TAMIL NADU

Meeting their heroes

CHENNAI, OCT. 16. ``Kids like Henry need a hero ... courageous, self-sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero ... People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names and years later they'll tell you how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one ... I believe there is a hero in all of us ... that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble ... who finally allows us to die with pride ... Even though sometimes, we have to be steady and give up the things we want the most... even our dreams... Spiderman did that for Henry.''

— Aunt May to Peter Parker (a.k.a Spiderman)

Sourav Ganguly did that for Ameena Begum.

Ameena and her friends from Sivananda Orphanage had been waiting at the Taj Coromandel for their hero since six in the evening. The time of his expected arrival: 7.30 p.m.

Fairly enough, the Indian captain (in red Reebok T-shirt with black sleeves) arrived at 7.40 p.m., with daughter Sana. Predictably, a battery of mediapersons rushed in and tried to `fish' quotes out of him. Fish, quite literally, as one spoke to him about Bengali food and places to find that in the city.

Superheroes, of course, don't get any privacy.

So even when he did excuse himself for a bit on finding that none of his team-mates had turned up, there was no escape from media glare — the sun-guns, digital cameras, video cameras only made the Indian captain a lot stiffer.

Thankfully for him, Rahul Dravid squeezed in through the wall of mediapersons. Parthiv Patel, the little hero of the day, joined in within moments.

But things just got worse for the children as the media completely cut the stage off from the audience. It took some amount of pleading from S. Rajaram, general secretary, Sivananda Saraswathi Sevashram and Sivananda Orphanage, before the photographers understood that the event was for the children to meet their heroes.

``Good evening boys and girls. It's great to be here,'' the captain began before going on to wish them a ``happy future, luck and happiness.''

Padmanabhan and his friends, then put up a little dance for the trio — `Gilli, ah Gilli, ah Gilli,' went the song, as Ganguly smiled on.

Padmanabhan then gave the cricketers bouquets to ``congratulate the team for its victory in advance.''

The organisers called the children on to the stage. But Rahul Dravid intervened: ``No, we will come down.'' And they did come down to sign autographs.

That's when Ganguly stopped by to ask Ameena her name. ``Do you know his name,'' he then asked, with his hands on Parthiv's shoulders. ``He's the wicketkeeper,'' the captain explained, resorting to dumb-charades, not quite sure if the girl understood who Parthiv was.

Within minutes it was all over. As he walked away swiftly from the venue, little Ameena caught the message at the back of Sourav's T-shirt: `Proud to be Indian.'

Wasn't she?

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