At the airport

, Diary

The kabaddi star, Fazel Atrachali  from U Mumba speaks up about travel and his favourite airports

When I started playing kabaddi in 2005, none of my friends were aware of the sport. After all, kabaddi was not the most popular sport in my country. The stadiums were not full, the facilities were scarce and the recreational activity was newly introduced. Still I chose to pursue kabaddi because not only do I like new challenges, but it originates from my second home and one of my most favourite countries in the world- India.

It’s my sixth season in the Premier Kabaddi League and with each season I love my fans more!

My first memory of an Indian airport is something I hold very close to my heart because it was very overwhelming. Everybody was coming to greet me, to embrace me! Not just at the airport, and not just the people that had come to receive me, but everyone in general was very welcoming and warm – just how India is as a country. I had just landed and there were people who were there to guide me so that I did not need to stand in queues for immigration or luggage. The airport staff welcomed us with floral garlands. Truly it felt very special and also interesting to observe the culture, the love and the warmth. Now, since I am playing better kabaddi than I was some years ago, fans are always waiting for selfies and autographs and they cheer for us whenever we come out.

In India, other than Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, I really like Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. I literally look forward to my visits to the city. Not only is the airport clean and airy, the facilities are great too! The icing on the cake is their service, which is very smooth. Despite the language barrier, it is amazing how helpful and professional the officials and the ground staff at the airport are; they go out of their way to try and make me feel wanted. At the same time it is always funny and overwhelming to see so many people screaming my name and waiting to see me. You can say I have not gotten used to fame and recognition!

When travelling, I like to keep my clothes and look simple. Comfortable, yet a bit stylish. Comfort would be my number one priority while selecting my outfit for the airport. It is usually jeans and a t-shirt with sneakers. If it is too hot, sometimes I wear shorts too!

My favorite International airport would be the Dubai Airport. It is just phenomenal with its architecture, state-of-the-art design, world-class facilities and so much more! But Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai is just as good now. They have very good service and a lot of different facilities that make travelling easier.

I like the GVK Lounge at Mumbai International Airport. It has good food and relaxing ambience. I have gotten massages there and eaten delicious food made by the chef especially for me.

I am so used to the buzz that exists at any busy airport. Usually, we have direct flights to take, so there’s hardly any time left to pass in between flights and there is hardly any waiting time. Otherwise, I just like to explore the shops or visit the lounge at the airport or sit and relax. I don’t prefer snacking in between meals, but my favourite food to eat would definitely be KFC. If I find one at an airport, that is where I will head to!

When fans approach me to click selfies, they are super friendly and that makes me feel comfortable. I like interacting with fans and I feel happy when I get to know that there is so much love and support for U Mumba. I do miss this love when I go back to Iran and look forward to returning to India!

(As told to Aarti Kapur Singh)

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