Winter 2011. The month of Valentine. City of Joy.
I am waiting for the sunrise. As I sip my Darjeeling tea, a newspaper slides inside my hotel room, almost how Shammi Kapoor landed in his iconic ‘yahoo’ song.
I looked at the headline, and smiled. I knew, I was about to be a part of history. A quick shower, quicker breakfast and we all started prepping up for the event.
This was during my tenure as Vice President, with Pritish Nandy Communications in Mumbai. Chairman, Pritish Nandy had organized a special open air evening at Tollygaunge Club to unveil his book Again. He was revisiting poetry after 29 years. I was in-charge of the media and hospitality for the guests.
Winters in Kolkata beats any season around the world. As the sun was setting behind the mist, the lush golf course looked like those country side gateaway. The birds tweeted, the trees swayed and guests started walking in. The stage was set, sound got checked, lights were on and wine was adding its own colour. People walked in formals and women wore their costliest 12 yards. One could feel the moist on the tip of the trimmed grass. Men walked in boots, while stilettos broke the hearts of dews. But no one complained, as they were far and few.
Pritish was hosting a show in Kolkata after ages. He would insist that the show had to be the biggest. “Last time, I had my event in Kolkata. I made Amitabh Bachchan do a street play. There was lathi charge and mayhem. I want mayhem, I want people to talk about it,” he insisted.
I wasn’t sure about the mayhem, and I was not even born when Amitabh did a street act in Kolkata. So, I was under pressure to deliver a damn good event. Pritish being a journalist himself had mastered the art of pressure tactics. I knew that, even he knew that. The guests included Vidya Balan, Gulzar, Anupam Kher and former President APJ Abdul Kalam. Everyone arrived before scheduled time. We had organized a lounge area for our guests to mingle before the formal session.
While I was coordinating with demading Kolkata media for better positions to place their tripods and Anupam Kher’s particular kind of tea, I got a call from Pritish’s daughter Rangita Nandy. “Ram, where are you?” asked Rangita. I smelled emergency. Left Anupam with his cup of tea, and rushed towards the main gate. But to my dismay, the SOS was for Vidya Balan. She arrived in a traditional kanjeevaram and greeted me with a smile. “Kemon accho?” she asked. Though not so fluent in Bengali, Vidya always tries her best to converse in Bengali with people she is comfortable with.
It took few minutes for me to settle her in, amidst vividly annoying Kolkata intellectuals or so called creme-de-la-creme of SoKo. While the conversation varied from ‘mochar chop’ to Che Guevara, from Kabir Suman to Rituparno Ghosh, every time the main door opened, the giggle wave and would fluctuate. It generally happens when you anxiously wait for someone special.
Finally, the convoy reached. His car followed in. Former President APJ Kalam reached the venue. Pritish greeted him personally and introduced him to all his dignitaries.
That was the first time, I saw him from close proximity. Humble, honest and profound. He knew about everything. Just what you expect from a personality like him.
While everyone in the team was designated to escort celebrities to the podium, I waited for my turn. And when you expect nothing, God bestows the best on you.
Surprisingly, I was asked to walk Dr Kalam upto the podium. It was almost three minutes walk. THREE MINUTES walk? Even before I could imagine, I was right beside the gentleman. Circled by commandos and beefy guys!
I started with a basic “Hello!” and started hunting for words…
A squeaky but firm voice broke my thought. He looked at my ID card and smiled. “So, what do you do young man?”
“I am working with… “
“I have already read that in your ID card. Apart from that…”
“Good. Even I write.”
“But sir, I write on films…”
“Doesn’t matter. Make sure that you are proud of your work. Every word you write, will stay as your legacy. That’s what you are worth.”
“Sir, that’s your greatness. I am an ordinary person.”
“When an ordinary person walks that extra mile, he becomes extraordinary… “
The journey suddenly ended… He went on stage. He graced the event. Mesmerized people with his Tamil poems, cracked jokes and left the venue after the formal launch of the book.
The evening continued. Pritish read verses from his book, spoke about his journey.
I looked above. It was a full moon night, or just my imagination. It was a night, that stayed with me. It was a night, that never visit me again.
Categories: Ram Kamal Mukherjee