The International Writers Magazine:
Tendulkar: youre the stuff of dreams
and goats ran to the sides of the road as we ploughed our way through
the back lanes. Children played and women sat in doorways gossiping
and passing the day, that was until they glimpsed me sitting in
the back of the auto-rickshaw and broke-off to stare in amazement.
I'm nothing special; it's just that they'd almost certainly never
seen a white face before, sitting in a rickshaw and racing through
their neighbourhood. Jhansi attracts few foreigners and those who
do visit find little incentive to go to the part of town that I
happened to find myself in.
I had arrived in
town a few hours ago and had asked a rickshaw driver if he knew of a
gym where I could exercise. He said that he did know of one and that
he would take me to it. So ten minutes later we are hurtling down some
back lane where, he assures me, there is a gym. Well experience of India
tells me that gyms are rarely situated in back-lane residential areas
in the poorer parts of town at least those that loosely approximate
to a gym. As it turns out, on this particular occasion, I was right.
I am delivered to his friends house where I am taken into a back
yard to inspect the gym: a pair of antiquated dumbbells,
barely heavy enough to tax a six year old, a rickety bench made from
decaying wood and a pull-up bar attac hed to a wall. Its a wasted
journey, but I thank the rickshaw drivers friend for letting me
see his equipment and politely tell him that its not quite what
I am looking for.
We make our way back to the street, wade through chickens and climb
back into the rickshaw. The rickshaw driver then tells me he knows of
another gym. After having just seen his version of what constitutes
a gym, Im a little weary, but agree on letting him take me there.
This time the place is in a more central location, on a main road and
actually advertises itself as being a gym on the hoarding above the
entrance. Hope at last. I enter and see that the place seems to have
the total population of Jhansi crammed into a matchbox of a room. The
owner tells me that it is least busy at about six in the morning. Six
in the morning! I never knew that such a time of day existed, but if
I have to go a six in the morning, then so be it.
So, the next day (yes, at six in the morning), I arrive at the gym but
the place is only fractionally less busy that when I had viewed it the
day before; perhaps only half the population of Jhansi this time around
instead of the full amount. Six in the bloody morning: does no one ever
sleep in India? Of course I am the centre of attraction and everyone
kind of abandons what they are doing in order to gawp at me with dropped
Im waiting for it to happen, and it didnt take long for
it to do so. Someone approaches and asks Which country?,
then someone else with How old?, and then a set of agonizing
questions are fired from all directions. Agonizing, because I am sick
of hearing them wherever I go and Im tired of answering them.
Someone who introduces himself as Krishna tells me his cousin
is working in Coventry in England and his name is Vijay Kumar. I've
never visited Coventry and probably never will. He asks with the type
of probing stare that indicates I should know of this person. To help
me out a little, he informs me that Vijay Kumar lives in Paradise
Street and works in the Bay of Bengal restaurant on Warwick
Street. I'm none the wiser and he looks a little downhearted because
of my ignorance.
Do you like cricket he asks and I tell him that I do not
and I find it boring. But that doesnt stop him from telling me
that Nassar Hussein, the former England captain, was born in Madras
and then proceeding to reel off the names of the full English, Australian
and Indian cricket teams and recent results involving the teams in question.
Fascinating to say the least. Why cant I come from Norway or Germany,
countries not traditionally associated with cricket, then I would not
be subjected to this cricket ordeal, which I am on a frequent basis.
Telling people that I dont like cricket and have no interest in
the game whatsoever never acts as a deterrent.
An hour later I leave and travel back to my hotel in an auto-rickshaw.
We wade through an assortment of farmyard animals as the driver takes
a short cut through the back lanes, and pass some boys playing cricket
in the street. Back on a main thoroughfare a huge advertising hoarding
shows the Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar beaming and holding a bottle
of Pepsi (or should that be Coke?)
A week later I am lodged in a hotel in Madras and a stones throw
at Chepauk Stadium India are playing England as part of a test
series. The worker who sits behind the cash desk in the local restaurant
asks if I am going to watch the game. I tell him, no. I tell him that
I dont like cricket very much, but tell him that Nassar Hussein
was born in Madras and I reel off the names of the whole Indian cricket
team. He smiles and says Thanks. I return to my hotel and
turn in for the night. I toss and turn and have trouble going to sleep.
I begin to recite the names of the India cricket team, then the Australian.
Half way through the English team I fall asleep.
I guess that in India there is no way to escape from cricket. Its
here, there and everywhere. But for me, I suppose it has its uses. Its
the stuff of dreams.
© Colin Todhunter November 2004
Complainer's Guide to Vomit, Hassle and Intrusion
Todhunter in India '04
Are You a Traveller or Tourist?
Tale of Two Women
Colin Todhunter in India
all rights reserved