“Why the hell are you still asleep? It’s almost 7: 45! Aren’t you going to office today?”
shouted my roommate. I replied in a rude manner, for I was agitated at being woken up, “Today, I am going to SHAR and not to office; close the front door when you go out, I won’t be up until 10:00”. I had lost my sleep, thanks to my roommate, but had nothing to do on a blue Tuesday morning. For the last one month, I was going through a hell of a time and I started thinking about the conversation that I had, with an equally dejected friend of mine, the previous day. He pointed out, “You lost some flavor of your life. You must get it back and travel is a good option. A great many things happen when you travel. Read some good books that can guide you on what you want to do with your life”. I don’t like to travel and used to feel all the more irritated when I was on for the place called SHAR. But this day, I didn’t feel that bad, for I was going after a long time and I had a hidden agenda of refurbishing (read ‘my experimentation with books on self realization’) myself. I fell asleep again.
Finally, when I woke up it was almost 12’ o clock and I remembered my friend’s warnings about some unprecedented road blockades due to “kavadi” and some party meetings. I surged to have a bath, packed my bag (the art of piling up your clothes into a back pouch) and rushed out. Oops…! I had forgotten my books. I hurried back and got two books from the row of a dozen(hehe, all on enlightenment and I knew the authors or the titles of none) and rushed back to confront a road which was barren (a very rare sight at the place where I live) except for some rare two wheelers and autos. I called out, “Auto…!” and an auto rickshaw stopped. The driver gave me a wicked smile (as if he knew what was in wait for me). I shouted“Thampanoor…!”
Feb 07th 2011 Time 2:15
Place: Outside the AC reservation coach of a superfast train bound to Chennai.
I was searching through the railway reservation charts and finally found my name against A1-18. I didn’t stop with that; I started gleaning the details of my co-passengers. Alas! My co-passenger was a girl (Female 26), from Changanassery. The imp in me woke up and started envisioning stories on my chat up with the girl (of course to be portrayed to my friends as an impeccable beauty), by narrating which I could enthrall my roommates when they telephone me at night. But of recent times, they do not show much interest in my superfluous narration and I felt that I should try some neologism to put in my gibberish. I ridiculed one of my integration friends, who was in the same coach, for being put amidst some old folks. Huh! So I am supposed get enlightened before Changanassery, after which I may continue, considering my ability to concentrate (previous experience shows that my focus on any subject holds a linear relationship with the extraneous disturbances from the surroundings)! However, the goddess of sleep didn’t like the idea of my getting enlightened and soon took me under her control.
Place: 2623 Chennai mail, A1-18, Side Lower.
Eater’s coma had attacked me and I slept for almost 2 hours. I woke up when somebody shouted inside my head “Dude, you have every right to have a tea before savoring the bliss of self realization”. A tea at 3: 30 is one of my office routines and I have developed a sort of biological alarm inside my head for this time. However, the alarm had gone late by almost 45 minutes. When the train stopped, I started looking for the chaii waalas but nobody turned up.
Suddenly, a 6+ feet tall figure appeared dragging her red trolley bag. I couldn’t see her face because the angle of elevation of her face was intercepted by the upper berth. She went out to fetch her other luggage. The train started rolling and the ‘Changanassery’ plaque was slowly moving backwards, but she was still missing. She turned up after a few minutes and sat facing me.
Ho! A tall (definitely above 6 feet), stout, dark girl, who could toss her big carry bag like a balloon! I remembered the adage that ‘black is beautiful than seven colours’, and in her I saw its proof. However, being an acrophobic (meaning connoted) of 5’ 5”, I was turned off. I took my book on enlightenment and mentally called out, “Oh! the enlightened ones, I am coming to your abode in half an hour”. Before I could open my book, she tried to plug in her mobile charger, and Alas! it was not working.
Her friend in me woke up. I told her that it wouldn’t work and laughed at the maintenance that the electrical guys in railways did. In fact, I explained to her the total powering and grounding scheme of the 110V railway electrical sockets. She was impressed by my explanations on why her laptop touch mouse and keyboard failed when she plugged it on the socket the previous time. At last, the ice was broken. She asked me what I did. I told her that I am an engineer at VSSC and she told me that she had great respect for my fraternity. I asked her what she did. She told that she worked for Southern Railways. “Oh! So the train is free of charge for you, isn’t it?” She just smiled.
“B-tech?” I enquired.
“No, sports quota”. Faces of all my friends who got in to good colleges through sports quota came flooding into my mind. While I studied, they played, and when the list was out, they just walked through. I hid my indignation and asked her name. “Geethu Anna Jose”, she replied. I told her that the name sounded familiar but concluded that I had a friend with a similar name. She just smiled. “Which sport ?” “Basket Ball.”
Hmm! Basket ball is not my cup of tea but an inherent wish to impress the girl made me exaggerate.
I described to her how I used to do the finger roll throw pretty well during my college days, how I could rarely convert a slam dunk or a jump shot and so on. She kept on smiling and that made me bluff over and over again.
She told me about her job. She had to go, sign in and complete some administrative work once in every 6 months; that’s all the work she does for the railways. I exclaimed “Wow! What an enviable job!”
She told that she was from kottayam, and had completed her education from the same place. Before coming to basketball, she had an athletic background.
I asked her “Have you gone to any foreign countries?” (expecting at most Bangladesh or Srilanka as a reply). She told me that it was a long list. The ignoramus in me was not content.
“So what is the next milestone you are looking up to?” She told me that she couldn’t make it into WNBA last season, and was planning to go to US for the same again.
“Oh! Which university? The Ivy League?”
She was confused.
I made it more direct. Why do you want a double MBA? (I had heard WNBA as double MBA)
She couldn’t control her laughter anymore. She explained that WNBA is Women’s National Basket Ball Association, world’s most sought after basket ball league in the US, and that it was any player’s dream.
Finally, I asked her the most sensible question of the day. “What tournaments have u played? National level for the Southern Railways?”(I still don’t know how I missed to ask it
She smiled and said, “International games, for The National team.”
I was left agape.
She then told that she was ‘The GAJ’, one among the two Keralites in the Indian team, and the captain of the National Women Basket Ball team. I lost my senses, for the word ‘captain’ had done its trick and a picture of MS Dhoni flashed through my mind. All I could say was, “autograph please”, by saying which I gave her the book I had in my hand.
She said, “Oh no! But why? I am not the right person, you don’t even know me!” She smiled. I was thrown silent. She continued, “Please don’t feel bad. It is not your fault, nobody in this compartment may recognize me but Basket Ball is a great sport, do follow it, if possible. Google it and you will get everything, including the double MBA”, she laughed. “And someday do google my name also”. For a moment I was bearing the burden of the millions of Indians who have hardly thought of considering anything other than cricket as a national game. I knew the names of the all the eleven players in the Indian cricket team and even more. If ‘sports’ is a religion, then India is a religiously intolerant nation with an affliction for extreme ‘cricket-ism’. I knew the name of the fast bowler from my district who occasionally makes it into the playing eleven, hailed by the local media, famous (or infamous)for his unfathomable arrogance than bowling skills. I knew his pet names, nick names, his parent’s name, the comments that his parents use to make in the local media and even the whole sort of blusters he created. I even knew about his predecessor who played just two international matches and became immortalized. And here, in front of me, was a girl of my age, from the district next to mine, the No1 in India for the last couple of years, a player in the media for the last 11 years, and yet, I knew nothing about her.
I was struck hard by my ignorance and my conscience bit the dust. I controlled my tears, which were trying to force out. However, my consternation finally put me in my place. I said “ I don’t know you. I don’t know how to appreciate your game, nor do I know how to appreciate your achievements; but I know one thing; among all the living gods I can ever imagine, you are the simplest and for that, I admire you. Hmm! Well, she looked impressed. A voice inside me called out, “You flirt! You will never change.”
She said “I don’t have a pen”. I borrowed a pen from another guy and my wish was granted. I was much delighted to exchange my seat with her friend who boarded from Ernakulam and I didn’t have to face her for the rest of my journey.
I took out my laptop and googled her. Google predicted her name once I typed the first three letters and gave out 226000 results (veracity of which I don’t claim) in 0.10 secs. Wikipedia and youtube hailed her glory (I leave it to the readers to find out) and I realized that she was the God herself. Google has always been my good friend, but he never says anything unless I ask for it. I looked at the book in which she had given me her autograph. The title of the book stared at me. It read “The Open Secret”. Yes, for me, GAJ was an open secret, a luminary who was all radiant but for my eyes closed, a god whom I failed to recognize because I belonged to a different religion, a legacy well written but a secret for many because they never bothered to check it (hardcore GAJ fans may disagree, but this is a very personal statement).
Next day morning, on the way out, she waved me good bye. I waved back at her and smiled. Somebody inside me whispered “good bye god”.
A Foreign land
An elderly couple consisting of a retired ‘project scientist’ and his wife were sitting in a match arena amidst a clamoring crowd. The man, being a man, checks out the hot girls in bikinis oblivious to his wife's squabbles. He knows that she loves him, and he loves her too, but the one with the long legs was too hot. The lady started bickering.
“Do you know what your age is?”
“Yes dear, isn’t it above 60?”
“Ok, then tell me why we are here?”
“Well, to see the Olympics and support the Indian janta.”
“But India is nowhere into beach volleyball?”
“You are correct. Don’t you think that it’s a game that needs some appraisal?”
“You shall not talk to me!” she brawled.
“Ok dear, I will tell you an anecdote of how I met a god, got enlightened and became secular.”
“Oh! Not that one. Not again.”
Cricket is a good game and our players might be good at it, but there are equally good players and equally good games which lie concealed and unnoticed, whose appraisal is required to make our country a sports flaring nation. If you consider national games to be a necklace chain; something that gives us an identity; that which makes us proud; that which makes us stand on our toes and jump on our seats; that which keeps us unified, cricket would be the most conspicuous link destined to hold the beautiful pendant. But Alas! A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.