I was in 7th standard when I was selected to my high school’s cricket team. Naturally enough, it was the happiest day of my life. A moment of quintessential bombaat to be sure.

The news of my selection was delivered by my school’s PT master—and I know I can’t (shouldn’t, rather) use his real name so I’ll just call him UR.

UR, up to that point, wasn’t exactly my favourite person in the world. He verbally abused us every chance he got especially during Saturday mid-morning drills. To wit:

* “Lo kothi, ninnanna yaaro yelnay claas-ige paas maadidhu? Leftoo andre yedagaalu kanole, idiot!”

* Or the ever popular rhetorical question: “Nimmappa amma yaak school-ige kalustharo ninna? Sumne manelidhu katte kaayakke laayak neenu.

This was pretty standard stuff as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Anyway, the first day of cricket practice was a Wednesday. We got done with classes at 3:30 pm. My classmate (who was also selected) and I pedaled over to the cricket ground a short distance away.

The rest of the team, i.e. the chaps from 9th and 10th standards, showed up a half-hour late. We were told to help carry the mat onto the field. In short, we were cricket coolies.

The stumps were pitched. The practice batting and bowling orders were announced. We were not present in either one. So I assumed I was part of the unannounced fielding order and stood at point because no one was standing there. I was asked, sorry, told, to go and do byes keeping.

It dawned on me that the seniors of this team had had no creative input in UR’s decision to select us lowly 7th standard guys. And they didn’t think much of the idea.

My classmate and I (he was doing byes keeping on the leg side) exchanged looks. The looks said, “I hope no one from our class stops by to watch cricket practice today.”

After all our seniors had batted, bowled and humiliated us it was almost time to wrap up. And that’s when UR showed up. “Yenappa, yellaroo battingoo bowlingoo maadidhraa?” The captain (bastard!) said “Yes sir. Yellardoo practice aaithoo.

And then UR did something he wasn’t supposed to. He looked at me and my classmate and asked, “Yenraiyaa, yengithu practicoo ivathu?

I blurted out, “Namige batting siglillaa sir.

And right there, at that moment, my chances of ever playing for the school team while I was still in 7th standard thudded softly into the grass.

UR took charge. “Neenu pad maadkolaiya. Naan practice kodistheeni. Lo baddimaklaa”—this to the rest of the team—“banro svalpa bowlingoo fieldingoo maadrappa ivribbarge!

So, having only played tennis ball cricket up to that point, I put on pads for the first time in my life. They were too big for me. When I walked, the top of the pads slammed into my stomach.

The old style belt and buckle pinched my ankes, calves and at the back of the knees. Still in the process of padding up, I picked up this plastic cup that I knew, in theory, to be the (then euphemistically called) abdomen guard. It had no straps whatsoever. So I did a little bit of 3D mental manipulation to figure out how I was supposed to rig this contraption so it would protect my, you know, abdomen.

Out of my own sense of modesty I’ll omit the rest of the details. Suffice it to say however, that after I’d put on the abdomen guard, the only way I could walk was with my legs spread wide – like a Dasara Kesari pailvaan approaching his next victim at the beginning of his kusthi match.

I walked up to the stumps. Legs spread wide (for aforementioned reasons), I took my stance. UR had ambled up to point to get a closer look at his two new junior players.

My other classmate, in the process of padding up behind slips, was holding an abdomen guard with the same quizzical expression on his face that I had a few minutes ago.

One of my seniors ambled up and bowled one short on the off. All I saw was a whistling flash of red. Mustering all the strength I could—“MADAGOO!” yelled UR from point—I heaved the bat and swung.

Missed completely. Got turned around because of the momentum of the bat. Ended up, facing square leg (and what seemed like) a lifetime of embarrassment.

UR delivered the coup de grace, “Neen hodioyoshtralli, naan canteeng hogi cawpee kudkond bandhbidbodhu kanaiya.

And that was when, for the rest of my life, I fell in love with cricket. Thumba thanksoo, UR.



It began innocently enough. Our antsy 21-month-old kept going to the stereo saying gaane..gaane..gaane.

In tones that would have melted gatti tuppa, I tried some gentle linguistic coercion, “Chinna, haadu beka magane?”

As you can probably tell, my family is multilingual.

My missussoo is of Punjabi plus Hindi descent. And linguistically speaking, I am a kantri naayi with Kannada, Tamil and Telugu in my background.

However, suffice it to say, it is Kannada that puts the k in my kantri naayi.

Anyway, like all expat Indian parents, we had picked up tonnes of children’s books, CDs, DVDs/VCDs etc on our last India trip. You know, to yexpose our little guy to Indian culture and all that.

Clear so far? Good.

Back to our 21-month-old. Where was I? Right. Chinna, haadu beka magane?

The little guy looked up with an expression that said, “Gaane, haadu whatever man! Put the CD in and let’s have at it”.

So I reach over into the pile of Indian culture, recently unpacked, and finger a plastic case that said:

Indian Rhymes for Indian Kids – Karadi Rhymes (Book I) Featuring Usha Uthup

Marvellous, I thought. I slid the CD in and turned up the volume.

The first song started with a pulsating beat punctuated, very subtly, with plucked cello and violin. Dhum, dhum, dhum…and then the lyrics swooped in:

My name is Madhavi

I’m from Alleppey

(insert snippet of Mohiniattam music here)

I speak Malayalam

But I’m just like you

Usha’s pronounciation and enunciation were spot on. The background music was delicate. Evocative. Expressive.

Appa and maga were both grooving to it now.

Next came:

My name is Natwar

I‘m from Srinagar

(insert snippet of Ajmeri-specific music here)

I speak Urdu

But I’m just like you

Naaaaaice. This wasn’t bad, not bad at all. I checked the composer.

Three Brothers and a Violin the dust jacket said. Excellent job gentlemen!

So, on the song went. Next came Subrata (pronounced Shubrata), from Kolkata, asserted that she (he?) spoke Bengali and was just like us. Very good.

Next came Vasundhara, from Vadodara, spoke Gujarati, emphasized her overall similarity to the listening audience and off she went.

Then came Shamsher, from Ajmer, informed us that he spoke Urdu and toodled off. Righto.

Next came Arundhati (pronounced Arundhoti, mind you) from Guwahati, she spoke Assamese but was just like us.

Got it?

Moving on.

Then came Benjamin, from Panjim. He spoke Konkani and (my oh my) was like all of us too.

I was getting a little impatient. C’mon, let’s get to the good part. Where was the land of Gundappa Vishy, Dravid and Churumuri?It wasn’t to be.

Along came Ranimai, from Chennai, said she spoke Tamil and buzzed off. Whatever.

In came, Jaswinder. From Chandigarh. (Insert obligatory Bhangra snippet here.) Reported he spoke Punjabi and pushed off. Followed by Madhuri, from Ratnagiri, who spoke Marathi but was just like–yeah, yeah I know, just get on with it.

I was downright pissed at this point. If the next chap wasn’t a Siddalingeshwara or a Dakshina Murthy or a Raghavendra of some sort, this CD was going to get it. But the impudent thing ignored me and went on.

Jamshedji. From Panchgani (where the hell is that!). He spoke (duh) Parsi but was, you know, just like you.

This had to be a conspiracy. I looked for the lyricist.

Aha, the smoking gun!

Shobha Vishwanath, the dust jacket said. Sounded like a Tamilian (hey, I wasn’t being very rational here ok) who’s gone up and over the Vindhyas but kept her sense of South India-is-nothing-but-Tamil Nadu-with-a-few-backward-tribes around it.

Teeth clenched, I thought, ‘One last chance for you Shobha my dear’… and kept listening:

My name is Bindiya

I’m from India

(Insert Vande Mataram instrumental here)

I speak Hindi

But I’m just like you

And the lovely music paused, quavered and faded out. I was beside myself. Sputtering in helpless fury. What the hell! I looked down at my son. He was happily skipping along humming to himself.

I breathed in. Breathed out.

Something inside me said, ‘No point getting upset over this buddy.’ I kindly requested the baddimagandh-something to shove it. And sat down.

The missuss, the ultimate expert at good timing, asked, ‘Sweetie, didn’t they have anything from your State?’

You could have cut the ensuing silence with a machu and have a tanglu-silence left over for tomorrow.

I looked at her. Then I looked at her some more. I thought I was doing a darned good job of projecting my ice-cold fury.

In response, she smiled her radiant smile and said, ‘Aaaaaw. You poor thing.’

Some day, some *$&#%$ day, women are going to figure out that their cutesy pity directed at male partner in lovey-dovey tones, when said male partner is having a temper conniption, doesn’t quite do the trick.

Not today. Some day.

I sighed. And raised my head and belted out:

My name is Parvati

I’m from Panchvati

(Insert instrumental of Shivappa Kaayo Tande)

I speak Kannada