In India, cricket is not just a pass time. Even passion would be an understatement. In fact, it is almost a religion. There would hardly be anyone in this country whose life would not have been touched some way or the other by this game. Given my general nostalgic state of mind, I thought I would write about my experiences with the game that held me enthralled for 4 years of my life.
In my early childhood, in spite of all attempts on the part of my father and uncle to get me interested in cricket, my attitude to the game remained at best indifferent. Only thing I liked was watching the cute duck walking on the screen when players got out for zero in matches telecasted from Australia. I generally preferred more melodramatic stuff such as serials and movies. Then suddenly one fine day I turned a cricket fan, a fanatic, to the core. How did this transformation come about?
I have always been interested in collecting stuff – ranging from standard stuff such as coins, stamps, match boxes, books, and comics to weird things such as strange shaped stones and colored chalk pieces. Collection is not about just going and buying from the shop. The more the challenges that come in the way of collecting, all the more rewarding the collection process becomes. The joy and sense of accomplishment in acquiring a rare piece after a long wait cannot be described in words. It has to be experienced. Then there are other interesting aspects to collecting such as comparing notes, competing and trading with fellow collectors. The reader might by now be wondering what does my interest in collecting stuff got to do with my interest in cricket. Well, everything!
My closest friends those days were cricket fanatics. However their interest did not really rub off on me. I was the leader of the gang and my interest was in playing detective and they had no other option but to play along. That is of course altogether a different story which will be subject of another post. So let us leave the playing detective aside and get back to cricket. One gets interested in something new through association with something one is already passionate about. In this case, it was my passion for collecting that lead me to cricket. One of my friends Arjun had the habit of chewing gum regularly. One of the popular brands of bubblegum those days was Big Fun. When you opened the bubble gum wrapper, inside one would find a small strip of paper having the picture of a cricketer with some small statistic related to him. My friend had a habit of pocketing these. One day I noticed one and I developed an urge to collect them as well. My friend willingly gave me all his wrappers and I was in business.
Soon my collection began to grow but Arjun used to have just one bubblegum a day and you never knew who was the player till you opened the wrapper. So I was landing up with lot of duplicates. So I had to come up with other means of expanding my business. I noticed many of the other boys were not interested in these wrappers and were just throwing them away and going. So I began to scavenge around the canteen for wrappers. Soon things came to pass that I would position my team around the bubble gum counter to pounce on the wrapper the moment it was thrown. It might seem like a cheap thing to do. But one has to try it to see how much fun scavenging can be.
Then I came in touch with some of the other collectors. I came to know there was another brand of bubble gum called One Day bubble gum, with which one could get a free card with a nice photo in the front and detailed player statistics on the flip side. If Big Fun wrappers were my interest, the One Day cards became a sheer infatuation. But unfortunately those bubble gums had gone out of market and were not available in most of the shops. However one of the collectors who had a huge stash of one day cards offered me a deal; for every 5 Big Fun wrappers, he would give me a one day card. I was in ruptures of joy. This gave me a rush of blood and I began to crank up the production mechanism. I gave my friends just 10 minutes to finish lunch. After that I would herd them off to canteen for the scavenging mission. I also forced Arjun to double his daily bubble gum intake. Soon I had a nice collection of one day cards. But still some cards were missing. Dean Jones and Desmond Haynes were supposed to be the rarest cards and I would spend hours dreaming about possessing these two cards.
The cards by now had become a burning passion. But no one was willing to trade the rarer cards for Big Fun wrappers. So for these I tried to steal some of my play things such as magnets from home and try to exchange those for the cards. Of course my parents gave me no pocket money. So I had to work through barter system only. The other strategy I devised was to visit all petty shops in and around the area to see if they had some cards left over. Indeed money was needed for this venture. Some of the financing came from Arjun. For rest of it, I had to start selling off stamps and small play things. Of course parents would never even let me take these things to school, to speak of selling. So every day I had to secretly smuggle stuff into my school bag without my parents even getting scent of what I was doing.
The things infatuation makes you do! Talking of infatuation, it might be instructive at this point to digress a little and examine this interesting emotion. As I see, infatuation comes in 3 forms – with items, with people (often belonging to the opposite gender) and with concepts and ideas. I have experienced all three of them on multiple occasions. The symptoms are more or less the same for all three forms. When infatuation takes hold, everything else gets subordinated to the sole objective of possession of the object of infatuation. One feels as if the mind is on fire and experiences intense mood swings. There is euphoria when one is near to the object of infatuation, like when I used to sit and gloat over my shining cards. Then there would be moments of intense despair and despondency when one feels the object of infatuation going away from you like when after all efforts I see someone having a rare card I want but I am not able to make him part with it. The phases of infatuation can also lead to other repercussions as during these phases, one tends to lose interest in all other activities in life
I seem to have already clocked well over a thousand words without even starting on how my infatuation got transferred from the cricket cards to the cricket game. But then nostalgia is like old wine. It has to be sipped and savored, not gulped down in one shot of bottoms up. So I will continue in another post, a guest post for one of my best friends on blog-o-sphere, DS, a passionate cricket fan not too unlike my friends I mentioned earlier in this post.
Picture Credits: http://blogs.studentsarea.com/what-is-cricket/