I am amused at the way cricket changes the climate of this country and its people, no matter who or where they are.
My normally chirpy maid walks in looking like a thundercloud. When I enquire if something’s wrong, perhaps a domestic crisis? (there usually is—a thief walks into her house and sleeps over the night, her husband disappears with alarming regularity, and such like). She says, “India haar gaya, didi,” and looks melancholic for the rest of the morning as she potters around doing her thing.
My watchman goes missing, and I catch him leaning over a ground floor window.
My natural-born-killer gym instructor goes wide-mouthed staring at the television in the middle of an intense workout, leaving me entangled in a complicated piece of machinery.
My designer buddy at work is suitably distracted.
My normally communicative and prolific beau gets cryptic, with messages like, “Am in mourning..”
It’s that time of the year, I think.
In my childhood— the era of residual test matches; my super enthusiastic dad would engineer a few days of ‘casual leave’ or ‘sick leave’ as the case may be, to catch the game at home.
I remember it pat. My mother would walk in after work in the afternoon, day after day to find a house laden with testosterone, as my dad and his beer buddies sprawled all over our not-so-ample house and produced sound effects that left my super-disciplined-teacher-mom baffled.
It was an early induction into male bonding— I rushed home from school on my lunch break to hang out with dad and his boys, bursting into the house with “What’s the score?” and being greeted with stoned silence or extreme sound, depending on which way the match was going.
It was also a time when domestic tension was writ large. The kitchen would be a mess, dishes would pile up (Shankar, the hired help also joined the cricket revelry), beds would be unmade, clothes unwashed, showers abandoned, the air would be saturated with smoke and masculine aggression, and my mother would curse the game and the TV.
It all came back to me when recently, I was trying to grab some sleep at normal human hours with some intense PS2 sound effects in the background. I almost turned into my mother, when I suddenly realised— boys will be boys. And thank god for that.
Unlike my dad, who was at best, a trivia king or a walking encyclopedia, my brother actually played the game when he came of age. He still maintains he would have made it somewhere in the team, had he not been of Tam-Bram be-a-doctor-or-engineer-or-your-life-is-doomed upbringing.
So it was school or college by day, and matches by night—the sad part is, he still became an engineer, although he has found a way to pursue his passion by playing in an LA County team now. When I visited him last, he asked me to get him a cricket kit— I had never been in close quarters with bats, thigh guards, elbow guards, crotch pads and helmets ever in my life, and sort of got a kick out of it.
The fact is, I never got anywhere in any physical sport, and usually wound up in the reserve team in volley ball at school, praying fervently that no one gets hurt and I don’t actually end up playing. So I was surprised when I found myself in a bowling alley recently and discovered that I was as good as the boys (if not better).
I think I know what works about men and cricket, or men and any game. It’s about not having to talk.