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March 28, 2000


Duels in the Desert

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Pati, Patni or Woh?

Armchair Expert

Hi all. Ever wondered what cricket-haters think of the game? Ever wondered how they feel about the hours spent watching people go crazy over a sport that seems remarkably relaxed and casual to get all steamed up over - compared to say soccer. (Now that's a global sport with a real 'world champion'.) Ever wondered whether there's too much cricket being played around the world? Shown on TV? Well, here's a sample from the other side. (Not all in good humour.)

I'm…doesn't matter who I am. (We're not on 'Oprah' you know.) What matters is I have a very serious problem. One I'd like to tell you about. On second thoughts, I'd rather not. It's too private. Actually, I think I will. I must. This has been going on for too long now. And while, initially, I thought it was just a passing fancy, I now realize it's too serious to be just that. (After all, cricket is here to stay. This is about cricket. And you say you're the expert. In which case, who better to write to.)

You see Mr. Expert, I don't know how to say this but…but…my husband prefers the company of men. (There, I've said it.) And no! It's not what you think. Am talking about men who seem to have little else to do with their lives than spend most of their time chasing after multi-coloured balls. (Red, gray, white, green or brown. Depending on the condition of the ground and the quality of the balls.) And who seem to have a stronger hold on the men in this country than anything else in a man's life. Sometimes even stronger than that never-changing symbol of 'maleness'. Cars! (As if it wasn't bad enough having to compete with inanimate objects, we now have to compete with men!)

Consider this. Is it a nice feeling to wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself dumped? (I'll tell you. It's not.) What's worse, it's been happening on a regular basis now. (Thanks to the likes of Steve Waugh and the rest of the gang that has most of this country tuned it at times better utilized for other pastimes. Like sleeping. Why? What did you think?) Come the season 'Down Under,' and out goes our sex-life. Along with other equally important, or less important, things. (Depending on your priorities.) Things like good night kisses, sweet dreams and my warm, comfy comforter. (Isn't it terrible to be woken up because you're feet are cold?) According to the insensitive brute, it's a lot more fun watching cricket in the middle of the night with a/my comforter and a thermos-full of coffee for the company! (And me? What about me?)

And if you thought the nights were bad, hear this.

I come home from work, tired and in dire need of a hot cup of tea, and loads of TLC. (Not the group. I hate the group. But not as much as I hate cricket.) Instead, I get cricket. More cricket. And no tea. Come to think of it, I think my slogan from now on is going to be 'More cricket? No tea!' (He does makes a mean cup of tea. Correction, no thanks to cricket, he used to make a mean cup of tea.)

Speaking of slogans, advertising, and endorsements, let me tell you of this other incident. I remember it had something to do with a routine stocking of the fridge with the usual quota of soft drinks, food and the other stuff that one normally buys as a part of living. Only to have him get most cheesed off about the fact that I hadn't bought the 'right brands.' (Read the ones used by his idols.) What 'right brands!' What idols? Doesn't he know it's all about money? Does the man really believe his 'Gods' actually use the brands they endorse? And anyway, most of the ads they do suck. (Anyone seen the 'Shastriji' one with Shastri? Don't. I had to.)

Then there was this other day when I called him up at work to catch up on a bit of 'love-talk.' (Totally understandable, no? Considering he prefers the company of men and Channel 9 at night.) And what am I greeted with? A most irritated voice at the other end telling me to call back during 'lunch time.' I tell him, "But jaan it is lunch time!" Nope, not for him. For him, lunch is only when the rest of the team is having lunch.

And did I tell you about the time we went out for dinner? (Obviously, one of the rare days when there was no cricket to watch on TV.) Well, post the sumptuous dinner, I decide to hail a cab to take us back home. (Maybe in the hope that we might catch up on a film and some other 'fun-stuff.' (Remember no cricket to compete with.) But no, the man will have none of it. He insists we walk home. All 5 kms. of it! (Not the first time he's done it.) Why? Because, unfortunately for me, Azhar was, at that point in time, his 'flavour of the month.' And apparently, he'd read somewhere that Azhar makes it a point to burn up any excess calories right after he acquires them. Which is all very commendable, and a must, if you are professional cricketer. But why me? I'm not Inzy, I'm his wife! (Good heavens! Azhar is once again the 'flavour of the month.' I'm in trouble.)

Oh, and this one I must tell you. This is a true classic.

It was another one of the many days when he called in sick. (I'm pretty sure he's going to end up losing his job soon.) I think it was the last time Pakistan came to India for the Test series. (The match where Tendulkar came in with some 10 odd on the board and left with 10 odd needed to win.) I get home in the evening and see him lying in bed clutching his tummy. Naturally, I ask him what the matter is.

At first, he refuses to tell me. But after the usual routine of cajoling, pampering and attention…men, when will they stop expecting their wives to treat them like 'mama's boys.' Anyway, after doling out generous doses of the 'I-love-you-so-much-dear-so-you-damn-well-tell-me!' routine, he tells me it might have something to do with the 30 cups of tea he had during the course of the day. "30 cups of tea! Whatever fo…hang on a minute, you don't drink tea! (It's true. He hates tea. But he does…used to make it real well.)

And of course he had a very good reason for doing so. Seems every time he had a cup of tea, India managed to avoid losing a wicket! (Ever heard of anything more ridiculous? Actually, am sure you have. You've probably done worse.) As I was saying, I politely pointed out that India eventually lost the match. Pat came the response. "But that's only because I ran out of tea, milk and sugar! You really ought to stock up a little extra when India is playing. Tendulkar was going really well until I didn't have anymore tea to make." (Perfectly logical and my fault, right?)

The things this crazy game makes people do. The frenzy it drives people to. And the women it ignores. (It must be a religion.)

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I can tell you Mr. Armchair Expert. Like how he performed elaborate 'poojas' before every match India played during the last World Cup. (Evidently to little effect.) Or the covetousness with which he guards the stupid remote control on the day of any match. Even if it happens to be one of the umpteen reruns of the rare wins India manages and which Star TV and ESPN keep showing. Or…well, you get the drift. (The drift being my husband's gone mad. And I'm the one who needs help. Or, maybe another man?)

I mean, where is the man I married? The man who said he loved watching movies over the weekend, during the week or anytime of day. The man who used to get most excited about making love in the middle of the night? Who loved music. (I'll tell you what happened to the music lover. He went and bought himself a pair of cordless headphones to listen to the likes of Tony Greig and Ian Chappell. So he's got good taste in commentators. Does little for me.) Or going out for walks after dinner. (No, not the 5 kms. 'Azhar style burning up every extra calorie walks.' Those I can do without.) Or…just simply talking. Okay we still talk. But only when the Indian team is kind enough to win something. (Other times, all I get is a sourpuss who seems to hurt more about his beloved superstars' non-performance than the superstars themselves.)

Admittedly, this might not seem like your area of expertise. But people tell me you have - or love to convey the impression that you have - a ready-made solution for everything. Right from what's going on inside Tendulkar's head to Waugh's strategy for motivating his players. From what Dravid can learn from Ponting to why Kumble's biggest problem is confidence. And other such equally arcane names, things and sources of angst my husband jabbers away in his sleep about. (As if snoring wasn't bad enough.)

Well? Any thoughts on how I can get my husband back? Should I just ask him to choose between the 'Patni' and 'Woh?' Even better, I think I'll dump the 'Pati' and the 'Woh.'

ps. Any eligible men out there? Age no bar. (Only cricket)

Armchair Expert

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