Noticed some discussion, on here, about Ganguly's ego/arrogance. Time maybe to present the flip side of the argument.
Without claiming any particular intimacy with the guy, I've met him a few times over the last 8, 9 years. The first time was shortly after he returned from his successful debut in England -- on that occasion, a colleague and I spent a good four hours in his home in Kolkatta.
Maybe a brief recall of that meeting will help put him in perspective. At the time, Rediff was a fledgling site; remember too that in 1996, there were maybe 5000 net connections in all of India, and no one really knew what the Net was all about. The traffic we were getting was almost entirely from the US.
We had just started the live online celebrity chats as one of our regular features -- then chief election commissioner TN Sheshan flagged it off; the very next day, LK Advani came on our chat. Number three in the sequence was Saurav Ganguly.
We called, and asked if he would do this; without any questions asked (what is the net, why should I do this, what is there in it for me?) he promptly agreed, and invited us home.
When we -- Shailesh Soni, who heads our tech, and I -- got to his home, we found an enormous crowd of family and friends. There was, that day, a wedding in the family -- Saurav was expected at the venue by 8 pm.
The chat was to begin at 7. We got there an hour earlier, tried to connect, and though we had a dedicated number, ran up against the vagaries of Kolkatta's telephone system. Put briefly, the damn thing just wouldn't connect.
By 6.45, the Mumbai office was in a state of panic -- 100s of fans had logged on, questions were flooding in, and we remained unconnected.
Saurav, meanwhile, was attending to guests in the other room. Close to deadline, he strolled up, saw our worried faces, and asked what was wrong. We told him.
He thought a bit, then asked, is it only logging from here that is a problem? How do you know fans are waiting?
We told him Bombay was online, and the staff there could see the questions and comments streaming in.
So why don't I do this, he suggested -- connect me to someone in your Bombay office on the phone. Let him read out the questions, I will dictate my answers and he can type it in for me. Will that work?
Would it, ever! We got the telephone link going (using his phone, mind); he sat down and patiently listened, and responded. An hour passed... his brother Snehashish, father Chandidas and others kept coming in, signalling to him that it was getting late and he needed to go. He brushed them aside, and kept responding... for two solid hours, without complaint, he talked on that line... and then, very apologetically, he asked, 'Is it okay if I cut this short in about five minutes? Unfortunately, there is this wedding I must go for...'
Oh, and? With Saurav doing all the work, there was nothing for Shail and me to do. Saurav at one point waved Snehashish over, and whispered to him. Minutes later, Snehashish materialized, a couple of servants in tow -- and lined up on a table more Bengali sweets, of more types, than I've seen in most sweet shops.
Shail tucked in. I don't much care for sweet stuff, so I passed. At which Saurav waved me over, and went, 'You better eat -- these sweets, my mother makes for us; you won't find better anywhere in the world'.
So I ended up eating more sweets in that day, than I normally eat in a year (and yes, it was outstanding).
Throughout the evening, his manners was impeccable -- the sort of cultured behavior you find also in the Dravids and Kumbles. We were initially embarassed at our inability to log on, at the fact that Saurav was having to do the heavy lifting, we kept apologising and he kept brushing us aside, going yaar, what is the problem, fans are asking questions, they are getting answers, don't worry about it...
I've met him subsequently -- and on each meeting, his manners, his behavior, has been impeccable. Oh yes, he has called me over for an 8 pm chat, and casually strolled in an hour and a half later.
Was that arrogance? Not really -- the thing with Saurav is, he does not do what he does out of malice, or ego. It is just the way he is -- he will stroll in without a word of apology; but by the same token, if you are an hour late for your meeting with him, he will wait for you patiently, and welcome you without a murmur.
This is my take, based on my experience. So where does this perceived arrogance come from? Good question -- have to clear some work, be back here in a bit with what I think...