Night at the stadium

The IPL season was on and everyday lunch table conversations revolved around it in office. It came as no surprise when one of the guys suggested watching the semi-final live at the stadium and the others jumped at it. Me? Not really. The tickets cost a bomb and I was penurious from a recently-joined art class and a recently-attended friend’s wedding. The team I had been rooting for was not a part of this game. Moreover, None of the few cricketers I knew were playing in the qualified teams(Kolkata Knight Riders and Sun Risers Hyderabad), except Yuvraj Singh. 

But I had never been to a cricket stadium or watched a game in action before(neither did I want to be a wet blanket to their plans). I promised myself that I will curb my dessert cravings for a while and make up for the ticket cost (spoiler – lame consolation. Never happens). I agreed to join them.

The day of the game arrived. We wrapped up work early and by 7.30 pm, we were on our way to the stadium. I felt excitement gush through me as I walked up the steps leading to the stadium. The bright floodlights swamped the area with light, giving the delusion of a sunny afternoon, and the crowd eagerly chit-chatted away while the food vendors noisily hawked Lays and vada-pavs in the background.

The players entered the ground and the crowd broke into thrilled applause and whistles. The first ball was bowled and the shouts grew louder. I sat there, wide-eyed, like a kid watching the circus for the first time. 

While the guys concentrated on the technical aspects of the game (a few words I caught were offside, mid wicket, good pitch,…….vada pav, Lays, samosa), I was looking at the smaller unnecessary details. Wouldn’t the player standing near the boundary be bored? Did the cheer leaders run to the podium every time there was a six? Does the umpire stand still throughout the game? Will the spider cam fall on a player’s head? How is it balanced on thin strings from the beams? Was that multicolored hair or was it a wig? It was natural that I missed all the important wickets and a couple of sixes. Bummer, there were no replays.

Two wickets down and Yuvraj walked onto the field. The atmosphere turned electric with shouts of “Yuvi! Yuvii!”. Ten balls down, he walked off the field. There was a brief minute when the camera concentrated on Shah Rukh Khan waving and I spent the rest of the game trying to spot him in the crowd. I did successfully spot him (or rather an insect-sized version of a person wearing the same color dress  who I conveniently assumed to be him) at the other end of the stadium.

The first innings were coming to a close and that’s when we noticed it. The winds brought with them a thin white fog – the first signs of a downpour. The drizzle grew stronger and the players sprinted to the safety of their changing rooms while ground workers rushed to cover the play areas with tarpaulin sheets. We stepped out into the cafeteria to grab something to eat.

The place was overcrowded with hungry people hurriedly wolfing down pizzas before the second innings started. A needless worry, they would discover later. The guys discussed the game in great detail while I intently listened to the drumming of rain on the aluminium sheets. 

An hour later, we went back to our seats to see people inspecting the ground and rollers with sponge wheels on standby. The torrent reduced to a drizzle and the ground was abuzz with activity, with people on the stands hollering with relief. The ground workers got cheers as loud as the ones Yuvi got. The sheets were removed, the central pitch was broomed, the ground was inspected by the umpires and the sponge rollers got to work. I was fascinated by the whole process and how the ground seemed clear of any sign of wetness. The guys educated me about the draining system beneath the green carpet and how some football fields had a heater underneath to melt and drain snow (general knowledge dose for the day). 

The final sheet was removed and the crowds went crazy. The rain gods must have heard it and misinterpreted it as cry for more rain. To everyone’s dismay, the shower started again, with more intensity this time. One hour down and the skies showed no signs of stopping. It was 11 pm and people started walking out. 15 minutes later, we followed suit, grumbling about the wasted money. 

As I walked back on the dimly-lit streets under the drizzle, I felt oddly content at the memories made from the day. The rain had played spoilsport for some, for me- it had enriched my stadium experience. The scenes from the day flashed before me as I hit the bed – the cheering crowds, Yuvi at the crease, Shah Rukh Khan waving, the ground being cleared, the sound of rain drumming- and I drifted off to sleep.

(PS. We came to know that the match resumed an hour after we left. So much for waiting out for hours on end)


Home is where the heart is!

Found this little surprise post in my drafts from over a year ago (2015) when I was in my first job, away from home for the first time. Though I have become headstrong now, I can relate to this younger-naiver-me. Here goes a blast-from-the-past post from the archives-

First job -> New city -> New friends ->Independence ->Excitement!

Fast Forward 3 months : Long working hours -> Alien city -> Indifferent people -> Melancholy.

From excitement to disappointment, from dreams to nightmares, from hope to despair. Been there. Done that! The initial elation at finally being able to earn and sutain myself was soon deflated by the dawn of reality that corporate life is very different from the blithe college life when people were more innocent and less avaricious.  The occasional showers on this barren land are the monthly visits home.

The whole journey is nothing short of an adventure.Starting from the hassle of booking tickets to the teary-eyed return back to the concrete jungle, every task can be made into a high-octane emotion-laden Bollywood movie.

Preparations: The preparations start with the booking of tickets. The custom calls for calling up all your friends(from childhood to school/college)  and enquiring about their home-visiting plans. If, by coincidence, both your plans match then as per the unwritten rule-book, you book tickets together.

The D-day: Excitement creeps in a couple of days before the eventful Friday. The day starts early, with the packing of unwashed clothes and goodies from the month’s shopping. The entire office has happy smiley faces on Fridays. And on such days, I readily add to the cheer! 😀 

 As the clock ticks 6 pm, I make arrangements to leave. The scene usually starts with a meek me requesting for permission to leave early and then a high-speed sprint to board the overcrowded bus. This journey usually lasts a couple of hours post which McDonalds gives me refuge until 11 pm, when my bus is scheduled. On days with monstrous traffic/days when my manager is less considerate, I skip dinner and dash to the bus stop, a heavy rucksack on my shoulders and a massive handbag in my hand, disheveled hair and panic-stricken eyes( I must have been quite a sight).

The trouble of travelling a long distance in a bulging-at-the-seams bus fueled with the traffic and tension and just managing to hop onto the bus is totally worth the affection I feel at home. After all, I survive the month by feeding on the weekend affection that I accumulate over these 2 days. 

I doze off in the bus – a peaceful, self-satisfied sleep with the realization that at the dawn of morning, I will get the chance to look at familiar faces that smile back at me and welcome me back to where I belong. Home is where I truly belong. Home is bliss. Home is where my heart is.

Silver lining of traffic

The infamous metropolitan traffic. My workplace is 5 kms away from where I stay and I consider myself lucky if I cover that distance in an hour. 

One day, when I was running late for a meeting (goes without saying that I was stuck in a cab during a logjam), I realized that I have better things to fret about than traffic jams – like the just-ended sale on the dress I wanted or the popped-out-of-nowhere pimple. 

That’s when it dawned on me that traffic is not so bad, after all. Don’t think so? Allow me to explain how traffic helps us have a better life:

1. Socializing

Have you seen two random auto drivers strike up a conversation during a road block? I have seen guys in my carpooled cab discover common interests through music playing on the radio and plan on attending a concert together. I have had exclusive access to cooking , beauty tips and sale details by overhearing phone conversations on buses. Traffic jams help you connect, spend time and make friends with people.

2. Exploring the city

When my auto-driver senses an impending congestion ahead, he takes a sharp turn into one of those narrow lanes whose existence I wasn’t aware of. Tucked away in those narrow lanes are unexplored quaint art shops and boutiques that don’t charge a bomb. Touring the city is all the more relevant with “Murphy’s law of shared cabs” – Irrespective of when you board the cab, you will be the last one to get dropped.

3. Appreciating humanity

Only during times of distress does humanity shine. Like the person who let my car sneak into the main road’s long queue through a side lane. There was a traffic policeman who held the shivering hands of an old lady and helped her cross the road. There was a an old man selling peanut biscuits at a signal to fund his grand-daughter’s education. There was a businessman who stepped out of his air-conditioned Audi and volunteered to clear a deadlocked congestion. Traffic lets you witness such moments of humanity.

4. Developing patience

In this fast-paced world of 2-minute noodles, traffic forces you to cultivate and develop the virtue of patience. This is primarily because, well….you don’t have a choice.

5. Quality me-time

The time spent in travel gives me the much-needed alone time when I can read my favourite book, listen to music or introspect on my life. Bus drivers in my city use this time to stay updated with the world by reading newspapers.

6. Helping stay fit  

How does traffic help fitness? When you decide to cover the final 2km stretch to office by walking for 30 minutes instead of waiting for an hour.

7. Maintaining relationships

I spend my travel time in replying to messages, emails and greeting friends on their birthdays/anniversaries(or their children’s birthdays). Traffic gives you ample time in your busy work life to catch up with friends and relatives.

8. Increasing sense of alertness 

If you are a pedestrian on the side-walk, you develop the art of being on high-alert sub-consciously. Because you have to dutifully jump out of a motorist’s path and avoid bumping into a fellow mobile phone-engrossed pedestrian, like a real-life subway surfer.

9. Increasing co-ordination

Traffic requires you to inherently co-ordinate with all the other people on the road by a wave of the hand or the flicker of an eye – asking them to pass or understanding the time they need to cross.

10. Making us believe in spirituality 

When everything else fails, you invoke the Almighty to help you reach office on time. Or to Bless you with just one flying bat mobile. Or to endow you with superpowers that let your car pass through objects. The obnoxious traffic. Sigh!