Meera Srinivasan

CHENNAI: It is 1.45 a.m. and Dr. Subburayan Nagar in Kodambakkam has hundreds waiting in small groups, eagerly watching every big car that zooms by. It hardly seemed like a little past midnight in the light from rows of serial bulbs beaming in golden-yellow. Street dogs looked amused, perhaps at the unusual buzz of activity at that hour. Big posters with loud welcome messages put everything in context.

The city was eagerly awaiting the return of the Oscar winner, whose aircraft was to land at 2.30 a.m. The excitement kept growing as more and more people gathered there, to be part of a rare moment in the Indian film history. And just outside A.R.Rahman’s house, his friends had put up a big dais with drummers playing their heart out, even as the posters nearby screamed their own messages such as “Congratulations to the music millionaire!” and “Oscar Tamizhanae!”

It is quarter past 2. Playback singers Sujatha, Chinmayi, Sreenivas, Benny, Harini and Tipu make their way into his compound one after the other. By now, the crowd has multiplied to thousands, nearly choking the narrow stretch. In another half-an-hour, phones begin to ring and many yell out “His plane has arrived!” The drum beats grow louder. A handful of police personnel begin their futile attempt to organise the crowd. At 2.55 a.m. actor Parthiban arrives. Actor Simbu is also there in a few minutes.

By now, the crowd knows that a glimpse of their Mozart could be a few minutes away. By 3.10 a.m., the standing space decreases significantly and it gets claustrophobic. And. in a few minutes, a sea of heads turned, jumped and yelled at the sight of a car. They knew this was it. Even as the song ‘Jai Ho!’ was played, the man of the hour walked out, wearing his usual timid smile and looking absolutely unaffected.

As he walked a few yards towards his home, the crowd mobbed him. With a few escorts pushing him through, he got inside. When the gates opened, a bunch of fans swarmed in.

Though the gates were closed by now, Rahman’s escorts were still battling a few fans and mediapersons. The crowd inside, in groups went and wished the music wizard and took photographs, even as he spoke to the media in small groups. “I am overwhelmed by this reception. I am really grateful to the God,” he said.

Around 3.45 a.m. ace drummer Sivamani stepped out to engage the crowd. After a 20-minute show, he wrapped up.

Perhaps sensing the restlessness of the crowd outside the gate, Rahman came out around 4.40 a.m. “Jai ho! It is really nice of all you to have come here to share the joy. I really value this love you have for me, but I know you will be tired. We all should get some sleep. You will have to go to office tomorrow; the kids have to go to school. I am always going to be here, I am not going anywhere. We can certainly meet again. Thank you so much again.”

Within minutes, the crowd dispersed.