Traveling On An Indian Match-Day

 

The bus arrived at 10:30 AM, 9 hours before the scheduled start of the match between India and Australia. It takes 7 hours to reach Delhi from Pilibhit, a small town near Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. Enough time.

I am wearing the Indian team jersey. I had it in my wardrobe for the past four years, although the ritual to wear it on every match-day began during the Asia Cup in February, 2016. Of course, India lost only once since, so superstition gradually followed.


Pilibhit is a peaceful district, surrounded by green fields on all sides. Many years ago, it was known as the ‘Bansuri Nagar’, or the land of flutes. Almost 90% of flute exports depended on this small district in UP. Although it shot into national headlines through an infamous hate speech by a certain Gandhi from BJP, during the 2009 general elections.


‘Match dekhne milega?’ (Will we get to see the match?), a passenger reluctantly inquires, quite certainly because of the jersey I’m wearing. We went to the driver to confirm. ‘Aaram se’, he replies. More people join in. We are now talking about the possibility of Rahane replacing Dhawan.

This is no ordinary game. A virtual quarterfinal. ‘Yuvi achha khelta hai Australia ke against’. Cricket usually connects strangers in India, no matter which piece of land they come from.


Life is usually slow in these parts of the country. Bullock-carts carrying tonnes of sugarcane is a common sight. Autos don’t run here. Haath-Rickshaws are the soul of this city. And while the whole world wears Allen Solly and Lee Cooper, Pilibhit has its own, elite brand clothing – Lee Solly and Allen Cooper (I’m a proud owner of their products as well). WiFis are rare. It is far from the maddening rush of the big cities. There’s a thread, though, which connects people here with people of all places. A common thread, woven by the madness and devotion of a 1.2 bn population. Cricket.


Cricket talks soon died and the usual journey boredom catches up. Some are busy with earphones, some are now sleeping. I take a quick nap, assured of reaching well in time before the game.

Afghanistan beat West Indies, in the meantime. Sitting in the window seat, staring at the blankness, I’m almost visualizing their celebrations. Afghanistan was a country I always recalled as a place associated with terrorism in my childhood, mainly due to the news channels. What a remarkable story of success. What a huge day for this country.

I post a few tweets complaining about travelling woes. I don’t get a mention.


You cannot predict traffic jams. They’re the Shahid Afridi of road journeys. Unpredictable, annoying, with a bit of Boom-Boom if driver loses cool. I’m stuck at Ghaziabad, 50 kms from Gurgaon, and it’s 7’o clock. It’s dark, and I can clearly notice a huge Cricbuzz logo on a window reflection in front. There’s another mobile phone peeping through the gap between the seats, where a man was trying to download hotstar. Maybe I should have stayed at home for today.

I kept on refreshing my twitter timeline until a tweet popped up, saying ‘Australia won the toss and chose to bat’. Impetuous Virat Kohli picture.  Go get back jumping down under, Kangaroos. We are sure as hell winning this one.


The man who asked me about the surety of catching up the game on time exchanged anxious glances with me. Indian bowlers were getting smacked, left right and center. I just want to watch this bloody game so badly, now. It is bad when you see the team playing badly, but it is worse if you actually can’t see the team playing badly. Because there is already a lot of frustration stored inside the tiny little brain at not being able to watch the game, and you are basically relying on CricInfo and Twitter. Every ball smacked for a boundary is a head-bashing, fist-clenching outburst of anger, not to forget, the various abuses of highest quality complimenting them.


At Vaishali metro station, I received a call from a friend, and he agreed to fetch me with regular updates on SMS, mainly because both of us knew that metros don’t get internet signals once they go underground. I reached Rajiv Chowk at 9:30, and honestly, I had never seen an emptier Rajiv Chowk in my life (or maybe I have but I refuse attempting to remember because of the high charge of emotions).

 

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A very kind friend consented to send match scores. Blessed to have friends like these.

Many people were on their phones, dragging down the screen to refresh scores. There was a racing game for latest scores, with fortunes at stake. Cricket conversations gradually followed. Those who had partners shouted the score aloud to get involved. Common practice.


I reached home when Virat was just about to explode in what would be the most spectacular display of batting I had seen in my life. It is as if Virat was holding a magic wand, an elder wand, no less. The ball obeyed his orders, and the bowlers were reduced to mere balling machines, the control of which was held exclusively by the batsman. The innings was a monster. Virat Kohli was not a man. He was not a beast either. He was a megagodzilla. The world was Virat Kohli’s. We were living in a Virat Kohli world.

And then, as it usually happens, and as Ravi Shastri would have said had he been on-air, Dhoni finished things off in style. Perfect.


 

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A Learning Process

It’s the fourth of January, but it’s still the first week, so hey, Happy New Year to everyone. May this year be better than any other year before. Years go by really fast these days, don’t they? Or is it about the increasing workloads eating up our lives?

Anyway, the previous year was a good one. It was more of a learning process than anything for me.

A big part of the previous year was an attempt to nominally shed a distinctive trait in my character. And I call it distinctive because I haven’t met anyone with whom I can relate. Although I tend to believe that I have partly succeeded in shedding some part of it.

I observed it for quite some time, and it had started eating me up at a certain point. I’ve often been told by many people that I don’t speak much, which is quite true. I’m an introvert. And, funnily, most of the people I’ve met in the last year are hardcore extroverts. Even generally, ‘my types’ are in the minority. Often, this inability to strike conversations has deeply haunted me. I felt rather uneasy at the thought of people making assumptions about my behaviour. I’ve been constantly surrounded by people who can talk for hours without getting bored. And here I was a guy who could bore anyone within ten minutes of our first meeting.

People would think I’m a bit rude, which is completely not true. I’m more inclined towards making observations than conversations. And I know that most of the introverts can relate to this.

I’d rather be at my room, accompanied by a book or a Manchester United match on TV, than a 7-11 party in Hauz Khas (I’ve never been to a 7-11 party in Hauz Khas anyway). Don’t get me wrong, I won’t deny the party invitation. Parties are fun. You meet different people who are more outgoing than your friends (which could also depress you at the same time). Although you can happily do some selfie sessions because you don’t need to speak while posing for a picture. You can even dance because your legs can speak for you.

So is being introvert a disease which should be cured? Also, does this question sound  familiar? Even the answer does. It just comes naturally to you man, and you’re not at fault. Any change in behaviour completely depends upon your own choice.


 

I was scrolling through my twitter timeline one day when I came across an article about the scientific reasons which initiate differences between introverts and extroverts. And trust me, it’s all really bewildering. There is a certain Dopamine chemical which floods and actively works in the brains of extroverts. It makes them more talkative, more risk-taking and instils more pleasure in them. There is another type of neurotransmitter called ‘acetylcholine’. It makes people feel good when they turn inward. This chemical powers one’s ability to think and focus at something for a long time. This also explains why introverts like calm environments.

To put it in blunt words, it was an enlightenment. I was finally at some peace. Also, the realisation of the fact was really astonishing that how scientific changes in the human body can deeply impact the behavioural differences.


 

There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Most introverts can do things most extroverts cannot. But really, if ever there was an Introvert Premier League, I would be smashing sixes like Chris Gayle. I was absolutely fed up of being unable to socialise with people. Let’s just put it this way; having all the extroverts of the world around constantly babbling on your face inspired you to consider being fed up.

The ultimate aim is to get my Dopamine chemicals rolling. It’s difficult, it really is. Behavioural changes aren’t easy to make. But it’s a learning process. You learn with people around you.

And so, 2016 will also be a continual process. No excuses, more conscientiousness, more productivity and less awkwardness.

Thank You Sehwag

He has just reached his double century. Makhaya Ntini storms in to bowl the final delivery before tea break and he whacks it for a brutal four over leg side. Many batsmen would maintain the pose for a follow-through to see-off the ball till it crosses the boundary, or would go to the other batsman for a short-chat, or would at least wait for the umpire to remove the bails. Sehwag instead turns back, tucks in the bat under his shoulders and walks towards the pavilion as soon as he hits the ball, as if he’s been dismissed.

There was Swag written all over it. There was Sehwag written all over it.

He’s on 195 in Melbourne. Sane minds would try to play it safe and deal with singles. Sehwag attempts a six and is caught. A year later, he’s on 295 in Multan. A normal player, with his experience wouldn’t dare repeat the experiment and rather just try to kiss the ball, but he’s a distinctive character. He attempts a six again and becomes the first Indian to hit a triple century.

He’s later called ‘Multan ka Sultan’. A nickname which would stay with him for the rest of his life.

He revolutionised the art of opening. He’s the godfather of modern-day batting. He idolised Sachin and even adopted his batting stance, but he had his own ways of dealing with bowlers. This is what made him unique.

There are moments when one has to adjust with situations, but situations hardly mattered for Virender Sehwag. His game didn’t always work, but when it worked, it left us with opened jaws, crazy yells, and clapping hands.

We always had some popular household sayings during cricket matches. If one was ‘Abhi Sachin khel raha hai, jeet sakte hain’, the other definitely was ‘Bas Sehwag dus over tik jaaye, fir toh inke papa bhi aakar nahi jita paayenge’.

Thanks for the memories, legend.

#55WordStory – Wedding

‘Jesus Christ’

‘Not here for god’s sake’

‘Just look at her man, Jeez!’; Resistance is a myth.

‘Who’? A veteran female voice comes from behind.

Both freeze. Question is repeated.

‘Umm, we were appreciating the bride..’

‘Weird way to appreciate a bride I must say’

‘Jesus Christ aunty you’re funny!’

‘Oh, this generation’, she sighs.

#55WordStory – Methods

Ravi experienced an almost sudden tingling sensation to live with methods – cleanliness, punctuality, diet, and basically all the other things which used to annoy him at home. Suddenly, those methods served as desperation for a familiar world. But methods need tough authority. His attempts to replicate those methods were initially painful, and subsequently a myth.