Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Inflight with Anil Kumble in a Low Cost Airline

I was at the Bangalore airport today morning, waiting for a Jet light flight to Ahmedabad. I was on an official tour. I prefer not to travel by Jet light, (previously Sahara Airlines). I prefer the more comfortable and well serviced Jet airways or Kingfisher Airlines. Unfortunately, I couldn't manage to get a ticket on either and so here I was waiting for a trip on a low cost airline.

A little after check in, I happened to spot in the security queue, a man known for his mature sense of sport, an icon of today's world, and for bangaloreans the God himself. I spotted Anil Kumble. Wearing a neatly ironed blue Sahara T-shirt and the characteristic Kumble smile, carrying an old English classic novel clasped in his right palm, Kumble stood in the queue quietly waiting for his turn in the security check. He was soon accompanied by his bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and the two exchanged a quiet joke and after some chit chat (which I imagined to be probably about the dinner they had with their families last night!) they went back into the silent dignity of waiting for their turn to get frisked by some security personnel before they entered their flight. Which flight I wondered!

I suddenly remembered the ongoing cricket test series between India and South Africa. The second test supposed to happen in Ahmedabad. Were Kumble and Prasad traveling to Ahmedabad? I wondered, if they would be on my flight? For a moment I dismissed the thought. The great Anil Kumble in a low cost airline? The Captain of the Great Indian cricket team in a low cost airline? No way!!

Some ladies in their thirties came rushing with their pens and notebooks, and Anil Kumble started signing. Some old bald man wanted Kumble to sign on his son's T shirt and a few girls wanted to have a snap of their favorite hero. One girl was so engaged in chatting with Kumble that she ended up in the gent’s security queue! But Kumble flashed a smile and reminded her, that she has to take the other queue for the Ladies security check. With a frown and probably a heavy heart, she conceded.

I lost sight of Kumble after some time, as I sat with my colleague in the waiting area before I had to board my flight. I saw an old woman probably on her own carrying a heavy bag. She looked nervous, (probably her first flight!) and appeared too confused on her own and too dignified to ask for help. I dismissed it away as I got a phone call.

As I got on to the aerobridge 5 to board my low cost airline, I heard voices that I have heard only on TV. Anil Kumble was right behind me speaking in low volume but unmistakably fluent Kannada, on his cell phone. As our eyes met he smiled. I forced out a "Hello" not sounding too nervous and pretending as if talking to Anil Kumble was something I did everyday. He responded saying "Hi,” and then looking at my chest he said "Nice tie." I looked at my tie, and for the first time thought about the various uses of a tie, including attracting cricket captains towards me. I frankly did not know how to respond. ”Oh yes!" I finally said. I can’t believe I could not think of anything more meaningful to say. "Oh yes????" even a "Thank you very much” would have been suitable. But no, I said "Oh yes" as if I took credit for the beauty of my tie, as if I manufactured or dyed the tie myself. Just as I was about to say something to compensate, my phone rang.

As I was seated in my flight, I saw Kumble again two seats ahead of me, helping the old confused woman to keep her luggage in the cabin. Here he is, I thought, the captain of the Indian Cricket team, the negotiator of the row in Australia, the man with a road cross named after him, the man with the record of having taken 10 wickets in an innings, sitting with me in a low cost airline, helping an old lady that needed help.

All throughout the flight, I couldn’t help wondering what made great people great. Passion for their profession was the only thing that I had thought of before. But on seeing Kumble I realized what made great people Godlike figures. The aura that he carried with him, of simplicity and approachability. The aura of being a great human being. While on air, people were constantly rushing to his seat and getting him to sign on their boarding pass, their T shirts, and books. Photographs were shot, images were saved. People were happy. Kumble was there smiling at each person with a warmth and never refusing a fan. He loved playing for India, but more importantly I knew why India loved him.

I don't think I will ever crib about traveling in a low cost airline again. I did not get Kumble's autograph or a photo shot along with him by my side. But the flight to Ahmedabad had taught me something about the difference between being good and being great. While the former is in what we do, the latter about the warmth with which we do it!!


Hari said...

Most of talented people look simple do great things .as you mentioned ANIL is one.

Arundathi Acharya said...

Nicely written...You have given a very good picture of every small detail of the incident...about what happened and what you thought...You have combined it very well. The last line being the best!! And about Kumble...I am greatly surprised to know that he is down to earth to the extent of complementing a stranger for his tie in a low cost airline!! Truly great!!

vijayan said...

It is good to know that Anil Kumble is also a simple person by heart.Such personalitites signatures are best obtained on "Ties".

Sita said...

It is good to know that there are still a lot of great people who are down to earth and who are simple.

A good man with good virtues will be remembered during his lifetime and even after his death. We should be an example for people to follow.

We should all think and see how easily we are approachable to our friends and relatives. Do they find it comfortable to come to us and discuss their problems or share their happiness with us? If not, there is something to be corrected in us.

I am reminded of Rajnikant who also brings in us this feeling of respect when we see him. He is also a very simple, down to earth person who is easily approachable. That is why he is what he is today and that is why he is revered and worshipped in all parts of the world.

Panduranga said...

Its on april first right ? Few quick thoughts in my mind !

a).You wrote this on 1st of april on account of 1st april ?
b). Kumble is trying to fool some one by travelling in low fare airways .

Big one:
Just imagine kumble is trying to fool you by commenting about your tie - it brings downs him not only to earth till basement !!!

Inspiring second one :
Kumble is great at helping people . I am not able to understand why you havent helped that lady ? I belived that you will be in those people category (great one)

Third one :
Travel in low fare airways you will get surprises.. meet great people .... flight may cancelled ... you learn how to think about alternative/ out of box .....

Keep travelling

Ram N said...

my colleague experienced a similar experience with Dravid from Delhi to Mumbai.

Anonymous said...

Well written.

Mayuresh Gaikwad said...

Probably, the BCCI is still under contract with Sahara airlines to make their players travel by that airline wherever possible.

Now that it has been rebranded as jet-lite has not helped the contract!

Anyways, I was wondering - do low cost airlines in India have business class / first class seats? (I am assuming that all of yo including Kumble and Prasad flew economy) If yes, I wonder why BCCI did not book Kumble and Prasad on First class. I know for a facr that some of the Air Deccan flights are all economy class. The best business and first class are ofourse on Kingfisher!

BTW, in the US, all airlines are low cost! And they do have business class and first class there! You need to purchase food on all domestic flights, so celebrities have no option but to fly low-cost airlines, unless they are billionaires with their own private jets

MUMBHAI said...

Reading your account makes me wonder why NOBODY's like Rahul Gandhi / Mr. & Mrs. Priyanka Vadera, the likes of Rahul Mahajan etc are accorded frisking free boarding but Mr. Anil Kumble has to be frisked. I mention the above names of Rahul Gandhi, Rahul Mahajan and Mr. & Mrs Vadera because I have actually seen them be whisked through airports as if they are ROYALTY themselves...so what Indian Airport Authorities is telling us is such useless low lives are more important than a living legend...god help us.....