While driving back home, I almost ran into an extraordinarily odd-looking and extremely lean creature today. If I didn’t see him, it wasn’t entirely my fault – he was so slim that he looked to be living in 2-D. I put my entire body weight on the breaks, got out and was about to hurl expletives before something strange struck me. I had seen him somewhere. But where? Yeah pictures, I had seen him many a times in photographs. But where? Not newspapers or magazines for sure? Maybe somewhere else. Maybe in some photo albums.
But what happened next was beyond my imagination. He jumped inside my car and was sitting next to me.
“What the @#$$!@” I shouted.
“Drive” he ordered.
I stared at him with intentions to kill him. If it was a robbery, I could easily have over powered him. One slap and he was going to fall flat on the floor.
“Dude, can’t you see the crowd which has started to surround you. Now either you drive or I hand you over to them. You almost hit me, didn’t you? And relax, it’s not a robbery”
“Okay” my foot was on accelerator. Getting robbed looked like a better choice than getting bashed up by a mob.
“Who are you?” I asked while trying to recall about his face which did look spectacularly familiar.
“Dude, can’t you recognize me? I am you”
“Oh, is it. Then who am I” I laughed while mocking him.
“Well, it’s not a joke. I am you. I am what you were some 11 years back” he sounded serious.
“Oh yeah, right” I was still mocking him.
“I have travelled ahead in time to meet you. Trust me. Okay, let me tell you something you have never told anyone”
“Please go ahead”
It started a range of secrets which, in ways, were secrets to even my conscious mind. But was it true? Can people traverse in time? Was he really me in year 2000?
“How did you end up here? How did you make it possible?”
“Well, I was extremely sad about my present. Hence I prayed to God. He heard me and sent me in your time to see the future.”
“So you have come to me to ask about my last 11 years which would be your future”
“Good to see that my mind will still work after 11 years” he smiled.
“And what exactly you want to know?” I enquired.
“Lots actually. But before sending me here, God put a condition. I can only enquire about cricket since that was the reason behind my sadness”
“Why? What happened?”
“Don’t you remember? If your memory is so weak, how am I going to learn about my future?”
“Oh yeah. It’s 3rd January. India must be reeling in Sydney and heading for a 3-0 defeat”
“Yes. It’s sickening now. We hardly ever win. If we are in a losing position, we lose 100% from such positions. If we are in a winning position, we lose 80% of the times”
“I am listening” I said.
“It’s all about Sachin. In fact I don’t follow the game. I follow him. We all do the same. In Sachin we trust, rest all is Gagan Khoda”
“There are a few new kids like Dravid who looks like Sanjay Manjraker in a mask, Laxman who continues to remain a great potential and Ganguly who doesn’t even go to discs/pubs because they have bouncers.”
“Okay. What do you think about the bowling?”
“Well, Kumble is as good as Sachin. Sree and Venky are like Yogis sent to a war. Agarkar is decent. But we don’t win. We just don’t bloody win”
“So why don’t you give up and pay attention to something else, maybe studies.”
“Oh please, not you. Even if I become a bookworm, I won’t be doing anything else but an amazingly boring desk job.”
“If you study well, maybe you will get to do what you like”
“Dude, if I am going to become a boring preacher like you are, I better not grow up. I’ll never like anything else but this game yaar. This is my passion. This is my life. Alas, it will never become my job.”
“So I don’t want to give up. And to top it all, we have Sachin. He never gives up. Neither do I.”
“Why are you here then?”
“Well you would have realized it by your age I guess. Self-doubt has always been with me like a shadow. I just want to find out if all die-hard following is going to result in something worthwhile. Or shall I pick up some other sport as a passion.”
“Oh. So following this game for 11 years is considered as your hardship and you want to know the results”
“I think I better not grow up. TELL ME MY FUTURE. SHALL WE EVER WIN?” he shouted.
“Okay, okay young man. Chill. Your future is brighter than your past.”
“Oh really? Things will turn around?”
“Yes they will – for good and in fact far better”
“Is it? Who will do it? Who will turn it around? Will Sachin do it or God will take a new Avatar?”
“Easy, easy. The potential great Laxman will show his potential in this match itself.”
“You mean we are going to win?”
“Nope. We will lose this match. But things will change”
“Tell me. Tell me all”
“Youngman, if I tell you everything, you will lose more than you gain. Life will become extremely boring if you know the future”
“Okay, got it. Tell me whatever you feel like” his statement made me happy. I wasn’t so dumb in my youth.
“First there will be a huge chaos. Sky will fall down. Earth will collapse. This will be known as match fixing”
“Oh” he was agape.
“But then, Ganguly will take lead. Him and the rest three will form the core. You will get some new players of excellent quality”
“I hope you are not referring to Gagan Khoda or Debang Gandhi or Kanitkar or likes”
“Nope. New kids will do well, really well. We will not win everything. Maybe we will lose more than we win. But even if we go down, we will go down fighting”
“You mean Indians will finally show tooth, nail and killer instinct. We will bite”
“Yes we will. We will reach a world cup final. We will win another world cup. We will become number one test team in the world. Golden days are ahead of you my dear decade-younger-self.”
“Thank god. I always knew it. That is why I never give up”
“Yes. Eden 2001 will happen. Hedingly 2002 will happen. Adelaide 2003 will happen. Wankhede 2011 will happen.”
“What is all that - all good I suppose?”
“Yes. And since you need bitterness in life to value sweets, some bad things will also happen. Like Melbourne 2003. Like Johannesburg 2003. Like Sydney 2008. Like Greg Chappell. Like Ravindra Jadeja”
“Okay, okay. Enough. I got what I came here for. I guess I must be leaving now. There is absolutely no need to give up. I better sleep early to see what VVS does tomorrow. BTW, I forgot to ask. Why are you looking so sad today?”
“Well, I am in the same place you are currently, maybe even worse. My future seems to be worse than your past”
“How could that be possible? You listed so many good things.”
“Remember, unlike you, I am in my present. Your future is my past. I cannot see my future, I can only assess it. It’s bleak”
“We have started losing – like 90s?”
“But what about all the heroes you mentioned? What about Sachin”
“You are ten years ahead in time my friend. They have all grown old – even the kids you are about to see looks to be ageing”
“So the new crop isn’t good enough to carry the baton”
“I don’t see any good crop. I am disheartened. I am shattered. I am doomed” my tone was getting more and more pensive.
“Is it that bad? Pick up something else” he looked worried for his future’s future.
“You can afford it, not me. I am too old to try new things. Its catch 22 – difficult to hold onto this and impossible to pick up a new interest”
“Well, keep hoping, like I did”
“Yes. At this stage in life, hope seems to be the only option”
“Yes. You never know. Some new kid may do what VVS is going to do tomorrow in my time.”
“Hope so” I felt a bit consoled.
“Hope is all I have. Hope is all you can have” he said and started making some strange sound. It kept getting louder and louder. Before I could stop him, I woke up. It was my alarm. It was time to get ready to report to office. Just before I decided to leave, I checked the score. Clarke and Ponting were killing our bowlers.