Encounters


Somehow I have developed a habit of giving double meaning titles to my blog posts.  So continuing with the tradition, this post has nothing to do with extra judicial killings or ‘encounters’ as they are commonly referred as. This is about recalling chance meetings I have had with some people we could be referred as celebrities. Now ‘celebrity’ is a rather tricky term if you are working (or have worked) in advertising business. Most TV, film or sports celebrities are just ‘talent’ for you if you are working on right accounts. So how these encounters are different; they were different from routine work matters, and all barring one were purely chance meetings. Why did I think of writing about them? Apart from the ever present urge of showing off and gaining attention; I realize I need to continue posts for my blog. I am not regular at blogging and because my audience is very limited (I still think majority of my readers are friends who read it as a favor) and sometimes it surprises me I have lasted this long considering my flair of leaving hobbies in middle.

Now if you are my regular reader you would know my interest in cricket and Liverpool Football Club. If you are not my regular reader, you know it now. I would start from football first. Some of you might (or might not) know as a student in UK, I worked part time at Liverpool Football Club. I was usually handling cash counter in the shops inside ‘Anfield’ (home of Liverpool Football Club) which provided refreshments to spectators during the games. It was actually quite tough and I left it as soon as I got a job in a local call center. But my last day at work more than made up for the punishing schedule that I went through in that job.

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I was standing within stadium premises without realizing where exactly I was, and was waiting for a friend to finish his shift so we could leave for home together and two huge luxury buses showed up and parked right in front of me. Suddenly the door behind me opened and a huge figure appeared. He seemed familiar and as he came closer I finally recognized him, it was Emile Heskey, one of the Liverpool strikers back then. That is when I realized I am standing right next to the home team’s dressing room. Heskey was followed by a little fella, who has also been mentioned in my first ever blog post. As soon as I realized it was him, I went into a daze. He stood still right in front of me and started talking to a steward. I started wondering how to strike a conversation. Steward was talking about his goal that day (we never really got to see the game as our work hours were specifically during game times) so when he started moving towards the team coach I put my hand forward for a handshake gathered all the confidence to nervously mutter ‘top game mate’.  He shook my hand and replied ‘Cheers’ before getting inside the coach. As soon as he went in, I saw a certain player wearing number 8 jersey get into the coach (couldn’t see his face, but we all know who he is) and I also saw Xabi Alonso signing some autographs. Moment later, my friend reached and asked, ‘were you just talking to..you know..was that for real?’ It is funny how I have mentioned him considering the amount of time I spend trolling him on twitter. I have left plenty of hints about who that player is, if you know the name, do write back in comments section and you might win a surprise gift. A free trip to.. I will reveal details later. Competition closes in two weeks’ time.

Now some of you might argue that was more like celebrity spotting rather than celebrity encounter. Your argument might have some merit, but celebrity spotting for me is when I saw entire Everton team in a posh Liverpool restaurant by docks. A ‘gora’ friend of mine pointed out a rather ‘Shrek’ looking young player saying he is the next best thing. That next best thing now is one of the best players around, world knows him as Wayne Rooney. Now ‘that’ is celebrity spotting (Although Rooney was hardly a celebrity back then). Well in any case this is my blog so might is right. But this next one had more detailed interaction. Well comparatively speaking.

Wasim Bhai as he is commonly known as, has been my favorite cricketer ever since I have started watching cricket, and nobody else still comes close to him when it comes to his talent. I totally understand when Justice Qayum let him go free later admitting he couldn’t have punished his favorite player. I would have probably offered him chai and biscuits as well in the court.

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During my stint at one of the leading advertising agencies, we launched a certain designer branded handset for a top cell phone manufacturer and one of the events was a fashion show/ launch party to announce its arrival. Attendees were ‘who is who’ of K-town and I saw Wasim Bhai with a glass in one hand and a ‘sutta’ in another chatting and ‘puffing’ away to some exclusive company. I was talking to my client when I saw him and spontaneously said ‘Oh, Wasim Akram is here too’.  Client sensed my excitement offered to introduce me to him. Wasim bhai came across as a pleasant person and a non-stop chatter box. Most of the conversation was about his compliments for the arrangements (which were pointless because a third party organized event but of course I did not mention it) and routine cricket matters. He even asked for a cigarette, ‘sutta’ as he called (I was a smoker back then) and it felt like a privilege to share my ‘sutta’. How many of you have shared a ‘sutta’ with Wasim Akram?

If you have traveled Business or First class, you would know seat number 1A is usually empty or reserved for VIPs. I boarded an early morning Emirates flight to Dubai for a business meeting and was allocated seat 1B. Minutes before departure a gentleman came and occupied the seat next to me, 1A. I won’t exactly call him a celebrity but he comes closest to what can be described as a ‘dignitary’.  After all, the I cannot think of anyone else apart from Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who has been both President, and Prime Minister of Pakistan. This gentleman at that point was sitting Senate Chairman and his stints as President and Prime Minister were both temporary or in care taker capacity, but still.

First thing I noticed about him was his fear of flying. Just before take-off, he was holding both arm rests tightly, closed his eyes and started murmuring (probably a prayer or an ayat) in Arabic. Dignitaries are also humans. He went on to sleep after take-off and woke up for breakfast. This time I initiated the conversation, which was primarily exchange of pleasantries, and customary questions like what do you. Actually he asked me this question, it would have been rather silly of me had I asked it. I have again skipped his name intentionally, just to see how many of my esteemed readers could figure out his name, if you do know his name than respond in comments section and you too could win a an absolutely free trip to…details later.

As Account Manager for one of the biggest selling tea brands in Pakistan, I was once assigned task to handle arrangements of an event for orphan children at SOS village in Karachi as part of Eid celebrations. It wasn’t particularly an exciting event for me because 1) I was working during Eid Holidays and 2) I wasn’t really fan of this ‘Uchian Majaanjaan wali’ fame, main attraction of the show. Musically speaking, I was never fan of his music or his genre in particular. I was also (quite an admission this) suffering from’ burger syndrome’ and he was simply not cool enough. It did not help that first thing he asked me after exchanging Salaams was – “Ashfaq Sahab – mujh per baal chotay achay lagtay hain ya baray?” “Huh?? How self-centered” I thought. It seemed he was turning out to be just as I thought he would, a ‘paindoo’. How wrong was I?

During an eternal delay of shoot, I was sitting next to him and he started talking to the sound in-charge. He asked him about a particular gig two days ago of Meekal Hasan Band, the sound guy responded that hardly anyone showed up. “Sad, he said, such a talented bunch and nobody listens to them”. That’s when I intervened and asked if he listens to MHB. And he started a very soulful rendition of their song ‘Rabba’. It left me speechless. So we started talking about music, I asked him about his favorite acts and he responded with ‘Eagles’ and ‘Pink Floyd’. “Pink Floyd”?? I asked with an almost sarcastic laugh. He laughed back and said “Ashfaq Sahab – her bhangra gaane wala paindoo nahi hota”. I was taken aback again, how did he find out what I was thinking? He then picked up mic, gave instructions to performing band and sang ‘Hotel California’, a spotless rendition indeed. When he sat again, we had a detailed discussion on Pink Floyd, on the background behind their song ‘Shine on you crazy diamond’ and Syd Barret in particular. He also said that he wants to do a rather serious folk album with psychedelic sound inspired by Floyd, but knows there won’t be any buyers. Yes, you have to guess his name as well. He actually should be easiest of all.

I will be waiting for your responses, So I can firm bookings for that all expenses paid trip to…details later. Keep your passports ready.

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6 responses to “Encounters

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