Thursday, March 31, 2011

Indo-Pak Cricket Erotica and Medical Emergencies

I like cricket. But I don’t say, ‘I am loving it’. To be precise, I used to like this game. I used to spend several hours before a television set with an archetypal shape (note: Photography artist, Alex Fernandes is very keen to differentiate between archetypes and stereotypes. For him, according to Jungian theories, archetype is a ‘racial mind’ that determines the cultural coding of a race in unique embodies forms).

What is the archetypal shape of a television? It should be a rectangular box, with a picture tube on its right and a control panel (knobs and switches) on its left. Any set that did not have this shape, during those days, was not worthy to be called a television set. Interestingly, back in village, when I got my first television set during mid 1980s, something called ‘core’ model’ was already in the market. But I resisted my parent’s wish to buy a ‘core’ model because core model, popularized by the ONIDA Company had a picture tube on the top and control panel down below and together it made a perfect square. I hated this core model as it was not confirming my belief on an archetypal television set. Today with wafer thin plasma screens on your walls, you must be wondering about that Jurassic age in which I got introduced to cricket.

During those days, the fame of a cricketer was not based on the brands that they used to endorse. Within the protected economy of our country, in fact we did not have too many brands to boast. Lalita ji talked about the power of Surf, Dancing girl endorsed Nirma, Colagate was by some unknown model, Sangeeta Bijlani came in Garden Vareli sarees, Sunil Gavaskar endorsed Dinesh Mills and all the other famous cricketers, if they were lucky to have some extra money, advertised interesting products like Vicks, Glycodin, Palmolive and so on. Nirodh, the nationalized and nationalistic condom had unrecognizable stereotype of a happy husband and wife who looked like using abstinence in bed than condoms. They were not like the maid servants made out of sex sirens who go wild while finding a used condom’s cover or a macho underwear in a bucket of dirty clothes.

With not many things to do in a village, I used to spend a lot of time watching cricket. And I used to remember the players not by their nationality but by their mannerisms. David Boon was one with a handle bar moustache and a beer belly. His presence in lemon yellow squad uniform used to bring cheer to anybody’s mind irrespective of the nationalities to which they belonged. Vivian Richard was a man to see; running from the pavilion end, he comes like a storm and bowls over not only the wickets but too many minds (though Neena Gupta went a few steps ahead in fielding him). We, the kids then used to think that Viv Richards chewed raw beef on the ground to gain energy (in fact he was relentlessly working on his wads of chewing gum). Imran Khan, the lion of Pakistan, Wasim Akram, Miandad, Courtney Walsh.. Then came the younger lot, Inzamam -ul- Huq, Sachin Tendulkar. We thought we belonged to this game called cricket.

Look at Kapil Dev, the rawness of a Jat transforms into the joviality of player who is ultimately focused on to his game. There was something about this man that made us feel one with him; like we felt one with Amitabh Bhacchan. The cool dude of the day, Ravi Shastri- every young man secretly envied him whenever he wore his shades. Sunil Gavaskar, he was the tallest amongst the order both in skill and presence. Dilip Wengsarkar- that man smiled like a fresh morning. Srikanth- he had this eternal mannerism of shrugging his shoulders and wrinkling the muscles around his nose. He flipped the handle of the willow between his palms, struck the wicket for a few moments, once again flipped the bat, shrugged the shoulders and looked straight into the ball. There it goes- a six. Mohinder Amarnath- the gentleman with a pensive smile in his eyes. Chetan Sharma, the pacer of all times. Manider Singh, the coolest spinner. Navjot Singh Siddu- scandals did not deter him from playing good cricket. A pair of sharp eyes piercing out of the helmet- that was Siddu. We never knew he could join BJP and make us laugh like anything. Wahe Guru. Narendra Hirvani played a couple of seasons, then became an eternal image in Mile Sur Mera Tumara. I cannot forget Saurav Ganguly, the man who came with a very thin moustache then when he became ‘dada’, he started looking like Amartya Sen. Then the one and only Azharuddeen with his upwardly tilted collar.

This was the case of Tennis also. Wimbledon became a household name. We learned the words like clay court and grass court. In village we had both clay and grass, only the court was missing and those flying little skirts. We learned the terms like Duce, set, match point and so on. Andre Agassi became a friend. Mc Enroe was on his way out. Navratilova was like a next door aunty. Then came our own Boris Becker with his blonde eye lashes and strong thighs. Pete Sampras was smiling like Pierce Brosnan (though he came late). The one and only Steffi Graff came and power house Gabriela Sabattini played for us. Then the black gems came; Venus and Serena Williams. Then I lost interest. Navratilova was known to me not for the studs she wore, nor was Steffi ruled my imaginations for her cool quotient. It was pure game and its visuals. Who cares now Sania Mirza supports India or not (many, though)?

My generation was not watching games and identifying with players for their fame but for their game. If India played bad in a game we booed them out. Javgal Srinath- Anil Kumble pair was the last one aroused such admiration beyond nationality. Then everything became the branding and endorsement game. As a newspaper reader I know the following things: Yuvraj Singh goes around with this or that Bollywood girl. Dhoni’s hair is styled by this or that guy. The sherwani that Sehwag wore on a particular dinner was designed by so and so. Sreesanth danced with Shah Rukh Khah. Murali Karthik goes for every party in Delhi. And I don’t know their game at all though I get a taste of the games that they play to be in the team. They say pacer Harbhajan Singh has a Hummer. Hummer no Humming.

Memories are coming back to me. I cannot forget Dulip Mendis, Arjun Ranathunga, Malcom Marshall, Hans Cronje….my god .. I remember all of them. The way they play, the way they behaved in the field. I can even see during the drink break, they all coming together around the van to pat each other and crack a few jokes. Those things were not scripted and enacted. They were not clinical games. They were games where man and mind showed their best combination. Today, everything is scripted (including the winning and losing) like the Script of ‘Chak De India’. I love Shahrukh Khan and I deem him as an icon of my generation but I hate him deeply for doing Chak De India and the same year investing in Kolkata Knight Riders for IPL. He disproved his name as a Khan by doing it. Look Sachin Tendulkar till date has not endorsed a liquor product.

The whole idea about writing this piece was not to jog my memories on sports and games. On the contrary, I wanted to express my dejection; my dejection on the kind of apathy that our people show towards others while this hopelessly scripted commercial venture called cricket is on. Yesterday (on the day of the India-Pak semi final on 30th March 2011) I had a medical emergency at home. I had to rush my son to a medical facility for small injury at his foot. My wife and myself took our son from one doctor to another. We visited most of the private clinics and hospitals in the vicinity and not a single doctor was available on duty! We saw a few parents like us frantically going from one place to another till all of us reached a hospital in the neighborhood where a young doctor was sitting amongst a group of patients and watching cricket patiently. Thank god, he agreed to see us.

I don’t want to go into the analysis of this issue. But I would like to say that it is a heinous crime from the doctors that amounts to homicide. They are professionals supposed to give medical care to people. They have vowed by Hippocrates on that. They cannot leave their duty whether it is Indo-Pak war or cricket.

I don’t buy this ‘they/we too are human beings’ line of argument.

When you are a doctor, life of a human being is your prime responsibility than your momentary arousal of Eros by watching a sixer by a tail ender in the Indian cricket team.


jayan said...

Understand Johny. I m about the same generation, and was a league cricketer too. We used to train for hours every day for years- mat practice, tournaments, field practice and all that with little encouragement and none to appreciate the game. And all of this was in a small village as well. We begged to make infrastructure for us. people were helpful I must admit. We even shared the underguard! only thing we had was just dedication and enthusiasm. However there was no chance for someone serious like me and my couple of friends from a small village or even from Kerala (remember P G Sundar-Ranji player- he never got anywhere near the national team) to get anywhere. To get to Ranji Level even one has to have connections, and should come from the cities. We played League division 1 -remember- yet we had no chance of getting anywehre. What interest me now for the last decade and half is how this has penetrated the popular minds as a spirit of sport- and the support and encouragement one could get as an aspiring cricketer. Like foot ball in Brazil or Argentina. And I believe media and advertisement support- however uncomfortable it may feel - and believe me- I do feel it too- are also a instrumental in popularizing this sport. Believe me I have seen sports careers of brillaint talentd and dedicated people end up pathetically in shit jump pits, or dead ends. if sport and arts and all such could be seen as part of productive economy then, I am sure my dear friend and a brilliant footballer would not have ended up a taxi driver now, and keeps calling me once in a while during the world cup or when Arsenal plays Brazil in London. He might have been there atleast making a commentary today at the cup in india or atleast work as a PEd teacher. Ofcourse when things get into the capitalist economy it has its own uncomfortable face...And the doctor thing- I am with you about the oath- but the same thing happens during a Bandh in Kerala. I have ran around from one to another hostptal during Bandhs and hartals. Just somethoughts.... :-)

jayan said...

Johny- and I m sorry about the difficulty you had to go through with the doctors! hope everything is okay now.

JohnyML said...

Dear Jayan,

That's a fantstic comment and I respect your efforts towards cricket during your formative years. I understand your balanced mind now towards it. Of course, for us Bandh has become another 'provincial sports'.

My son is alright. He is going to school....

much love and would like to know more about you..