By Nishiraj A. Baruah
He was right in the thick of all action. He had to be – he was among those few who planted the seed and watered it. It was for the first time something like this was happening in Tamilnadu, and he left no stone unturned to make sure that it became a grand success. His belief in the idea was strong, and if indeed it worked, there is no looking back for the travel trade industry. He said the economy will grow, thousands would get jobs and tourist from around the world would get to see a side of the state that compares with the global tourism hotspots. Of course, with thousands of people involved, he couldn’t have left anything to chance as he, along with others, sweated it out to organise the Tamilnadu Travel Mart.
As part of the travel mart society, Pawan Kumar Gupta, Managing Director of Chennai based travel house Peekay Holidays, went about his work meticulously about three months ahead of the Mart that took place in Chennai Trade Centre on October 12 to 15. He drew out plans, discussed, debated with his industry colleagues, and convinced the skeptics who were not sure about the success of the event.
Three months isn’t enough to organise such a mega event, but he pursued. “The momentum had been built and it just couldn’t stop,” said Gupta who has been a tour operator for 25 years now. As determined as the rest from Tamilnadu Travel Mart Society (where he was among the first 18 members) to pull it through, he spoke to hoteliers and airlines and cab service providers to offer complimentary services, he invited buyers/travel agents from India and abroad, and even took on the difficult job selling stalls in the Mart. A hatta-katta, burly man brimming with high energy and enthusiasm, he travelled across Tamilnadu to do that.
“It was a team effort with the likes of Sreevats Sanjay (Regional Director, South, India Tourism) and S. Sundar (Secretary, Tamilnadu Travel Mart Society) pulling all stops to make things happen. I was in charge of the transport and airline ticketing. I was also given the responsibility of welcoming delegates,” the 51 year old said.
Things were falling into place and as the countdown to the event began, he was counting every day, looking forward to playing his role at the Mart. “It was my baby. Naturally I was very excited,” he said. He worked at a frantic pace, coming home late, or away from home for days, sacrificing family time. It was almost as if he was on steroids.
And then it happened. The accident. Just four days before the pre event fam tour, he was crossing the road right in front of his house on foot when an i10 car driving on the wrong side hit me him on his right leg. Throwing him off. The impact was so brutal that calf muscle was rippled apart, leaving the bones exposed, blood gushing out like a torrential river. The pain was unbearable, almost knocking him unconscious as bystanders and then police came running to his rescue. “The driver was a 25 year old boy, who stopped and sought forgiveness. So I let him go,” Gupta said.
At the emergency operation theatre even doctors winched seeing his wound. It was too raw, too bare, too bloody. The wound needed to be covered, sealed ASAP. Plastic surgery was required. So they had no option but to slice out a rectangular fleshy part from his inner thigh to cover up the exposed part of his calf. Following that his entire leg had to be plastered as he became completely immobile, totally at the mercy of his wife and domestic helps. “The worst part is the bathroom part,” he said, even as his wife helped him wear a shirt.
“You cannot imagine how I am feeling now, stranded at home, unable to be at the event, the one I worked so hard for,” he said. Yes, he sweated it out for it, but more than that, the travel mart was a piece of emotion for him. “It is like being a new father and yet unable to be around to hold my baby. It cannot get more unfortunate than that,” he said.
When I went to meet him, his body was at home all right, but his mind was totally on the travel mart, very restless, yet unable to move. The only thing he could do was to keep himself updated on the happenings.
Frustrated yes, but the best thing he could do now is to prepare for the next travel mart in 2019. “Once I am healed and doctors are saying 15 more days are required to shade off the plaster, I will be back in the thick of things, doing a postmortem of the mart, trying to figure where we went wrong and what could have been done to improve the Mart,” he said.
Still on painkillers, thankfully he is healing fast and he just can’t wait to be back in action. “Since I don’t have diabetes, I am healing fast,” he said.
As I said good-bye, he wanted to get up, despite the pain.
“Never mind,” I said. “Please remain seated.”
But deep inside I realised he isn’t the kind to remain seated for long. He wants to run.