Sunday, 21 February 2010
There are heroes and then there are Gods…
I was in 7th grade when Ajit Agarkar came into the limelight. It was around the same time when Ajay Jadeja had just been given a call for the Indian Test squad after his delightful performance in the then recently concluded One Day series with Sri Lanka and I read about it in the newspaper with the file photo of Ajay Jadeja talking on the phone. This was in and around the infamous scratch the head instead of giving the decision umpire fiasco.
I believe the year was 1997, I was about 12 years old, on the verge of puberty, my voice had to yet to break into the Donald Duck meets Sylvester the cat voice it is now, I was so young that the biggest swear word I knew then was 'Bastard' in English and 'Saala' in Hindi.
Ajit Agarkar came into the news around the same time when I was coming to terms with the situation at home, which seemed to be going down like a crack whore blowing for her fix.
Life is never pretty for a kid when he is asked to grow up real fast and real quick with no father around leave alone a father figure to look up to, to guide him, show him and teach him the ways of this evil and cruel world.
I was at that point of time where, I was seeking for answers, for strength, for assurance and reassurance that the home I stayed in and the people I called as family were just that, a home and a family without my realizing it. I did not know the real meaning of a family or what "home" is supposed to be till I met Mrs. Parekh and her family which was after eight long years. Long after Agarkar had come and taught me things, which a father should have taught me. And I learnt it all by religiously following anything which was written about him, by mimicking his temperament on field.
For me the concept of a family and that of a home was largely limited to what I used to see on the telly (more specifically what Doordarshan decided to show) and the stories I used to hear and the things I used to see in homes I spent time playing with my friends at that point of time. There, people behaved very differently than the ones in mine. And as any kid who knows that all that awaits back at home are bruises, loud screams, wailing and shouting matches between husband and wife, I wanted to run, escape the beatings doled out at home, not wanting to watch mum cry while she lay bruised and battered, and feeling helpless that I could not do anything about it, which probably reinforced my now shunned escapist attitude.
The playground was the only refuge I had outside of home where I did not feel crap about how things were at home or get reminded of home, while non – textbook books and movies were my refuge while I was at home. I spent countless hours playing. With nobody to teach me or tell me how to go about things, I started imitating what I saw on the telly and like a villager who aspires to break out of the small town and make it big by copying his favorite actors, I copied every bowler who was successful there was at that point of time.
So there was the Dominic Cork phase, the Venkatesh Prasad phase, the Shane Warne Phase, Paul Adams phase, Javagal Srinath Phase… You get the idea… But their success wasn't reflected in my performance on the playing field which was the only place where I was really happy and a bad day at the ground meant more than losing the will to live. All this made me dream of dreams of me being a man, not a superman or a superhero, but a man, who was so successful that he single handedly won all matches played by a team of eleven by wiping out the entire opposition and more, a man so awesome that he singlehandedly changed the situation from being helpless and resigned to fate to grabbing life by its balls and making it wince and obey his voice's command, a man so spectacular that he changed the world.
So when the buzz started building about this young sensation from the Indian U – 19 squad and the raving articles being written about him being the next best thing to happen to Indian cricket since Sir Donald Bradman, I was getting excited, much like the man who awaits his postal bride. And then, on April 1, 1998, Agarkar debuted in, Australia chasing a mammoth total of 309 (at that point of time anything about 260 was a steep run chase) and Australia were probably the only team at that point of time who could chase it down, and it bloody well looked like they would chase it down and make India and it's less than one billion population at that point of time eat humble pie.
I, like every other Indian was beginning to lose my grasp on any semblance which could be construed as hope, and I remember thinking that the Indian cricket team can never be a normal team, just like my family, and then came Ajit Agarkar, taking Adam Gilchrist's wicket and changed the entire game around. I cannot even begin to explain to you guys the tide of emotions which swept me off my feet that moment. It was like, my prayers had been answered. And to me, at that point of time in my life, it meant the world, it meant that I could still place trust in people, I could still believe in things and not be left disappointed, I could still believe in the concept of a happy family, of all things normal, it meant I could still believe in dreams.
And for me, that meant the difference between growing up and being a kid. He was everything I ever wanted to be.
For me Ajit Agarkar is more than just an athlete. He is a symbol, one who represented my dreams, my belief that one man can make difference.
Ps: So when people talk shit about him to spite me, they are not ridiculing the man, they are making fun of my belief to dream, to believe. And for a man (yes! I have grown up) who has come from a broken home, dreams and believing that things will change one day for the better is all the difference between losing one's sanity and staying alive.
Pps: Ajit Agarkar is my childhood hero, a hero who I have worshipped and given him the pedestal of being god. My god of hopes and dreams!
Ppps: There is some credit due to him given the fact that I turned out to be a reasonable and somewhat tolerable kid AND not a complete raving psychotic and emotionally stunted ape like my father.