Kolkata: An estimated 150,000 lakh fans lustily cheered on the roads and at the historic Eden Gardens as the city virtually came to a standstill to watch Indian Premier League Champions Kolkata Knight Riders' victory parade culminating in a gala felicitation Tuesday.
While Knight Riders' skipper Gautam Gambhir and his boys received much adulation from the fans who lined the streets of south and central Kolkata during the six-km roadshow spanning over an hour, team co-owner Shah Rukh Khan and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stole the show at the jampacked Eden Gardens where the team was accorded a civic reception by the state government and the local municipal corporation.
Around 70,000 gathered at the stadium while 20,000-30,000 stood outside for a glimpse of Shah Rukh and the players, braving the scorching sun and the energy-sapping humidity. At least 50,000 watched the roadshow that began at 11 a.m. from the Hazra crossing.
Though disappointed at the absence of the Bollywood Badshah in the victory parade, there was nevertheless no dearth of passion and enthusiasm. People perched themselves on walls and atop Metro stations, climbed of roofs of houses and positioned themselves on boulevards for a glimpse of the players, who were on a flower-bedecked open-top trailer on which was written in blue and white - "Korechi, Lorechi, Jitechi Re" (We have done it, we have fought it, we have won it)".
The crowd, comprising largely young boys and girls and a sprinkling of old men and women, frantically clicked photos on mobiles, hurled bouquets and tried to touch the players, throwing the large posse of security personnel into a tizzy. Such was the frenzy that the police forced cancellation of a planned felicitation at Jodu Babu's Bazar in South Kolkata's Bhowanipore.
Clearly enjoying every moment, the likes of Gambhir, Manoj Tiwary, Manvinder Bisla and Bangladesh's Shakib al Hassan - the only foreigner, as the others from abroad have already returned home - blew kisses and waved at the people, who roared "KKR", "KKR".
Once the parade ended, the team reached the state's seat of power Writers' Buildings, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee - donning a cotton sari with purple border, which gelled with the Knight Riders' jersey colours - came out to welcome the players with scarves and bouquets.
Gambhir handed over the IPL trophy to the chief minister.
It was then that Shah Rukh appeared, hugging Banerjee and announcing: "We have been waiting for this day so long. Thank you Didi. Thank You Kolkata. Thank you West Bengal on behalf of every member of the team. Only Kolkata will rule."
Banerjee, on her part, said: "Bengal is proud. The victory of the Knight Riders is like a victory of the world," as a banner close by read 'Knights Become Kings, Bengal Celebrates'.
Banerjee then boarded the team bus and travelled with the players, Shah Rukh and co-owner Juhi Chawla to the stadium.
At the Eden, the city seemed to have bonded with Shah Rukh as the crowd shouted: "Khan Dada we love you."
Solo singers and musical bands - Dohar, Chandrabindu and Bhoomi - performed, but the crowd went into frenzy the moment Shah Rukh - a seasoned showman - broke into an impromptu jig. He danced in Bengali traditional style, then broke into bhangra and finally did some Goanese dance steps alongside renowned Bengali film stars such as Jeet, Dev and Soham.
He also pulled in Chawla and both gyrated to the tunes of the bands as the chock-a-block stadium roared in appreciation.
The celebrations began with the national anthem, after which state governor M.K. Narayanan presented the players, the support staff and the owners with scarves while Banerjee handed them a gold chain each. Cricket Association of Bengal president Jagmohan Dalmiya also gave a godl chain and a locket to each member of the team.
A large size sandesh cake which had 'Korechi, Lorechi and Jitechi Re encrypted on it was cut by Shah Rukh and Gambhir and presented to the team.
The cricket crazy fans shouted 'Khan Dada' as Shah Rukh along with his team took a victory lap around the park. The Bollywood heartthrob threw flying kisses towards the stands and even climbed a makeshift scoreboard structure and waved to the crowd.
The newly found 'Dada' of Bengal bonded well with Banerjee -commonly known as - Didi - as he embraced Banerjee and kissed on her forehead.
Shah Rukh even asked Banerjee to shake a leg with him, which she politely refused but promised to sing for him and his team next time.
"Thank you Kolkata for the love and support we have received from all of you in last four seasons. We all love you," he said.