Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Death

When the news of that death was broken to me suddenly I broke into tears. I did not know where to keep the knife.

Don’t mistake me. I was just trying to balance the phone between my shoulder and ear, a feat that I am yet to excel. As a man living alone without a cook and someone to sleep with, I was cutting onion to make an omelette.

Then this friend’s phone call came. I was surprised. Generally, he sends me memes, picture trolls, jokes, limericks and porn-cartoons. We laugh sending emote-icons to each other. He rarely makes a call. As he does with his digital messages, in this call also he did not fail to amuse me.

Some deaths are awaited like an unbroken pimple on your cheek. It stays there for a long time, full of puss but refuse to burst. People avert their eyes while talking to you during those pimple seasons. But they do talk to you, appreciate you and congratulate you for the contributions that you have made.

I am a sports reporter, who is currently jobless due to the arrogance that I had showed towards my editor. I was with one of the biggest dailies in the city. Sports lovers took my words for truth; players, instead of looking at their as well as their opponents’ games in slow motion to learn strengths and weaknesses of the other, read my incisive reports, word to word, word by word.

I used to be like one of those much revered music critics. Even the best of maestros would shiver when the critic who had become a comma in his physical stature due to age, wrote a few lines in his celebrated column in the same newspaper where I worked as the senior sports reporter.

Death put an end to the veteran music critic’s stint as a critic as arrogance did to mine.

However, when the news of the death of a yesteryear tennis star came, I felt like laughing. He had been around for decades, playing some good games both in the national and international level. I grew up looking at his black and white photographs in action along with those of Mike Belkin and Pierre Barthes in the sports pages of newspapers.

He was a clay court specialist. But he loved to play in grass courts too. His tennis academy drew so many young boys and girls. Some of them made it to the national level and a couple of them made their mark in the international grand slams, under his tutelage.

It was in 1990s. I was transferred from Mumbai to Delhi. 22nd World Tennis Association Tournament was going to take place in Delhi. I was happy for the transfer.

In one of those hectic days, I came to know about the story of a young tennis player who committed suicide in her hotel room while on a tour. This man was the head coach of the team. Everyone knew what had happened. But he was very powerful; politically connected and wealthy. There was no media trial in those days and channel wars were yet to start.

I was the one trailed the story despite the opposition from the editorial. I met many. So many sob stories I heard. But none of them saw the light of the day. He was powerful. And everybody respected him as a person and his contribution as a player.

I stood staring at the flames of the gas stove. The man is dead and gone.

My cell phone pinged once again: “the bastard is dead.”

I did not know who it was and I did not care to know. I knew many felt the same.

Then I cried, this time I shed real tears.