The Girl Who Kissed Shah Rukh Khan – by Rheea Mukherjee

by TBLM

Chances are you’ve seen my girlfriend. In that tangerine spaghetti strapped shirt. Her hand cupping the stubble on Shah Rukh Khan’s chin. Her shiny straight hair hitting the sharpness of her jaw, her lips puckered and pushed out to meet his gaunt cheeks. Shah Rukh stared back at the camera, poker-fucking straight. If you looked closely enough, you’ll see her eyelashes have too much mascara on them. Clumps of hair in black goop.

She was an intern at an advertising agency in Mumbai. She was invited to a party by Siddharth the senior copywriter, who, by the way, had been clearly hitting on her all summer. He told her SRK would be there. She called me and shrieked about it.

‘Is it a celebrity party?’

‘No, he just is really good friends with the director of the company. Siddharth said he would stop by.’

Siddharth told her that it was the kind of party where you don’t make a big deal of it. You don’t stare, you just pretend like it’s just another cool person at a party. I’ll tell you her version of the story. You have every reason to believe it, because my girlfriend is what people like to call ‘innocent’, that one broadband word that encapsulates naivety, a tiny bit of stupidity, and a generous heart. She said he was talking to a man with a white beard, and then he excused himself and walked out to the balcony where there were bottles of wine floating in melted ice. He was doing something on his phone, and something took over my girl. She walked right up to him.

‘Can I have a selfie-kiss? I mean … I don’t want to bother you, so I thought I’d just ask directly.’

She said he sucked in his lower lip and almost nodded. She whipped out her phone, stuck out her right hand and turned her face to his cheek. It was a close-up shot and as selfies go, it was a perfect one. I think there is a term for a selfie with two people in it, but it escapes me now.

She said ‘thank you so much’, and walked away. She sat in the corner of the gigantic room and just stared at the picture for while. Then she blasted it on instagram, FB, and Twitter. She didn’t add any clever caption, or give out any context. She just uploaded the picture. At first a few friends thought he might be a look-alike. Maybe it was a joke. Did Nirmal really just kiss SRK? When I saw it I hearted it. Good for her, that’s rare, and what a decent shot.

It was validated in a few hours, when a someone on FB commented that she was there at the party, and how gutsy was she to have got that ‘amazing shot’?

Then it got shared. By like 200 people. I guess there was something charming about the picture, the utter emotionlessness of SRK’s face and the exuberance of Nirmal’s lips, hot pink on his tan cheeks. What’s not to like?

*

Nirmal and I had met in college. She was a girlie-girl. I was a book worm. My best friend Mari said I was a hypocrite for dating her. Mari was a smart girl, read a bunch, did theatre, and dressed hippie, more to differentiate her from the crowd than any particular allegiance to being one.

I suspect Mari was in love with me. I guess I loved her too, but I couldn’t picture having sex with her, or even kissing her. She pissed me off when she said I was a hypocrite. Besides, there was a lot to like about Nirmal. To start off, she really was generous with all her friends. And she was gorgeous (which I know bothered Mari). And she had a body that I couldn’t help but be attracted to. Although in theory I agreed with the notion that looks alone shouldn’t drive a person to go out with them.

‘She can’t possibly challenge you in any way, and you’re a guy who needs to be challenged. She probably thinks literature is Sidney Sheldon.’

And I had to agree that it made me uncomfortable. Especially because Mari and I read P. Sainath, Chomsky, and Flannery O’Connor. Especially because we had passed a lot of time scoffing at the other kids and their lack of intellectual ambition.

Nirmal watched movies. She liked makeup and she read Vogue and Cosmopolitan unironically. We never discussed anything beyond what we did everyday, what we ate, who we talked to. The thing is we didn’t talk a lot. We made out a lot. Had sex a lot. She made me feel stupid and elitist for taking books so seriously.

Since I started dating Nirmal, Mari began to challenge everything about my existence. I think the real fracture in our friendship was the day she came over for lunch. She looked me in the eyes and said I was a disappointment. If men like me, the ones with hope, the ones who would eventually write things that could change the world, if they had no way of integrating their world belief into their real life, then it made them no different from the other masses of men, walking slumped with no spines.

She didn’t specifically say this comment was linked to my relationship with Nirmal, but she didn’t have to. After that, things weren’t the same. Last year, Mari moved to Delhi. Now, we’re FB friends.

*

The day after Nirmal’s picture went on FB and was shared 289 times and got 456 likes on her page. We had a fight.

‘Why didn’t you share it on your wall?’

‘Because, I don’t share things like that. Are you coming to Bangalore this weekend?’

I was horny. The thought smacked in the head as the words came out. Like I said, though, Nirmal is innocent.

‘I am, Saturday morning flight, but baby, share it. All my friends have and my own boyfriend doesn’t. What are you? Jealous?’

I started to laugh. I pictured her on the phone, sitting in her summer-leased flat, her hair icing her shoulders, her face pinched in irritation. She didn’t take it well. She hung up on me. We didn’t talk for the next two days. That’s when BuzzWorld featured her.

Who’s The Girl Kissing SRK and Why is Everyone So Obsessed with Her?

Nirmal Yeshwar is a 22-year-old intern at Fly Up Creations in Mumbai. While some Mumbaikars would pay good money to kiss our very own SRK, Nirmal, a Bangalore girl, just happened to have the luck to be in the right place and have the guts to ask him for a kiss selfie.

‘I don’t know what I was thinking, I just went up to him and….’

I clicked back to the FB page where she had shared it. There were already 84 comments.

You are a celebrity now

AHHHH GURL, you gonna be in his next movie?

Lucky you! SHARING!

I saw Mari had shared the article on her wall too. It was just like Mari to slap me in the face like that. Her wall was filled (with the exception of the occasional fruit vendor pictures, which she is obsessed with) with a bunch of long form narrative shares from Scroll, NPR, and Caravan, and sometimes obscure youtube speeches from people she thought had ‘ideas that will push our generation past mediocrity.’

Her BuzzWord share had no likes and 2 comments.

Uh, ok, Mari. Are you bored?

RIP journalism.

I texted Mari. Fuck you mari. I guess I deserve it. Long time, how you been?

My phone vibrated.

Ok, no worthy celebrities this side of the country. What are you doing with your life?

My throat bloated. I wanted to weep in her arms, I wanted to smack her.

I am not sure.

I hit send and put my phone away. The thing was, I had got a new gig as an assistant editor to a magazine that Mari swore by. I wanted to save it for later. When it would sting right back.

*

Nirmal came on Saturday. We made love. She stared at the shelf across the bed, her leg thrown over a pillow. ‘So many books, you don’t even read anymore, why pretend?’

‘I am not pretending, they’re just there, I’ve read most of them at some point.’

‘I can’t believe you didn’t share the BuzzWorld article, I mean that’s an actual article, isn’t it? That’s what you are going to be doing soon. Writing articles. Editing stuff.’

‘Yeah, but not stuff like that.’

‘Fuck you. Why can’t you just have fun? It’s just a fun thing, you don’t have to be so serious. Serious like all your friends taking the world so seriously. They are going to have a stroke by the time they are 35, what’s the point? What’s the point of knowing and writing about things so serious? Not like it’s going to change anything.’

‘And your article is going to change something?’

She covered her face with the pillow. Did her cute animal voice. ‘No, but’s it’s fun!’

By the time Nirmal was back in Bangalore for good her photo had been featured on 4 different websites that were all in the BuzzWorld-wannabee space. People knew her on the road. Once, we were at the mall after watching a movie, and a girl in a red shirt came up to us, pointing her fingers right at Nirmal.

‘You’re the girl who kissed Shah Rukh Khan.’

And Nirmal smiled, held the girl’s hand, nodded her head. Soaking in every little bit of the moment. My stomach dropped; I felt uneasy, and I burped popcorn. I hugged the girl in the red shirt goodbye like she was an old friend.

Mari hadn’t messaged me in three weeks. I knew she had published two solid articles by then. She had quit her job at a PR firm and was freelancing full-time.

Haven’t heard from you sassy pants. I read your latest, it’s fucking brilliant. Listen, I got a gig. Assistant Editor at Savage online. Don’t pretend you’re not impressed.

Mari replied hours later. Has your girlfriend ever read an article there? K, I am impressed though. Good luck.

I hadn’t even been allowed to write anything for Savage yet. Just edit and solicit good material. My editor had said that he would know when I was ready. I hadn’t even pitched anything yet. Truth is, I wasn’t sure what I was moved to write. Had you asked me in college, I would have wanted to write about everything. I wanted to shit on censorship and write about long-forgotten authors who had shown their gnarled middle fingers to the world.

Now, I had the comfort of reading those articles from others, editing their long sentences down to ‘impactful shouts’, as my editor called them. I spent most of my work time wondering if more commas made things more literary. Maybe commas were ok to use 20 times in one sentence. Maybe that’s what I needed to do, if only I knew what to write about.

*

On the weekends, Nirmal and I made love. We sat on the couch, legs twisted. Cute animal voices, and friend gossip. Everyone knew Nirmal now, she had almost 3,000 followers online. She talked about fun things and said she curated her posts every week. She shared weird spoofs and netflix recommendations. She got a lot of likes. Sometimes she reshared those old articles about her picture, like a reminder to all of those strangers to know why they were there, on her wall, holding her youth in their clicks and comments.

When I walked into work this Thursday there was a newbie. She asked me why I hadn’t published something on Savage yet. She was gauging how uncomfortable I would be if she were to start pitching on her first day. I didn’t care.

‘If you have ideas you should do it. I just haven’t come up with the right idea yet’

She nodded her head. She looked thoroughly excited by my lack of power tripping. I came back to my desk, opened FB. I wanted to text Mari. Instead, I found the first BuzzWorld article on Nirmal and shared it on my wall.

Throwback to when my girlfriend kissed Shah Rukh Khan

I got 14 likes in the first 3 minutes.

***