In July 2009, I had met the famous Indian actor, Jackie Shroff, who – listening to what I was doing – advised me to go in for a degree in sports management. Many who know me from the time when I just an engineering student – and doing not so well – know this story well. The others, whom I have met over the past four years, not so much.
It had barely been a month since I had taken my third year electronics engineering exams from the University of Pune and I had started interning with one of the most selling national newspapers in India, the Indian Express, as a sports journalist, when I met the famous Indian actor named Jackie Shroff at a press conference in the outskirts of Pune, India.
I had never really met any of the Indian actors in the past and so, meeting Mr. Shroff was quite something for me. So much so that I called home the moment I saw him and told my mother, “JACKIE SHROFF IS STANDING BEHIND ME!”
At the press conference, along with a few others, Mr. Shroff delivered a great speech and soon after, the media were invited to have lunch. The actor, who has plenty of hit movies, was busy speaking to a few journalists who were desperate for his quotes. In order to write a better story, I sneaked past a couple and popped my head in the front row to hear what he had to say. He soon finished speaking and said, “Good?” To my disappointment, the journalists nodded which meant that I couldn’t really get any more quotes and I was too shy to ask him questions. But what happened next has lived fresh in my memory ever since.
Most of the other journalists there were at least aged 30 (if not more) and I was this 21-year old boy, who was about to start his fourth (senior) year of his undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree. Mr. Shroff turned to me and said, “Aur young man, kahan se?” Which translates two, “Young man, where are you from?” I smiled and with confidence responded, “Sir, Indian Express but I am also an engineering student.”
Mr. Shroff questioned, “Tu kya engineering, journalism…?” I gleefully replied, “Sir, but this is what I want to do in life. I am going to England to do a degree in sports journalism from the University of Central Lancashire (UCL) as well.”
Mr. Shroff, “Jounalism accha field hai, par tu sports management mein degree kar. It’s an upcoming field and paisa bhi jyada hai.” And I thought to myself, “Maybe I should look into it. It’s Jackie Shroff telling me after all.”
I was always told that as a journalist one must never ask for autographs of or pictures with the celebrities as it is deemed ‘unprofessional’. As a journalist, I followed that notion most times, but there are always exceptions. Think of it this way, I had Jackie Shroff in front of me who had surprised me with his down-to-earth attitude and nature, and had made me turn into a fan of his and his personality. Ek autograph toh banta tha!
What did I do next? I asked him for his autograph and I wasn’t ashamed. I still am not. He asked me for my name and signed it with a written message. The message said, “Be determined and not disappointed.” I looked at him and remarked, “Sir, aapne likh diya na, toh ab done.”
What he told me next really, really touched me. He explained, “Be determined: have the biggest dreams possible. Never be disappointed: stick with your dreams and work towards them in order to be what you want to be.”
It was an advice that was philosophical, spiritual and motivational at the same time. On my way back home, all I did was feel grateful to God for making me meet a wonderful person, who also happens to be an absolutely brilliant actor.
Two-and-a half years later, I left for the United States to do a Masters’ program in Sport Management from the Florida State University. For me, both personally and professionally, the program did wonders, and now that I find myself working as a performance analyst for the number #1 ranked American Football collegiate team, I cannot but thank Mr. Jackie Shroff for his advice at that one press conference in July 2009 in the outskirts of Pune.
Every single morning, before going to work, I smile, feel extremely grateful to God, meditate and say to myself, “I am living the dream” because without the words of people like Jackie Shroff at vital times in my life, I couldn’t have achieved what I have achieved. But I ain't done yet...there is still a long way to go. To be true, it is still only a percentage of where I want to go and what I want to be. I am aiming for the impossible because I know with God’s grace, even the impossible becomes possible.