Why I don’t pose for pictures and ask for autographs; The 15 minutes I spent with her have coloured my every subsequent brush with celebrity.

I feel a healthy thrill when there’s talk of celebrity. I’m bitten by the same common curiosity as you are about their love lives. And I run into them as often as you do.

Celebrities have always been demi-gods, but I’ve come to believe they’re a lot more accessible these days. You can’t meet one at the drop of a hat, but you surely needn’t pine away for an entire lifetime to feel the touch of their aura in a 20-metre radius. More importantly, in this generation, where every celebrity is a friend of a friend, or at least a friend of a friend of a friend, your chances of having a chance meeting with one is pretty good.

I met Chitra, that playback singer with arguably the best voice ever, in Visakhapatnam, a coastal city in Andhra Pradesh. I was a wee lad of 12.

For months before this meeting, I was hooked to one song in a Telugu blockbuster – Ninne pelladatha. The song, a duet with Chitra and Hariharan, goes like this. I was an HMV dog in front of the cassette player. There is absolutely no one else in this version of the film-verse who can go head to head with Hariharan in vocal gymnastics and come up on top. This song was her turf – a raga-based composition, classical instruments and lots of room to maneuver. She owned it. And I was smitten.

I must insert a parenthesis here. Asterix fans will understand. {Chitra has a humongous number of hits with S.P. Balasubramaniam, but I always felt SPB was a bit of a cheater. Chitra would execute complicated, subtle modulations and the man would chuckle or croon mid-song and hog all the glory. I'm not dissing the man, but where Chitra would use a stiletto to delicately strum at your heartstrings; SPB brings a bazooka of vocal expression and blows you away. End parenthesis}

So, a vindicated Chitra admirer, I met her at hotel Daspalla.

Meenakshi Anantaram - a PhD in marine biology who made a mercurial but highly successful decision to become an event organiser - arranged the meeting. She had flown in Chitra for a live concert and as her 'family friends', we got dibs on meeting her. She took my father, my twin brother and me. Chitra is an incredibly sweet human being.

It was like we walked into her home. She welcomed us with a gracious 'Namaskaram', asked us to make ourselves comfortable, offered us tea and some small eats (an offer which my brother and I never refuse as a matter of principle). She chatted about travel, home and all sorts of regular things and accepted my father's compliments - typically specific and referenced - with grace and sincerity. Then we sang for her.

I remember it as though I saw the whole thing as another person. Two boys and their father singing, as Meenakshi beamed and Chitra listened, with her eyes closed. She loved the song, was moved by the verses, which my father had written. She even told me I sang well, that I should practice singing lower octaves. She asked us to come visit her in Chennai. The conversation continued, but at some point, the 12-year-old felt he'd crossed over into new territory, that he'd been granted access to an inner circle. He wasn't just a fan anymore. Chitra reassured him of it, with a pat on the cheek and a "See you in the evening."

Evening came and we all went to listen to Chitra. She was flawless on stage. The other singers played catch with their pitching and rhythm, but not she. "I know Chitra," I declared to the cluster of friends and distant relatives. "I met her this afternoon at her hotel room. I even sang for her." I was unstoppable now. "She said I had a great voice and that I should keep singing." The cluster was impressed for about ten seconds and then asked me to show it the autograph. I didn't have one, of course. The cluster called me an idiot, told me I'd missed a great opportunity. How could someone not get an autograph after spending all that time with a celebrity, it asked. What a waste, it declared. I could still salvage the situation, the cluster then said. "Go backstage and get the autograph." So I went backstage.

The security guard, who until then shooed everyone away, let me pass, for reasons still mysterious to me. I told him I had to meet ‘Chitra aunty’ and he let me in. She was delighted to see me. She inquired about my father, then waited with a smile for me to say something funny. I held out a piece of paper and a pen and blubbered, "autograph." She frowned, tilted her head to one side, sighed and signed the paper. I could read the word ‘jackass’ in a word-bubble over my head. I had been given a precious place in a celebrity's life - I was someone who she could have a casual, normal, three-sentence conversation with - and I'd blown it all for a scribble on a scrap of paper. I'd been demoted to 'fan'.

I stumbled out, showed the autograph to the cluster, and let go when one of them tugged on it. Chitra was back on stage, a little farther away. I turned around and went home.

Since then, I've met a few people you might know, even had a conversation or two with some of them. I will write about them in this blog. Did the rendezvouses really happen? Well, you'll have to take my word for it. I have no pictures of my thrilled self with indulgent them. I have no scribbles on paper napkins or dog-eared notebooks. I have a few memories. They're more vivid than photographs and sure as heck read better than autographs.

(Anand Venkateswaran is fascinated with people and with words. So he writes about people. Even when he's writing about food, film or formaldehyde. Fatten his ego or spit in his punch, at vi.ananda@gmail.com)