A night to remember

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sometimes in life, incidents or experiences which start on a sour note end up becoming nice memories. You get up on the wrong side of the bed, attract all the bad luck for the day, start cursing your stars and life in general, and suddenly out of the blue, something nice happens and the day instead of being a forgettable one, becomes a sweet memory.

I was in Delhi the other day to attend the marriage of my friends Mudit and Neha. The marriage ended at about 11 PM and I was dropped off at the airport by a couple of other friends who were attending the marriage. My flight was at 6:20 AM the next day morning, so I thought I could catch a quick nap in the airport lounge to prepare for day ahead which promised to be hectic. I was at the airport by 12 midnight, assuming they would let me in since I had a valid ticket.

Much to my chagrin and surprise, the security guys refused to let me in citing the rule that check-in is not allowed 2 hours prior to the departure of the plane. It was the start of the dreaded Delhi winter and I was in no mood to spend 5 hours in the cold wintry night. So I requested them to let me in. They were considerate and said that they would let me in if the airline security guys completed my security check. So off I went to the airline rep (Air Deccan), who like any other airline rep listened to my story with great interest and with a condescending smile and almost irritating politeness informed me that the security guys would be at their post only at 3 AM. That was 3 hours away. I repeated my request and asked him to check if it is possible for them to consider my case as it would only be a matter of a few seconds to check me in as I had only cabin baggage. With even more irritating politeness he refused again.

I had no option but go to the airport security personnel to plead my case again with them. To his credit, the guy manning the post at least understood my case and tried to provide solutions. He first asked me to see if I can find other beleaguered travelers so that we would all argue our case with the airline people. IN his words “Bheed jayegi to shayad kaam hoga!” I looked around and to my surprise found 3 other guys who I later learnt went through the same experience of pleading with the airline and security people. So off we went in a group and the airline rep this time responded with a touch of irritability. It was obviously the effects of caffeine and a long night in the office. This time though he tried calling those security guys (at the very least made a pretense of it!) with no luck!

It was the airport security guy again to our rescue who suggested we meet his superiors in the control room. The bunch of blokes sitting around scratching their balls in the control room, listened to our stories with great delight, scratched their beards, creased their foreheads, nodded to each other gravely, agreed with us that it’s cold out there and finally gave us the invaluable suggestion to sit in the line of chairs outside the arrivals block. That was the prospect I was dreading.

We had no fight left in us for the day. So we gave up and plopped ourselves with steaming cups of atrocious tasting instant coffee and waited for the T-Time. It was biting cold, which entered and hit my body through the thick jacket. I remained there hugging myself and cursing everyone from Air Deccan rep to the Lord above who art heaven and ought to be looking after me.

Amazingly, I survived like that till 3 AM, when finally we decided to try our luck again. I just slung my back pack over my shoulder, stretched my numb legs and turned around to see the security guys go into a tizzy. A couple of commandos with AK-47s appeared out of nowhere and took position at the entrance of the arrival block. I thought “Ohh! Here comes another ruddy politician!”

No surprises there! It was infact a ruddy politician, Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party, the Man Friday of SP supreme Mulayam Singh Yadav. He looked just as bald, round, rotund and jolly as he looks on TV and shaking hands at everyone in sight. Everyone in sight being the dozen security guys. I was about to get on with it when I saw emerging from the entrance a tall, lean guy in kurta pyjamas with a 2 day stubble, hands folded behind his back and a brooding expression on his face. It was Abhishek Bachchan, the Bluff Master who very recently played Bunty, the conman with great élan! I was staring at him when behind him came the man who is considered the God of Bollywood by many Рthe Big B! True to his name (given name), he was big, with his hair neatly parted in the middle (even at such an unholy hour!), with his trademark French beard and walking with the grace and charm that made him the matinee idol of the country.

Amitabh Bachchan is one of the very few film stars in the world that I really idolize and I would be lying if I dint say I watched him with a gaping mouth. Like a true blue moron I forgot the fact that I had a camera within arm’s reach in my backpack. But not as big a moron as my beleaguered co-traveler who forgot the fact that he had a camera cum video phone in his hand.

Now the presence of Amar Singh did not surprise me, as its common knowledge that he and the Big B are fast friends. You could say I could have asked for his (Big B’s … not Amar Singh’s) autograph atleast. Well it took my sleep deprived eyes a few seconds to register the fact that I was seeing a living legend in flesh and blood and he was escorted to his waiting car in a matter of seconds. I could console myself by thinking that the posse of policemen and commandos around him would not have let me anywhere around his royal presence!

We walked back to the airport departure terminal thinking “It wasn’t so bad after all, spending 3 hours in freaking cold!” As I said before what started as a nightmare turned out to be rather pleasant experience! No complaints there! I would sit in the same place again for another 3 hours just to see him walk by again!

Tailpiece: The next day, I read in the papers that the Big B has been admitted in the hospital with an Intestinal problem and after surgery is recuperating in Mumbai. My friend says "Obviously you are bad news to Big B. You took one look at him and his health is messed up. Dont you ever go near him again!"