Friday, November 25, 2011


tick-tocking silently, a hand marking the seconds
lazily, his eye chases it round and round
the other eye shut, as a resting dog
in his brain, not a thought could risk being found

the register lay open, pages unbothering to flutter
half empty chai glass having an identity crisis
his unpolished shoes lording over the desk
still air competing to be stiller as the sultry sun is.

Then the sand whirled into dust, the gate rattled
wheels scarred the path with a noisy engine throb
his legs swung over to the ground as torso raised itself
he saluted at attention and trembled a “Salaam Saab!”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

galli galli mein kirrkett!

Cricket. India. As a child, when you have finally managed to learn how to walk and are running around the house to exercise your new found mobility, inevitably, a hollow plastic stick will be thrust into your hands and a plastic sphere will be thrown towards you. And you swing your arms. In your mind you are mimicking the very actions that you have seen some brown, white and black men do on the television, day in and day out. All this happens within the confines of your home. In my case, I think it was the terrace of our joint-family house at that time. Or perhaps it was the big partitioned room that served as the flat for my family.

Soon enough, I graduated to small locally made wooden bats and rubber balls. And to the sprawling post-office campus next door to our house. In Berhampur, our house was bang in the centre of the town - with the the police HQ on one side, the central post office on the other, and with the bus station opposite our house. There was also some sort of a stadium beyond the bus station, but we, the common public, were never allowed into it. Anyway, the post office with its vast unused paved areas was my own stadium. Played there with brother, the couple of cousins of my age, whenever they visited, and eventually with some school friends. Occasionally, though, an enterprising shot would go high and far enough to hit a glass window somewhere, leading to a clang, a shout from within the building, and a dash by us to vanish from the crime scene. Some other times, without even having caused any damage, some bloke (possibly just been humiliated by his boss [snigger] ) would come out of the offices and order us out of the premises.

We obviously needed alternate arrangements for these periods when the post office was out of bounds. And that's where divinity helped :P. Oh I didn't mention right; opposite our house on the other side, was a catholic church (yep, there were roads, pretty busy main roads on both sides of our house). It had a lush green lawn lying vacant on one side (not the cemetery side :P). This lawn would become our playground for some period, until usually the church is taken over by some sort of event (weddings perhaps?), with no regard for the sporting needs of the surrounding community. Then, we would sneak back into the post office, rightly continuing the cycle.

The other town that was enthralled by my galli cricket during this period was Tenali - whenever I went to visit my grandparents. Depending on where my cousins lived, we would either occupy their front yard or their rooftop. Always preferred the front yard; playing on the rooftop was more of a stair climbing exercise rather than any fun. Any mishit or a wild shot by someone overcome with emotion would have to be followed by first locating where the ball fell on the street, and then going down three levels of stairs to the road to retrieve it. Sometimes, the ball would conveniently rest in the open flowing drain. Retrieving it on such occasions involved some dexterity of using two long sticks as chopsticks to pick it up from the drain and then rolling it around on some nearby sand to dry it up. The ends we had to go for a few hours of cricketing enjoyment!

As I moved into the teens, I graduated to bigger cities - Chennai and then Hyderabad - and also to true 'galli  cricket'. Yes, at the first house in Hyderabad, I used to play on the street in front of our apartment. It was very limiting though. Only straight shots were allowed. Any slight angle on your shot, and you have likely lost yet another ball. Soon, however, we moved to a different apartment, and clearly a much better one, as it provided two options for playing areas-- the vast square behind the building, which never had any traffic or the basement of the building itself (which was actually for vehicle parking, but a side of it was left unused; this side also got filled up with dirty rain water every monsoon season). I loved playing in the basement the most. Mainly because it was only conducive to my favourite version of the game with all fielders closed in, and airy shots that directly hit the low roof being declared out. Hence, one ended up being 'technical' :P 

Anyway, most of the games of the teens were played in what can be called grounds. The most frequented one being the one pretty close to home. We (me, my classmate, his brothers and some of their neighbourhood kids) would have regular and quite serious matches against the kids of the adjacent 'basti' (slum). With hard taped tennis balls (rather than the rubber ones), sticks for stumps rather than stones, and all the field around the bat being in play (rather than just the area down the wicket), this was a close to proper cricket as I would have hoped then ;). 

Cricket wasn't a frequent activity while in IIIT (not for amateurs like me that is :P). Of course, there were the occasional games on the lawns of the hostel all of which invariably had to end with losing the ball in the surrounding hedges. Only towards the end of the years there, did some of us amateurs also start playing on the main sporting ground. I actually preferred the lawn over the ground though. The lawn with its fast paced game, unexpected events and close-in bantering was definitely more fun than the more sober ground version.

And then the lands where cricket first developed - South England! Ironically, though, there was no regular cricket for me here. Was put off by all the formal games happening all around-- everyone belonging to some or the other club team and dressing up in the whole gear paraphernalia as if going into battle :P But there have been exceptions, of course, involving a 'galli' style version of the game. The first one has been well documented here by a great reporter called mythalez :P A couple of games over the years at the same location followed. However, the whole career spanning over 2 decades came to fruition in September this year, when I had been finally persuaded to play a proper game; to make up numbers for the flailing village team of my ex-supervisor for their second last game of the season. Even managed to get a pair of white, crickety trousers for the occasion! But then, of course, the match had to be rained out. However, patience is the key to playing cricket they say ;). So for the final game of their season, I turned up again, and this time, we did get to play! Wearing those pads and gloves left me completely bewildered for a while though.  Sensibly, did not try putting on the helmet too! Not needed either as we were playing some local church team who didn't seem any better than me :D. And soon I got into the groove and started playing decently. And then, soon enough, got out :P. Thus, I made my debut in the formal game of cricket. Perhaps, that was also to be my last game ..... who knows!  (any comparisons with Dravid's T20 career are welcome ;) )