Rohit Vyas’s Corner
An Encounter With The Bachchans
This has been a dramatically busy summer in the Indian American community, with religious observances, association banquets, conventions, musical extravaganzas, star-studded presentations of every hue and color and, of course parades around the country observed in honor of India’s Independence Day.
In the midst of this whirlwind activity came two dramatic reunions for me that brought the past, the present, the future and all of life and its intricacies onto one delightful page.
A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of the “Unforgettable” tour headlined by super star Amitabh Bachchan I happened to stop by a hotel bar for a drink at the invitation of a friend who runs the well-known midtown Manhattan establishment.
Approximately 10 minutes into our conversation about the world I felt a tap on my left shoulder. I turned around to be greeted by a tall, handsome, grinning Abhishekh Bachchan who says “Hello, Rohit. How’ve you been?” I’ve known Abhishek when he was a college-going youth here in the United States. He frequently stopped by our studios at TV ASIA in the Princeton area back in the 1990’s. After all, his father, Amitabh Bachchan, was my boss, the man who hired me as the News Director of TV ASIA and made me the first South Asian face to be seen nationally in North America.
Seeing Abhishek there in a hotel lobby, casually dressed, now no longer just a student but a budding film star in his own right instantly made me proud. I always treated him like a younger brother and felt protective about him back in those days.
“I’m doing well, Abhi,” I responded. “And you look terrific! Good to see you again after all these years!”
He had to have read my mind, because just as I was about to ask about the Big B, he called out to another part of the lobby, where the tall icon was surrounded by a bevy of admirers, “Dad, look who’s here!”
The elder Bachchan turned around, walked over to us and, with a smile he reserves for those closest to him, he said: “Hello Rohit. All well?”
He hadn’t changed! That’s exactly what he would ask me whenever he came in to the studios every three or four weeks. My answer was now what it was then: “Absolutely, Da, thank you and you?” I always addressed him as Da, a short form for the word “Dada” which in the Bengali language means elder brother.
For the next few minutes we tried to catch up on things past and present, not an easy task when all kinds of fans interrupt and want to have their pictures taken with the Super Star, the younger Bachchan and his wife Aishwarya, who was also there in the lobby.
But we managed to catch up on a few good things past and present. Now that I had seen Abhishek after so many years, I was eager to say hello to his sister Shweta, whom I have also not seen since her days at college, and Mrs. Jaya Bachchan, the remarkable First Lady of the Bachchan family whom I always referred to as “Didi” (sister). They happened to be in another part of New York City and so I asked Amitabh and Abhishek to give them my regards.
It was time to leave the Bachchans to their eager fans. And so as I was about to say goodbye the Big B said: “I hope you saw the show.”
“Of course,” I replied.
“And what did you think?” he asked.
“Hey,” I responded, “Remember what I used to say back then? It’s a Bachchan concert. It has to be the best!”
With that, I left Amitabh to his Fans, Abhishek saw his wife off at the hotel elevator and then headed into the local Starbuck’s for coffee. I made my way back to my corner spot at the bar where my hotel executive friend was waiting patiently.
All our lives were now continuing on their merry way.
As we clinked our glasses in an emphatic “cheers”, my friend remarked: “In all these years that I’ve observed chance meetings like this between you and the Big B what I’ve always noticed most is the mutual respect. The respect and regard with which you talk to him and the same respect and regard that he reciprocates to you. You guys must have been an amazing team when he headed your network.”
Indeed, we were. This evening presented a wonderful trek down memory lane.
And just a week ago, came another dramatic reunion. What if I told you that one was almost 40 years in the making?
More in my next Talking Points!