Last night, my father was felicitated as a real-life hero by one of the biggest stars in the world on a national television show – my personal journey to seeing him as a hero took forty years.
“Congratulations, you have arrived!”
A friend sent me this message when he saw me on KBC (the Indian version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’) with actors Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Amitabh Bachchan.
As I marveled at the many layers of unintended irony in his comment, even I wondered how I got onto a historic episode of KBC – that, too, as the companion of Shah Rukh Khan, described by Time magazine as ‘the biggest star in the world’.
Looking back I can give you the short answer: I didn’t do it.
If you want the long answer, read ahead: In the many years that I have known him, I have almost never asked Shah Rukh (aka SRK) for anything unless it was work related. Last month, however, I spontaneously felt like sending him a message requesting if I could come backstage for his episode of KBC. Everyone who has worked with him knows he gets a zillion messages a day and doesn’t respond until it’s a matter of life-and-death (and leaning towards the latter).
“Please do come” he replied almost immediately.
The morning of the taping, I felt very strongly like going for a haircut. I tried to ignore the feeling but it was too strong. I literally saw myself taking my bag in hand and leaving suddenly for the salon. Even I was amused as I shaved and primped my normally unkempt look – I jokingly wondered if I was doing it to impress the Katrina! As I left home, I felt compelled to carry my favorite electric blue Zara pullover though the temperature outside was in the high-80s.
I still had no clue what lay ahead.
As I drove into Filmcity, SRK invited me into his vanity van. While he caught up on a hurried lunch at 5:00 pm, we chatted about cricket and life, and then he left for the soundstage. I entered the shoot floor a while later looking for the control room but could not find it. As I walked across the darkened studio floor, Karuna Badwal, who heads SRK’s Red Chillies Productions, found me.
Meanwhile, the television crew needed to know who was coming on the show as the contestants’ family/companions. They discussed it with Shah Rukh and it was decided that Karuna, his personal manager Pooja and myself would be his companions for the show.
Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. We were made to sit on pre-designated seats while the lights were properly focused on us. We were miked in case we needed to talk. A dab of make-up for the ladies. Instructions were rapidly shot. A cameraman positioned a foot away from my face for ‘reaction shots’. As the light beams swiveled across the floor and the opening fanfare began to play, I wondered: How on earth did this happen?
One thing was clear: “I” didn’t do it.
The next day, I kept thinking about the mysterious happening – I didn’t visualize or affirm it. I didn’t manipulate it or ask to be his companion. He didn’t plan or intend it either. Neither did anyone working for the television company. Everyone was simply responding to situations. And without realizing it, it all fell in place.
I left it at that until yesterday I came across these lines by my brother and mentor GD which seemed to explain it so perfectly:
“Life is our friend. And the way it guides us is by sending subtle messages and impulses. When we hear and honor the impulse, there is joy – there is magic. When we don’t, the result is depression and stuckness.
“The only thing you need to do is honor the impulse you are getting in this moment. That’s it. No great plan or vision is required. One simple step – that’s it! When this one step is taken, the impulse for the next step will come by itself.
“There is constant guidance, but it is only revealed step by step. But the mind – having no trust – wants the whole plan all at once. That’s where it gets stuck. Our job is to take small, trusting steps – our job is not to figure out the entire plan.”