The place where I grew up was Bundelkhund… and the people of this region are lazy with their pronunciation. So for many years even I played ‘kirkit’, listened to ‘kirkit’ commentary, and didn’t know that there was an insect too that went by the same name. It was when I was well past the junior school and when my elite school buddies started mattering more than the local riff-raff who I had been hob-nobbing with, that I learnt that the word was ‘cricket’ and that it was a gentleman’s game.
‘Gentleman’s game?’ I said, not convinced at all, because I had been seeing my old friends from the old city of Jhansi play the game bare-foot and with a ball made from black cycle-tube rubber-bands stretched over each other on a pebble until the diameter was large enough to be called a ball. But then, the compulsions of conforming to my school friend’s notions was what I did and began listening to cricket commentary on our transistor without standing on the chair like a hooligan and began shouting ‘howzzat!’ instead of ‘obbe, kya mara hai!’ But I went on missing my kirkit days… and even today when I watch any of these fancy Pepsi IPL teams playing on the telly, my mind shouts out the unholy ‘kirkit’ word and irrespective of what I may say or write, my mind always says: ‘Obbe kya mara hai!’ I love cricket because of its kirkit connection.
Years back, the game of cricket was full of white uniforms and five long days full of many glasses of nimbu-paani… and my mother’s warning glances to my father which meant: ‘If the kids fail, it is going to be your fault altogether!’ And my father feebly telling us to study even as the commentary went on uninterrupted. Those were moments when my father looked frantically for excuses that would let the commentary go on… and asking us get our school books was enough. So with the school books open and our heads down, our mother would calmly settle down with peeling potatoes for the next meal or knitting yet another pullover with left-over wool and wool from our old sweaters… and father went back to underlining his newspaper (now he remains busy solving the soduko puzzles in the same newspapers). The calm prevailed until the next excited rumble that no one really understood but looked up and stared at the transistor as if something earth-shattering had happened. A boundary would immediately allow us a respite for a few vital minutes… but the hush on an Indian wicket falling would mean it was safer to look down and read your comic book that was well camouflaged inside the text-book. Thus, even the days of the transistor, a cricket match and subterfuge did go together.
Now that we live in the wonder years of technology, even subterfuge has evolved. I asked a cricket-crazy friend how he managed to satiate his cricketing urges during office hours, he gave me a diabolical smile and said, ‘You ask as if you aren’t aware!’
‘I’m not,’ I said, and then added, ‘I’m a stay-at-home writer and…’
‘And what?’ he asked, ‘don’t tell me you’re allowed to watch cricket all the time at home.’ Well, what he said was correct because the home front is almost like an office where channels can be banned and it never surprises me to find Specky standing right beside me with a look that clearly means, ‘Didn’t we agree that there will be no TV during the day?’
But I kept up a brave front and said, ‘We don’t resort to excuses at home. I have viable strategies that I employ.’
‘Even I have viable and potent strategies that I employ when I’m in office,’ said my friend, and whipping out his smartphone, he went on, ‘my android app, man. The starsports dot com app for android is my saviour.’
I simply had to get up and hug him because the same app on my iPhone was my saviour too in some very sticky situations. ‘And what I do,’ said my friend in a conspiratorial whisper, ‘is to pretend that I am busy editing a video on my mobile. So the headphones are not objected to. And all this while even my boss keeps giving me encouraging thums-up signals. So there I am earning boss-brownies and watching IPL matches. But hey, why do you need excuses to watch IPL at home?’
I told him that it wasn’t Specky who objected to it unless the matches were during the day when we had a self-imposed curfew on switching on the TV. But yes, this app does help me watch the vital masala moments without breaking the curfew. ‘But the real advantage of this app,’ I said, ‘is when we have visitors and I necessarily have to be there in the drawing room nodding my head without understanding what is going on. So I switch on the app on my iPhone, put the headphones and pretend as if a brilliant idea has struck me and I just walk out watching the match.’ Specky defends my absence, of course… and I chill with IPL in the Study!
To tell you the truth, this app even helps me get over my writer’s block some days. Just look at the creative captions they have for clips… ‘Umpire does a Boo-Boo’ or ‘Quinton’s opening salvo’ or ‘Samson’s classy 28-ball 34’ or ‘Malinga’s last over: 0-0-W-2-1-0’ or ‘Maxwell’s 45 off 27 balls’ or ‘Fight! Sandeep, Gautam in battle of bat, ball, words’… the mind does a thousand flips on reading them all and suddenly clears itself of obfuscating blockages of thought! Yes, these captions are for sure, an inspiration for the creative soul within me. There have been times when I got the first whiff of a fresh blog post as I read these captions.
But coming back to ‘kirkit subterfuges’ – they are both tactical and strategic in nature. The kind I’ve just mentioned is a tactical one… and a strategic one requires quite a bit of thoughtful intervention. I remember my father having devised a five star strategy for watching the IPL matches even during a sad period when the electrical wiring at home was being re-laid and the TV was out of bounds for us all. He simply said, ‘I know the days are difficult. We’re all going to the market and we’ll have our food there. We’ll do this until this home issue is sorted out. I’ve even talked to a friend of mine who owns a restaurant and he said he’ll make special arrangements for us.’
Mother was pleased. But the Holmes in me was not sure if this was just to ease the renovation pressure on us all. And what was ‘special arrangements’ all about? And why necessarily go to some small-time restaurant just upgraded from being a Dhaba? It was when we reached the place that the strategic intent of coming here was revealed. There was a television placed at the head of our special table for six and the owner began, ‘All done as you wanted, my friend. Enjoy your food as you watch the crucial semi-final match.’ It was thrilling indeed and I looked at my father admiringly and said, ‘Kya strategy hai!’ He smiled.
Then there was one time not so long back when Specky suddenly got up during a match, switched off the television, and said, ‘I want to listen to the commentary in the yesteryear style.’
I said, ‘But we don’t have a transistor now.’
‘I don’t care. You do whatever you want to do. But I want to hear the match and then see it with my mind’s eyes.’
I thought for a while, got up and switched off the home wi-fi and disabled the 3G on her Galaxy Note II. Specky was curious and asked if this would magically convert her smartphone into a transistor.
I smiled and said, ‘Videos work on 3G and Wifi, my dear. But 2G & Edge connections are perfect to let us hear audio when we try to access video content on the starsports dot com app.’ I had my fingers crossed as I tapped open the app… and bingo! we could hear the voice of the commentator without seeing the visuals. The Note II was then connected by Bluetooth to our Bose Soundlink III and the rest of the match sent us tumbling through the years into the lap of the sixties when we last heard kirkit on the radio! This was one moment when Specky looked at me and said, ‘The day embargo on watching TV during the daytime is now off. You’ve earned it, baby!’ I said, ‘This is the one feature of this app that I like best… koi bhi connection ho, cricket milega!’
After I had recounted this incident to my friend, I said, ‘So you see, this is why I call my ideas a strategic advance and not a wild excuse!’
We are anyway living in an age when it isn’t excuses that will win the day or a match for you… what helps is your faith on the app in your smartphone. Be immersed in your match even as you commute from your office to home… or, if you like to visualise extreme situations, watch a match with your clothes off and under a shower too! You just need the right device and the starsports dot com app. Go ahead and get access to the fastest scorecard, ad-free LIVE match streaming, the World’s 1st video timeline for Cricket, real time in-game statistics, HD video streaming, and real-time video clips of critical match moments… yes they’re all there and waiting to take you right in the heart of the magical world of cricket.
Only an hour back a friend called to say that he has two spare tickets for us for Monday’s match (05 May) where CSK is to play against Delhi DareDevils. ‘The passes are for the East Stand,’ he informed, ‘but please get your iPhone along. We’ll have a gala time watching it on the phone screen for a closer inspection of the crucial moments. It’ll be fun.’ I’m sure it is going to be fun watching the expressions on the faces of the people around as we sit there in a stadium peering down at a phone screen! But then I am also sure that a lot of spectators there in the East Stand are going to inundate us with the wildest excuses to come and enjoy the technicalities of the match on our phone screen on 3G. And, you never know if we suddenly decide to give our friends there the opportunity to listen to live commentary as the match goes on. So we’ll get the watch-n-hear effect of cricket right inside the stadium.
But anyway, what is important is that we enjoy our relationship with cricket… or kirkit.
04 May 2014