Its summer and one is prone to a variety of seasonal afflictions but the most potent of them is cricket fever. It is more viral than twitter posts and more lethal than the bombs dropped at Balakot!
For many years I was a cricket right-winger. And as a good Bhakt, I carried my faith on my sleeve. The craze for the game in general, idolizing the players, worshiping the very ground they walked on, preserving newspaper cuttings and not missing a match were my favourite activities. I was seeped in cricket Bhakti.
My personal ambition was to have Darshan of these divine beings that possessed the supreme Brahmastra, weapon to vanquish the enemy on the field.
If only, I could meet them.
And, one fine day, luck smiled on me.
The Indian and Australian teams were in my home-town and guess what? They were staying in a hotel right opposite our home. The Bhakt in me was delirious. I sneaked into my grand-father’s room to ‘borrow’ his binoculars and perched myself on top of our house, and lo! and behold, I could see them.
Ahhhhhh! The men in blue.
There had to be more. A sakshatkaar, physical encounter. There had to be a way. Perhaps bribe or plead the staff of the hotel to let me in for the dinner later that night. What a treat it would be for a cricket crazy teenager.
Soon enough a possible target was identified and then started the charm assault — “Bhaiya please…pleeeease…..mila do…”
Waiter bhaiya took pity and saw the light.
“Come tonight” he said, “at the staff entrance.”
Finally, I would meet them. Sharp 8 pm I was in, breathing the same air as my heroes. The autograph book was quickly passed around and my copy of ‘Idols’ had a very generous and ‘sunny’ signature by the author, the great original master-blaster, Sunil Gavaskar.
The ‘boys’ were having a great time. It was party time. Blaring music, flowing beer and food on the house. The God’s of cricket were around me. I was in heaven indeed.
And as the evening progressed my God’s moulted into beings I failed to relate to. Their staggering steps, boisterous laughter, lewd talk and many not-so-graceful moments shook me. Witnessing these, my faith took a beating.
And then there was an epiphany.
These were mere mortals. Humans like the rest of us, and some not even as cultured. These weren’t Gods. Some of them were the fore-fathers of the likes of Hardik Pandya.
Nothing is as it appears to be – ‘Hey Bhagwan! Sab maya hai.’ The Bhakt in me slowly withered away. My extreme right-wing cricket fan status had changed.
These boys, that we so idolize, get undue and perhaps sometimes undeserved attention. Most of them come from humble backgrounds and the constant attention and adulation have their effect and as they say, fame and money is a lethal combination!
My spell broken, I walked back home dazed and since that day stopped all my idiosyncrasies of fasting for victory or for that matter keeping green chilies on our TV set to ward off the evil eye and ensure victory to the Indian team.
Cricket is a game. It is not war, nor is it played by actual heroes. It is meant to be a gentleman’s game, but the real gentlemen and super-heroes stand for ideals much loftier than the cup the team captain may hold. Many progressive karm-yogi nations like Japan, don’t even play this game, as my mentor Meena Om often states. What a sheer waste of time, money and energy.
Let’s keep this cricket craze in perspective. Root for the game and sportsman spirit but please let us not make ordinary humans undeserving demigods much before their time. God’s are universal and inspire others to be like them, to uplift and alleviate the pain and strife of humanity, not use the adulation of thousands of fans to become poster-boys of quick money and acts without grace! Because it is only grace that begets Grace.