It was December 31st of 2006 and I was working on this last day of the year, while everyone were planning what to wear to their new-year partayyy.
I was an intern and was functioning as a restaurant hostess in Sampan, which was a Chinese specialty restaurant in Holiday Inn, Juhu, Mumbai. The restaurant was very popular and the awesomeness of the food made celebrities and politicians, their regular clientele. Sampan shuts off in afternoon and opens again in the evening for dinner. The staff still lingers in the noon as Mumbai traffic makes it hard to commute back to home and return in the evening.
I got this image from Google, but during those times, I had my podium where the right plant is, next to the glass.
So as usual, the enormous, tall, doors were closed that noon and no one except the staff is allowed to be in the restaurant at that time. It's actually the party time as everyone is their own master and no one asks them to take orders, serve them food or clear the tables.
The restaurant strictly plays Instrumental English Classics while the restaurant is in operation and the stewards and the captains loathed that. So when it's noon, they take full advantage and play loud Bollywood and Marathi numbers 'like a boss'. I on the other hand, have nothing to do except watch them enjoy this pretty little life pleasures of hotel industry.
The staff that day were in an absolute Ganpati-visarjan mood. One of the Bollywood fanatic got a new CD which had all the frenzied numbers of the trio khans. The songs were mainly from the 80s and the 90s. I was standing at my podium on the entrance, tapping my feet to "Tan tana tan tan tan tara", allotting tables in my register for the evening reservations and wondering what non-pathetic people were doing that evening. And while I was doing this ghastly brain exercise, I saw someone walking towards the doors, through that glass.
As I said earlier, the restaurant was a famous spot for celebrities and I met tons of them on regular basis, for some of them to even know me by name. And though it was unusual in the beginning, it soon was an ordinary affair and I didn't had those oohh-aahhhs in my mind anymore. But this was something abnormal as it was none other than Madhuri Dixit. It doesn't matter if you are a die-hard Madhuri fan, an admirer like me, of her talents or someone who didn't pay much heed about her existence, but she has that spark in her where she leaves an impact on everyone.
So, I had to rub my eyes again to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. I wasn't. It was her, with her father and her two boys. She was walking towards me.
She was wearing black pants, blue kurti top and kolhapuri chappal on her feet. She had her hair in a braid and didn't have a single ounce of make up on her skin. Unlike her appearance on television, she looked thinner and a few shades lighter.
OMG, she is coming towards the locked door. What do I do? What do I say? And while I thought that, the mash-up of all her songs and movies were playing in mind, in no particular order.
I started raiding my drawer to find the keys. I could at least open the door and tell her we were closed.
"Good afternoon. I am afraid, we are closed. I am so sorry. We open at 7." I started rambling still looking at her.
And there... there came that thousand watts smile. "I know, Main sirf sham k liye order dene aayi thi. (Hindi for - I know, I just came to place an order for the evening.) I have a party for 30 people at my house"
Her voice can't be more magical.
It was against the hotel rules to let any guests sit in the restaurant during closed hours. If they want to place an order, they have to call or either sit outside in the coffee shop. But how do I gather the audacity to tell Madhuri Dixit that she had to wait outside, she can't come in.
"Umm... let me check what I can do" I had wrinkles on my forehead now.
The bulb lit on my head. I asked them to wait and frantically ran like a kid towards my forever-laughing-happy-go-lucky-24 hours-jokes-maker-captain. He was the head, in absence of the manager and it wasn't hard to convince him.
"Areee bulao bulao.. koi gal nahi. Me sambhal lunga. Tu sab handle kario par, off hours me toh koi kaamchor nahi aayega" (Hindi for - No biggie, call them in, but you have to handle everything as no one is going to get off their asses in off hours) pointing towards the yawning stewards. They have been working there for more than a decade and even Madhuri wasn't new for them.
"Thank you sir jee" and I ran again towards Madhuri.
Broke rule no. 1
"Welcome to Sampan. Well, you can have a seat here and I will help you with your party order."
"You are so sweet. Thank you for doing that." awwwwww
She was the first actress I came across, who didn't come with a baby-sitter to handle the kids.
But you know what,
she should have.
Her kids were maniacs. Cute maniacs.
They started running around the whole restaurant. Climbing on sofas and tables and everywhere they could manage to.
The hotel is going to sack me for taking such decisions, I thought.
I watched them twisting my head in all the directions, as they jumped like ninjas.
And baaaaaaaaammmm... they broke a glass.
"Arin..... come here" she shouted.
"Me tula saangitla. Majha aayushya mushkil kela tyani" (I told you. They've made my life difficult.) complaining to her dad in Marathi.
"I am sorry. Te raakshash aahet" (I am sorry, they are devils) she told me.
Now I understood pretty much everything in Marathi, but I couldn't speak any. I just giggled and said,
"It's okay. They are cute."
"Haha.. you should come home and see them"
I handed her the menus and waited for her to tell me what she wanted for her party.
She was going through the menu like a baffled kid, who didn't know what was written in it. She speaks with her eyes in real life too. They said she had no idea what to do.
Aaaj na chhodunga tujhe, dum dum ma dum... started playing on the khans CD.
Holy moly! what on the world is happening. How could I forget to switch off those catastrophic songs! It seems like we are doing this on purpose. (The song was from one of Madhuri's movie)
But to my surprise, she started tapping her feet and whispered the lyrics to the song, still staring at the menu. Can she be anymore cuter?
"Khurchi ghe aani bas majhya barobar" (take a chair and sit with me) she said.
So... I bragged. I couldn't understand "pretty much everything" in Marathi.
"I am sorry"
She got up, took a chair and pulled it out for me. I had the tadpole eyes by now. Is she really her?
"I am sorry I don't understand Marathi that well."
"I am sorry I don't understand Marathi that well."
"No problem. Bas Ikde" (Marathi for -sit here) I was laughing in my head.
So I sat with three generations of Dixits and from that time on, she wasn't a star to me. She made me forget she was.
"See, I want a complete Vegetarian meal for 30 people today evening and I don't understand these names. Help me with the order." she requested.
Fortunately, I was a vegetarian too and had gorged on every Vegetarian dish on that menu. FYI, I haven't eaten a better Chinese than Sampan, yet.
I took out my petite diary and pen and started jotting down dishes and the number of servings she would need.
Meanwhile, Raayan and Arin (she told me their names) were still jumping around their Grandpa. They sprung towards me and the younger one started swaying by my shoulders which messed up my hospitality-styled-dorky hair.
"Raayan, I would never bring you out again if you behave this way. Maushi la sorry bol" (say sorry to aunt). So I was her sister now.
"It's ok." It was really okay.
Madhuri kept discussing the party with her dad, while I did my work. Her dad was as respectful as her. A perfect gentleman.
"Mommy, I am hungry" said the elder kid in a cute American accent.
"Can we get some sandwiches here from the coffee shop?" she asked.
That was against the restaurant's rule too. The super-captain to the rescue again.
"Teri mat mari gai hai aaj" (you are nuts!) he concluded.
Broke rule no.2
I ordered some grilled sandwiches for the kids from the coffee shop. She was again very grateful and said thank you a couple of times.
It was more than an hour and a half, I was at the table discussing orders and servings, while the kids enjoyed their sandwiches. She, like a regular housewife, would ask me time and again to reduce the quantity.
She needed the order in the evening and said she would send her driver to pick it up. After finalizing everything, I went inside and entered the order in the system and gave her the check.
She read the numbers and out came those three magical words, that comes out of every Indian woman, at least once in her life.
"Kuch kam hoga?" (any discounts?)
I couldn't control my smile. I couldn't believe how genuine this woman was, regardless to her stardom.
I had the liberty to lessen a certain percentage from the check, which I happily did. She was grateful again.
"Thank you so much. You practically organized the food for my party and handled my kids. What's your name?"
"It was my pleasure. Dhara"
"Thank you Dhara." Her dad thanked me too and started lifting kids from the sofas to leave.
As per the
rules law, the employees are not allowed to ask for an autograph or request a picture with a celebrity guest. however that thought never came to mind because of her normal, real and pleasant attitude. It made me forget she was a star.
From that day on wards, I admire her as a person more than as a star.
P.S. This story came out of my mouth the first time I met my husband. He calls me a bragger and still mocks me whenever Madhuri appears on TV.
"Heyy, your didi is here!"