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Instant darshan, NTR style!

Instant darshan, NTR style!


MR Anand

NT Rama Rao, the former Chief Minister and yesteryear Telugu superstar, was our distinguished neighbour when I was a student of Ramakrishna Mission School in Chennai. People in Andhra Pradesh worshipped him, considering him to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In a number of movies, he donned the roles of Lord Krishna and Rama. Right from 9 am, busloads of people from different parts of Andhra Pradesh would arrive on Bazulullah Road.

A majority of these people — men and women of all ages and children — turned up with tonsured heads. They desired to have darshan of Lord Rama in the form of NTR on their way back home after visiting Tirumala-Tirupati. They used to wait for hours outside the gates of NTR’s house. NTR darshan time was around 2 pm. It moved one’s heart to see simple village folks unmindfully lying on sidewalks waiting to have a glimpse of their ‘divine’ hero.

NTR garu would have his lunch, put on makeup, dress himself in colourful attire and appear on the small dais constructed for the purpose. Exactly at that moment, the watchman would open the gates. The crowd would surge into the house chanting loudly ‘Devuda!’ With great difficulty, his assistants would push back those who tried to touch his feet. The darshan, for which these people waited for over six hours, would last a few minutes. The darshan duration was far shorter than that of Lord Balaji’s! After smilingly blessing the fans in typical deity style, with his raised right palm, he would turn back and glide into a side-room. That was all. His helpers would appear from nowhere to push the open-mouthed crowd displaying spiritual gooseflesh upon seeing Lord Rama in flesh and bone out the bungalow’s gates.

I used to be a fan of NTR. His tranquil face no doubt made him worthy of playing roles of Puranic heroes like Krishna and Rama. He looked as if he had jumped out of the pages of the fairy children magazine Chandamam. I remember how he once welcomed us into his house when we visited him to seek donation for a sports club. Though we were simple, not so well-dressed middle-class teenage boys, he received us and seated us in his living room. The taste of the delicious rose milk he gave us still lingers in my mouth. He was fond of rose colour. His building was painted rose; his face was always rose powdered; and his car, if I remember correctly, too, was a rose-coloured Plymouth.  

Sometime ago, when I went to take a look at my school, I saw his house. It was in such a state of neglect that I could hardly recognise it. The only thing it had still to remind me of those days of NTR’s glory was the iron gate that once held back waves of his fans.

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