In the thick and crowded Ambedkar Stadium, Salman Khan’s smiley face popped up on the giant screen almost throughout the evening where India was playing their second successive Nehru Cup final against Syria. Sallu bhai seemed happy to be a football ground and witness an Indian team. Even the TV producer was more content at shouting instructions to his crew to focus the camera on the superstar.
But amid the cacophony, my mobile phone rang. “Is Sallu still at the stadium?” One of my friends (who however is a Page 3 journo) was deeply interested in Sallu but not about an Indian win. I got a bit angry. But I remained calm. In between, Renedy (Singh) had just scored a gem of a goal from a free-kick to give India the lead. The 30,000 odd fans broke into delirious joy. The noise was defeaning.
And once the phone rang: “Is Sallu still at the stadium?” This time I got pissed off with this caller. Later the the calls became too frequent. I was loosing my patience more because Syria had equalised. The match was stretching towards the tie-breaker. It was 9.30pm. I was becoming a little uneasy because of edition deadline. But this journo still didn't keep quite. There was another call. Then I had decided to play a prank. I sms'd. And it read: "Sallu had left the stadium and went to Jama Masjid to break his Ramzan fast. There he would meet a local pehelwan who would take him to a hakim who would prescribe him some desi medicine."
The next morning everybody read about India's Nehru Cup win. There was a small mention on Salman (surprisingly, Sallu never made it to the purani Dilli and Jama Masjid).
Sorry friend. An Indian victory was important for all of us. Next time, please try and be there to witness the Indian football team.