of the pre-partition glory of urban Lahore to the narrow discussion of the simile employed by you to convey the gravity of punctuality and more broadly and importantly to my audition?", asked the six year old me, in English.
"I am sorry son, its 1987 and that means I must be 64. That's not that old but I lose track of my conversations. Anyway, Oh yeah, I was telling you about Gap - my friend. He moved to Bombay and started a Typewriter Shop. He was a Typewriter Salesman. He used to tell me Indian Film Industry has no future. I should get a job with a future. Ironic how that turned out"
I said, "Hang on! That's my grand father. We called him Pat. Its funny that you would abbreviate Ganpatrao to Gap. Its so British of you. How typical of you colonial subjects to go with British idioms. We chose the more American way. Its just so modern and cool. We called him Pat! Its funny that you are friends with him. What a small world! What a coincidence. What's more funny is that in spite of you being a major film star, in spite living in the same city, in spite of being such close friends you never 'touched base' in the last forty years. One would expect people who have endured the trauma of partition to huddle together as only they know their sorrows."
Dev saab lamented albeit dismissively, "Yeah, I mean - I should have called. These days I just don't find time to call man. Its just so busy. Capitalism and all that. No time for friends"
I said, "I hear you. We have so much studying to do. We hardly find time to talk to our parents."
Dev saab said, "That's why I called you here. The moment I saw you, I knew you were Gap's grandson. I have called you here to give you this chocolate. To tell you, I remember"
He remembered. Dev saab remembered us. He remembered my grandpa, he remembered our family and he had enough compassion and consideration for a six year old boy. He was a people person. He brought people together.
Now, this entire story about Dev Saab is false. But whats more important is what it tells us about him.