|The last time my name
appeared on print.
Nov. 2001: Clutching the newspaper in hand, I ran towards my mom who was seated in her prayer room. I sat beside her as she kept mumbling some prayers. As my heart beat kept thumping like mad, I opened the last page of the newspaper and placed it on her lap. It was a full-length picture of me with my name under the section: ‘The tallest boy in schools in Kolkata’. My mom smiled warmly and pinched my cheeks; I felt happy. Then my father saw it and he too was seemingly very happy. However my brother saw it next and soon commented, “What’s the big deal in this? When you get your name for some ‘real’ and good stuff then start blabbing about it. You have just flunked in math, you should be ashamed at even trying to be happy.” My uncle and cousins smirked and laughed openly at this. I was stunned and hurt beyond belief. That comment might have been made off-handedly, but it completely shook me up; hurting me deep within the core of my heart. All my excitement and happiness went down the drain. As hot tears rolled down my cheeks I promised myself that day, “One day you shall see my name in print again. And that time it will be for a ‘real stuff’. Everyone will see it. I promise.”
I will not specify as to why I have mentioned this extract of my life here. The ones who will read through the end of this post, and the ones who know me genuinely, would understand its significance.
There is nothing that exudes as much passion in me as a game of cricket does. Absolutely nothing comes close to it. Having been following it for close to two decades now, the game it feels is a part of me, and it feels I was somehow always meant to be associated with it. But then there are millions of others who think on similar lines and very few get that chance to actually do it. Destiny however has given me the chance to live my dream.
Now I will admit I was a very average cricket player in my growing up days. But as I started following the game a little more ardently, I grew more focused towards being better. With the blessed height that I have, many would tell me to become a fast bowler. I would try and bowl with pace in my school matches, with decent enough results and that boosted my confidence considerably. That somehow instilled the idea in my head that I should perhaps take the game professionally. Barely in my teens then, I approached my family for wanting to join a cricket academy to hone my skills. The reply from my brother was on expected lines, “What? Cricket? Tell me how much did you score in your math exams last semester? Please get these rubbish ideas off your head…” And that was the end of the story as my family agreed with his opinion that studies are of course much more important than trying to follow a ‘dream’ that you are passionate about. Demotivated, I gave in to that part of my dream despite people and friends who would keep prodding me do otherwise.
However, what I didn’t give up was on watching cricket matches. The more the matches were played, the more hungrily I would lap it up. Those days there were no T20s, and yet I would watch as many matches as I possibly could. I remember, even following Test matches throughout the day with rapt attention. Soon my cricket watching habit too became a sore in the eyes for some family people and I was regularly chided for ignoring my studies and ‘wasting’ my time watching cricket. “What would you get by watching these people play? They are earning their money and going home. But look at you. Flunking your exams and wasting your time by watching useless matches.” – this was another regular rebuke that would come my way from my family folks. No one really cared to know that I really liked watching cricket. Instead I was made to feel astonishingly guilty for doing it.
However, I was a stubborn child, and would fight and try and catch the game without anyone’s knowledge, or by keeping the TV volume in mute. Those days with the restricted freedom that I had, it was quite a task. My cricket watching however was not just limited to India specific matches. I would also follow matches of different countries. I remember getting up early in the morning to follow a Test Match between Australia and Pakistan, when a certain Adam Gilchrist had made his debut. I also had enjoyed watching the Test match where Brian Lara single handedly destroyed the Australians in the West Indies in 1999. These and many more would make for my staple diet of cricket viewing pleasure. I would also eagerly wait for the post-match analysis and pre-match shows of many matches and listen to the greats of the game airing their views. Listening to them really helped me a lot in building my cricketing acumen.
As I grew up I slowly accepted the truth that I can never be a professional cricketer. But even then, I would somehow always feel that I still have something to contribute towards the game and I can still be a part of it in some way. I did not how; but that feeling never really went away. I refused to believe that I would just remain a cricket viewer. However, with the course of time there was another thing that I soon discovered I was passionate about: Writing.
In my school days I was an average student; especially towards the end. I had no particular goal as such, because I did not know what I could go on to become. Neither my school friends, nor my family thought that I would be good for anything. I was apparently useless and a ‘mastikhor’ who whiles away his time talking to girls on the phone. I was made to believe by many of them that I would never achieve anything in life. But then, there are certain weird ways in which life takes care of you without you realizing it. I was always a decent writer from my childhood days. In fact it was the only thing I was good at; writing good stories, essays and feature stories were my specialty in those days. But I never really considered writing to be a full time career. Fate though had other ideas, as in weird ways I got into a Journalism institute and there I somehow got the confidence to bring out the writer in me in full flow.
Months passed, and I honed my skills, worked really hard and finally ignited my passion. Writing made me feel good. It inspired me, made me get away from my troubles and also gave me confidence. Luckily at this time, I met friends who appreciated my work; in fact they were the first ones in my life that actually saw me for what I was. That is why; I really value a couple of them with my life. That gave me belief and I kept working harder, without looking back. Soon my efforts began paying off and I started tasting success from different quarters and slowly things started falling in place. I had found a passion and I wanted to submerge myself in it. Subsequently, I got some work because of my writing skills and I now I kept developing it, and keep doing so till date.
It was during this period that I somehow got the idea to use my cricketing acumen with my passion for writing. I thought to myself that why not try and combine the two passions and see how it goes. I started slowly, writing cricket pieces in my blog and on a few different websites. Then in my last job, where I got hired as a reporter, I enhanced this passion further. Here I didn’t hold myself back and started by doing some cricket stories to build my base. In that job I didn’t even have a press card and neither was the company renowned. But I was hungry, and I wanted to try. I did my first genuine cricket story when I covered the renovation work of the Eden Gardens back in 2011. I remember that day, as if it was yesterday. I was nervous and skeptical, yet I collected my guts and approached the CAB head. Fortunately he agreed and later I went on to even build a good rapport with him. That day I also got the chance to step onto the actual field of the Eden Gardens. That feeling, I have to admit, was amazing. The feel of touching the lush grass and standing at the same place where Sachin had scorched the grass with his straight drive was something special. It was bliss. The story came out well and it really gave me confidence to keep going further. There was no stopping me after that and I went on to do stories on people like Arun Lal, Pronoy Roy, a local umpire and even some Kashmiri cricketers who had visited our city then.
However due to some unfortunate events, I had to leave that job and thankfully the job that I am currently in gives me the peace of mind to write my cricket and other writings. Since then I have kept building my knowledge on cricket by reading magazines, blogs, columns, websites and similar stuff which helps me a great deal. I knew I had to prepare myself well, if I intended to be a good cricket writer. But it was only in the later half of last year that I actually started to believe that I can seriously come into cricket writing. Thus a few months back, I stopped writing my cricket pieces on my blog and approached some genuine sports websites for it. Fortunately enough, I got the chance I was so desperately looking for and then there was no looking back. My cricket writings started getting published and they were appreciated by people I didn’t even know. Slowly but surely I was taking giant strides towards my goal. Then last month I approached a cricket website and a national cricket magazine of reputed media houses for possible freelance opportunities. I was skeptical doing so, but surprisingly things worked out well and I got on board for both of them. My time, I could feel was finally coming.
|That feeling of pride.
It was a couple of days back however that I would consider the biggest achievement of my life; bigger than anything else. I got the news that my article has finally been published in the cricket magazine I had written for. It was a sultry afternoon, and yet I literally ran to the news-stand. I picked up the magazine and ruffled through the pages excitedly, and there it was! My name right at the top of the page with my article. My name, in a full six page article for a national cricket magazine! Was this for real? I was numb for a few seconds. Then happiness surged through me. I felt my eyes getting a little wet and I rubbed them quickly. I was so thrilled that I even showed my article to the newspaper vendor, whom I share a good rapport with. He was elated, in fact a little too over elated. He told me excitedly, “Sir, (Yeah, he calls me that for some reason) you should go to London. You should join BBC.”. I smiled and said, “Err thanks. I will see you later.” I held the magazine tightly in my hands and kept looking at my name as I walked back to my office. Then I called my best friend, who is the only one perhaps who really knows and feels my passion for writing and what it means for me. I wanted to share my happiness with someone and his was the only name I thought of first.
For people who might be reading this; it would seem no big deal. However, only I know how I have managed to reach here. For me, seeing my name on print is a huge thing; it is EVERYTHING. The fact that my name is there in print, and can be seen by someone even in Kashmir now, howsoever insignificant it might be for them, is an uplifting feeling. I can be pretty self-critical at times, but this time I won’t. I have no qualms in admitting that I have inspired myself this time. My passion has been my inspiration. I have made myself believe that if you are really passionate about something and are honest and hard working on it, then things will eventually fall in place. You won’t even realize it, but things do happen to sort themselves out.
And now the journey starts. I have now been accepted as a freelance cricket writer for two genuine sports websites and a national cricket magazine. And now I am hungry, I have tasted blood and I want more. I am consumed with writing more and more. Bring it on. I want to work harder, and keep flying towards my dream. It is the path that I chose now, which will decide what I eventually become. Fate has now given me opportunities, and hopefully I will keep grabbing them with both arms. But this definitely is a start. A good start. A step towards my eventual dream of being a full time professional cricket writer. This step though wasn't easy, and today I pat myself on the back for having taken that step. I do not know where I will eventually end, but it is this very step that actually made me learn quite a few lessons of life. That the only person you should believe in is yourself; that there will always be people who will pull you down, but it is your passion that should lift you up. That there are very few people who genuinely care for you and appreciate you from heart and you got to hold them for life. And finally, that if you really have the passion for something, you should never ever stop believing.
Today I feel like yelling, “I am glad I wasted my time by watching cricket. It is because of that I found my passion.” I wish I could go to that prayer room again and show this magazine to my mom. Unfortunately though, you can't get everything you want in life. But for now all I want to do is to keep moving ahead. I have reached the station and caught the train; and now it is time to enjoy the ride. I don’t want to look back at all the people who have hurt me, made me feel small and discouraged me in different walks of life. All I want now is to be positive about my life and focused towards my goal.
It is time for me to rise now. It is time for me to fly…!!