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|January 27, 1999||
An evening to remember
On Monday night, several Rediff staffers realised they had a great deal of unfinished work to complete. And that Sachin Tendulkar was coming for a chat on the same day, of course, was just coincidental.
Preparations for the chat exceeded anything we have done so far. We expected about a thousand people online, but there were over 5,000 out there finally. And hordes of usually unflappable professionals were gibbering wrecks by the time the Rediff Chat began.
Sachin came in -- 15 minutes before the chat began -- along with his charming wife Anjali and helpful brother Ajit and a bunch of sten-toting policemen, and the usually quiet street outside came alive. The children were the first to know of it. They collected, hundreds of them, bats and autograph books in hand, awaiting the return of their hero from the innards of the Rediff office. They chanted 'Sachin, Sachin', rang the bell constantly, asked those blocking their way how they could get close to them.
Within the office too, things were getting a little out of hand. There were people lining the stairs and having very valid reasons to be in the lounge just outside the conference room where Sachin sat. It was the first time we saw the security staff in uniform and our canteen manager Sitaram Bandekar blush like a bride when asked about his exchange with Sachin.
Even those who affirmed their dislike for the game were there, with one of the women of that group putting him down in her list of "so cute" people.
To handle the pressure, all unnecessary server activity was halted. Partly due to such efforts, the server stood up manfully to it, but with so many people present in the office, power to the computers blew. Frantic efforts were made to get the chat shifted to some of the unaffected machines with people not given to excited response going into unabashed panic.
Outside, the crowds were growing restive, and the hollering was getting strident, and so we asked the accompanying policemen how they would get Sachin through.
"We cannot trust the public. We have our orders. If anyone tries to harm him," one of them assured him, "we'll shoot them." To avoid hundreds of children and fans from meeting an early demise, the protectors were requested to keep the safety catches and permission sought for reinforcements to be called in.
It took some time to get through to the local Gamdevi police station where PSI Patil assured all help. When the chat wound up, the strategists decided it was best that the visitors split up, with Anjali and Ajit leaving first in the Tendulkar Mercedes Benz. Sachin would leave in the police jeep.
But before he did that, he went around the office, with a brood of humanity trailing. He put his mark on a wall where all our illustrious Chat guests in Bombay have signed, posed for pictures, autographed at least two bats and then stepped outside into the roaring masses. The guns made no difference as the crowd pushed in -- for a signature, a word, or a touch.
A Rediff phalanx -- consisting of Arindam Nag, Ashish Sopori, K P Sunil, Rajesh Karkera, Saisuresh Sivaswamy, Sumit Rajawade and Suparn Verma -- protected Sachin as he raced through the throng and dove into the police jeep.
Truly an evening to remember.
Pictures: Jewella C Miranda
Mail Prem Panicker
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