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Thursday, May 20, 2010

To be or not to be!

Sometimes when you have just turned seven and are roaming about your home in little shorts that at best can be described as hideously tight or plain hideous, the visitors at your place pull you close by your waist and ask you “Dude, what do you want to be in life?” The question travels into your being and then follows you everywhere just like Mary’s little lamb.

They couldn’t just let you roam about in your shorts, could they?

The first time I was asked this question, I stroked my chin thoughtfully and replied ‘elephant’. To my seven year old mind, picking up water in one’s trunk and then spraying it on everyone around seemed to be the coolest thing possible. Also, I wanted to be real tall.

As luck would have it, neither happened.

By the time I had turned nine, I had devoured almost all the Enid Blyton books and was now of the firm belief that I was born to be a detective. I would look at the milkman and paper guy with suspicious nine year old eyes, but sadly, they never stole anything for me to report, and become famous. In ’92, a curly haired marathi boy swung his bat on a large Australian field and I fell in love with him and the game. They called him Sachin. In my dreams everyday, I was on a pitch with him hitting boundaries and winning matches for India. It is the greatest testament of devotion for Sachin, that even in those dreams, I let him always score more runs than me. Maybe just two or three more, but I did. Of course, I refuse to tell you that I still have those dreams.

Like most other boys, at some stage I wanted to be a pilot. At the tender age of twelve, I sat in an airplane for the first time, was airsick and vomited so much that the adjacent passenger sarcastically asked the airhostess to pass me a bucket since a packet did not seem enough. In retaliation, I promptly vomited some more, and all ambitions of flying a plane were hastily rejected.

As the teenage years floated in the kaleidoscope called life, each twist showed a new shape, a new dream. One day I wanted to be like Maneka Gandhi ,err not biologically, I mean I wanted to join the SPCA. Another day inspired by Nana Patekar’s ‘Prahaar’, I wanted to join the army and that evening I did a full four pushups. Don’t laugh, now I can complete sixty in one go without breaking a sweat. The fact, that after the sixtieth, I would be wheezing like an old cow and lying flat on my back for the remainder of the day with a glucose drip in my mouth, is to be ignored or to be treated as delightful honesty on the part of the adorable author.

Over the years I became a software engineer, wrote some code that shocked the bejesus out of most teammates and clients, and moved on to pursue knowledge, as in, MBA. I set my focus towards MICA, the premier Media and Communications Institute in the country, sure that it would provide me the chance to flirt with creativity and maybe even marry it. What Mica did, eventually, was make me aware of a new love – conceptualizing videos and ads, although laziness seldom allowed me to execute the same. Mica was like this big river, where we were all hippopotamuses. We lay in it, lazing, doing nothing but still overly satisfied. In that cauldron, I discovered that my existence was governed largely by sports, and a love for writing. College finished too soon and I felt the familiar disappointment of returning to a desk job that served no purpose other than letting American clients improve their business.

Now, as joining date approaches, the urge to follow either of two callings, a travel writer or a career in sports management, intensifies. Happiness, I am sure, would enclose its chubby fingers around the rough callused hands of a man known as ‘Travel Writer Jobs’ or ‘Team Manager Jobs’ (No relation of Steve Jobs).

In enthusiastic haste, I scampered all over the worldwide web in search of sports management jobs. Besides scores of other options, Google also let me know that I could apply for ‘High Performance Manager – Vanuatu Islands cricket team’ The vivid images of motivating, pushing and driving a weaker team to victory over a dozen mightier teams rushed me towards the ICC official website. Now, the Vanuatu islands are a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, famous for volcanic eruptions. Their cricket coach, Mr Pierre Chilia, though, is considerably less likely to erupt, he is actually a sweet tempered, sensible man. In his reply to my enthusiastic mail, he informed me that the selection process had already commenced, so I could go back to square one and draw doodles there. Lol, a managers job for a national sports team sounds way far fetched, but hey in the author’s defense, ask the women in his life and they’d tell you that romance, even with an impossible dream, had always been his forte. Amen.

A couple of weeks and I’ll be sitting in an office in Gurgaon analyzing data. Mails have been sent to a dozen sports marketing companies but they do not like recruiting humans anymore, it seems. And companies that employ travel writers do not have computers. Why else would they not reply to me? ;)

History will, still be kind to me, coz I, intend to write it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

To the health of cricket ... cheers {clink!}

The year 1992 saw Bosnia being separated from the Yugoslavian Republic, not knowing that it was heading towards decades of violence and brutalities. The same year Minnesotta's Mall of America, built on 78 acres, became the biggest mall in the world.

In a tropical country far far away, around the same time, a small boy watched engrossed, as a few of his countrymen battled it out on foreign lands that had nice sounding names like Sydney, Adelaide and Tasmania. Though the group of men did not do well, one lad with mad curly hair was busy driving his bat through covers, midwicket and the hearts of every person fortunate to see him play. I fell so much in love with him and the game that he became my synonym for eveything that was beautiful, and there developed a love for the game that was passionate, unadulterated and often bordered on the extreme. Over the years, my immature teenage mind confused this love for Indian cricket with patriotism and every win, facile or great, made the so-called Indian in me even prouder. In 2002, it wasnt just Saurav who waved his shirt on a Lord's balcony, so did seven boys on a college mess table in Belgaum, Karnataka.

Summer holidays came and went, but they always brought with them, in the Narayanan household a new scorebook made from cheap notebooks. Each of these scorebooks would have a picture of Sachin ( cut from an 'India Today') on its cover. And displayed proudly on the first page were the names of the eight Sector 55 Noida boys who would, "of course", one day play for India.

Over the years we woke up at 430 am to watch, groggy eyed, our heroes play test matches Down Under. We ran to tea shops (they usually had transistors) when electricity cheated on us and Robin Singh stood between South Africa and victory; we rode our bikes all around Noida that 2003 night when India beat Pakistan in the worldcup; we played in the rain, we played in the hottest June afternoons, we played on blisteringly cold december Delhi mornings. We did it all.

And now Lalit Modi tells me and the English County board that ODI's have reached their saturation point, test matches are redundant and that franchisees should buy out players if their national boards dont allow them to play in these commercial leagues. Lalit Modi and his rich friends believe, and maybe correctly, that players can be tempted to play for franchisees even if they are not allowed to represent their countries, on the basis of superior money power. Now Mr Modi, how do I explain to you that to my once teenage mind, India, cricket, glory and pride were all synonyms. How do I tell you that though you call test matches redundant, I still like to set my alarm so that I can see Lee bowl to VVS at six am. Will you ever understand that for me Sachin was the most handsome man and throughout my boyhood days I wanted him to marry Steffi Graf, that beautiful girl from Germany. You my friend understand business, I know love.

The BCCI might still exonerate you Lalit, but even at the cost of introducing an expletive for the very first time in my cricket writings, fuck you bastard, and may the lord strike you so hard that you suffer much more than those poor innocent Bosnians ever do.

To the glorious game, its traditions and all its lovers, a silent nod.