Wrestler Sushil Kumar, who won silver medal at London Olympics, is being greeted by his fans upon arrival at New Delhi's international airport. PTI/Kamal Kishore
Never underestimate the power of people. But it can, on a smaller scale, smash flowerpots, rip apart metallic railings and storm the arrival lounge of the eighth-largest airport terminal in the world even as armed security personnel look on. This one had a fair bit to do with exuberance, though.
The signs had been ominously clear for over an hour. Outside IGI Airport's T3, the brass bands and the drummers were building up to a crescendo and showed no signs of letting up.
The gargantuan garlands had all shed enough petals, but the only odour emanating was from the gathering - a thousand-strong throng awaited the arrival of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, two old friends who are India's men of the moment.
The women, heads draped, danced, as did the youngest of the lot; the men - village elders and muscular, earring-sporting youth dressed in black shirts, neither group any less imposing than the other - stood guard. Others, including the bevy of camerapersons from the media, jostled to secure vantage points. The mood of all present - except those on duty - carnivalesque.
"It's just like four years ago, except that this time, the excitement is more," said an elated Seeta, Sushil's elder sister, while the mother added: "India is progressing, and I'm very happy my son played a part."
Once the waiting crowd got the first glimpse of its heroes, there was no holding back. Gate No. 5 had been locked, but the adjacent one was duly crashed, even as the guards from CISF, having lost control, smiled bemusedly - hardly an encouraging sign 24 hours before Independence Day.
Of course, there's no doubting the fervour of the assembly, which reached fever pitch when the medal-winning wrestlers were carried out of the airport lounge and hoisted upon the shoulders of their well-wishers.
And as the two - Sushil on an open lorry, Dutt in a red-beaconed SUV - were paraded off into the night, by raucous well-wishers and relatives from Baprola and Chhattrasal, one grudgingly had to acknowledge that it was, after all, a moment to cherish.