Saturday, July 17, 2010
One among the many quirks that existed in school was the habit of collecting pictures of cricket players. Cricket, you see, was more than a craze. While we were taught that all religions were one, cricket was clearly not included in the list.
Pictures of cricketers would be collected and stuck in scrap books. Quantity was clearly more important than quality here, and so the person who had the most number of pictures was the winner. This resulted in a mad scramble for any picture of a cricketer. Even a Syndicate Bank ad that had Sunil Joshi and Venkatesh Prasad was fought over.
There was a bubble gum in those days called 'Big Fun'. The gums were terrible, but they gave free cricket cards. We chose it over the Big Babool - which was softer and had more flavours. Another source was magazines like Sportstar.
I remember during holidays, I would subscribe to three newspapers, and then cut out the pictures, paste them in my book, and bring it back the next year. We were true connoisseurs. The more desperate ones would resort to more risky techniques to acquire pictures. The only time we got to read newspapers was after lunch. We would have lunch quickly (difficult, when the punishment for eating slowly was being made to sit in the girls' side) and rush to the staff room. We would then request a teacher to give us the newspaper and read the Sports section. This was when the desperate among us would slowly tear the Sports page, fold it to the size of Vim Bar, and sneak it out in the pant pocket.
Cricket stickers had higher value among the collectors. You could exchange a sticker for five 'rare' pictures, two chintapandu balls, a magnet, or a bubble gum. Bubble gums promised a good bargain due to the effort involved in smuggling them into building. On Sunday when there was Parents Meeting, there were 2 guys who went around the ground with a bell, signalling to one and all that it was time. The trick was to make sure that you were among the bell boys. A prior understanding meant you were given bubble gums, which you pocketed and entered the building with the bell, while others were checked in the lobby for things they might have attempted to sneak in.
Coming back to Cricket Stickers. The cricket stickers were valued possessions and played a number of roles. One of them was being paid to seniors as some sort of 'tribute'. I remember a senior who would bully a friend of mine.
"Fellow, pay me 5 cricket stickers,ee"
"I dont have, brother...."
"Then pay me nuggets curry...."
As a result, whenever there was nuggets curry, my friend would eat slowly, wait for the 7th std. guys to say Bramharpanam in the '7th std bass voice', and then give him his nuggets curry. Of course, he could dip his chapathi in rasam or slip it under the mat.
There was this other senior who had a favourite bathroom. One day he saw me coming out his bathroom and stopped me.
"Why you went to my bathroom, ee?"
"It was empty..."
"So? You'll enter off,aa?....Now pay me 10 cricket stickers"
"Ok", I said dejectedly.
"No, pay me a cricket sticker with Sanath Jaysuriya and Sachin Tendulkar drinking coffee"
"From where I'll get that..?"
"Then pay me nuggets curry"
So whenever there was nuggets curry, I stuffed my lunch within seconds and went to the staff room to tear off the Sports page from the newspaper.