VSRVV’s house was the only one in the chawl to have a telephone by virtue of his father being a Superintendent in the Railways. It was a jet black one … where you put your finger into each number slot and made a small, half or three-quarters round depending on the number you wanted to dial. On the phone was a small sticker, ‘Rs. 1 for local call’ that Archana applied to everyone in the chawl except maami (after all, she’s my next-door neighbour… I must make some allowances for her!) But this time, it was an incoming call, one that made Siva ecstatic. It was his school cricket coach at the other end, Deshpande Sir telling him that he had been selected to the Vidarbha Ranji team. At the age of 16, it was a mean feat indeed!
Siva did not have to run home to relay the news, he just jumped from the doorstep of VSRVV’s house to his and shouted out loud, ‘Amma, amma, you won’t believe this!’. Maami, who was busy with grinding batter for the next morning’s breakfast countered with, “Who died that you have to shout so much. Siva, Siva!?” Maama, Nitya and Ramya were overjoyed but maami was a bit sceptical, “So what will happen to your studies?” “Amma, do you know what this means? If I play well in Ranji, I might make it to the Indian team! Like Sachin Tendulkar! And you are worrying about my studies!” he countered, his voice rising a few decibels higher.
Maami was incensed… No one raised their voice at her, least of all, her children! “Listen Siva, all this kiricut business is not going to last long. Having a basic education is important. Promise me that you will write your exams and then you can do whatever you want!” Siva reluctantly agreed to go to Jayatidi for classes (she was after all, M.Com Honours) whenever possible and complete his 12th and also his graduation.
The entire chawl erupted into celebration at Siva’s achievement and the next day, sat on the charpoys in the winter sun relishing a delicious South Indian brunch they wriggled out of a reluctant maami as a treat. Subha, Krishnamurthy and the little ones also joined the happy party. Thankfully, maami had ground enough batter… that transformed into fluffy iddlis complimented by chutney and sambhar along with pongal, vadas and steaming hot cups of filter coffee (Maami had tearfully opened a packet of coffee powder she had got from Palakkad (70 pc pure coffee; 30 pc chicory). Never mind… she thought, there was that imminent visit to Madras where she could stock up on more coffee powder.
Siva’s cricket career began with a bang… the first match against Railways saw him score a century in both innings and take five catches as wicket-keeper. The entire chawl was at the VCA stadium to cheer on Siva (except maami who sat at home, praying or at times visiting the Shirdi Sai Mandir), during weekend matches while maama decided to relinquish office even on weekdays. Thanks to Siva’s brilliant performances, Vidarbha went on to reach the Ranji finals for the first time, but lost to Mumbai. But a star was born. Both local and national newspapers told his story, with one even dramatizing it with a headline like ‘From a Nagpur chawl to the Lord’s’ (sic). And Deshpande Sir was only too sure that his protégé would soon be noticed by the all-important selectors for the Indian tour to England.
Things certainly were looking up in the maami household. The tide had turned… but was maami happy with the way things were going?
(This post is for my dear cousin, Kartik (Sadashiv Kartik Iyer) who played Ranji for Vidarbha in the 90s. He also holds two first-class wicket keeping records. http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/player/29549.html