Friday, February 26, 2010

Forever Young

Friendships formed in childhood are the most enduring, argues Stand By Me. It so happened that on the 24th of February, 2010, while that innings was in progress, I had to shut down my Cricinfo live-scores page, and head for home. Delhi traffic, unlike Time and Tide, waits for long periods at peak hours, sometimes grinding to a total halt. It hurries up for no man - not even for Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. There being no hope of reaching home before the innings break, I turned to my old enemy from school.

This was a guy whom, when in school, I hated with all the passion I could muster. In the 6th Standard, I even tried to get our school Principal to remove him from his post as class leader. For his part, countless are the grievous bodily and mental pains he's tried to inflict on me, one of them being a punch on the jaw, with an exaggerated follow-through so unlike the precision of the Little Master, shortly before my above coup attempt.

But he has one saving grace. He knows poetry in motion when he sees it. He is a Tendulkar fan. As I began my desolate trudge from the office to the car park, his being the only name I could think of who could help me in my hour of need, I SMSed him an SOS. All past differences forgotten, pat came the reply, "150 for the Champion."

A few minutes later, now strapped into my seat, I was waiting for green at the RBS signal, when another message flashed on my mobile, "Hope this is it. You know what I mean." I knew what he meant.

I was in the mood for adventure. Normally, I would go straight at the signal, and spend the next 45 minutes covering a distance of 200 metres. My project manager had suggested an alternative - a right at the signal, for a detour through the dusty by-lanes of Gurgaon. An innate distrust of project managers and dusty by-lanes of Gurgaon had made me avoid this route till then, but the thought of crawling and swearing for the good part of an hour, while a Tendulkar masterpiece was in progress, struck me as borderline blasphemous.

Not even Bob Dylan could remain unaffected by this show of batting prowess. He borrowed my car speakers to send a message to Sachin,

May you build a ladder to the stars,
Climb on every rung,
And may you stay forever young.

The Old Friend had good news, "Hit a six. On 168." A few seconds later, I nearly ran over two blokes as my mobile announced "Wicket". The next word soothed my frayed nerves, "Pathan". Not that I have anything against Pathan. Nice chap.

Dylan still crooning, awestruck by Sachin,

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation,
When the winds of changes shift.

May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
And may you stay... forever young.

By the time "179 Not Out" came up, I was crossing my fingers, toes, and would've had a go at crossing a few other things, had Gurgaon traffic not had the effect of shrivelling those up.

As I rejoined the main road just 10 minutes after I took the detour, a little way from the Delhi-Gurgaon toll gate, having avoided the customary horrific jam, I made a mental note to never again tar all project managers - or, for that matter, all dusty by-lanes of Gurgaon - with the same brush. A "184 N.O." ensured that it was with a light heart that I forked out 18 bucks to the chap who raises the toll barrier.

The road home from the toll gate is very fast. When "196" came up about 10 minutes later, I was just a couple of kilometres away from the Dwarka underpass. By the time "198" made its appearance 8 minutes later, Neil Diamond was about to begin something special to try and whip us Tendulkar fans into a frenzy,

Dry your eyes! Take your song out!
It's a new-born afternoon!
And if you can't recall the singer
Can you still recall the tune?

It took another 6 minutes for "199", but by then, cruising on the lovely tree-lined roads of Dwarka, with dividers given over to flowers, and the cool February evening air (one of only 2 months in Delhi that are inhabitable by humans) caressing my face, I knew that This Would Be The Day. Even if I'd known that Tendulkar would face just 9 balls in the last 5 overs, it wouldn't have taken away my joie de vivre. Wheels had been set in motion. As Salieri would put it, "A divine music bursts out over them all. What sublimity! What depth! What passion in the music! And Kallis forced to listen! Powerless... powerless to stop it!"

Neil Diamond, with Tendulkar's artistry still noticeably inspiring him, his voice throbbing with emotion,

Right through the lightning and the thunder
To the dark side of the moon
To that distant falling angel
That descended much too soon
Come dry your eyes.

Stepping out of the elevator, my mobile alerting me to a call from my friend, and a simultaneous roar from the apartment on my right, told me that it was all over. 200!

A tune I will never forget. And not in a million years would I forget the singer. Would anyone?