Friday, May 16, 2014

Handshake with Dr.Farooq Abdullah

Venue: Maulana Azad Stadium, on the banks of Tawi River, Jammu.  
Year: November,1983, cold morning.
Occasion: Inauguration of the Cricket Tournament organized to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of host Regional Research Laboratory.
I was with our combined team representing CSIR.
Myself from Mysore and Subramanya from Bangalore had traveled together 3 days to reach Jammu [2,900 kms.] well ahead of the date.

12 to 14 teams having about 150 players in all are lined up after the formal inauguration and speech from the Chief Guest who was none other than the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr.Farooq Abdullah.

I do not recall any delay in the chief guest's arrival that morning.  This handsome, tall statesman, a medical doctor, was clad in his usual costume of a kurta-like full-sleeve shirt, buttoned at the wrists. His speech was short and sweet and in English.

We were thrilled when the announcement was made that he would meet all the participants who had lined up, team-wise. He came greeting with "How do you do?", smiling, looking into the eye, shaking the hand with a warm and firm hold.  It warmed us in the cold though there was some sunshine.  It was astonishing that this man had the time and patience to do this to each and every participant.  This 'How do you do?' greeting was typically British, not surprising because of his education in England. It is the equal of "How are you?" etc.

Our manager Narayanan is partly hidden, Subramanya is standing 4th from rt, having Tikku and me to his lt.

To add to the thrill after the handshake, there was a group photo session also. He posed with all the teams.  I managed to get hold of this photograph only after 25 years when a Souvenir of our Sports Board was being prepared!

 The peaceful scenario in 1983 in that northernmost state underwent an undesirable transformation from 1984 and the statesmen felt the need for a security cover thereafter. As such this remains a very memorable and a rare handshake.

The real purpose of this Jammu trip was to play cricket.  Before the tour, our humourous team manager had written "Your stay in Jammu depends on your stay at the wicket." to mean it was a knock-out tournament. Our team was knocked out in the first match itself since we did "not stay at the wicket, longer."  All of us were very disappointed. We had traveled up for 3 days and lost the match in half a day!  Painful!

Match lost, we had nothing else to do and our return tickets from Delhi was 5 days later!  Night weather was very cold and living conditions, poor - the organizers having not provided even hot water for bathing.  Our manager protested and made the convenor lend a bed from his home to me.  It was no fun staying any further.  So I immediately wrote to my friend Ravi with whom we spent the day on the way up that we would be coming down early.  So Subramanya and I used this time to get back to Delhi after a tough exercise to get the tickets from Jammu to Delhi. So now had three days free time.

Some memorable snippets from that tour: First Jammu.

~For the trip, my colleagues had given things - one gave me a pull over, one gave his holdall, one gave a waistcoat, but I had bought myself a suitcase, my first, because we had none suitable for large luggage.

~It was my debut for our employers team, which I was to play for the next 26-27 years.

~It was and remains the longest railway journey I made, second class sleeper - at a time when long distance onward journey railway tickets were confirmed by telegram and we had to visit the booking counter a few days later to know the status!  Both Subramanya and I did not get confirmation from Delhi to Jammu, but Ravi helped us in Delhi [`600 kms further north]

~Our wicket-keeper Tikku [from Jammu] dropped 3 catches I produced in 3 balls in a row, two of them going through his gloves to the boundary!  The same batsman getting a reprieve!  Some feat that! He was very nervous standing back to my bowling!

~Myself and Subramanya enjoying the apples - so cheap in Jammu. We were there for 4 days and we had an apple a day, sometimes two.  What a luxury it was - we felt like kings!  I had bought walnuts and some other dry fruits which were a lot cheaper there [also for colleagues who had paid money to bring them!]. It was a thrill to see so many varieties!

Now, Delhi.

~Ravi taking us to a few places including Gurudwara Sisganj, a sikh holy place established in 1783 in Chandni Chowk, taking us to Nirula'a and got us our first ever Pizzas.  We were of course touring those places for the first time.

~We stayed with Ravi whose mother was there and cooking 'home food'.  We had got to a stage when we craved for it - after the horrible stay in Jammu.

~Ravi helped us to tour Agra, Fathepur Sikri, Mathura.  We were seeing the mammoth Taj Mahal for the first time.  I clearly recall its marble was so white then. Mathura is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, close to Agra.

~I had forgotten my suitcase with all my belongings and purchases from the tour.  How it was retrieved is here in a separate post! [Click] Read if you wish.

~Of course, the wonderfully warm handshake with Dr.Farooq Adbullah.

See the stadium location. 

Mysore to Jammu route. I was seeing my school atlas before my journey! Now we have googlemaps! 

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