By Sonali Kokra Sep. 09, 2019
Who doesn’t want a teetotaller, non-smoker, six-feet-something hunk of a husband who would rather be in the gym at dawn than have a late night, plays geriatric games like rummy with you every night, and promptly goes to bed at 9, leaving you to write in peace?
Grandma K was a woman of many opinions and thoughts, chiefly about the kind of men her granddaughters ought to marry. As her favourite among an assembly line of 10, her most valuable advice — often also the oddest pronunciations — were saved for me.
“Men, like bread, are best when brown,” she once told me sagely during our afternoon siesta. I made some noises about racism and other politically correct considerations, but she was having none of it. She muttered something about not liking the way I “ogled at that blue-eyed boy” from that “boat film” (Leo, Titanic) and she was worried I’d run off to America to fulfil my “white boy fantasies”. Grandma K was many things, but tactful was not one of them.
“Yeh chora chokha se,” she told me another time, pointing at the screen with great satisfaction. Chokha, which means a deadly combination of good and appropriate was not a word Grandma K used often or lightly. You knew she really, really approved of someone when she used “chokha” to describe them. We were watching Dil Toh Pagal Hai on Zee Cinema, and the man on the screen was Akshay Kumar. Grandma K was thoroughly impressed with his family-first approach to life. A man who falls in love with a woman who came pre-approved by the parents was not a man you wanted to let slip.
This was in 1998, and I was deep in the throes of my one-sided love affair with Shah Rukh Khan, so naturally, I was most disgusted with Grandma K for suggesting that I abandon my one true love for, as she shrewdly pointed out that “dhuandar” body. The woman had predicted by shallow fixation for tall men long before I was sensible of it, damn her.
But now that the seed had been planted by the wily Grandma K, there was no stopping it from taking root. The man did have a body like a Greek God. His facial topography was mostly pleasant. The abundance of hair — both on the head and the chest — suggested a strong gene pool. And so, despite myself, I found myself secretly scribbling Akshay Kumar’s name while playing FLAMES during particularly odious maths classes. While Miss Motafaram droned on about a3 + b3 = (a + b)(a2 − ab + b2), AK and I went on fancy day dates to foreign locations in toy planes like the one he takes Pooja on in Dil Toh Pagal Hai. I also found out that if I used both our names in full — as in name + surname — in FLAMES, the outcome would be marriage. Naturally, by mid-terms, I had progressed to planning our wedding. I learned very little algebra that year, passing the subject only by the skin of my teeth, but my imaginary wedding planning game was on point.
I thought my love affair with Akshay — publicly, my heart still belonged to Shah Rukh — was a dirty little secret that was mine alone, but as 2001 rolled in and brought news of his marriage with it, I learned that I wasn’t alone in my misery and mourning. As it turned out, my two best friends were secretly harbouring their own intense infatuations with the man as well. And we each knew at least two other girls who were equally depressed that he was now off the market. Don’t laugh. At 14, you’re supposed to believe that you can be anything you want to be. It’s another matter altogether that when our parents were filling our heads with nonsense homilies like these, they didn’t think we’d apply the rule to dreams of becoming arm candy for a major movie star, alarmingly close to our parents’ age and far removed from our own. Who could’ve thought that the man with the weirdly prominent gums and halting guffaw could set so many teenage girls’ hearts aflutter? Not me.
Akshay Kumar was husband material, while Shah Rukh, Aamir, and Salman are the flings you remember in the shower 20 years later.
Now that we were airing our dirty laundry publicly, my friends and I were able to scientifically deduct the genesis of Akshay’s draw. And here’s what the collective wisdom of three horny teens came up with: Akshay Kumar was husband material, while Shah Rukh, Aamir, and Salman are the flings you remember in the shower 20 years later.
Stay with me here for a minute.
You want a man who looks at you with Shah Rukh’s piercing intensity. The kind of look that make your lady parts quiver and your skin instantly break out into gooseflesh. You want a man who looks like Salman (in the pre hit-and-run days, of course). And you want a man with Aamir’s gravitas and intelligence.
But what you also really, really want is a man with Akshay’s unparalleled earning potential, like Grandma K calls it, a “gharelu” disposition, and the discipline to ensure that your family unit gets enough exercise because you’re self-aware enough to know that if left to you, your family would never see the insides of a gym or put on a sneaker and go for a run. The drool-worthy body with washboard abs and rippling muscles don’t hurt one bit. Sure, the chest hair situation is less than ideal, but that’s the reason God created cold body wax for.
If I were to take out a matrimonial ad for a sundar, susheel and sanskari groom, I’d likely end up describing Akshay Kumar inadvertently.Who doesn’t want a teetotaller, non-smoker, six-feet-something hunk of a husband who would rather be in the gym at dawn than at late-night, plays geriatric games like rummy with you every night, and promptly goes to bed at 9, leaving you to write in peace? There’s a reason Twinkle Khanna has been able to write so many books in so little time, and that reason is her sleeping husband, I am convinced.
It’s AK’s birthday today. I can safely say I’m no longer in love with him. Much of that has to do with his recent deshbhakt-in-residence schtick. Some of it is to do with my discovery of Milind Soman and his sinewy long legs. I may want to barf at his current fondness for shilling patriotism in every way he can, but I can’t deny his starring role in my wedding fantasies as a teen. Just for that, happy birthday AK, you had Grandma K’s seal of approval to be my future groom. You should be honoured.
Sonali Kokra is a journalist, writer, editor and media consultant from Mumbai. She writes on feminism, gender rights, sexuality, relationships, and lifestyle. In her 12-year-long career, she has written for national and international magazines, newspapers and websites. She was last seen as the lifestyle editor of NDTV, and HuffPost.com, and has published a coffee table book on Shah Rukh Khan.