A corner of an Indian airfield

As I was entering Pune airport the other day, I saw this gentleman ahead of me in the check-in line. This man was dressed in a smart tweed coat, a light colored shirt and grey trousers.I was sure I’d seen that look of perenially-searching-for something somewhere. I saw that shaggy mop of greyish hair and the pair of glasses on the bridge of the nose and I knew for sure. Ramachandra Guha. The man who TIME magazine called The Indian democracy’s pre-eminent chronicler. Instinctively, I thought I should go talk to him but then decided against it. Check-in was to be done. The flight had been advanced (The Jet Airways guys sent me a message about a month in advance about the change in timing, and were reminding me every 10 days or so).

So on I went, checked in (just about in time) and waited in the lounge for what was supposed to be a five minute wait. Well, I was going home after about three months so naturally wanted to ‘get on with it!’ “For your kind attention please. Jet Airways flight 9W … has been delayed and will take off only at … hours.” This was pretty much the old departure time. Damn. A wait for another 40 odd minutes. Right. Off to the book store.

I go in and on the center-piece in full display: Makers of Modern India by Ramachandra Guha < wry smile >. Suddenly I am reminded once again of Mr.Guha in the vicinity. He has just set himself down on a seat and is apparently contemplating on whether to eat something. He does. He gets something to eat and then again sits down to eat it. Meanwhile, I am still contemplating going and talking to him. I have never actually spoken to an author or a celeb before so naturally, I had my reservations. What was I going to say? How do I begin? While I was thinking of this, Mr.Guha got up and went into the book store. Now there was no way that I was going to miss this moment. I literally ran into the bookstore and just reached it as he entered. I caught a glimpse of him taking a glimpse at his book and silently smiling.

There were about 5 others in the bookstore (and the store-keeper of course). Not one person recognised him. Sad.Anyway, so in I walked and purposefully picked up a copy of his book and flipped to the end where his photo was present. Well, just to be sure. I even thought about buying the book and getting it autographed. Cover price = INR 799. OK. Plan cancelled. Onto the next. So he bought some music CDs and once again went and settled in his seat. Now I was sure I had to go speak to him. So I went.

< extended hand >
< Got a hand in return. Whew! First bulb avoided. So far, so good. >
‘Big fan, sir!’
< Mr.Guha bows slightly but with amazing courtesy and humility. Awesome! >
‘I just read an exceprt from your new book; the one that appeared in Caravan magazine. Quite brilliant, sir!’
< Again, a polite nod >
‘Thank you.’
‘My all-time favourite, though, is A corner of a foreign field. Absolutely incredible.’
< Another nod >
< It must be pointed out that I was pretty much tongue-tied and in almost no control of what I was saying >
‘Do you plan to write any cricket books in the near-future?’
‘No, not really. I’ve retired from cricket writing. I do watch it of course but don’t write any more.’
< Dagger throught the hearts of all cricket fans. >
‘But why, sir?’
‘Well, there are more interesting things to write about.’ < smile >
‘Than cricket?!!!’
< Again, another sheepish grin >
‘Well …’
< By this time, I was fresh out of ideas. Over and out >
‘Alright sir, it was great to meet you.’
< smiles >‘What did you say your name was?’
‘Good to meet you.’
< my turn to grin > < GRIN >

And that dear folks, is how I met Mr. Ramachandra Guha. Of course I could’ve sounded intelligent (or so I think) and put blade about the nuances of cricket and politics but decided against it. He was not to be spared though. Sometime after I left and took up my seat in the lounge, one Madras mama, one of the know-it-all types was putting motherblade and Mr.Guha was humoring him and politely smiling along.

I was smiling too.