Archana Khare Ghose
28 December 2013,
I wrote a similar thing at another time, when filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh had passed away more than six months ago. That, in a profession where interacting with celebrities is a part of what you have to do to justify your salary at the end of the month, you stop getting baffled with the enormity of the interviewees’ halo after a while. In fact, as you even get acquainted with some not-so-pleasant behavioral attributes of certain celebrities, their aura loses quite a bit of its sheen in your eyes forever.
But, a few surprise you and floor you for very different reasons, and find a place in your heart that is not likely to be usurped by others easily. Meeting after meeting, they display such impeccable good manners and such humility in their speech that you wonder if those people are for real.
One such celeb who seemed too humble for real has just bid good bye to the world. Farooq Sheikh. What an amiable, endearing man he was. I had the good fortune of meeting him in person twice and speaking to him over phone more than half-a-dozen times for a variety of stories. That wasn’t much, but enough to know the difference between a regular celebrity, and those hewn out of gold.
The most enduring image of Farooq Sheikh I had in my mind when I metamorphosed into a journalist nearly a decade-and-a-half back was the one that I had seen him as in my pig-tail-days — a boy-next-door who looked cute in a funny movie called Chashme Buddoor. Those were the days of Doordarshan and its weekly dose of Hindi movies that my young aunt and her neighbourhood friends would wait for with unbridled fervour.
My aunt, who had just finished college, was inadvertently casting tender impressions on the child’s mind that I had, through her giggles, her tears, the men she drooled over and the women she aspired to be like. And Farooq Sheikh was one name that had escaped her lips in an incessant stream for almost a week since the anchor on the rather impassive television screen had announced the telecast of Chashme Buddoor over the following Sunday.
And just before the movie began, I had found myself sitting sandwiched between my aunt and her two friends, uneasy on our seats in anticipation of the unraveling of the greatest mystery on earth. A certain Mr Sheikh was the hero of the film, and I was sure he was the best man on the earth since not just my aunt but her friends too had waited to watch him as if he were going to propose marriage to all of them through the television screen soon after the end of the film. (Looking back, I must say my aunt had a fine taste.)
As I was so much in awe of my irrepressible aunt, my little mind had liked the actor Farooq Sheikh naturally. And the memory of that liking had stayed on in my mind, failing to evaporate despite various changes that inevitably come in a person when she grows from a little girl to a young woman.
Little did I know then, and even later when I was swamped by the desire to become a journalist, that I would, indeed, get to interact with the boy-next-door from the immensely likeable Chashme Buddoor.
And when the opportunity first came, I was prepared to get only some useful bytes out of a well-known individual who would invariably, and effortlessly, look through the reporter posing questions to him — as is usually the case.
But I came back with much more. I came back feeling respected as Mr Sheikh had addressed me as ‘Ma’m’ throughout the conversation, and had even folded his hands in ‘Namaste’ in the end — on his own, and not in response to mine.
It wasn’t a one-off, as I had expected it to be. Through subsequent meetings and phone conversations, the good stuff that Mr Sheikh was made of came across fluently. His responses to SMS requests for appointments too exuded humility that was always so refreshing. It was a touching experience to know that here was a luminary who displayed such innate goodness in his actions to even those who must come across as intrusive professionals forever looking for one good story.
Your going away, Mr Sheikh, is as much a loss to the rare world of well-behaved humans as it is to the world of actors. I hope you have left behind more like you in the unreal world of glitz and glamour.