Leonardo and Drew

I discovered Tom before Leo, but somehow I completely forgot about Drew

Poster of Leonardo DiCaprio starrer 1997 movie Titanic.

Autobooks were popular at our school. They were diaries where friends could jot down something, creating a lifelong memory. It was customary for friends to stick photos in each other’s photobooks, so we could look at their faces whenever we missed them. 

Back in the 2000s, we students knew that we would eventually have to part ways. Some of us, mostly girls, would get married, others would leave the village to pursue higher education, and some would start working.

We were convinced that after completing our SLC, it would be nearly impossible to reunite with school friends. This was before Facebook.

Filled with overwhelming emotions, we yearned for a tangible keepsake of our time together. Filling an autobook and having one filled was truly special. We poured our hearts out, expressing how our school life was coming to an end and how the new world awaiting us would never be the same. 

We wished our friends the very best in their future endeavours and humbly asked for forgiveness if we had ever hurt them. We even included some heartfelt shayari verses, along with our favourite food, name, place, actor, actress, movie, dress, and even surnames.

In the initial trimester of Class 10 we were engrossed in writing for friends and requesting them to return to write in our autobooks. The task of choosing the most captivating photo for the autobook posed quite a challenge. After all, it was supposed to last a lifetime.

My elder sister only made her autobook when she was in her +2 when I was in Class 7. Since she had attended an English medium school until Grade 6, her English was good. Additionally, living in Biratnagar, the biggest city I knew back then, she naturally wrote the autobook in English. 

Everything she wrote was original, she knew the meaning of every word. Following her example, my other sisters also wrote the autobook in English. Both had copied our elder sister. When my turn came, I naturally followed suit. 

We not only copied the format but also the best actor, actress, movie, and everything else. We used to believe that whatever our elder sister liked must be likeable and unique.

Her favourite actor was Leonardo DiCaprio, the actress was Drew Barrymore, and the movie was Titanic. They became our favourites too, although we had no idea who the two were or what Titanic was all about. But we trusted her taste. If she admired them, they must be truly remarkable. 

It seemed that my friends shared the same sentiment, as they too copied Leo and Drew as their favourites actor and actress. Although we had different preferences when it came to Nepali and Indian actors, Leo and Drew were the common Hollwood choices.

I first learned about Titanic during my college years and saw the movie in 2008. Before that, I had already watched another film starring DiCaprio, Blood Diamond, in 2007. While I enjoyed both movies, my favourite actor at the time was Tom Hanks. I discovered Tom before Leo, but somehow I completely forgot about Drew.

I have a problem with English films. I can easily remember the plot, but I cannot put a name to the actors. The same goes for songs - I could recognise the tune, but could not remember the singer’s  name. I am better now, but still struggle to remember their names. 

Five years ago, I googled Drew Barrymore, and can you believe it: I had actually watched two of her movies multiple times on DVD, ’50 First Dates’ and ‘Charlie's Angels’. I had even seen her in ‘Music and Lyrics’, but I had no idea that she was the Drew Barrymore who was my sister’s favourite and through her mine, and the favourite of the entire class. I wonder if Leo and Drew are still favourites of any of my friends or even my sisters? 

While moving flats in Kathmandu multiple times, I misplaced my autobook. It would be fascinating to revisit our autobooks, and to see how our preferences have evolved over time. Some were altered as we discovered better options, while others were modified as our understanding improved.

Anbika Giri is a novelist and author of children’s books in Nepali. Angrezi is her monthly column in Nepali Times about learning English in Nepal. See her previous columns here.

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