April 4, 2012 (sometime at night)
The flu season is here. The newspaper is full of reports about this bug called IPL* that seems to have infected thousands, if not millions of people. A few years ago, I too, had been a victim of this bug. It had crippled me during evenings. I couldn’t move out of the couch and would get into a fit every now and then, which would set my pulse racing.
I am happy to report, that I have since, become immune. Although the front page, back page, and practically every page in between, was covered with ‘news’ about the opening ceremony, I found it easy to ignore them.
In the middle of all these reports, one article, stood out like a sore thumb. It was about an archer who had won several titles for the country in the recent past**. She revealed that during her stay at the academy, she was paid a ‘stipend’ of Rupees 500. Her family is living in poverty. To make ends meet, she sold a silver bow for a song. The saving grace for this lady was that it caught the attention of someone who reported it.
Cricket is a popular sport in the country. Why? I don’t know. Those who make it big even for a short while can live a luxurious life. And so every kid wants to become a cricketer. And every business house wants to sponsor them.
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There is a sports complex nearby. On week days, children attend football coaching sessions there. At the end of the session, they run away from the ground like prisoners escaping from jail. Some of the older kids lean on trees at the edge of the park wearing large headphones, sipping sports drinks. Sometimes, I wonder if they really play because they want to, or because it looks cool.
As the week draws to an end, I am reminded about what’s in store for the next two days.
On week ends, the park has a different story to tell. It becomes a training ground for professional rugby players of the local club. They come early in the morning and spend several hours running and playing.
A certain energy engulfs the ground when they run and pass the ball. The energy is contagious. People, out on their morning walks, seem to walk faster, and the joggers put in extra miles.
The players train for national events, most of them, hoping to make it to the national team. The sport probably does not give them a handsome pay cheque. And it doesn’t get any dedicated columns in newspapers and magazines. But the players still play – because they love the game.
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*IPL – Indian premier league – a deadly mixture of money, politics, business, glamour and cricket.