Happy homecoming

V. GANESAN

The full-throated cheers were at their zenith at the Chennai Airport when Anand was spotted coming out of the terminal. Photographers and video personnel went berserk even as fans craned their necks to catch a glimpse of their idol. Anand, himself, looked unruffled and waved at the crowd. Arun Venugopal was there at the spot.

The joyous tumult — reserved for heroes returning from momentous triumphs — is brewing ever so ostensibly at the Chennai Airport as denizens wait for the ‘King' Viswanathan Anand to arrive. The importance of Anand's fifth World Championship title and its larger relevance in affirming India's standing in the global sporting domain isn't apparently lost on the country.

And this comes at a time when Indians are coming to grips with multiple crises ranging from the weakening rupee to price rise. Barring a few exceptions, India hasn't tasted consistent success in individual sport. The chess maestro has not only pushed the envelope in his chosen sport but also unfailingly brought joy to his nation over a long period of time. Anand has also at once challenged Eastern Europe's hegemony over chess and single-handedly increased awareness and interest about the game in India.

Coming back to the scenes in the airport, it seems paradoxical that a flamboyant reception from the fans awaits a man who has always shunned the limelight. But then, who is complaining? This was every bit their night as Anand's. A large number of school children wearing Anand masks troop into the waiting area. They are instructed by their teachers to hold the placards aloft. Some of the placards carry cleverly-positioned puns. “You have brought ‘anand' to our hearts” and “Anand, you are Chennai's Super King” were the more striking ones.

K.R. Shruthileka, a class IX student of a Chennai school, said she was a fan of Anand for as much as his style of play as his calm demeanour. The scene also resembled a South Indian wedding as Nadhaswaram and Thavil artists lined up to lend more festivity. There were also Mayilattam (Tamil folk dance form) artists decked up in garish costumes besides men on stilts entertaining the waiting public. A couple of priests were present as well to welcome the 42-year-old champion with the traditional Poornakumbham.

The full-throated cheers were at their zenith when Anand was spotted coming out of the terminal. Photographers and video personnel went berserk even as fans craned their necks to catch a glimpse of their idol. Anand, himself, looked unruffled and waved at the crowd.

Only a couple of hours before Anand's arrival, there were no more than a handful of journalists at the airport. A policeman was curious about the low turnout and asked a scribe: “Is that all?” The scribe merely smiled and remarked, “Wait till you watch the real fun when Anand arrives”.

That the prophetic smirk was bang on target didn't surprise anyone at the end of the night.