Monday, July 6, 2020

I Did Not Ask For This Thank You

Two months of intermittent fasting, watching what I eat and getting the-best-blood-reports-of-the-decade later, it is Monday night. My body is a temple and tonight we drink.

This is my first beer in two months and oh, if I only had the words to describe how gloriously this cold, life-affirming liquid slides down into my interior.
My head spins and I want to giggle at everything and nothing. This. Is life.

Then the phone dings: Ma'am aap free ho? Call karoon?

It's a kid from the library where I work. I've known this boy - young man - since he was what, 12? He's 17 now and a musician. A rapper with his best friend. They whip out 'flows' at lightening speed, they flood social media with their 'Coming Soon', 'Coming Real Soon', 'It's Coming, We Promise' posts every second day. The boys are gifted, they 'spin rhymes' that make me cool by association. Their raps possess an ease that makes me both proud and jealous. No one would guess it but they record their tracks by scavenging for quiet nooks in the chaos of their locality.
Our library used to be that but then came the pandemic.

Ugh but I'm so happily inebriated. I don't want to talk to kids.

"Ma'am aapne Sidharth-Garima ka naam suna hai?"
Nope. I've not heard of Sidharth-Garima. Is that one person or two?
"Ma'am unhone Ramleela ke gaane likhe the."
Lyricists for a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. Hm.
"Ma'am unka phone tha."

Ok ok, I'm up. I'm listening dammit.
The boys, whose work has spread wide enough for us to no longer have any kind of reliable contact-tracing, have been approached by famous Bollywood composers. The bigshots have lyrics that need to be transformed into a 'flow'. They've heard the boys' music (where? how? what is this miracle?) and would like them to try.

For some reason, the boys decide to call me - their only link to the glamorous world of cinema, I guess, myself having been a worldfamous screenwriter for documentary films that no one watches. "Kya karein ma'am?' What shall we do?

My buzz fizzles to piss. If the past twenty years have taught me anything, it's that young, hungry & talented artists without 'godfathers' rarely catch a break in show business. The boys tell me they've been promised 'credit' but no money. Of course, what a fucking cliche.
I'm paralysed. I don't know what to say. As an 'elder' who believes in their talent and is incapable of being objective about their work, I want to tell them to tell the Bollywood bigshots to fuck off if they can't pay. But I also know that calls like these don't come everyday. And as I struggle to give them the right advice I'm confronted by my past coming back at me in waves. It's as if the 20-year-old Me is standing in front of me, asking if she should take that unpaid internship to get a foot in the door or let it go because money matters and her work has value.
Both choices are wrong. Both choices are right. Especially when you're staring down the barrel of opportunity.

You only get one shot.
Or do you?
And my insides scream: THIS IS WHY I CHOSE NOT TO BE A PARENT!
It's too big. A young person handing me the reins of their life-changing decisions and saying: 'Tell us. We'll do what you say.'

I tell them to ask for more details (never be afraid to ask questions about a project, even if it's to Jesus himself) and get them to commit to 'credit' in writing on email. I tell them to walk that thin line between expressing keen interest in the job and holding firm for better terms. It took me decades to learn this. I know these boys will not be able to do it very deftly. They sound unsure on the other side, almost prepared to lose the job. Part of me wishes they'd ignore me. This could potentially be a huge opportunity (if it isn't a total scam), one that boys without studios don't often get. Will my advice steal their chance? Or will it remind them of their worth so that when success comes calling, it is real and rewarding.

I put the phone down wearily. My beer has made it to my kidneys and well past it.
Be grateful for that singular second when the chilled brew first hits your throat. No sip will ever taste the same. All I know is: Life is hard and I never want to be 17 again.

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