Fans throng MS Dhoni’s bungalow in Ranchi after India won the 2011 World Cup on Saturday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, April 2: Dhoni’s Ranchi mansion went from darkness to Diwali in five minutes flat.
A superb lofted shot by MSD and the roar at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium seemed to come of mere kittens. The tigers were at Harmu, Dhoni’s neighbourhood.
The roar, “D-H-O-N-I” eddied on and on around the suddenly crowded Harmu bypass, punctuated by crackers, nagadas, dhols, screeching tyres of stunt bikers and screams of women.
Around 2,000 people swooped on Dhoni bungalow, which was shrouded in enigmatic darkness all evening. And finally, Dhoni’s black and beige mansion, Shaurya, revealed its human self, as family members trooped out with flags and wish lamps.
Businessman S.P. Gupta, the father-in-law of Dhoni’s elder sister Jayanti, was the most active, as he lit three wish lamps. His niece Avika waved the India flag.
“Dhoni bhaiya zindabad, Sakshi bhabi zindabad,” the crowd screamed, forgetting earlier fancy turns of phrase such as "Jab tak suraj chand rahega, Dhoni tera naam rahega" and “Dhoni ka naara hai, World Cup hamara hai.”
Notably, parents Paan and Devaki Singh were conspicuous by their absence.
A posse of policemen suddenly sprung into action, herding the women away. “I’m taking pictures,” homemaker Nutan Gupta screamed at the well-meaning cop, waving her high-end camera phone. “It’s your risk,” the cop shouted back.
Cartons of crackers burst in front of the mansion. Over-zealous youths screeched to a brake, burning out the rear tyres in sharp bursts. Some tore their own shirts, some that of others.
“T20 World Cup was nothing compared to this,” said Mohit Kumar (19), a trader, pouring cold drinks over his friends.
They were all born after 1983. So comparisons with Kapil Dev would make no sense. But vernacular newspapers had compared astrological configurations of Kapil and Dhoni, said Mohit’s friend Ratan Raj. “It’s all in the stars,” he shouted.
Clearly, Ranchi’s biggest starry night in a very long time.
Celebrations had started with early crackers on Harmu ground, Dhoni’s upscale neighbourhood, after he came on crease with Gautam Gambhir. Around 400 fans went berserk watching on a giant screen. But MSD’s family members — his parents, brother Narendra, his wife and three-year-old daughter Avika — stayed put inside the sleepy fortress guarded by 25 Jharkhand Armed Police jawans.
In the afternoon, Dhoni’s neighbours, retired HEC engineer H.N. Ambastha and wife Jyoti, said the celeb family didn’t talk to neighbours. It’s true. Royalty often maintains a stiff upper lip.
“Today 20 new jawans — 10 each bearing rifles and lathis — have been deputed to give privacy to Dhoni’s family and protect his property. But five of us are permanently on vigil,” said Niranjan Kumar Singh (23).
Despite the tight security, though, the boundary wall is defaced by graffiti. Bike gangs have spraypainted imaginative names — Evil Sins, Stealth, Rods — in black all over.
“When India defeated Pakistan, crowds swelled to more than 10,000 outside the bungalow. They burst crackers and kept the neighbourhood awake till 3am. Mr Paan Singh came up briefly on the balcony to wave at the crowds. But there wasn’t another peep from the First Family,” Ambastha recalled.
At nearby Kadru, Narendra’s friends were watching the match in his newly acquired plush Vodafone Store. “He’s watching the match at home,” said one. A little while later, the store’s shutters were down.
“Narendra is inside, watching the match with friends,” a bystander hazarded, pointing to the black SUV parked outside. “That’s Dhoni’s first fourwheeler.”
MSD’s kin is not just media shy, but privacy crazy. Obviously, the anti-Dhoni wave after India crashed out of the 2007 World Cup still rankles.
Today, Dhoni made up for his comparatively poor show in the World Cup. And his townsfolk found the reason to be indulgent. Near the gates of The House, Harmu resident Rupesh Ranjan (18), a Delhi Public School Class XII student, slows down his steps.
“Dhoni, the master strategist, led from the front today. It means Jharkhand ka dimag chalta hai (Jharkhand’s brains work),” he said.