Shillong, Sept. 3: An unassuming youth who left Shillong some months ago in pursuit of a dream returned home today a phenomenon.
Donning the Khasi warrior’s attire, complete with a turban, and flashing that winning smile, Amit Paul looked every bit the Indian Idol that he aspires to be as hometown Shillong gave him a reception to remember.
Frenzied fans followed him everywhere ever since he touched the Khasi heartland, Mawlai. A similar welcome awaited him at Umroi. Girls dressed in their traditional best and representing the three tribes of Meghalaya — Khasi, Jaintia and Garo — screamed as he waved to the crowd.
Amit also visited his alma mater, St Peter’s School at Dhankheti. Police had a tough time controlling the crowd. To their credit, they managed the 40,000-strong crowd at the J.N. Stadium well just when it looked like a stampede would spoil the show.
The Sony TV representatives accompanying Amit were stunned. They admitted to not expecting such an incredibly hysterical homecoming for the lad.
The Shillong Arts and Music Lovers’ Forum toiled overnight to put up the stage and set up the sound system at Polo Ground. Amit did not disappoint the fawning home crowd, singing the two songs that made him the judges’ favourite on the Indian Idol 3 stage — Nasha Yeh Pyar Ka Nasha Hai and Pehla Nasha Pehla Khumaar — with elan. The crowd crooned with him, raising their hands in the air and clapping excitedly.
Addressing the gathering, Amit said he was delighted to be home, even if for a day. He looked a little tired, but you could not tell it from his performance. Once he gets the microphone, Amit just comes alive. “He is a deadly performer,” one of the organisers said.
It took much persuasion from the organisers to keep fans from mobbing their idol. Polite to a fault, Amit appealed to them to “please step back a little”. He then engaged the crowd by asking them to sing along, karaoke style.
Chants of “We want Amit” echoed across the huge stadium. After singing six songs, including his favourite Khasi number Nga dang iai kynmaw iaphi baieied, Amit was whisked off by security personnel.
Meghalaya police deployed their special operation troops to provide security to Amit. The Shillong lad wanted to travel to all localities to thank the residents for their support, but Sony TV’s strict schedule for its protégé was the spoiler. In any case, traffic had gone haywire as people invaded the streets just for a glance of him.
For Amit, another source of disappointment was not being allowed to stay at home. Such is the price of fame that Shillong’s first reality television star was left with no choice but to spend the night at Air Command House for security reasons. Air Marshal P.K. Borbora made the arrangements for his stay there.
Amit will leave for Guwahati tomorrow morning, from where he will head back to Mumbai for the final leg of the contest. As for his fans here, they will just have to continue the SMS spree or call the designated BSNL number to vote for him. Mawlai legislator P.T. Sawkmie has sponsored 40 PCOs to enable Amit fans to vote.
“We just hope the public euphoria translates into votes,” said Sweety Pala, a producer of new-generation Khasi films.
Going by the reception accorded to Amit by his fans, vote they will. Never had the town seen such an assembly in one place and perhaps not in a long time to come.