Your car is approaching a toll booth, what do you do? Fumble for change, switch the frequency on the radio, look around to see other glum faces queuing up? If you were at the Ghaziabad-Meerut toll plaza on Friday afternoon, however, you would've got your autograph book out, as the man in the SUV parked next to your car was cricket star Suresh Raina. And, so it was...
Ever willing to give back to the ones who cherish it the most, Raina took time out – he was excitedly being chauffeured to the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit – to sign autographs and pose for photographs with frenzied fans who jumped out of their cars to catch a glimpse of the man who two years ago scored a century on his Test debut.
"It's the fans who make you who you are. It's very important to acknowledge that and show gratitude," said Raina, who played a record 98 ODIs before making his Test debut. However, in a country where cricketing stars are worshipped like gods, things can sometimes get out of control. Raina remembers one such incident in Kerala, when a pack of eager autograph-seekers were swarming around him.
"For a moment I was boxed in, there were people all around. It took me almost half-an-hour to find my way out among the sea of bodies. These sort of things happen when you're a celebrity in this country; the key is how you handle such situations," he added.
The 25-year-old has sampled the culinary delights across five continents on his cricketing travels. However, its desi food that really makes his mouth water. Even a roadside eatery selling choley bhature caught his fancy, but lack of time forced him to give it a miss. "I remember the good old days when I would gorge on these roadside delights before my matches in Lucknow," he recalled. "Arhar ki daal, and Lucknavi kebabs were my favourites."
A family man
While the car passed through Raj Nagar Extension in Ghaziabad, where his family lives, he got a call from father, Trilok Nath Raina, informing about the wedding ceremony of a family friend in New Delhi on Friday evening.
Owing to his participation in the Ranji Trophy, Raina informed his father that he won't be able to make it to the wedding, but promised to return home as soon as the match was over on Tuesday evening. "I always try to spend time with my family. Before leaving for the next Ranji match, I will spend a few days with them," he said.