My introduction to cricket was because of Dad (Appa as I call him). Those were the days before TV in India and Appa listened to the radio commentary religiously. I was too young to figure out what was going on and pestered Appa to tell me a story instead.
“Hmmm Appa is busy why don’t you ask your mother.
“She is cooking and she chased me out of the kitchen” I replied.
Appa tried a few more manoeuvres to distract me but I was not to be denied. Finally Appa hit upon a plan. He drew a large oval and named the fielding positions at the appropriate locations. He brought out the chess set and my job was to place the pawns in position mimicking the field setting described on the radio. Appa maintained a running commentary on what was going on and gently introduced cricketing strategy. The hitherto unseen game came to life and I was hooked.
This became a family ritual whenever a game was on, during which, he regaled me with cricketing anecdotes like the one here.
Seeing my blossoming interest in the game he bought me a cricket bat and also a cricket board game with plastic fielders, an inclined plane with a ball bearing was the bowler and you could change the pace by varying the angle of the plane. Appa probably had visions of turning me into a cricketing superstar. The only thing in the way was my abysmal lack of talent. Appa was not too disappointed though as I declared him the greatest Appa in the universe.
The years rolled by and the mid-nineties found me in my early twenties. I was also in my rebellious stage. Somewhere along the way, in my eyes, Dad had gone from being super-Appa to a dictatorial usurper. Appa and I had frequent and intense skirmishes mainly concerning his (what I thought at that time) unjust fiscal policies and his constant heckling to get me to focus on my studies. In those times of strife, sporting events (Cricket & Wimbledon) were the only cause big enough for both to lay down arms, sink our differences and declare an unconditional cease fire.
Around this time (1996) the Titan Cup rolled in and an India – Australia day/night ODI was scheduled for Bangalore. I had missed the earlier India-Pakistan World Cup match and I did not want to miss this one. Luckily, a relative of a friend of a friend worked at the Chinnaswamy Stadium and could get us tickets. Appa demurely coughed up the money. The scene was repeated in several other homes and as a result 10 friends and I were going to the game. He even surprised me by slipping me some extra money, unasked, before I left for the game. The man was a mind reader. My experience of the game deserves a post by itself.
Soon after, I left India looking for green pastures and greener dollars. Time with family was limited to a few days a year when I visited India. In the intervening years my rebellious phase petered out and the earlier hostility with Appa was replaced by mutual admiration and respect. On one of my visits, I took him to a game in Bangalore. Appa burst a gasket when I told him how much I paid for the tickets.
“You should be saving money not spending it like it grows on trees”.
“But Appa, it’s not all that much when you convert it to dollars; moreover the seats are right behind the bowlers arm”.
“Hmmmph at those prices we should be standing next to the umpire”.
Appa grumbled about my spending habits all the way to the stadium. The game started and all was forgotten. Appa was like a kid and thoroughly enjoying himself. There were no further bulletins on the importance of saving money.
During the break my mind wandered to my first game at this stadium. Appa delicately cleared his throat “ Son, do you remember that game you watched here? What was it… more than 10 years ago?”
Appa’s ability to read my mind still amazed me. It was on the tip of my tongue to say that was what I was thinking too. But all I said was, “Wow that was a long time ago…. Yeah I remember”.
A nostalgic look came to Appa’s face. “You know, I watched the game on TV and for the first time I hardly paid attention to the game. I was scanning the crowd to see if I could catch a glimpse of you. All I saw was a bunch of ediyates (idiots in the Indian accent) acting like monkeys”.
I let that racially charged statement slip. And just like that, in an instant, the years were peeled back and it was the Appa of old regaling his little kid with stories and impressing said kid with his knowledge. For the first time in my life, I hardly paid attention to the action on the field and watched Appa having the time of his life.