“How would he be in real life?” that was one question constantly ringing on my mind as I headed towards the press conference. All my life, I had only seen Rahul Dravid on television – representing India where he donned various hats in his pursuit to take his country to a victory. I had also seen him giving interviews and speeches, but all my alliances with Dravid were through the eyes of the media. Not this time around, though. On this occasion, I was the media.
Dravid had been my childhood hero – my source of inspiration whenever my life was in doldrums. He had recently been chosen as a brand ambassador for the 2017 World T20 for the blind, and there I was, covering the event.
Being an ardent admirer of an individual makes you to not only follow their life closely but also builds a need in you to study their personality. So you want to know the finer nuances of their disposition when the elusive chance to meet them in person comes to you.
You want to understand what makes them the kind of person they are. You want to know how they talk – their mannerisms and their idiosyncrasies. Even aspects like their tastes in fashion, like what brand of shoes or watches do they prefer. You just want to dissect their persona inside out.
As I was sitting in the media room at the M Chinnaswamy stadium, waiting for Dravid amidst others journalists, my mind was racing with multiple thoughts. The event was scheduled to start at 4 pm. Going by my understanding of Dravid’s steadfast nature, I had an inkling that he would be right on time and that his entrance in the room would be far from dramatic.
I was right. At five minutes past four, Dravid entered the room, walking unassumingly amidst other administrators of CABI. At a first glance, I failed to recognise my hero. Only when he walked closer that I realised it was him. He wore a black collared T-shirt, blue jeans and canvas shoes, proving once again that not all heroes wear a cape (in a metaphorical way of course).
As everyone settled, the formalities began. The photographers from different media houses started taking pictures, as Dravid and the president of CABI Mahantesh GK, settled themselves on the dais. In the frenzy of photographers, Dravid didn’t bat an eyelid. Even when asked to pose for a picture with the CABI president, Dravid hardly gave a smile. “Is he slightly arrogant”? I asked myself. But then I realised – that’s how Dravid is. Emotional gestures don’t form a part of his character.
The CABI president Mahantesh started talking about the World T20 for the blind, but my focus was on Dravid. As Mahantesh went on a monologue explaining various facets of the event, Dravid stayed a patient listener. He sat there in a seemingly focused manner, absorbing every word said by the CABI President. The monologue was slightly long and made most listeners in the audience fidgety. But not Dravid. He remained a figure of calmness throughout the speech. Even when Dravid was given a verbal accolade by the CABI President, he didn’t emote and maintained a poker face.
Then it was Dravid’s turn to speak. I’ve seen various celebrities talk to the media, who at times sound fabricated in their words while addressing at press-conferences. But this wasn't the case with Dravid. With Dravid, I could see palpable sincerity.
As Dravid spoke, there was an authentic softness in his voice. It was the sort of softness that manifested a major sense of respect for the visually challenged cricket ecosystem. He also displayed a sense of pride in being able to help the visually challenged in their cause.
The only instance when Dravid smiled, was when he revealed how he once failed badly trying to bat blindfolded at the nets during the IPL earlier this year. It was one of those self-deprecating smiles and something that could only be expected from someone with Dravid’s modesty.
As the room was opened for questions from the media, I quickly latched on the opportunity to ask Dravid a question. “Would you like to mentor the visually challenged cricketers in future?” I asked him gathering all my courage. Dravid looked to me, and then smiled a bit. He took the mike, and said, “What these blind cricketers do is much bigger than I could do. In fact, I think it’s me who will require some mentoring from the visually challenged cricketers. People like Mahantesh are their real mentors, not me.”
To be honest, that was the kind of humility I always expected from Dravid, and he did not disappoint.
After that, there was unnecessary question thrown at Dravid by another media person. Dravid was asked whether he would like to blindfold himself and play cricket for India. A similar question to, say an MS Dhoni or a Virat Kohli, might have prompted a sarcastic reply. But Dravid was thoroughly professional. He replied to that media personnel in a humble manner, claiming he didn’t have the courage and skills to play blindfolded, and that he wouldn’t make the cut in the team.
As the conference came to end, I was keen on getting a picture with my hero. But there was a sea of people around him. As he walked past me, he looked at me. I blurted whether I could have a picture with him. Dravid, being Dravid, obliged. He went ahead and clicked a selfie with me.
This encounter with Dravid was a fanboy moment for me, and one that further substantiated my belief about Dravid being a true figure of uprightness and humility.