I have to say, life is pretty damn good right now. Despite the economy, recent celebrity deaths, and overall glum state of the world, my life and my friend’s lives seem to be picking up. I am currently at Heathrow airport on my way back to Chennai. I just had the best week in London: I was invited to come for work, was put up in a decent hotel in a really cute part of town, I met some new friendly people, saw an old friend, and most importantly, I got to know my boss.

I’ll start at the beginning. My original flight back to Chennai was supposed to be on July 8th from SF to Singapore to Chennai. I got an email from AR at the last minute asking if I would like to stop in London on my way to India for work. Sure! I said. Although I knew I was going for something work related, I really had no idea what I was going to be doing there. The whole thing was oh so Mission Impossible: a strange vague request to fly to a different continent.

Picked up at the airport and dropped off at the hotel by a man who had no idea who had employed him to do so. An envelope on the night stand with money in it. Well.. the last part isn’t true. But how cool would that have been? (The money was given to me in hand Ha!). You have to understand, these are many firsts for me. 1. I’ve always wanted to travel for work – I’ve never done anything important enough to be paid to go anywhere. More importantly, I love saying the phrase “I’m here on business.” 2. Being chauffeured around London is delightful. 3. Having my meals paid for is wonderful, but dangerous. Note to self: be wary of senseless gluttony 4. Wearing a suit. Oh how important it makes one feel!

I got a mysterious email saying “We will pick you up at 2 pm. Please be ready.” So I was. They came for me at 4. Where did we go? To AR’s honorary graduation at Middlesex University! They presented AR with an honorary doctorate degree. We got there and I was shocked to see the police had been called. We walked in as a group, but immediately after we did so, someone literally shoved me out of the way and started clawing at AR. I’ve never seen such hysteria up close. People were crying, taking pictures, hugging him, screaming, shaking etc. etc. It was a crazy experience. He accepted his degree graciously and gave a heartfelt and moving speech.

We all applauded. The next day we returned to Middlesex to talk about the possible affiliation between them and KMMC. The process will be lengthy, but I think it will be really good in the end. What’s great is, middlesex was already looking into broadening their music program to include world music. How perfect. The work part was fantastic because I actually for once felt like a significant part of the KMMC team. The best part of the whole trip though, was getting to know the man.

After his graduation we went back to his home and watched the Michael Jackson memorial concert. Anyone who knows me knows how much of an MJ fan I’ve always been – and how genuinely devastated I was when I heard of his passing. It was probably the most surreal experience of my life to be sitting on a couch in AR’s house, watching the memorial, holding hands with his assistant and friend, with tears rolling down our faces,. And I know I caught the tear in his eye when Paris gave her speech about her daddy. Michael Jackson, even in death, can bring people together. There’s no going back once you’ve bonded over MJ.

Afterward, we all went to dinner at an Indian restaurant called Quilon which the big Amitabh B. frequents. AR’s lawyer, and a man named Hossam Ramzy who is apparently a very famous arabic songwriter met us there. We talked about MJ all the way there and most of AR’s sentences started with “When I met him….” or “When I called him a couple weeks ago…” Um… Whaaaaaat? Unbelievable. The dinner was delightful and when they asked AR to sign the guest book, he asked me to write the message, which he then signed. Ha! (I get such a kick out of these tiny things).

I’ve hung out with AR on many occasions now, but this was the first time that I actually saw him for himself. He is ridiculously down to earth. He handles fame extremely well, but doesn’t let it go to his head. When we went to Middlesex, he wouldn’t let me carry my laptop case because it was heavy. He was carting it around the whole campus!

Spirituality enters into almost every conversation with him, but not in an annoying or threatening way. It’s even non-denominational. He doesn’t hesitate to talk about his life – tell you stories, even ones that make him seem vulnerable and small. Considering the number of snakes that surround him at any given moment, he always makes you feel like you are trusted. In essence, he’s a great, humble man, and truly, innately good. That, I am sure of now.

Reblogged from Kavita Baliga’s Official Blog on Saturday – July 11, 2009