Three days later, I was shaking hands with him.
I can fill reams and reams of paper describing the journey to everything which led to the first ‘Hi’, but that is for some other day. This journey, has been all squeezed into– believe it or not– four days.
Sure I was sad I couldn’t interview him, but nothing made me happier that here was a man wishing my parents– who had loved ever since I remember–all the happiness in the world. They got married the same year as Shah Rukh. I was born the year Shah Rukh made his feature film debut. My first movie in a cinema hall was Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and till this date, not a single Mumbai trip begins untill we visit Mannat.
So when he wished them, my parents were overwhelmed, with tears in their eyes and still trying to make sense of what happened. It wasn’t always just my dream to meet him, to talk to him, to just get any message from him- it was theirs too.
The next day, on April 8, my mother just casually said something which now makes sense when I look back. She said I missed interviewing him because may be God has it all planned in a better, more special way. Of course, I laughed it off. What better could it be to meet him at his place, talk about his upcoming film at length and get to know the man- one on one?
I was wrong. While my mother did say I will meet him in a ‘better and special’ way, what she, and both of us did not know was it would be, in all sense- ‘Historic.’
April 9, I get a confirmation that I have been assigned to cover Prince Williams and his wife Kate Middleton’s meet and greet with Bollywood biggies in Mumbai on April 10. I knew Shah Rukh was going to introduce the Royal Couple, but that was about it. Even then, my parents were more excited that I would be covering the event and were keenly awaiting my call, informing them that I had got what they wanted- Selfie with the couple.
I did call, though. But with a slightly different news.
“Mom, I just met Shah Rukh.”
I could hear nothing but loud cheering and sense nothing but excitement. This call was almost after an hour of my conversation with Shah Rukh. What took me so long? I was trying to regain my calm after shivering, smiling, almost teary eyed in one corner.
I quickly rushed to the spot and saw him in a white tuxedo. Just a few feet away from me. Remember I said ‘historic’ moment? It was the Royal Couple’s first visit to India, and I was the only journalist in the room, getting access to cover the entire evening, with champagne, celebrities, businessmen and even Sachin Tendulkar around me.
I remember standing barely 2-feet away from Shah Rukh when a lady walked away after talking to him. It was only a matter of 3 seconds before he would turn and join the group of other celebrities. For the first time in the entire evening he was alone, even though for fraction of seconds. On any other day, I would’ve let go of the chance, thinking that I will meet him some other time, for a longer duration, when there is no hustle bustle, when we can freely talk. But then, within seconds, I walked upto him, put a huge smile on my face, extended my right hand and said the words I had always dreamt of saying to him:
“Hi, Shah Rukh! I am Justin Rao.”
Holding a glass of water on his left, he shook hands with me. I don’t even remember looking at our handshake because I could not take my eyes off him. He looked me in the eyes and said “Hi”. I said I am from PTI. He nodded. I told him that I am the same guy whose parents he had wished a few days ago. “Ah okay yes I remember,” he said while nodding.
“I just wanted to thank you for that. My parents really loved it”, I said and like a nervous wreck started fumbling, “My mom got really sent… Like..” I tried to complete the sentence but could not get the right words.
I took a deep breath and continued, “My parents got emotional. Thank you for everything, it means the world to me.” And, what I never thought would happen, Shah Rukh blushed. “No no, it’s okay, I am glad they loved it.”
By this time, I had lost track of what I was saying and could see nothing but him. Then, for the lack of control over my excitement, I blurted, “I missed interviewing you recently. But looking forward to do that soon.” He smiled and said sure. As if that wasn’t enough, I quickly added, “I have also written a book about you.” Shah Rukh was then surprised.
“Oh wow, you did?” he raised his eyebrows, almost curious to find out more. I said I will gift him soon. Just then, representatives from the British Embassy asked me to make way for the Royal Couple. A man started talking to Shah Rukh, but realising that I was already talking to him, he turned towards me to hear what I was saying.
And that was it. If he could have the courtesy to acknowledge a nobody like me, in a gathering of who’s who of the world, then it speaks volume of a man’s character. Awed, yes, but not trying to take too much of his time, I shook hands with him again, and wished him luck for his Fan before moving to the other corner. Which was merely 10-feet away from him.
I watched him the entire ceremony. I spoke to him later too, when he had met the Royal Couple and used his quote for my exclusive story. Standing there, I watched each and every move of his. His body language, how he holds the glass, how he laughs, how he looks at you as if you mean the world to him. I watched him as I stood shivering in that one corner, trying to make sense of what happened. A fan’s dream had come true, interestingly, the same week that his film Fan releases.
It will be in the history now, about the Royal Couple’s first visit to India. What Prince said, what Kate did, how Shah Rukh felt. All because I was there in the room, standing as a journalist, doing my job. A job, which happened because he inspired me. Because all I had ever wanted to do– when I was scribbling his name on the walls as a kid, trying to woo girls like the way he did in my teenage, and writing a dissertation on him to get a degree – was become someone important enough to one day see him.
And that, everyone, is how I met Shah Rukh.