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Had I recognized him I could have at least stopped his bike and taken his autograph, which by now almost everybody had in my colony and school.
“Dhoni…Dhoni…Dhoni!” shouting at the top of his voice my elder brother came running into the house.
“What happened” I asked while engrossed deeply into playing contra (Video Game).
“Get dressed, hurry, Dhoni is here in our colony” My brother replied hurriedly while pulling out his best clothes from the shelves.
“So what, who is he?” using a least interested tone I enquired.
“Dumbo! Just Get up” he said, while dressing up.
“Dhoni….Dhoni” I looked outside the window where there was a small playground which was clearly visible from the backyard of our house. Many people, especially school kids had gathered around a huge black car – “Looks like Scorpio,” I thought.
Soon my brother joined the crowd and I went back to playing my game. He came back after 2 hours and seemed a little disappointed. “What happened, did he shooo you away” I asked jokingly.
“No, he is still at Chetan Bhaiya’s (Dhoni’s childhood friend) house, he will come out in the evening” he said while picking up a video game remote. After around 15 minute one of my brother’s friend shouted near our gate “Come quickly, he is leaving,” and nearly beating the speed of light, my brother was outside the gate.
They all chased his car as far as their young feet allowed. Well it was around 2005 and my brother was studying in class 11, at DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir and I was at class 9. At that time, we were staying at Mecon Colony-D block, where one of Dhoni’s friends used to stay. Mecon Colony is divided in blocks and at that point of time Dhoni resided in “J Block”, located at a very close proximity to the school.
One afternoon my brother dragged me outside the house to check out Dhoni’s car. As usual the huge black car was parked outside his friend’s house. On the way my brother filled me in with the car details. It was a Mitsubishi Pajero and he went on describing its features which I was least interested in.
Upon reaching the spot we joined the crowd which was already shouting Dhoni..Dhoni..Dhoni….My brother went ahead to check his car and came back to report about its super awesome interiors, seats and other key features. I heard someone in the crowd saying, Mahi Bhaiya (Dhoni) scored 148 off only 123 deliveries, what a superb batting….the sixes were flying all around the ground…the helicopter shot…winning 6 and much more.
Meanwhile one of the kid showed great courage and rang the doorbell of Chetan Bhaiya’s house. His mother politely answered and said Dhoni is not here, come back in the evening.
Nobody moved; all stood still in the crouching heat. After an hour or so few mothers came to the ground and dragged their kids away. My brother and I left too. Having very minimal awareness in cricket, it really seemed pointless for me to chase somebody where my area of interest was negligible. It may seem strange, but I never really bothered to figure out who he really was, although the world was going gaga for him. As his hundreds roared, so did his fans in Ranchi.
Then for the following few months, I heard multiple incidents from my close family members or school friends as to how they managed to get his autograph. He was such a down to earth person, never lost patience when his car was stopped or chased. I never heard stories about him showing star attitude or saying no to young fans.
One evening, my mother and her friend entered the house happy and excited, and they narrated as to how they stopped Dhoni’s car and had taken his autograph. My brother heard the story in repeat mode from her continuously for few days. Well, sadly for him, he was yet not able to meet his hero.
“Mum what did Dhoni say when you asked for his autograph?” he enquired.
“For the 100th time I am telling you: he smiled and said Aunty I don’t have pen and paper,” ma replied agitatedly.
“Ok, then?” my brother wanted to hear everything again.
“He waited till we bought pen and paper from the nearby shop,” Ma answered, the narrative sounding like a parrot repeating the same lines again and again.
“He could have left, why did he not leave?” he enquired.
“Because he is a nice person,” Ma replied.
“You are lying, why would he wait?” My brother could not bear the thought that my mother met him before him, so he was trying to find loopholes in the story.
“Mum where was he sitting in the car?” he asked.
“At the back, Chetan was driving,” my mother replied.
“Mum did you also see the interior?” My brother was slowly turning into Sherlock Holmes.
Looking puzzled, my mother replied innocently, “As far as interior is concerned, the car had huge seats, and everybody got proper space to sit. Not like our fiat where 12 people climb on top of one another to adjust.”
Unable to find any loopholes, he went ahead and scanned the autograph for the zillionth time. Dhoni had signed it as “Mahi”
Days converted to years, and the Dhoni mania was still high among us Shyamlians and Ranchites.
One evening around 3.30 pm while returning from tuition, I noticed a red bike approaching from far end. It was a long empty road, just outside our school main gate. Due to summer season, nobody was outside except for average students like me who were attending extra class in tuition.
Even for a dumb, lost person like me, the roaring sound of the bike was hard to miss.
As the bike came a little closer, the person who was driving hit brake. I saw him looking around and admiring the school while moving at a slow pace. With those long shoulder length hair, the face seemed very familiar. I tried hard to recall as to where I had seen him, but there was no recollection.
As we were about to cross each other, suddenly I noticed that he gave a glance to a confused and shy kid – Yeah!! That was me.
There was a speed breaker right where I was standing, so he hit the brakes hard, and I jolted at the screecccchhh sound. He laughed, smiled, and raised his palm for a wave.
Talking to strangers was a strict no-no at that point of time, so I simply pretended to keep walking. Though my gesture was cold and rude, the smile was still intact on his face. After, 11 years, the look on his face is still fresh on my mind.
Just when he passed the school gate and was about the cross the adjacent playground, I heard few boys shouting “Dhoni”..”Dhoni”..”Mahi Bhaiya”. They jumped, started their respective bikes and chased Dhoni’s red Yamaha bike which roared at a full throttle.
Unable to believe my luck, I jumped with joy. I had never thought that such a big star player would stop his bike to give a warm smile to a little school girl.
I felt very bad for not being a cricket fan that day. Had I recognized him I could have at least stopped his bike and taken his autograph, which by now almost everybody had in my colony and school. Not having much of an option left, I tore a piece of paper and faked his autograph, so that I could go home and narrate the entire story a bit differently.
As I rushed home, my mind raced through all the incidents that spoke about his down to earth and warm personality. And at that moment, my lack of interest in cricket disappeared. After I came home, I took out the paper cuttings that my brother used to collect and went down the memory lane of his famous shots and scores.
I won’t say I am a die-hard cricket fan now. But yes, I never miss those hours when Dhoni is on the ground hitting boundaries and fielding the wicket.
Little did I knew back then that now in 2019, the talks of his retirement would bring tears in my eyes.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: YouTube
A passionate writer, who loves to pen down her thoughts/stories and enjoys as the
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