An excerpt from “Nightwatchman, for a Night”, published in “The Best of Indian Sports Writing“, an anthology of Indian sports writing:
The K.S.C.A stadium had materialized magically – almost overnight – in my life. Growing up in South Bangalore, the part of the city it is located in was almost an alternate universe to us back then. Mahatma Gandhi Road only played cameo roles in a child’s mind – Brigade Road, Christmas lights and store window Santas knee-deep in white cotton snow. Visits to movie theatres like Lido, Rex, Plaza and Galaxy – the magical screens that shimmered with epic movies like The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Guns of Navarone, The Day of the Jackal and Enter the Dragon. These visits culminated – most of the time – in mouth-watering ice-cream specials at Lakeview. Aah, the Cassata, the Merry Widow special…
Those were the wondrous days.
Cricket was just budding in the imagination. Devoid of television imagery, it was embroiled in a web of incomplete stories, myths, rants, theories and smorgasbords of opinion inflicted on us by fathers, uncles and grandfathers. You always found them clustered around giant glowing contraptions that served as radios, faces knotted up in concentration, ears cocked at the crackly signals being beamed in from god knows where. Sometimes, things got scary – people snarled, shouted and bared their teeth. These were divided families – divided by the tactics and strategies they espoused and dispensed to the hapless captain, who was fortunate to escape the cacophony. They stood united in their support of the state and national team, but were willing to disown each other in a flash over a bowling change or field placement.
But in Bangalore, there was no risk of familial bonds fracturing amidst the stress of these cricket matches. None whatsoever. For, peace was always lurking around the corner. When fathers, uncles and grandfathers united; faces softened, understanding and reassuring smiles broke out. Their voices turned gentle and conciliatory. Even the mothers and grandmothers looking on exasperatedly at the hordes in front of the radio would sit back and smile affectionately.
For he was at the crease.