Representing the employer in sports is a privilege I have proudly enjoyed for decades. On one such official intimation for a cricket tournament, I landed in Hyderabad, all prepared. There was a weird 'air' when the autorickshaw dropped me at the gate of the campus and guest house. Something was amiss that morning.
We are used to be welcomed by a banner near the entrance gate announcing the tournament. Walking down to the guest house with the luggage, I wondered why there was nothing. When I told the man at the reception my purpose of coming, he was surprised! He knew nothing. "What tournament?". But he gave me a room to keep my luggage and to freshen up after a tedious night's bus journey that had lasted 17 hours. Also, I soon found out that I was the only one who had turned up!
After a shower, I met the local club's secretary at his workplace in the campus for first hand information on this confusion. Dates had been rescheduled and intimated to the Board, but there was a bad communication gap. The new dates had not yet been decided. I had no option but to return. I was carrying the rolling trophies we had won the previous year to be handed over to the secretary, which I did.
By that time, a couple of team mates of that place came to meet me. It was a really funny feeling! We had lunch at the canteen. I saw no point in staying further and I wished to leave the same evening back to Mysore. So, my friend Yamin took me on his bike to the Bus Station well in time for the 4 pm bus. Luckily there were a few seats vacant. So another 17 hours. I tell you, 'pillioning' Yamin continues to be the most fearsome bike journey ever. He rode adventurously despite traffic which in some narrow stretches were quite crowded. I was holding my suitcase in the hand and Yamin kept the kit bag on the petrol tank in front of him. Heart in my mouth and the one free hand gripping his shoulder I prayed. When he stopped at the Bus Station, he coolly says, 'that is how I ride!'
After a couple of months the new dates arrived - for November. Again, I reached a day ahead. This time, the usual 'tournament atmosphere' greeted me. I went to the allotted room and joined my team mates. It was a nice clear day. A light practice session was done and there were hand shakes with some opponent team members who also knew me. The next morning was the inauguration. Everything was fully set for the annual event.
Rain is cricket's biggest and greatest spoilsport. It started raining in the wee hours and that too, heavily, steadily and continuously In the morning we players peeped at the ground which was close by and visible. Now it was a lake, fit for a swimming or rowing event! Forget cricket! The neat pandal and dais were down. We managed to have breakfast and tea when the rain receded for a while. The sky was still overcast, in contrast to the previous clear day. Rain reigned again. There was no chance of any play as it would have taken a week for that 'lake' to dry up.
Yamin wanted me to stay in his house which was close by. I shifted my luggage on his bike. We wiled away time watching TV and chatting this and that as rains continued unabated. There was official cancellation of the event. There was no way people could go out for anything. Roads were flooded. The next day, it had ceased. Yamin again took me to book my bus ticket for the next afternoon.
He took me around the city on his motorbike and wanted to show the Falaknuma Palace. Unfortunately, it was a holiday for visitors on that day. Since there was time, he took me to the famous *Salar Jung Museum which I had a long standing desire to see, more so for the famous clock because I had heard of it. After seeing it I felt that the one at Jagan Mohan Palace here was the better.
Once more, a new date for the tournament arrived, for February 1995. Everything went on as usual, except the result. Our team could not qualify for the finals. So we lost that trophy.
I do not think there is anybody who has traveled such a long distance thrice for the same thing!
*I am tempted to add a little bit about 'Veiled Rebecca' which I had not heard of. I could see from a very close range, the beauty of the statue and the skill of the Italian Scupltor, Giovanni Benzoni. It is a life-sized statue on a pedestal hewn from a single piece of white marble. It was purchased by Salar Jung in 1876 during his visit to Rome.
Beautiful 'Rebecca' in near perfect feminine proportions appears to be draped in a wet garment, covering her modesty with the fully distinct 'transparent' veil at which visitors stand gaping. The sculptor has deliberately left a blot on the right thigh of the statue, perhaps, to indicate that perfection is only for the gods. Not for nothing this is considered to be 'Music in marble'.
[Both images from the web]