WWF wrestler Khali ran the crowds crazy as he walked tall on the historic Mall in Shimla on Tuesday. Khali, 36, hails from Sirmour district of Himachal.
He was on his first formal trip to Shimla after international acclaim. While thousands of people from all walks of life lined up to greet the seven feet three inches tall celebrity on a 100 metres stretch, he covered on foot from DC office to reach Gaiety theatre for a function.
An equal number anxiously waited for him outside the venue to have a glimpse of Khali on his way back.
"I am overwhelmed with the enormous response. But I feel bad that many people have to wait outside for me," Khali expressed. He told the organizers, Shimla Youth Progressive Association to arrange the function in the open next time to accommodate everybody.
Khali was accompanied with his wife, Harpinder Kaur, and a old friend, Maninder Jeet Singh Bitta, chairman of Anti-Terrorist Front.
Call it the irony of fate --- The same Shimla crowds were never impressed with the towering personality of Khali a decade ago.
At that time, he was simple Dalip Singh Rana of remote Dhiriana village and was struggling for a respectable livelihood in the state capital.
The journey from Daleep Singh Rana to Khali?
"It has been a change from oblivion to fame. Dalip Singh Rana koyee nahin janta tha, Khali ko jyadatar log pahchantey hain (Nobody knew Daleep Singh Rana. But majority people recognize Khali)," Khali said.
He added that this turning point came in his life due to hard work. "People had not left any stone unturned to pull my legs. But the God has been with me," he hastily summed up.
Asked whether he had thought about scaling such heights in life, Khali said " I never thought about it. But I had full faith on my self."
Khali came to India to attend the wedding of his brother in Dhiriana village in Sirmour.
He is due to fly back to Texas in US on November 24.
Khali injured his leg last month while wrestling, but is ready to go back to ring after as soon he returns. "I am in US only for wrestling. I plan to settle down in India after that," Khali said.
He was prompt in reply when asked whether the WWF fights were stage managed. "Agar voh stage managed yaa nakli hoti, tau aaj tak saara Hindustan wahan pahunch gaya hota (Had they been stage managed, the entire India would have reached there). Khali said he had two Bollywood movies in hand at the moment- Kushti and Rama The Saviour. His Hollywood movie Tree of Life is also due for release. In the all the movies, Khali has meaningful roles.
His ultimate dream that he would like to fulfill.
"I want to be truthful in life. And do maximum possible for the people," he said. To begin with, "I have started with some scholarships and helps to village schools in Sirmour. I have bigger plans for future," he said.
About the recognition back home- in India and in Himachal. "Beyond expectation. People have showered love and affection," he said. But encouragement from the government?
"People are government for me," he said, shirking away from direct comment.
Any plans to join politics? "No," said Khali. He said political parties had asked to campaign in polls, but he refused.
A die hard fan of Sachin
* Khali was all praise for Sachin Tendulkar as a sportsman having completed 20 years in the field without any controversy. The WWF wrestler, however, was blank on Bal Thackeray's criticism of Sachin on grounds other than sports. He said, "I am Sachin's die hard fan." He even sang a song "Tum Jiyo hazaron saal," for Sachin at the media interaction in Peterhoff.
Khali tells youth to respect elders
* The honour function organized by Shimla Youth Progressive Association at Gaeity theatre, former congress minister, Harsh Mahajan felicitated Khali and termed him the pride of Himachal and India. In his short speech in the theatre jampacked with youngsters, Khali sent out a advisory " if you want to rise in life, you should always respect elders."
* Harsh Mahajan is reasonably tall.
But he had to virtually jump to honour Khali with a Himachal cap and shawl. There was a visible tussle between the organizers to get their pictures clicked with Khali on the formal stage itself.
Website on Khali launched
* At another function organized later by Padmavati Balaji Institute of Management Studies, Shimla, BJP MP from Hamirpur and State Cricket Association president, Anurag Thakur inaugurated a website on Khali "www.himquest.com". Khali was the chief guest there. Said Jai Sood, owner of the institute, "the website will have all details on Khali's life, and people can interact with him on it through phone also.
Stay at Peterhoff
* Khali stayed at Peterhoff in Shimla, the state guest house. He ate ten eggs and twelve paranthas in breakfast. His lunch at Ashiana restaurant on the Ridge was simple and brief.
I don't have difficulty in managing Khali, wife
* Khali's wife, Harpinder Kaur was quick to reply, when a enthusiastic female reporter asked her, "How do you manage your husband,". Kaur said "I don't have any difficulty in managing him. He is a good man." The reporter went a step ahead and asked her, "But how do you cook so much of food and chapattis for him,". Kaur replied, "He eats normal food and all types of vegetables. There nothing special about it."
* Another scribe asked Harpinder Kaur, "Madam, are you not afraid of your husband?".
Kaur threw back on the reporter, "By the way, are you afraid of your wife?"
* Asked about their marriage, Khali replied, "Its love and arranged marriage".
* Khali was at a function in Kotkhai in Shimla district on the request of a local organisation on Monday evening.
However, on hearing the news of a bus accident killing 11 persons and injuring 10, near Kotkhai after some time, he finished the function fast and rushed back to Shimla. He visited the victims at Indira Gandhi Medical Hospital and expressed sympathies with the family members of the deceased.
* Khali will participate in a marathon against 26/11 in Mumbai on November 22 organized by Maninder Jeet Singh Bitta as a tribute to the victims of 26/11 martyrs.