It was my grandfather who gave me this OCD – Obsessive Cricket Disorder. The old man was crazy about cricket. He used to take me to see the Ranji matches at the Brabourne stadium. Those days Test matches were few and far between and Ranji matches were taken very seriously. The stadium used to be packed almost to capacity with very noisy and enthusiastic spectators.
We usually went to the North stand. I don’t think there was advance booking for the Ranji matches. You bought the tickets at the stadium and then took one of the multiple staircases going up to the stands. Like me now, my grandfather loved to see the first ball of the day and made it a point to be there well before time to see it and hear the crowd roaring. The first ball of any match is always special.
On one such occasion, we were a bit late so we were running right from the moment we got off the train at Churchgate station! In my anxiety and impatience, after we had got the tickets, I flew up the first staircase I could see and immediately started looking for vacant seats. Suddenly, I realized that grandpa was not holding my hand as he usually did and looked up. He was not by my side! I looked up and down, ran here and there in a panic but it seemed we had lost each other in the crowd! I went back down the stairs I had come up but couldn’t see him anywhere! I went back up to the stands and tried looking for him again, but he was nowhere to be seen. I think I must have started crying as I ran everywhere, totally lost, scared and worried, lost among a few thousand raucous ‘junglees’ screaming their lungs out.
Now, my grandfather was a really tall guy and very well-built. He always wore a long white bush shirt on a white dhoti. I was lucky that he was built and dressed that way because he really stood out in a crowd. And he did that day too! I finally spotted him in one of the other stands quite far away, walking all by himself. The old man was so engrossed in looking at the match that he had completely forgotten all about me! He was happily walking to some spot he already had in mind. To my tiny eyes, he looked far, far away!
I took off like a rocket and went up and down each staircase in intermittent hope and panic till I reached the stand where he was. He was just settling down as I reached him and, in his cricket-induced stupor, probably assumed that I had been with him all the time. I caught hold of his hand hard, half angry, half elated. As we sat down, I started blabbering about how he had left me behind and how I had almost gotten lost. He was only half listening to me, glancing at me tolerantly like we often hear out our kids. And a bit impatiently too, wanting to watch the match and get a precise handle on what was going on in the match, as if he was the chief national selector! When my persistence got through to him, he just laughed my indignation off, putting it down to one more yarn that kids often spin from time to time! Such an insult for this young guy! The old man did not believe me at all! I tried to push through my story a couple of times but it was no use. Cricket came first. I sulked for some time and then something must have happened on the field, for I finally got over the potential calamity that could have befallen my ‘khandaan’ and got caught up in my grandfather’s single-minded involvement in the match!
Nonetheless, when we reached home that evening, I narrated my lost-and-found story to my grandmother, who as always was willing to believe the worst about her husband! She gave him an earful about losing her most beloved grandson, but he heard a billion complaints from her every day, so it was like water off a duck’s back. Anyway, not just that day but till his dying day, I could never convince the old man that he had almost lost me that morning at the Brabourne stadium!
So friends, kehene ka taatparya ye hai, you are lucky to have me around here, jeeta, jaagta, ek piece! I could very well have become part of some real-life Slumdog Pauper story! 🤦♂️🤯🤣