Friday, December 16, 2005

The unusual story of how I saw Catherine Zeta Jones

Now that her movie "The Legend of Zorro" just finished playing in Chennai's cinemas what better time to write about the interesting situation of how I saw her, than now.

It was late November 2001. I would have hardly guessed that my days in North America were coming to an end. I was in Toronto, Canada with my sister who was having her first baby. My mother was also there. 9/11 had just happened and I was also wondering if I would have problems getting back into the U.S. My brother was in the U.S.A too just across the border in Michigan on a company assignment and it was only natural for our mother to visit him too. However she needed a US tourist visa to visit him. This could be obtained at the US Consulate in Toronto.

November the 21'st, 2001 was a cold day. It was raining softly but not snowing yet. Dampness was everywhere. After meticulously checking and re-checking the visa application and attached documents I drove my mother to the consulate that was located downtown. So after exiting off the freeway I made some turns into streets near the consulate. I may have to refer to Google earth for the street names. But then as I was just passing through one of them I almost screamed in delight when I saw a very familiar sight. It was the triple arched entrance of a building that I have seen a thousand or more times on the cover of one of rock's greatest albums, "Moving Pictures" by Toronto's very own band RUSH.
I had seen this triple arched entrance in a friend's album in Toronto and even asked them where they took it but forgot all about it later. I tried to drive as slow as possible and savour the sight and at the same time commit to memory the name of the street, St.Mary's street that I now realize that I might have got wrong. The actual entrance featured on the cover is of the Parliament building at Queen's Park located in the same vicinity and after some investigation I doubt strongly now if that was the building that I saw or another with a similar entrance. Maybe it was another entrance to the same building (like the backside). I just told myself I would come here some day to take a pictue. Anyway this surprise was no match for what was in store inside the American Consulate.

Having stood in the mile long queues from 4.30 A.M in the morning at the American Consulate for my H1B visa in Chennai (the situation was just the opposite at the U.S consulate in Singapore though) I knew the situation in Toronto wouldn't be that bad. By the time we got there the queue inside the consulate's compound was slowly moving into the office. Even if we had to stand outside the office it wouldn't have been a problem as the area was fully roofed. Once inside there were several counters. Already an Indian family were having a tough time with the person behind one of the counters. Of the applicants present 90% of them would have been Chinese. The atmosphere seemed very tense with the apprehension of the prospective applicants. As I realised it would take some time for our turn I asked my mother to sit in one of the seats and wait for my call when our turn to move to a counter would arrive. The waiting was frustrating. No one seemed to be even talking. The crowd inside was also swelling gradually.

Then it happened. Just as I was looking at the tinted glass of the counters a familiar face suddenly appeared behind it. It didn't take long for me to recognize the face and form that had cast a spell on everyone who saw the "Mask Of Zorro".
"That is Catherine Zeta Jones", I screamed to the Chinese guy standing in front of me who only responded with the most dumbest nonchalant look that I could ever elicit as a response. I frantically looked for my mother but she was seated somewhere I couldn't see and I didn't want to make a scene about what I had just seen. How slender and beautiful Catherine looked. She was being introduced by a sharp dressed man to the personnel behind each of the counters and some were so busy that they didn't even seemed to care. But my eyes didn't want to spare even one second of her view. It followed her like a hawk. For a couple of seconds I tried to look at the people in the hall and to my surprise not one seemed to know who was in the house. "How strange", I though to myself. Maybe no one expected such a thing. The tinted glass was the real deterrent.

I was only wondering how it would have been if I had been at one of those counters when she passed by. (Imagine screaming to CZJ and asking for an autograph when you are being interviewed at one of those counters!) One thing was sure. I wasn't going to be called at one of the counters before she left the scene. The whole introduction thing would have lasted just a few minutes and she was gone.

When it was my turn I went to one of the vacant counters. Mother quickly joined me as she was looking at the counters too and there was no need to call her. The interview for the visa was fun partly because of the comfort created by CZJ's coming and going and the rest because of how mother was answering her questions. Here are two of the questions and her answers to them.
Interviewer: "Maam, are you sure you will not overstay in the US on your holiday there?"
Mother: "No. I have to go back to my daughter who just delivered. I have to look after her and the baby."
Interviewer: "Maam, can I take it that you will not apply for a Green Card while in the US."
Mother: "No. No. I don't want to stay that long. I have to hurry back to my husband in India. He is alone there." I almost laughed for this one but concealed it with a big smile to maintain the seriousness of the interview. I was confident that things would go fine. We were then asked to go to another room for something (I now don't remember for what) but I was just waiting to get out of the tense room. Outside there was a cheerful looking security person at the door dressed in an attractive uniform and to whom I couldn't wait to ask, "Wasn't that Catherine Zeta Jones a short while ago?". The unforgettable reply "Amazing girl, isn't she?" confirmed who I had seen that morning.

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