I had always dreamt of meeting Shah Rukh Khan but never in my life had I imagined I will ever get to travel with him by a train one day. But this happened...this happened for REAL! I get a message on January 22 by my editor saying "You are going to Delhi tomorrow, with SRK by train" and the next thing I see is I am actually running at the Mumbai Central station to live my own DDLJ moment with the one and only....Shah Rukh Khan!. Oh! That moment was in itself so priceless, like you know how you have one of those times when you feel yes, I have achieved it finally? In my head, I was literally behaving like a sickeningly die-hard Shah Rukh fan but then yea, I had to limit that excitement and not show it all on my face coz I wasn't boarding the train just as a co-passenger but as one of the few other journalists who was there to observe-interview-report everything that Shah Rukh does through his first ever 16 hour promotional trip from Mumbai to Delhi( Trust me, only I know how I calmed down my hearts on seeing Shah Rukh so up close for a tete-a-tete.)
23 January, 5:50pm and our train was ready to depart from Mumbai Central leaving a hundred fans rooting just one name - "Shah Rukh! Shah Rukh!" The chaos for once sounded so musical. The faces looked so genuine gleaming at SRK's wave and we inside, were in store for our journey of a lifetime. While we reporters were allotted the A1 coach. Shah Rukh along with his Team Raees were at the A5 coach - 4 coaches away just so that the fan frenzy doesn't hound our compartment and make our lives difficult....
23 January, around 8:30 pm we finally get our chance to interact with Shah Rukh in his coach and there...there.. we find him comfortably seated by the window, sipping his coffee without any super-starry vibe. He was enjoying the view, the little joys of travelling by the train after ages. Obviously, our conversation had to begin on the 'train' note. When was the last time he traveled by the train? Who is he missing the most on this journey? How much does he believe in train romance and he revealed it all. Trust me, those 45 minutes seemed so endless that each one of us wished we could hear him talk all day. His thoughts were so pure and inspiring.
Being an all-time admirer of Shah Rukh's life lessons and interviews, I was mesmerised when he spoke about romance saying, "When I was younger and even now, I find trains utterly romantic. I never had a romance in train, never had the opportunity. But having read books, poetry, I find the rhythm of a train very romantic. I think it's the most romantic place. But I think the times have changed a lot in terms of the language. Romance hasn't changed. I think people have less time. I also find this whole rightly-so pushed for equality I think creates more buddy-feel between men and women. When you are buddies, you can't romance. There is a whole wave which I notice with youngsters, because I have kids and some young actors and actresses talk to each other very differently. Romance has to have a little formality. Whether it's tehzeeb, going down on your knees, whether it is saying couplets in praise of a girl. I am from that school, I still believe in it. I think romance has to be formal. 'Aur phir kya kar rahi hai?' It can't work like that, even if there is equality. "
And then he spoke about how he misses having conversations these days reasoning how everyone is only interested in having debates. "Why can't we just talk to each other? Why is it that everyone should always have an opinion about something? Why always fight for the right and wrong?" Asked Shah Rukh and it came like an instant reality check to me. I mean, these days we rarely have a conversation. Recollect any one recent instance where you have been a listener or just added onto a discussion without having an argument? You wouldn't find any...(unless you were pretending to agree with someone just to end the conversation).
Now this was the kind of interaction we had with Shah Rukh and there was no way we wanted it to end, anytime soon...The understandings of life, movies, romance...there was so much to absorb but then due to time constraints, we were brought back to our seats with an awe-inspiring conversation to treasure for a lifetime.
January 23, around 11pm comes another surprise...this time in the form of 'Laila' aka Sunny Leone. Yea, she too was a part of this journey but all that we got to see was the kid in her, jumping to see one glimpse of the hundreds of fans chasing our train at every passing station. Trust me, she looked as cute as a button every time she tried to peep out through the window.
But then of course, apart from observing her adorable antics, we also had a fun chat with Sunny where she spoke about her experience working with Shah Rukh and how it feels like coming this far in life. However, the fan frenzy at Vadodara station just refused to let Sunny speak. From banging the windows to trying to climb over our train...it was a maddening mob at the station with fans rooting for Shah Rukh and Sunny.
Everything was so lively, so energetic, so 'fan-struck' 'starstruck' until....
January 24, around 12:30 am one of our co-journalists comes running to us saying her uncle, who had come to see her at Vadodara station, collapsed in the crowd after suffering a cardiac arrest. We were shaken...didn't know what to do, didn't know how to calm her down. She also had her mom in company, who had almost slipped into a state of shock hearing the news. The whole mood of the trip saddened to an all new level...seeing her cry was heartbreaking...hearing her uncle passed away at the station was petrifying. But Shah Rukh consoled her with so much love and humbleness that there couldn't have been a better soother to the loss. Without caring how people must be reacting to this untimely death amidst 'Raees By Rail' promotions, Shah Rukh did it all to make the journalist reach out to her uncle at the earliest. He sat with the girl and her mother until they got off at Ratlam station, called for a car, employed his bodyguards to assure they reach Vadodara safely and kept checking on her whereabouts from hour to hour. What a gem of a person! Respect...
But what's more is despite being under so much stress, Shah Rukh later even walked up to our seats to personally inform us about the mishap and tell us how he has made all the arrangements for her family. In fact, he also tried to calm us down by saying, "Don't worry about the pending interviews, I will do it before we reach Delhi. Maybe in the next couple of hours but I will do it. Don't spoil your mood." And we couldn't help but just admire his generosity....
With so many ups and downs, although the trip didn't end as per the initial plan for Shah Rukh had also planned to play board games, dance to Chaiyya Chaiyaa and make it more memorable for us but he still gave us a journey that will last for a lifetime. Indeed, I feel 'Raees' with all his love, humbleness and the lessons that he shared..some intentionally, some unintentionally.
Thank you Shah Rukh... Thank you for making me Raees with your love and kindness!
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