Disorganised, unruly, chaotic… Viswanathan Anand's reception at IGI airport late on Sunday night, could probably be summed up by these three words.
Two weeks after he was crowned world champion, Anand came home to the chaotic kind of reception the T20 Cup winning-cricketers got, but unfortunately, one that seemed largely stage-managed. There was the omnipresent media, chess federation officials, staff from his sponsors, NIIT, and a bunch of "volunteers", some of who seemed to have been roped in by people unknown.
The very fact that many present didn't even know about Anand or what he had just done speaks volumes about what it was like.
"Do you think he should have a fan following?" asked Jatin Juneja, a BCom II year student of the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. Juneja, one of the "volunteers" present to give a rousing welcome to Anand, added: "Agar Katrina Kaif ya Salman Khan or Sanjay Dutt hote tab main aise nahi kehta." Well, the only consolation here is that Anand almost certainly doesn't care what kind of reception he was accorded.
For the rest, it was the expected media circus, one that resulted in tremendous pushing and shoving. But neither that, nor his long flight fazed Anand, who still wore that trademark smile as he faced the media.
"Even after we checked into the hotel, some mediapersons followed us and Anand talked to them," said the chess master's better half, Aruna. Anand posed for shutterbugs and obliged the intruding media at the hotel without even a hint of irritation. His modest charm --- and his very special talent of course — is what makes him so hugely popular not just in India but also in his country of residence, Spain.
"After I won the world championship in Mexico, I went for a walk with my wife. Suddenly, a taxi driver came up to us seeking an autograph," said Anand, seemingly surprised. It would have been no surprise to anyone else.
Anand though, chose to play down his own achievements and spoke of a future bright. “I agree that India doesn't have a sporting culture but the chess scene is pretty healthy. There are many athletes in other sports too who are doing quite well. Even in chess, the young brigade comprising Koneru Humpy, D. Harika and Parimarjan Negi are doing well," said Anand, an incorrigible optimist. He even made light of the mess that was the welcoming ceremony. "It is alright. In fact, I felt good. As I was checking out of the immigration counter, quite a few people asked for my autograph, so I was already in that mood. I never expected so many people to turn up past midnight," he said. Well...
What was also unfortunate was that there were hardly any security personnel around, unlike when the cricketers travel, when every available policeman probably opts to escort them. Yet, the king of 64 squares didn't complain. He was just happy to be back. In fact, wife Aruna was taken aback when an Anand fan asked for an autograph from her.
Meanwhile, ask Anand about Mexico and he beams, "I think it was one of my best performances...” Of course it was.
Read this space on Wednesday, for more on Mexico and Anand.