A Pakistani, an Indian and the gentleman’s game!
It was 8:30 at night. Imran was sitting in his apartment in one of the posh areas of Dubai. Sprawled on the comfortable couch, he lazily switched channels on his 60-inch plasma TV while typing a text message to a friend on his cell phone. His iPad lay next to him, opened to The New York Times online page.
It was a typical evening in the life of a Generation Y executive surrounded by technology 24/7 until the familiar ring of an incoming Skype call jolted him out of his lethargic state. He looked at his watch and then back at the iPad screen. The picture of the caller seemed familiar but it took a few seconds for Imran to recognise who it was. He tapped the ‘accept’ tab on the screen and exclaimed,
“My God! Dude, are you alive?”
On the screen but actually sitting on the other side of the world, 7,000 miles away, Rajesh smiled at him. An old friend, Rajesh had shifted to Canada along with his entire family three years ago. Laughing, he retorted,
“Look who’s talking! I should ask you that question, buddy. Where have you been? If you remember, it was me who called the last time as well…wait, when was that? Almost a year ago?”
Immediately, Imran became apologetic and replied sheepishly,
“That’s true but you know how it is yaar…how life here in Dubai is. Working hours are long and then the time difference. I thought of calling you so many times but something or the other kept me busy. How is your family? And what about the little one? She must be around seven years old by now, right?”
Imran’s wife, passing by, saw Rajesh on the screen and stopped saying,
“Hello! Long time Rajesh bhai…a big ‘Hi’ to Natasha and Jyoti.”
After the pleasantries were over, Rajesh continued his conversation with Imran.
Rajesh: “Everything’s fine here yaar. But I miss the good old days of Dubai. Honestly speaking, I miss the days when we were flat-mates – two bachelors living the ‘Dubai dream’ of struggling to earn a decent living, getting a promotion, getting a driving license, watching cricket and getting married.”
He started laughing as he said this and continued,
“Not in the same order of course but yeah, it does seem like another lifetime at times.”
Imran: “Hahaha… Yes! And do you remember the first time when you came back from your vacation in India… when was that? In 2009? You were so heartbroken…”
Looking around, he lowered his voice to a whisper and continued,
“Because of your engagement and all of us teased you about losing the match in Centurion. Wow, 2009… that was also the last year you guys had played in Pakistan. And we were sure it was the cricket that broke your heart…not some girl!”
Rajesh chuckled and replied,
“Yes! You Pakistani rascals! I remember how Shoaib Malik’s century saved you guys. But don’t forget how you were beaten for three consecutive years after that. Hahaha…the sweetest win was in Mohali… remember Sachin’s knock?”
Imran: “Nah… I forgot, Sachin who?”
Indignantly, Rajesh said,
“Sachin who? The same guy who showed Akhtar how not to bowl or else the ball would be found on the other side of the boundary!”
Imran: “Oh… you must be confused. I thought all Indians knew that the guy who makes the entire Indian team stay out of the boundary line is Shahid Afridi. Oh sorry… you call him ‘Boom Boom Afridi!”
Rajesh: “I love the spirit of you Pakistanis. No matter how badly we beat you and how many times we beat you, you guys never accept it.”
Imran: “Exactly! You must have heard the saying ‘winners never quit and quitters never win!’ That’s why we are always winners, regardless of the outcome of any game. And you guys? Well, what can I say?”
And with that, he winked at the screen and laughed. Rajesh, also smiling replied,
“Imran, I see the painting behind you on the wall. And I see the grapes. Taste them… are they sour?”
Chuckling, Imran replied,
“They are very sour. After all, I’m eating Indian grapes in Dubai!”
Rajesh: “Okay, okay. It’s that time of the year again, isn’t it? Big tournament, the T20 World Cup and in this day and age, it doesn’t get any better. I have everything set up here. A 60-inch screen in my living room, a leather couch and the wife will make sure we have enough popcorn and sodas. And oh yeah, Jyoti will take a day off from school.
But I miss you, my friend. Without you, it just won’t be the same.”
Imran: “You just took the words out of my mouth, Rajesh. No more small screen TVs in the neighbour’s room, no standing outside TV showrooms on the sidewalk to watch the final overs of the game. Today we have it – our own place, all the technology and fancy gadgets. But the friends are not here anymore. Without you, my Indian buddy, nothing is going to be the same. I’ll be with other friends, probably other Pakistanis and you will probably be with many Indians from your neighbourhood.”
Rajesh: “Yes and we’ll clap, cheer and dance every time our team hits a boundary or takes a wicket but deep down, I will miss you my friend. Sometimes I feel grateful that I left India and saw the world. Just like you left Pakistan and saw the world too. I met and befriended so many Pakistanis, just like you met so many of us Indians. And we learned that as much as we might fight politically, cricket always brings us closer, as strange as that may be.”
Imran laughed and said,
“Yes. That’s something I can’t disagree with. After all, our cricketers always take away your Bollywood heroines and other celebrities and it’s the ‘cricket’ that brings them ‘closer’.”
Rajesh: “That’s unfair. You guys should show some generosity and do an exchange. Why are we always the ones giving our beautiful faces to you? Forget about Bollywood, you even took our tennis star!”
Imran: “C’mon, you guys should be thankful. We gave you Veena Malik. Isn’t that enough?”
And then, in a lower voice he said,
“Please don’t give her back!”
Rajesh burst out laughing at this and then said,
“Acha listen, I have to log off now. But let’s connect again soon. How about March 21, right after the match? Or will you be in mourning?”
Imran guffawed and replied,
“Yes, I will be in mourning. After all, a friend’s loss is my loss too! So, while we will celebrate our team’s win, I can assure you my friend, you will not see me smile on Skype at least.”
Rajesh laughed and said,
“Yeah, yeah we’ll see. See you soon then.”
Imran: “March 21, you bet my friend! Bye!”
So, dear readers, Imran and Rajesh will see you after the match on March 21, 2014. Stay tuned for their post-match conversation!
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