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Up to my neck in you

My earliest recollection of cricket on TV is from my grandparents house in Bombay. The house and the building were typical of the city; woefully inadequate in terms of space, inclined to suspect construction but packed to the rafters with people and raucousness. Across 3 floors and 15 flats, everyone knew everyone else. One house on the 3rd floor had a telephone so all incoming calls for many of the other flats were directed there. The buying of first car in the building, a white Fiat Premier Padmini was a grand occasion; the adults stood around trying to look important and making what they hoped were shrewd observations about its features. The kids queued up, hoping for a ride, thanking their lucky stars that they were still friends with the son of the car's owner. The Sunday Ramayan phenomenon meant default hosting for whoever owned a telly, oldies and young 'uns dutifully huddled around the screen. Everything we take for granted now was an occasion back then. Early 80s Bombay was just that kind of place in time.

The b/w tv at my grandparents' place was a real collector's item. Thanks to my grandpa's reluctance to discard anything, one could safely assume the tv was as old as the hills. It was one of those stand-models complete with 5 glorious channels, a giant tuning dial, dangerously flimsy table and a wooden cabinet with shutters that could be locked, a useful tool with which to blackmail pestilential grandsons into good behaviour. When the West Indies visited India in 1987 - 88 for 4 tests, I don't recall those shutters being closed at all. My grandad, uncles and assorted neighbours were a fiercely obsessive tribe when it came to Test cricket. A plethora of cheers, anguished howls, blood-oaths and unique snorts of disdain would rent the air when the matches were on. At the time, I was too young to understand the nuances of the game. But even then, I was not immune to the creeping anxiety of watching an ominous West Indian bloke charging to the wicket while his team mates crouched in anticipation in the slips. The batsman looked so tiny and forlorn, I thought.

To avoid being disturbed by an irritating little hellion, the elders would vote that I spend my time perched on the window ledge (we were on the ground floor), 'guarding' the grains that had been placed out in the sun to dry. The gravity with which this honour would be bestowed on me, one would think an assorted collection of villains were waiting in the wings to pounce on the family food. Not being the sharpest tool in the shed, for the longest time, I did not make the connection between the timing of the matches and the need to dry grain.

As I said earlier, my earliest recollection of cricket was from my grandpa's house; I'll never forget the pain of having to constantly twist around to watch the flickering screen while supposedly scaring away the crows and sparrows. When I watch tests today, lounging around on the sofa, something just doesn't feel right. I wonder why.

Song for the moment: New Sensation - INXS           


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