Standing in one corner of the enormous room that was filled with moving humanoid forms made up largely of silicone, hair gel and make-up, Sirius couldn’t decide if it was a good thing she didn’t have a wand. When she’d first come down to this Bollywood party, she’d thought it would have been wonderful to be able to twirl a wand and turn all these guests into baboons or bunny rabbits or perhaps baby donkeys. Transfiguration 101, if you will. Now, 20 minutes later, Sirius found herself wishing she were still in the cinema, regardless of what vile nonsense would have been playing on screen. Because another set of false eyelashes or a male cleavage, accompanied by either a happy squeal (“OMG, hiiii!”) or the sound of air kissing , and Sirius would have beheaded everyone in the room except for the wandering waiters had she had a wand.
Sirius blinked. One of the waiters was standing in front of her. “I’m sorry?” she asked slowly while her mind raced furiously, trying to figure out if this was a Slytherin plot. It would certainly go some distance in explaining why the Death Eaters were no longer in Azkaban.
“Snake?” The waiter repeated and then held up his tray. It had an array of toothpicked starters. Sirius peered at them. Each toothpick held together a little plasticky blob of red that was pretending to be a cherry and a cube of white cheese that looked like it was an amputated body part of Flubber’s albino cousin. Sirius dismissed the idea that a Slytherin wizard was behind this. Even Slytherins wouldn’t stoop this low.
“No, thank you.” Sirius managed out of gritted teeth.
Just then, a metallic scream rang through the room. Sirius looked around, hoping there had been some bloodshed. As it turned out, no. A portly man in a shiny suit was gingerly holding a microphone. Next to him was a massive, satin-shrouded thing. On the other side was a smiling Asian man.
Sirius decided a ‘snake’ wasn’t a bad idea after all. If not anything else, it would keep her mouth stuffed, which meant she wouldn’t be able to say anything. Before the waiter could wander away, Sirius took two toothpicks and stuffed what they’d skewered into her mouth.
“Friends, can I have your attention please?” said the man in the shiny suit. “First of all, I would like to thank everyone for being here. To see the whole Bollywood family here, it is making my heart melt. We really are a family and this gathering is proof of it.”
Sirius bit down viciously on a piece of cheese. Or was it a cherry? Who could tell?
“In a family, there is love, there is laughter, there are tears and there is great company,” continued Shiny Suit. “So everyone, let us raise our glass of jal jeera*. To Bollywood!”
Glasses were raised and cheers resounded across the room.
“But we are all here today, thanks to Mister Kaimedo of Mirrorkami. He has brought to India one of the most magical things known to man and I will request Mister Kaimodo light this lamp and then say a few words to grace this wonderful occasion.”
Sirius now noticed that there was an ornate, brass-coloured lamp with many protrusions, between the two men. A young woman came carrying a candle and handed it to Mister Kaimodo who took the flame near one of the protrusions. Nothing happened.
Shiny Suit said something to the young woman. She scuttled away. Mister Kaimodo diligently continued his efforts to light the lamp. Suddenly, there was light. The lamp had little fairy lights wrapped around it, which had clearly been switched on. Everyone cheered again and clapped.
Sirius wondered if she could stab herself with a toothpick.
Mister Kaimodo took the mic from Shiny Suit and said, “Hello. Thank you. I would like to share with you our greatest invention: a mirror. Thank you.” He stepped back. Both he and Shiny Suit looked expectantly at the satin shroud. It remained precisely where it was. The woman, who had previously entered with a candle, reappeared. She and Shiny Suit took two ends of the satin shroud. It came off smoothly, billowing into a magnificent red balloon before coming downwards and swaddling Mister Kaimodo.
There were gasps and a flurry of activity in the room as people tried to find the little Japanese man in the red satin, but Sirius barely noticed the commotion. She stared at what had been unveiled. It was a mirror all right, but it was no ordinary mirror. Sirius hadn’t seen it in years, but she was absolutely certain that right there, in the middle of Muggle Mumbai, on the ground floor of a multiplex, was the Mirror of Erised.
How on earth had the Mirror of Erised landed up here? What was going on in the magical world that its treasures were floating around the Muggle domain like this?
Sirius started walking up towards the mirror, all the while wondering if there was any way that she could steal it away. But where would she steal it to? And how? It wouldn’t fit in a taxi. In fact, she’d be lucky if she got her arms around it, forget about actually picking it up.
“Press on this side, please.” A young man with spiky hair shepherded Sirius away from the mirror, making her stand at a spot where she could look at its silvered surface without being reflected in it. The temptation to inch a little to her right and see what the Mirror of Erised would show in the reflection was like a physical tug. Just as Sirius was about to edge from her spot, she heard a series of familiar grunts. It was Bellatrix, or Balakrishna to be more accurate. S/he was right behind Sirius, along with the other ex-Death Eaters, and now they’d all crowded around Sirius.
“Well look who’s here?” Balakrishna cackled.
“No, don’t,” Sirius replied. “Look ahead at the mirror. It’ll be more helpful for your article. Presuming, that is, that you do actually write.”
There were angry hisses, but before the other ex-Death Eaters could do or say anything to Sirius, Mister Kaimodo’s voice was heard again. He had been saved from the red satin and was now standing before the mirror. “Yes, sorry, thank you,” said Mister Kaimodo. “It is the mirror. Please line up in an orderly fashion and come see yourself in it. We hope you will find it most fun.” He bobbed and waved his arm, as though presenting the gathered crowd to royalty.
Sirius was ready for all sorts of chaos and a mini stampede to reach the mirror, but there was actually a neat line within seconds. Clearly, some good could come of vanity. At this point, Sirius’s phone buzzed. She pulled it out. It was a message from Severuskar:
“Remember: copy. Tonight. Don’t make me call you again.”
Sirius stuffed the phone back into her bag and pulled out a notebook and pen. Cursing Severuskar, she got ready to write about what happened when Bollywood actors looked into the Mirror of Erised.
After a few minutes, Sirius realised it wasn’t the jotting down of what they saw that was the trying part of all this. Neither was it the exclamations that emerged when actors saw their reflections. Sometimes they saw a single image, sometimes they saw a series. The second took a little longer than the first, but both elicited the same reaction: a gasp and a squeal from the women, and a jubilant whoop and high fives from the men. Irritating as these reactions were, they were nothing compared to the real problem: being right in front, Sirius could see what the actors were seeing. And that, Sirius realised looking at her notes, was pretty frightening.
There was suddenly a chitter of excitement around Sirius. Someone whispered, “Rohit Shetty’s come! He’s going to look in the mirror!” A few people clapped excitedly. “What do you suppose we’ll see when he looks in the mirror?” one person asked. “Flying cars!” “Hero turning into tiger!” “More pelvic thrusts!” “Omg! Maybe we’ll see him doing the LUNGI DANCE**!”
The enthusiasm for these sights hit Sirius with the force of a cloud of sulphur. She felt her bile rising and everything in her body and mind rebelled. She couldn’t take it anymore, she couldn’t do this anymore, Severuskar be damned. Taking a deep breath, Sirius capped her pen, closed her book and reached into her bag to pull out the sanitary napkin again. “Sorry,” she said unapologetically to the ex-Death Eaters, now-film reviewers. “Nature calls.”
Sirius came out of the party, trying to look casual, even though her heart was pounding. She looked back. Everyone’s attention was fixed upon the mirror and there was a tall, egg-headed man walking up to it. No one would notice Sirius leaving now. If Sirius actually went to the bathroom, calmed down, returned to the party and then wrote an article on it, Severuskar would sneer contemptuously but carry that article. She’d have a home and new movies to see the next day. Everything would remain as it had for what seemed like 12 years.
If Sirius ran away, Severuskar would be livid, she’d have no home to return to, but she would be free and would never have to watch another Bollywood marathon.
The moment she was out of the multiplex, Sirius’s phone buzzed. A cold panic made her freeze. She’d been spotted. Someone had told Severuskar. Maybe the ex-Death Eaters had noticed her absence and were about to spill out into Andheri. There would be hell to pay now, thought Sirius, and she didn’t even have a wand. Slowly, she brought her phone out of her bag.
It was from LMPHNXMLL:
“Exciting offer! Phoenix Mills is waiting for you to collect your points! Make use of the early bird offer and get a 20% discount!”
For the first time since the start of the Bollywood marathon, Sirius felt the stirrings of joy within her. What a fool she’d been to think there was nothing for her but those terrible films and those reviewers! She wasn’t alone. She had what no one else in that multiplex had, no matter how powerful a Death Eater they may have once been. Sirius had the Order of the Phoenix Mills.
Buoyed with a rush optimism, Sirius jumped into a nearby standing auto rickshaw and ordered, “Andheri station! Quickly!”
“Don’t wanna,” replied the driver.
Sirius blinked. “What?”
“Don’t wanna go to Andheri station.”
Sirius looked around. There were no other free autos as far as she could see and She needed to get out of here. If anyone followed her… she didn’t even want to imagine what would happen if that happened.
“Listen, I’ll go wherever you want to go, but please, can we get out of here?” she said desperately.
The driver looked at Sirius. “Where are you headed?”
“I need to go southwards, to Phoenix in Lower Parel.”
For a second, Sirius thought the driver had said “Hogwarts”. She cleared her throat and asked, “Sorry?”
“Near the Mithi river, right? That’s Bogwards. Chal,” he said, revving up the auto. “I’ll take you till Bandra.”
And just like that, Sirius was on her way out of Andheri.
*A concoction involving water and cumin that has been masquerading as a beverage in India for centuries.
**The name of a song from Shetty’s film Chennai Express that became extremely popular. Watch it here if you have neither concern for your hearing nor good taste.