DuFan Sonja may be a relatively new entrant to the hallowed halls of his admirers, but that does not dim her fervour. To each of us, he signifies something different. Each of us draws a different kind of strength from this man we so admire. And each of us will have a different perspective on meeting him. This is one of them.
Early in 2013, I came across Jodhaa Akbar on Netflix and decided to give it a try. Growing up in the Caribbean, I never watched many Bollywood movies but I knew who Aishwarya Rai was. I didn’t know the male lead in the movie but was startled by his unbelievable good looks – the only other human being I had ever seen who was in my gorgeous Mum’s class of beauty! I decided to google him, and this is how I discovered Mr. Hrithik Roshan.
I absolutely loved Jodhaa Akbar, and an Indian friend at work was only too happy that I was finally discovering the joy of Bollywood movies. She started sending me links to Hrithik’s YouTube interviews and performances, and as a birthday present gave me the DVD of a popular Hrithik movie, Zindagi na Milegi Dobara. I loved this movie too and was now hooked. I followed him on Twitter and from there I discovered a whole online world of HR fandom. I was never one to be bowled over by “celebrity” status, so I just stayed in the sidelines and quietly observed. I looked up his filmography and started working my way through his movies. Some movies I loved, others not so much, and some of them I still haven’t seen. But one common element remained – I started becoming less interested in the roles he played and more interested in learning about the human being behind the roles.
From his Twitter persona as well as the interviews I continued to see on YouTube, I became more and more impressed. I enjoyed hearing the philosophies of life that he espoused. Here was someone who had overcome his own obstacles to achieve tremendous success, and who seemed determined to use that fame to impact people’s lives in a positive way. From my own perspective, his dedication to fitness certainly inspired me – I have become a huge fan of Kris Gethin’s killer workouts (his one-time trainer) and am in the process of becoming much fitter and healthier.
In January 2014, he hosted a live shoppable hangout on Google Plus – scheduled to occur in the early morning hours here in the USA. I dutifully set my alarm, awakened at the appointed hour and logged in to the interview – after all, what was a loss of sleep compared to my first and probably only chance to see Hrithik do ANYTHING live! Little did I know that one month later, an announcement would come that he was going to perform at the IIFA awards in Tampa Bay. I got excited but at first my attendance didn’t seem likely –none of my friends or family were interested in joining me and I didn’t feel keen to go on my own to the show and to a city I didn’t know. I thought it over for all of one night. Fear of the unknown had never stopped me from doing anything before, so why should this be any different? I bought my ticket, made the travel arrangements, and waited excitedly but anxiously for April to arrive. When the time came, I nervously packed my bag and headed to Tampa solo.
I was excited to be in the same city as he was and wondered if I could get a sighting of him in Tampa. I had seen pictures of the crowds outside his downtown hotel and knew that I would be uncomfortable with that kind of crush. I thought I would try instead to go earlier to the show and get a good spot to see his green carpet arrival, so I got ready and headed to the Stadium at 3pm. Clearly I had no previous experience of the dedication of Bollywood fans. When I got there, the crowd was already about one hundred strong, with some having arrived since 10.30am that morning! The sun was blazing down, there was no shade and it was HOT. I stood there for all of two minutes before heading back to the hotel. This was definitely not my kind of scene. I was not one to be “celebrity-struck” and I didn’t want an attempt at a fleeting, distant glance of Hrithik to spoil my enjoyment of the show itself. Perhaps I just wasn’t as devoted a fan as I thought I was.
At around 7pm I headed back to the Stadium. I made my way to the entrance to my section, only to meet crowds of people milling around – the gates had not yet been opened. I decided to take a walk to where the green carpet was located – if I had to wait around anyway, I might as well wait on the fringes of the excitement! I saw the green carpet in the distance and stopped alongside the road that led up to it. The people who were congregated there told me that the cars heading to the carpet would have to drive this way. The crowd was about 5 people deep and I casually took my place at the back, enjoying the excited atmosphere. I didn’t realize that, little by little, as people left or changed spots, I was getting pushed forward. Suddenly, in amazement, I saw the barrier in front of me and realized I was somehow now in a front position.
But in a front position to see what, exactly? As the big names started passing us in their cars, they hardly deigned to lower their windows, let alone alight from their vehicles (Vivek Oberoi and Priyanka Chopra being impressive exceptions). It started getting later and darker and I could see the stadium seats filling up in the distance. My family was sending me anxious texts asking if I was planning to go in soon, worried both about my safety in the dark and if someone would take my seat. Even the crowds around me started thinning as people headed into the stadium to await the start of the show. I decided to remain for a while longer and kept scanning the darkened windows that passed me for any sign of that classic profile that I knew I would recognize, but nothing.
Then suddenly, the girl next to me whom I had befriended clutched me hard. About 10 feet away from us stood Hrithik Roshan. In his usual classy manner, he had unobtrusively alighted from his car and was making his way down my side of the road, quietly greeting fans and shaking hands. I made a conscious decision to put my iPhone away, determined to fully experience this very unexpected moment rather than trying to record it. Together with my new friend, I jumped up on the barrier and waited. Everything was incredibly silent and then, all of a sudden, he was in front of me. I remember a handsome face, light (but tired) eyes, a slightly bowed head and a little smile. He shook my hand and continued down the line. I recovered my senses in time to call out to him, “bless you”. He looked back, smiled and said “thank you”. I lost sight of him, sent some insanely excited texts to my family, and finally headed inside the stadium to await his performance.
Seeing Hrithik Roshan in real was something I will never forget. As the award show would not be televised for a few months, I made an effort to take some videos that I could share with other HR fans around the world who were eagerly awaiting updates. I screamed my head off every time he came on stage, and thoroughly enjoyed his performances. But intensifying the enjoyment of all of that was the feeling that I had been well and truly blessed. Not by shaking Hrithik’s hand – despite the tendency of some to elevate him to God-like status, I see him as a human being no different to any of us in that he is on his life journey, having his experiences, meeting his challenges, facing his trials, and (in his own words) trying to “live the best life possible, come what may”. No, what I felt blessed by was the potent reminder of one of the core philosophies that has always guided me through the years on my own journey – that we have ALL the power within us to create whatever we want in our lives. To Hrithik Roshan I was undoubtedly just another faceless hand that he shook that day – but for me, universal forces aligned to give me an unexpected and delightful experience that I wanted but never thought would come my way. I may never get a chance to see him again, but on both a physical and a philosophical level, the joy of this experience will stay with me always.
Contributed by : Sonja (Twitter.com/Sonja_Tee)