If you don’t already know, we have a notorious record of bullying her.
We in fact, once made her talk to John Abraham.
A week before her budday:
We were keen to play a joke on her budday. Though it would have been a cakewalk if we used another personality, we wanted to challenge ourselves. How about making her believe she’s going to meet John Abraham again. And on her budday.
Why would she believe it coming from me? Or from anyone if it involves John Abraham?
We took boss into confidence and told him about our plan of creating an assignment for Shonali on her budday. We ll print the invite for the interview with John Abraham on a letter head of some PR firm, we said. Get a real PR firm to give us their letter head, he suggested.
We then called S from PR firm Pratika. S was a friend, she knew Shonali too. She was more than game. And excited too. I’ll get working right away and fax it to the Deputy Ed by noon tomorrow she said.
Fast Track and Castrol were products he was endorsing but he could also be in town for promoting Taxi No. 9211 we told her. Details are necessary because a journalist always does homework before the interview.
Friday, a little after noon:
S says she’s faxed it.
We tell boss and he says maybe we have to make it more believable now. He would assign it to Shonali’s colleague M and she would turn it down on the excuse that she has someother work and pass it on to Shonali to cover.
So we took M into confidence. Now, M is one of Shonali’s very good buddies and sits right next to her. “She hates surprises. She’s gonna be really hurt,” she said. “Too bad, the plan is on. The trap is set. You have to do this,” we told her.
M and Shonali are in meeting with Boss when Boss hands over the fax to M asking her to do it. M we heard was a brilliant actor, turning it down saying “For once, you’ve given me a good assignment but I can’t do this because Im going to Pondy. Let Shonali do it,” she said.
It turns out that Shonali didn’t want that extra assignment on her budday since she already had one in the evening. But then, this was John, so maybe she was secretly thrilled because she didn’t show it out.
As Boss told us, “She didn’t seem too keen in the beginning, maybe because she was second choice.” But her sister, who also works with us, assured us that she probably was just a little bummed about having to work a little more on her budday.
S messages us saying Shonali has fallen for it. “But she asked why Barista, Khader Nawaz Khan Road? Won’t he get mobbed?”
Maybe Shonali was getting suspicious. And soon enough, she called me. Before I could take it, she cut the line. A few minutes later, I called her back. Engaged.
Did she find out?
So I message her: “Happy Birthday Shonali. Almost forgot.”
She calls back in a coupla minutes. “Idiot. Is this how you wish people for their budday?”
“No, I tried calling, it was busy.”
“Ok (laughs) my Budday is tomorrow anyway,” she says.
“Oh! I thought today was 4th.”
“No, it’s tomorrow.”
“Okay, tell me what is John Abraham doing tomorrow?” she asks.
“John? You mean Abhishek (given that I made her talk to Abhishek last time around making her believe it was John Abraham)… He has some Ad Club awards tomorrow (the awards were only on March 9 but how would she know)”
“No, idiot. I’m meeting the real John Abraham tomorrow,” she says.
“No, seriously, listen. Im doing an interview,” she beams.
I’m grinning, but that, she cant see over phone. We announce it to everyone at work.
Shonali tells every single person who’s called to wish her from 12 that she’s meeting John Abraham.
“I thought it was destiny,” she told us later at Barista. “That John was coming down for my birthday.”
As she leaves home, her Mom tells her: “You are going to meet John. Dress up” (Yeah, even the Mom knew)
She asks the photography department to send a photographer for the interview (Yes, we took the photography chief into confidence too!)
She calls S from Pratika to check if the interview is on. “Yes, it’s exclusive only for you. They don’t want any other media. So please don’t tell anyone,” says S.
Half an hour before the designated time:
I message Shonali asking where the assignment was taking place. “N wants to do an interview for the Times. When and where are you meeting John?”
Shonali calls back to yell at me: “You idiot… Why did you have to tell N. It’s an exclusive interview only for us. M came to know about it somehow and asked me to do it.”
“Oh, Im sorry. I’ll tell N you didn’t reply back,” I say, picking up the John Abraham poster at Archies, still grinning. I meet a coupla friends there and tell them about the prank. “Oh yeah, she was bragging about it this morning,” says one. “Awrite then, come over to Barista,” I say.
Soon, we are at Barista. Abhishek, who’s now so used to being called John (I’ve saved his number in my phone as John Abraham, just to use it as a readymade prank on strangers), is ready with an issue of Filmfare that says: “How to proposition John Abraham” on the cover. The poster was his idea. There it was, this topless picture of John, all sweat and muscle.
John also got a cake ready for her. I made a last minute Book of Ugly Pictures album with the junk photographs we get at the office of ugly celebrities, wannabes and criminals from the Police reporter’s beat. Another colleague S got her a birthstone. We put all our gifts into a pink bag and waited.
Soon, the photographer walked in (courtesy Chief of Photography) thinking John was showing up. He had even seen the movie and was so keen to meet John. He couldn’t believe it was a prank. But we told the Chief, we explained to him. Apparently, the chief was in a good mood to send a photographer to cover Shonali’s surprise.
So there we were, all ready. Shonali was delayed by Boss as they made her cut a cake and her immediate boss offered to have her dropped at the assignment venue because she was late. Shonali was nervous. She was late, she couldn’t prepare enough because she was dragged in to cut the cake at Boss’s room.
As soon as she got out of the car, she ran in to see S from Pratika waiting at the door. “Is he here,” Shonali asks anxiously. “Yes,” says S ushering her in.
Shonali walks in. We sing. Abhishek is wearing that John Abraham poster on him.
Slowly it sinks in, she’s embarassed but smiling so wide you can’t see her eyes. She walks over to John’s poster and covers her face, still laughing. She then playfully keeps hitting Abhishek before going on to give him a hug. We make her pose for pictures. “You know where this is going,” I tell her.
A few minutes later, M walks in to apologise. And then Boss. Our photographer was such a sport, he kept clicking endlessly… some 31 pictures in 30 minutes. Too bad Shonali doesn’t want them here. Can we have some public demand please.
So to further embarass her, we sing Happy Budday three times during our stay there and each time specifying “Happy Budday Dear Shonali Muthalaly of The Hindu”…
“This is better than the real John Abraham,” she said, despite her embarassment. “I wasn’t really prepared. But I came ready with questions. What actors ya, all of you.”
How can you even think John’s coming to town exactly on your budday? “Well, I knew I couldn’t trust this one (pointing at me) but how did I know I couldn’t trust my Boss,” she said.
“I thought it was destiny that John and me meet on my budday.”
Destiny indeed. To be fooled twice. This time by the “real” John Abraham.