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.