On a recent Delhi-Mumbai flight, I became a serial dreamer. It was a smooth takeoff and, as we levelled at 33,000 feet, the seat belt sign switched off so I decided to take a quick nap. My book, Controversially Yours, had already created a stir in India over my sharp remarks about Sachin and Rahul, both of whom were no match-winners (they were in fact even afraid to face me). But to be honest, I was more pleased to be back in the news, this time as an author (although Anshu Dogra, my co-writer, helped a lot in putting the book together. But what the heck!)
Anyway, before I crashed out (‘slept’ I’m told is better usage, especially aboard planes!) I said to myself: “Hey Shoaib, you are an author now!” And once asleep, I dreamt I am a novelist. My new book is out (aptly titled ‘Conveniently Mine’) where yours truly is the central character again—the engine of the Rawalpindi-Lahore Express. I am a very committed one and run non-stop without going off track. This makes me the favourite of coach No. 1, who eggs me on. We are soon inseparable and ditch all the other coaches and run off to Karachi to check the tracks there and live happily ever after. (Incidentally, when I narrated this dream to Wasimbhai, he was rather dismissive. He snidely remarked that I should think of becoming a coach and not the Express since I had run out of steam. )
That apart, soon after my Rawalpindi Express dream faded out, another replaced it. Here I am ‘Swinging Shoaib’ who sneaks in with a cricket ball to nightclubs from Soho to Secunderabad and bowl inswinging yorkers and outswings at people on the dance floor. My presence becomes such a big hit that Fridays are declared cricket nights and patrons are provided bats, helmets, gloves, arm guards and pads for protection. With several nightspots introducing cricket nights, out-of-work fast bowlers suddenly find employment. And I become their hero and prime party animal.
And finally there was dream No. 3 where I am a mean cricketer by day but an introvert poet by night. Why, I even develop a Javed Akhtar lisp as soon as the sun goes down! Anyway, in a nutshell, I find an obscure publisher for my Urdu shairi and paid critics hail it as a classic. I soon have a huge fan following. Women swoon when I recite, men break into ‘wah-wahs’. But even as I bask in my success comes news that Dawn has published an expose—my poems, it says, are not mine but translations from a book of English poetry I studied at Elliot High School, Morgah. “This is not Akhtar’s voice but that of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Byron. The translations were done by one of his friends from Asghar Mall College, Rawalpindi.” This dream was fast turning into a nightmare. Luckily, I was woken up just then by the announcement that we will soon be landing in Mumbai. Thank God for small mercies....
(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)