A book and some memories

I generally avoid buying books randomly. I look for a recommendation or a review before I pick one. The odd time I've bought an 'interesting looking' book I've got a terribly raw deal. However, this time during my trip to Dehradun I made an exception.

I came across this really quaint little bookshop inside a Barista. Lovely concept, isn't it -- Coffee and books? There was no way I wasn't buying both and I chanced upon Saeed Mirza's 'Ammi - Letter to a democratic mother'.

For once, I'm glad I didn't wait for a review.

It's not a conventional book at all. If you're looking for a storyline, or dramatic highs and lows you will be disappointed. If you're looking for an autobiographical journey, arranged in neat chronological order you won't find it either. The book seems like a compilation of pages from the author's diary which takes the form of letters to his mother. He talks about his parents, their love story, his childhood, his journey to film making and his disillusionment with the system. The book delves a bit into history, breaks off to tell favourite stories on Mulla Nasruddin, then turns into a travelogue as Mirza takes to the road with wife Jennifer. The best part is a short film script that he incorporates at the end.

It's meant to be read and savoured in bits, very very interesting bits.

I have to confess that there's another reason why I bought the book. For one, Saeed Mirza's a celebrity I like and admire. I'd been too young to understand/admire his films but I certainly loved Nukkad. Besides, he was a celebrity I once interviewed. Strange, it might sound, but each person I've interviewed or even met, during my working days, remains special to me. I keep a soft corner for them unless they're someone really nasty or opinionated (like Shobhaa Dey, Gosh was she patronising!).

I met Saeed Mirza in Bhopal and interviewed him back in the 90s. He was staying with a friend when I first went to meet him. A colleague, an aspiring actor, tagged along hoping he'd push his case. Withing a few minutes of being there he realised he'd wanted to meet Aziz Mirza, not Saeed Mirza, and he immediately wanted to leave.

As it turned out the interview was a long winding one. The restless colleague kept making furious eyes at me to end it while I was in no mood to do so... it was way too interesting. He came away hugely irritated while I couldn't conceal my amusement. I ragged him for a long long time after that. Mirza talked of writing a book then. "It will be a critique on me," he'd said. I'm not sure it was this one.

The next time I met him he was staying at a hotel. I had an evening appointment and he welcomed me to his room with a glass of alcohol in his hands, certainly not a setting to put me at ease. I was grateful for the presence of my photographer friend. However, once he started talking I forgot to be uncomfortable and stayed on till nightfall. Quite a raconteur, he is.

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