How often do you play a One-Day International at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, and then take a metro train in Chennai the following evening? How often, actually, do you even take the metro if you are an active India cricketer, never mind that you are officially the No. 1 bowler and allrounder in the longest format worldwide?
Welcome to the world of R Ashwin. A complex and yet an uncomplicated world, much like his bowling, actually. On Monday (January 23) evening, as he arrived at the city of his birth from the City of Joy, he landed to protests and roadblocks in various parts of the Tamil Nadu capital as heartburn over the raging jallikattu issue touched emotional, often violent heights.
Just hours earlier, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had rested Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja from the three-match Twenty20 International series against England, starting in Kanpur on Republic Day. It meant the spin combo, which has already done so much Test match bowling this winter and which has plenty of work lined up, could look ahead to a few days of R & R, family time, and stints away from probing eyes at anonymous nets, honing their batting and bowling skills with the Bangladesh Test and the Australia series imminent.
When Ashwin boarded the flight in Kolkata, Chennai was still a little on edge but there was free passage from the airport to his West Mambalam residence. By the time he landed some two-and-a-half hours later, traffic had come to a standstill in various parts of the city, including on his route home. Furthermore, even the suburban trains had stopped running. Talk about inconveniencing the common man.
“It was a fun ride. Not an everyday occurrence and this was certainly not planned, but it was quite an experience. One of the great things about Chennai is that you can still venture out in public. People will approach you for selfies, etc, but they will still give your space, and that’s fantastic.”
The common man, however, still has the luxury of stepping out of the airport and seeking other ways home. The common-man privilege – it may not seem a privilege to you or me, the actual common men – isn’t something celebrities can enjoy, but there are several perks of being a celebrity, and especially a celebrity son of the soil who is constantly doing his city and state, as well as his country, proud.
The Ashwin support group mechanism swung into action the moment it became apparent that the only options available to him were to either chill in the VIP lounge at the airport, or bite the bullet and take the metro, which would ferry him to the Ashok Nagar station, not far from his house and where his car was waiting. Phone calls were made, top cops were contacted – how could he leave the airport and board the train without security? – and arrangements made for his luggage to be safely held in the airport for the time being, until it could be collected on Tuesday.
It didn’t take the airport police more than half an hour to sort things out, not with Vijay Kumar, the assistant commissioner of police, taking active interest himself. Unlike in the movies, the cops don’t always arrive after all the action has already taken place. Ashwin was escorted to the metro station and as he boarded the train, eyes were rubbed in disbelief. Ashwin? Na, can’t be. But such uncanny resemblance? Has to be. Oh wait, he has been rested, hasn’t he? So, it is him.
“It was a fun ride,” Ashwin told Wisden India. “Not an everyday occurrence and this was certainly not planned, but it was quite an experience. One of the great things about Chennai is that you can still venture out in public. People will approach you for selfies, etc, but they will still give your space, and that’s fantastic.”
Such situations dictate usage of the public transport, thank the airport police for taking me through safely!???? pic.twitter.com/MbxpikiMHy
— Ashwin Ravichandran (@ashwinravi99) January 23, 2017
At the Ashok Nagar station, father N Ravichandran was waiting for the train ferrying his only son to arrive, a little anxious understandably. “Sir, my wife is sitting next to India player Ashwin in the metro!” the man standing next to him nearly screamed, unable to contain his excitement. “Perhaps someone from your family is in the same train, do tell them.”
The indulgent dad smiled and told him, “There is someone from my family in the train – my son Ashwin.” Really? You expect me to believe that, the neighbour must have thought. Until, of course, the metro chugged in and the son disembarked.
A train ride with a difference, one that neither Ashwin nor his fellow passengers are likely to forget in a rush.