The girl with my dream bucket

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After a filling meal as I sit back in the balcony of my apartment on a lazy Sunday evening, I’ve got nothing to do except for admiring the beauty of the City. The city that has made me the person I am today is definitely special to me in so many ways. As the cold breeze touches my soul, whose happy flag has already been set up with the spicy Dum aaloo and sambhar, I just get comfortable on the cane wood chair. With a positive aura around I sit back, smile for no reason and start thinking about the good old times that I’ve cherished with my loved ones. The next moment mom calls up and adds a new dimension to the joyful thought process. Within no time I realised that the topic has shifted from Khaana-peena, how are Dhriti and Suvansh (my niece and nephew), The Chief Minister of Delhi to my future Home Minister .After the call as I look into the hazy sky with thoughts of the last conversation in my brain’s cache I feel lost in my la-la land.

I am standing in the backyard of my house watering the plants and simultaneously adoring the pretty lady and her bright green scarf, tied on her semi black hair through which a cute little pony pops out (like those in the shampoo advertisements) .She slyly walks towards the sunny end of the kitchen garden with a bucket in one hand and a piece of meat in the other, where Dexter is taking his dose of Vitamin D and is ready for his lunch. She keeps the bucket down, gives me a witty glance and starts patting Dex. Those twinkling eyes were definitely hiding something mischievous. Oh BTW Dex (my dog), she and I live in a wood house in the suburbs of Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh.

Minutes later she deceptively sends me back inside the house to fetch some more bones for Dex. As I walk back adjusting my Bandar topi(which covers my mid 50’s grey hair and also protects me from the extreme cold) I see coloured crew necks hanging on the clothesline and the empty bucket  with some suds left ,in her hand. Now that was something unusual. I hadn’t worn these colours in years. With her intensifying sensual smile, I suspected something good in store for me. But didn’t know it was this big a surprise that’ll take me to cloud 999. I was on my toes, as she revealed the mystery.  No doubt the love of my life was holding the bucket of my dreams. The dreams that I had lived were in front of my eyes. Every tee had a name written at its back. The names of places, which I had added in my bucket-list in my 20s once and were, now ticked off my list.

With every revelation, she used different body gestures and expressions. There she flips the first one that says #Melbourne. She had that naughty smile that evidently stated “I wasn’t there…”Yes! That was the time before she even entered my life during my early 20s. Boxing day test on the Melbourne Cricket Ground it was. It is the same ground where Trevor Chappell had once bowled underarm. Australia V/s England and the Englishmen fighting like the warriors in 300 to take the urn back. It was an all boys tour with my bros from college and school all the way to Australia. MCG with a close to 1 Lakh attendance on the final day had something epic in store for us .Mitchell Johnson blew everyone away with his fiery fifer spell that humiliated the English. Being food freaks, after the game we tried our luck at the Master Chef’s kitchen and had the food of our lives.

Wasn’t that a fun trip? She asks. Yes Madame is the reply that she gets .The slideshow proceeds. The moment she flips the second one, she starts blushing and I automatically figure out that she would be saying #London. And that is exactly what happened. How can we both forget that place? What Aamir Khan did in Dil Chahta Hai, I gave an exact replica of that .On my knees and YESS! In front of The Lords, the Mecca of cricket I had proposed her. This is my personal favourite cricket stadium .The place has been the venue for some of the greatest matches including the finals of world cups of 75, 79, 83 and 99 with 83 one being ultra special. A charming smile appears on my jaw lines with an instant feeling to kiss her, but I prefer to save it for the finale and I end up giving her a flying one.

This series of surprises was the best of the lot that I had got till now .I wasn’t the only one pumped up; Dex was also in the league. His wagging tail justified the emotions equally every time a shirt was flipped. As she moved towards the next twist, I could make out with her gestures that #Kolkata was coming. And there she says Kolkata in a complaining voice. I still remember that day when I showed her my bucket list featuring Kolkata and all she wanted me was to convince her why would we go to this place of all the places…I’ll make fish for you at home was all she said. I answered the three words-The Eden Gardens. Established in 1864 with close to 90,000 capacities and is regarded as one of the most hostile grounds in the world. Rewind your brain cells a way back to 1996 India Sri Lanka WC semi final. You’ll get the context of the word hostile. The ground till date holds an integral part of my heart. My favourite cricketer Rahul Dravid along the likes of VVS had played an exceptional knock during my childhood, that match is still my favourite match till date. Obviously that had to be there in the list. Upar se in early 30’s jab EMIs ke saath biwi ki daant ho more, Aur Biwi  maange videshi New Zealand ka tour Toh Queenstown hi ho jaaye Eden town. Oh Queenstown by the way is a beautiful picturesque set amidst the Remarkables Mountains in New Zealand. The stadium is a deadly combination of scenic beauty and the sport. The deal proved to be fruitful when she got to meet Shahrukh Khan at the stadium. We indeed had a remarkable trip.

That moment when you don’t want your favourite series to end and you end up watching it at a slow pace, with the similar ideology I decided to suppress the butterflies in my stomach and a tea break was taken. I made her a strong ginger flavoured one and we both sipped tea in saucer with that sudak sudak-sound while Dex was busy circling around the rope.

It was time for the final showdown, the last name to be revealed. The moment that red tee was turned, we both winked at each other. It said #Johannesburg We both had crossed our 40’s.A much awaiting break in the second half of our lives it was! A getaway from the responsibilities or in a sweeter context it was our second honeymoon .Known for its high chasing games and the bull architecture The Wanderers still continues to be in my top 5 list. I remember I was dressed up like a cool Hawaiian guy (like Sgt. Batista from Dexter), chilling throughout with a mug of Castle beer in one side and my love by the other. She also loved the non cricket part of the tour to a great extent – the diamonds. I bought her diamonds on the drive to Cape Town for another game at Newlands.

I don’t know how she manages to bear me. Hats off to her! Without any iota of interest in cricket she has travelled with me to these places without complaining except for the Kolkata one. I love her even more for that. I guess this is called as true love.

I get a little closer to her. I can feel her warmth. She then hugs me and whispers “You freak! Tell me honesty were you expecting a fifth one saying #Dharamshala for you.” It is there though .Look what Dex is wearing. That truly was the happiest moment of my life. Dharamshala undoubtedly is the most exotic cricket venue in the world. Located at a close to 4000 feet above sea level in the vicinity of Tibetan monasteries, amidst the great Himalayas the place draws its attention for its snowy peaks, deodar and pine forests, tea gardens and beautiful hills. And this is the heavenly place where we both decided to grow old together. Being avid readers we both spend majority of times reading and writing. She calls me Ruskin Bond at times when I write something good. I grab her by her waist and kiss her gently to say I love you .As the sun sets Dex jumps onto me. The three of us go inside and cut our 25th marriage anniversary cake.

With a knock on the door, I get back from my Shangri La. I sit quietly and ponder what if it was a realisation, not a dream.

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The inheritance of goodwill

I feel so good looking at a vintage photograph that just popped out of nowhere. I am 6, holding a Kashmir willow bat with a gentle shimmer and a sense of pride in my eyes. The bat by the way is not an ordinary piece of wood. It is the finest present someone ever gave it to me, considering the fact that it was the time I got involved with the game. You see how the word MRF inscribed in red over the willow can exponentially increase its significance for a kid and assure him that he possesses a run producing machine in his hands. Today, as I pen it down I can see another bat kept in one of the corners of my room that says GM English willow on the cover. Like the one in the photograph this also is a gift, presented last summer though and looks brand new, but the grim reality is it is not. It is rarely used and that too over occasional weekends.FYI this word “weekend” exists significantly now.

On a broader prospect, the transition from the first bat to the second defines my life journey from a carefree kid to an IT professional. The priorities, friends, relationships and the contexts might have changed with the course of time but one thing that has stayed throughout is my love for this game. I have inherited many values at different fronts, be it academically, personally or professionally from this friend of mine. I feel even my parents or my teachers wouldn’t have taught me this directly. Just like goodwill of an asset cannot be measured on a sheet of paper, my bond with the game is priceless and poise.

Going back to my school days where academically everything revolved around cricket. For that matter Geography wasn’t about learning the topographies or attending map filling classes, it was simply about remembering the locations where Sachin scored his tons and visualising the co-ordinates through the pre-match postcards shown. By the way I still cannot correctly mark the European nations on a world map if you ask me to do so. Alas! They never played the game man .You automatically become a champ in mental mathematics when all the factors of 4 and 6 are on your finger tips and you are effortlessly practising multiplication and division while you calculate the projected score, the current run rate, the economy or the strike rate on a regular basis. Life is good when a Tony Greig or a Harsha Bhogle is your language professor. I sucked at economics though. I won’t lie. Well, BCCI wasn’t that rich and IPL was nowhere in the frame. Anatomy was a child’s play esp. if you were a Tendulkar fan as you already had a technical expertise on the fundamentals of hamstrings, tennis elbow, groin or a webbing even way before the curriculum started. The Ashes also cultivated a great virtue in me. I can get up at 3, 4 or even 5 in the morning. Thank you so much Channel 9.So, in case if I had to get up early morning for a revision before the exam, I would sleep thinking that it’s an Ashes encounter the next day.

Cricket had become a habit by then and it continued to prove its effectiveness even in college. The fact that I developed a Cricket Wagon Wheel for my computer graphics project and even wanted to simulate a hawk-eye as a final year project would support my statement. Unfortunately I couldn’t, as some smart ass had scared my team mates that the prototype required an expensive system to be imported, which made enough sense to scare them, though it was a baseless argument and finally the idea had to be dropped.

Meanwhile my dear friend had kept a parallel loop of grooming and embedding different attributes, running for me.I have always admired different aspects of different personalities and wanted to cultivate them in mine. I’ll share my accumulated set of experiences over the years that led to those mappings.

Honesty- If you want to see what honesty means rewind your memories to 2003.One simply doesn’t walk off in World Cup Semi-final even after being signalled not out unless his name is Adam Gilchrist.

Hard work-There cannot be a better example of hard work, humility and selflessness other than Rahul Sharad Dravid. Victory at the Eden Gardens in 2001, Adelaide in 2003, the wall performance in England in 2011 or the Speech at Bradman’s oration justifies everything. Dravid proved to the world that even your defence could be the deadliest weapon. I still remember once Akhtar ran a mile to bowl to him, an all he did was an elegant leave outside the off stump, which left Shoaib baffled and did a major damage to his ego. He is too much of simplicity and dignity packaged in one soul.

Being oneself- Time and again Virat Kohli has shown to the world what fearlessness and being Virat (not the next Viv or Sachin) is. Yes! He abuses! He is bold, aggressive and fearless but first and foremost he is an exceptional batsman. That pretty much gives him the authority to not to justify himself to anyone till he doesn’t breach the code of the game.

Consistency- It can be Glenn McGrath’s second name. He could even give complex to a bowling machine by consistently bowling in the same zone for days .His consistent mid 130 kmph deliveries were deadlier than a rookie bowling at 150 kmph. What can be learnt from him is the fact that you don’t have to be extra-talented, being focused can do magic for you as well.

Creativity- Mr 360 degree, Ab Devilliers is an epitome of creativity and awesomeness. He can not only play copy book cricket perfectly but is equally good at innovating himself by pulling a rabbit out of magician’s hat every now and then .At times, when you are left awestruck ,you’ll have to pinch yourself to check the reality quotient.

Leadership-Ricky Ponting and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are the finest leaders that I’ve seen in my era. I would definitely like to adapt their ways of working when it comes to managing people. Ponting’s  mantra of success- “If you set a goal to win, you have to win it no matter what it takes” fetched him 3 world cup titles and Dhoni’s funda of taking a little less of his share of credit and a little more of his share of blame also has done wonders for him .

Dedication-It would be unfair if anyone writing about this subject in cricket doesn’t mention their names. Graeme Smith and Anil Kumble are the epitome of commitment and dedication. Go back a little to Antigua in the year 2002. Kumble came back on field to bowl with a broken jaw for his team and got the prized wicket of Lara. Graeme’s incident in particular is very special. It was battle against his body and heart. There was no way a batsman would have returned on field back to face the might Aussie pace attack with a broken hand and a fractured elbow. For a brief nanosecond, just put yourself in Smith’s shoes and imagine you are standing on those 22 yards with one hand tied and someone is bowling to you at a mighty 150 kmph and the ball just kisses your faces and leaves. It is scary and you need a hell lot of courage to do that. That is exactly what Smith did to save the crumbling tail. He couldn’t win it for the team, but won a million hearts and the most importantly RESPECT from everyone.

Self belief- MSD is a divine force in itself. He is a bold character who always goes with his gut. He may not have the best of technique or the elegance of copybook style of playing, but the amount of self- belief that he has shown and the wonders it has done for his team is remarkable. Tune your mind a little back to the final of Ind-WI-SL triangular series in West Indies, 2013.Shielding the tail throughout and dragging it to the wire with 15 required to win off the last 6 balls, Dhoni pulled off a thriller with 3 balls to spare. He is unbelievable in so many ways. Panic is not even a word in the skipper’s dictionary. It takes a hell lot of temperament to finish games like these and Mahi has done it over and over again.

And the greatest virtue is to inspire someone! If you can be someone’s inspiration to success in life, then it’s your biggest victory. That is exactly what this little man from Mumbai has done. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has turned every stone thrown at him by life into a milestone.  He has carried the burden of billions hopes and expectations without complaining for over 25 graceful years. From a middle class ball boy @ Wankhede to The GOD of cricket, his simple mantra of never finding short cuts and chasing his dreams has worked out exceptionally well for him. Every mother wants his son be like Sachin. This is the kind of stature this man has earned for himself and sets an example for others to excel in their respective fields.

On a modest note, if I can extract even 1% of the traits these gentlemen possessed can be the next Batman.

Personally also this friend of mine has gone an extra mile to simply things for me, resulting into more sorted relationships esp. with my dad. I think my dad and I have shared the heartiest and special moments while watching India-Pakistan games only. Cricket takes out the strict Dean Daddy part out of the equation totally and turns us into school kids applauding, shouting, abusing and even crying on certain moments. That’s the beauty of the game. For me happiness is this 🙂 If I am happy I watch cricket .If I’m sad also I watch cricket and be awesome again. It pretty much makes it an integral part of my life. Well this has side effects too. I have been blocked by my very good friends on Facebook for bugging and spamming their feeds with cricket updates on a regular basis. It has become my pseudo girlfriend. If I start giving this much time and value to the girls I like, at least I’ll be having one in REAL!

Coming back from my utopia as I keep the photograph back in the closet and rush towards reality, I look forward to play the test of my life. I know the road ahead is bumpy, but the only way to get out is by facing it with a smile and moving on for the next smoother patch.

Work Eat Play Love Pray!