Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Thousand Memories: mistaken identities and dopplegangers

The Nehru Centre, Mayfair, 2003. Bibi and I had been invited to an Indo-Nigerian cultural event. As we waited for the performance to start amidst the name-dropping pukkarati, a distinguished-looking late middle-aged man approached me. He had silvery hair and dignified eyebrows. Fixing me with a studied air, in an expensively educated baritone, he asked, “Excuse me, aren’t you the director?” Flattery's warm flush spread beneath my skin: to be mistaken for a brahmin film director was shirodhara for the ego. For a nanosecond I considered a parallel existence, but alas, it was not to be..

When I was 18 or 19, I found myself in Liverpool (city of my maternal grandparents) on the steps of a grand building in the city centre. A scouser spotted me and made a bee-line. In purest Toxteth-ese, he told me arr ey wor a fantastic geg dah was last nayte mete... and how sure he was we were going to be famous. Again, it was with mild regret that I had to dent into his verve and turn down a slightly more glamorous double-life as a muso. A few years later at uni, someone told me I was a dead ringer for the lead singer of the Brilliant Corners, an also-ran Indie band. I hunted down the album with the picture of the group on the back. And there I was, staring back at myself with a serious mien, incarnated within another life.

Perhaps all of us have at least one or two dopplegangers in a somewhere elsewhere on the planet. They are the closest we get to ghosts of ourselves - spectres of alternative destinies. Some of us wander the earth, and never get to meet our other versions. Others, like myself, see them on the back of books or albums, or sideways through conversations. How strange that our very shape might be in more than one place at once..


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