Thursday, March 3, 2011

All the euphoria around the World Cup takes me back to the two World Cups that I got to witness at Parthi.

For the first one, I was too young to remember much. We were in fourth standard, and our Class Teacher Shruti mam would come and tell us that India won the match, or lost. We knew nothing about cricket, but we celebrated when he heard India had won.

The 96 World Cup caused a lot of us to gain an interest in cricket, and soon the madness caught in.

By the fifth standard, we had our cricket collections ready, and cricket was quite the craze. Reading the newspaper's sports page after lunch, getting some cricket gyaan from Vasanthi aunty, and the Unity Cup, all fuelled our interest further.

The Unity Cup was a wet dream come true for most of us. The Indian team that had come had all the major stars (except Azhar). There were crazy rumours doing the rounds. That Afridi, when he was served vegetarian food, asked for non-veg, and in anger threw the plate at some institute guy's face. We were all kicked to watch our heroes in action, when the tragedy of the matter struck us.

We could not watch the Indian innings because we had to perform dance items in the interval. I remember wearing my costume for the annamaya dance with tears in my eyes. By the time we were taken to the pitch, India had pretty much finished their batting.

The Unity Cup was our first meeting with Venkatesh Prasad, who later on became a regular visitor to the school. There was this one instance when he came to the Prayer Hall and sat near swami's chair. We didn't know what to do, and to ease the discomfort, someone gave him a duff. He took it in his hand, and chang-changed the cymbals, turned it this way and that, and returned it to the guy.

In 1999, came the next World Cup. This one began when we were at home in the Summer Holidays, and continued through June, when we came back to school. This was the year when we were to move from PS to 'that school'.

It was still the beginning days, and so we were still quite overwhelmed with our new found liberties, and every experience a new one for us. Cricket in the other school was a dicey matter.

The TV was under the control of the AVC guys, who would unmistakably be Oriya (I have always wondered what the C in AVC boys stood for?)

So these AVC guys were bestowed with the responsibility of holding the remote and switching channels when a match was going on. It was an experience in itself. Sit expectantly in front of the TV, and the AVC guy comes, open the wooden door to reveal the TV. But his responsibility was more that just that.

He had to ensure that our pure minds were not corrupted by evil even during the match. So this AVC guy would change the channel everytime there was some objectionable ad came on in between the overs. If he mistimed a press of the button and a little spicy something was visible for a few seconds, a collective 'ah' would emanate from the hungry crowd.

The AVC guys were under Prushty sir, who of course, was under Janardhanan. Janardhanan sir loved cricket and had quite a reputation about it. There were stories that one Jaan sir was the umpire in a cricket match that was going on in the stadium. The bowler is coming in to bowl, and he stretches out his hand, stops him and says, “Ayen fellown, gon and get a hainrcut”.

He is the ultimate authority so his mood decided if we could watch a match or not during study hours. And you never knew when he got into the moods. There were times when a fall of wickets, or a little cheering from the watchers would mean that the AVC guys would lock the TV back in its wooden case and pack all of us back to our rooms for 'study hours'. And once this was done, there was a made craze to know the score.

The AVC guys were in demand for this. They could go into the TV room and see the score. But if you were nowhere near him, you devised your own ways of knowing the score. One guy would peer into the TV room from the B floor terrace by hanging on to the pipes. This would be done to an extent when gravity will have no option but to drag the guy's head to the floor. And then, listen to the commentary, and tell all the other guys hovering around the place.

Throughout the study hours, whispers would be passed from one room to another, and the guys who go downstairs to get milk would generally be requested to go take a peek at the score. The more courageous had transmitters that they carried to the bathrooms, and searched frantically amidst the airwaves and frequencies for an “Aur yeh.....BSNL chaukaa!”

In an age where it is possible to watch the match from anywhere and everywhere, it seems quaint to ask the milkman for the score, but the pleasure of hearing updates every ten minutes, with added descriptions that sounded like a Greek epic by the time it passed around, was something else.

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