My So-Called Bollywood Life(81)

By: Nisha Sharma

“Thank you, Daddy,” Winnie said as she wrapped an arm around her father’s waist. “Thanks for believing in me and doing this with me.”

 He patted her curled hair. “I take some of the blame for your love of movies, so I can shoulder some of the work as well. You’ve done good, beta.”

Her smile wavered. “I know I’ve been…uh, difficult for a few months.”

“No, just lost. You’re okay now.”

She squeezed his arm. “If you had a chance to do it all over again, would you have gone to America? Would you have tried to study film even though Dada and Dadi told you that you had to be in finance?”

He shook his head. “I would’ve done everything exactly the same,” he said. “I knew that one day I was going to have a daughter who would do all this so much better than I ever could.”

“How did you know?”

“I followed my heart.”

Winnie stood on her toes and kissed his cheek. “Thanks, Daddy.”

“And I listened to what Pandit Ohmi told me to do.”

“Very funny,” she said as her father snorted with laughter. She hugged him again, and they continued to watch the crowd. She still had some time before she gave the welcome speech and thanked the theater and volunteers. Mr. Reece was supposed to arrive soon with his surprise guest, and there were a few other details that were still left.

Like Dev. She hadn’t heard anything from him since he’d texted her that emoji.

 When she spotted Jai in his suit coming through the front door, she broke away from her father to meet him. He was carrying a giant box.

“Hey, gorgeous. Very nice suit.”

He grinned. “Thank you. Now that I’m free again, maybe I’ll catch me someone as hot as you here.”

“What? Whatever happened to Tara? The Indian Barbie look-alike you were at the carnival with?”

“Oh, we broke things off. Sort of.”

“Man, I’m sorry. You didn’t mention anything over the last few days.”

“Because it’s a ‘sort of,’ ” he said, smiling.

“Ah. Well, you’re better off, right? Come on, let’s take a peek.” Winnie motioned for him to follow her with the box to Eric’s office.

She opened the box and removed the first trophy from the bubble wrap. The plaque read FIRST PLACE—MEHTA FILM FESTIVAL and the date. The figurine was a star on top of a base that looked like a film reel.

“I can’t believe I’m really doing this,” she said. “I went from nothing to chair, then to nothing again, and now I’m part of a team that’s hosting a festival.”

“You mean you’re leading a team,” Jai said. “This is the key to your NYU application.”

Winnie grinned. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re so right. Things worked out after all.”

The door burst open, and Bridget came to a stop right before she would have slid into the desk. “You have to come and see this.”

 “What? What happened?”

Bridget dragged Winnie through the door and into the lobby. “Winnie, look.” She pointed to a woman standing near the info table, talking to Winnie’s father, Eric, and Mr. Reece. Her hair was styled in a bohemian-chic cut, and the musical bangles on her wrist moved with each boisterous laugh. Winnie could hear her British accent from across the room.

“Oh my God,” Winnie said. “Is that who I think it is?”

Jai came up behind them and leaned his head in between Bridget’s and Winnie’s before whispering, “Who do you think it is? Because I have no clue what we’re looking at.”

“That’s Gurinder Chadha,” Bridget said reverently. “She’s supposed to come for the student film festival, but she’s here. Today.”

“This is your chance to really make an impression on your idol,” Bridget said. She gave her a little shove from the back. “Go get her!”

Winnie smiled her least-crazy smile when she approached the group. “Mr. Reece, Eric. Dad.”

Her father squeezed her hand. “Winnie, meet Ms. Chadha.”

Gurinder Chadha looked real, but in a surreal way, as if she had walked out of her TV and stood before her.