Speaking of celebrities

Updated: Dec 5, 2018

If I ever sat down to write a list of things I have been unlucky with in life, celebrity interaction would take the numero uno spot.

It was the summer of '05, when the Pakistan cricket team was touring India. The formidable Pak lineup of Inzamam, Afridi and Younis Khan was matched by our holy trinity of Ganguly, Tendulkar and Dravid. Dravid is of particular significance here. His gutsy demeanour I admired, his stylish shots I emulated and his handsome looks I envied. A dreamy pin-up poster of the Indian vice captain adorned my cupboard, an honour I have bestowed upon none since.

Of particular significance also, is my penchant for getting haircuts. The day following India's defeat at Keenan Stadium, Jamshedpur, I decided to pay (yet another) visit to my barber. Bear in mind, those were the days when mobile phones were a rarity and it was impossible to contact someone (me, in this case) at the market.

The landline phone at my house rang, and was attended to by my mother. My friend at the other end, asked my mom to send me over to his house quickly, without a moment's delay. My friend's father, a pilot, was responsible for flying the cricketers over to the next venue. This would allow us kids, a glorious opportunity to spend an hour, up close and personal, with our boyhood heroes at the airport!

Alas, my mother had to tearfully (not really) put down the phone saying, "Lekin beta, woh toh abhi baal katane gaya hai."

My friends spent the next several weeks, recounting in vivid (albeit exaggerated) details about their encounter with the demigods. I died a little inside, each time they would mention how heavy Sehwag's bat was, how tall Inzamam looked in person or how graciously Dravid gave them batting tips.

The year was 2001, when the Jamshedpur born Priyanka Chopra had won the Miss World title and when Nick Jonas was probably still in his nappies. PeeCee was the guest of honour at our school function and the smitten schoolboys were raring to catch a glimpse of her. But, not all junior school students were to have the honour of bunking class and attending the function. I, being a member of the elite Scouts & Guides, was one of the lucky few entitled to a hall pass.

Moments before Miss Chopra was to arrive, a scuffle broke out at the venue, and our Scouts instructor, in half broken English, instructed, "You boys go back." I was crestfallen on hearing of the sudden change in plans, but the dutiful me, went back to my classroom without so much as a whimper.

The next day I overheard some of my fellow Scouts raving about how amazing Priyanka was. On enquiring, I found out that I was the only one who left the hall and that the instructor merely wanted us to 'go and sit at the back', and not 'go back to class'. You cannot blame me for having turned into a grammar nazi ever since.

Many would know that I am an Imtiaz Ali fan-boy. So much so that I watched Jab Harry Met Sejal all alone in the theatre - a decision that I have now come to regret.

Imtiaz is an alumnus of the school where my sister studied. One afternoon, my sister returned home from school to gleefully announce how the famous Bollywood director was the judge for the annual school play, of which she was a participant.

I can neither confirm nor deny how crucial this incident was in influencing my decision to switch over to my sister's school a few years later. The English professor at my new school, a stage actor himself, would oftentimes coax us into enacting Macbeth scenes with the lure of bagging a role in his celebrity student's next flick. With all seriousness, he would take out his mobile phone and flash Imtiaz Ali's contact details for all to see.

After the success of Rockstar, Imtiaz returned home to Jamshedpur and I was certain he would visit his alma mater again. Having wagered on the right school, I had to laud my prescience. But as luck would have it (to be read as for inexplicable reasons), Imtiaz Ali chose to visit my previous school this time around. My mother, who was a teacher at my old school, was lucky enough to be the second member of the Agnihotri clan to meet him.

Thus concludes the legend of Anugrah of the House Agnihotri, First of His Name, Mother of Mischance and Repeller of Celebrities.

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