A common’s man not so common snaps


The snaps show Khimaram Rayaka shaking hands with business tycoons, artists and sports stars but he is no VIP. The humble textile mill worker’s only passion is to get photographed

with celebrities.

Rayaka, 27, in fact cannot recognise many of the faces in the photographs — after all who can remember 1,350 names? His collection has photographs showing him with movers and shakers, including Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, classical music maestro Pandit Jasraj and former West Indies cricket captain Clive Lloyd.

The photos do not tell his seven-year-long efforts to track down celebrities in hotels and at functions.

Rayaka began his photo journey in 1998 when he got the autograph of Indian cricketer Kapil Dev, who has been Rayaka’s idol since his childhood. “I adore him the most. When he was in Ahmedabad I got to him after going through a painful process,” said Rayaka, who hails from a village near Badmer in Rajasthan.

“Kapil Dev insisted on taking a photograph with me, but I didn’t have a camera. He then told a cameraman to take a snap and I got my first photo with a celebrity,” Rayaka said.

That meeting inspired him to seek out autographs of and getting photographed with celebrities, especially cricketers. His collection features almost all the well-known cricketers from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

During the India-Pakistan cricket match in the city in 2005, Rayaka sent a bouncer to batting sensation Sachin Tendulkar by telling him that he was not exactly his favourite cricketer. “When I told him that, he kept looking at me. Then he laughed and asked me why then I was requesting a joint photo with him. I said I appreciated the fact that he holds the world record for scoring the most Test centuries.”

Showing another snap, he said: “I had this photograph with Manmohan Singh when he was not our prime minister. He was not surrounded by security guards or crowds then.” So how does Rayaka keep a track of VIPs visiting the city? “The receptionists in all major hotels have got my cell number. Whenever any well-known figure checks in, they immediately ring me up. I leave my factory and reach the hotel on my bicycle.”

His bosses at a cloth-processing factory, where he has been working since 1997, don’t object to his hobby and give him the freedom to pursue it.

“Everybody around me supports my endeavour. Celebrities respond nicely to me due to my sincerity. I never insist on a photograph. If they say no, I don’t irritate them,” he said.

His passion has led him to meet and sometimes even have a cup of coffee with the likes of tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali, Pakistani cricketers Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad as well as numerous film stars.

Has anybody been left out from the collection?

Yes, Indian nightingale Lata Mangeshkar. “I am waiting for Latadidi to come to the city. She is the only giant personality in the world of Hindi films left out, apart from Dilip Kumar who has not visited Ahmedabad recently.” Financial constraints do not allow him to visit Mumbai to pursue the hobby.