Soon after he quit Murdoch’s Star TV job in the late 90s, SS wanted to meet him in Lucknow to discuss a top job at his TV channel. He was called to Lucknow. Naturally, the choice of airline was Sahara(now sold to Jet Airways). Looking at the schedules, RS realized it’d be a 3-day trip, so he refused, suggesting a meeting in Delhi instead.
After an early morning flight it was an effusive Sahara welcome to the Managing Worker’s personal guest. A Sahara SUV picked him at the Delhi airport complete with a Sahara pranam driver. All this before 7 am! Naturally, RS dozed off.
He was jolted from his slumber when the car arrived at a NOIDA office, with 4-5 James Bond style musclemen, sporting dark glasses, waiting at the porch. One of them lunged forward, opening the door in one smooth motion, saying
Shubh Prabhat, Khed hai ki Saharashri vilambit ho gayein hain. (This translates into - Good Morning Sir. Very sorry to inform you that Sahara shree will be late)
RS, still groggy, thought of the worst and said – “OMG, Kab? Kaise? And then tried to stage a smooth recovery (upon realizing that vilambit isn’t divangat) by saying - Accha, pratiksha kaksh kidhar hai
Bond # 1 : Sir, jalpaan ki vyavastha karein? Bond # 2 : Sir, aapko fresh hona hai kya? RS: I’m feeeling very fresh now, just need to smoke this cigarette
All Bonds became instantly speechless.
Cut to the meeting. SS in his large office, but gracing the sofa, instead of the faraway imposing desk. RS on the right-angled single seater sofa, an expensive glass table within their reach. Discussions proceeding cordially, with the air of a Presidential summit, with various aides standing to the sides.
During the meeting, the SS flicks his hand and snaps a delicate finger. Man Friday rushes with a cigarette case. Bond 2 sprints with a lighter.
RS: O good, good, you’re a smoker…I was dying to smoke (Deathly silence all around) SS lights up, inhales deeply. Bond 2 frozen with lighter in hand. Rakesh reaches out, plucks it out of his hand and lights up - now sharing the esteemed ashtray with SS, who looks at him and guffaws as they both inhale deep drags and exhale equally deeply. Talks now proceed cordially, with probing volleys on both sides.
When asked to discuss strategy, RS says, most programming will need to go. News anchors will not wear uniforms. The bulletins need to be crisp. Other shows must be designed keeping a demographic in mind. And - there will be no presenters and announcers on air unless you want to make it a Doordarshan channel. Collective gasps behind RS. SS frozen in mid smile, gazes at RS intently and then resumes the other half of the smile.
SS: Aap bahut frank aur aggressive hain! RS: That’s why you’ve called me for a meeting SS: Lekin aap hindi bahut achchi jaantey hain, aapka background kya hai RS: Bachpan UP mein, college Dilli mein aur karya-kshetra Bombay
SS guffaws. The grows silent, deep in thought, then smiles and arises. RS too is forced to rise, only to find himself in an embrace, with SS saying: Sahara parivaar mein aapka swagat hai!
RS (to himself): How? OMG, this is too screwy…
All exit sanctum sanctorum. The group CEO takes Rakesh aside and says- Ye aapne kya kiya? koi SS ke saamne cigarett nahin peeta
Rakesh: Lekin wo mere saamney pee rahe thhey!
CEO: Woh hamare pita samaan hain. I dont expect everyone to follow Indian tradition, lekin jis din meri shaadi hui, mainey pehle SS ke pair chhooey phir apne maa baap ke. hum sab unka aadar karte hain
At this point RS decides to add another 50% to the already inflated sum he was going to ask for, to be able to amiably reject the offer.
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