Wasim Raja: Jaaney kahaan gaye woh din...

Wasim Raja dies playing cricket”. And a lonely tear ambled towards the crease in my eye. I had written a bit about him early last year…

I have not been watching much cricket. I miss the times I used to. I suppose it is this nostalgia that has made me lose that genuine feeling of joy. Besides, it is no fun sitting alone before the TV set and celebrating a boundary or a sixer or marvelling at a superb catch or the flick of the bat or the run-up before the bowler breezes like a ball of fire or twists his wrist to spin.

As a child I was the only girl who watched. I admit to begin with it was to show off. Besides, pretending to be engrossed saved me from having to bring in the ‘drinks trolley’ during the breaks. The three maamus and one cousin would be seated in the room on the sofa and chairs; I preferred being sprawled on the carpet like some feudal lady with a bolster. I did not understand a thing of what was happening, but I could read the score!

Sometimes, I think the uncles were uncomfortable. They would curse, “Saala, itna asaan catch nahin le sakta tha…” and then cast furtive glances at this girl in their midst. With the years of excruciatingly slow growth as I saw it, I began to see the symphony in the game. The whites, the camaraderie, the spitting on the ball, the rubbing it (I recall giggling on such occasions, but of course everyone had to keep a deadpan face).

I started reading sports magazines. And reading up on cricket. Statistics, strategy; I knew about elegant strokes…and I could hold forth with at least some authority on the game. Of course the gentlemen in the house thought it was the guys on the field that were affecting my impressionable mind. There would be knowing smiles, “Imran?”

Huh? No. I thought it was absolutely essential to like someone, so I chose the one who could not reach a century, but played like a Sufi…reaching his 90s and then having to walk out; he was short, dark and had a beard. His name was Wasim Raja. I said aloud, “I like him.”

Ismey hai kya?

“He is elegant (yes, that word I had memorised)…and…”

I did not have the right words or the vocabulary. What I felt was this sadness of someone who is just short of reaching the peak. I felt no one else would like him, so I had to. I genuinely felt his pain.

Yes, I am a sucker for the underdog.

Wasim Raja proved to be much more than that.

Chaahe kaheen bhi tum raho, chaahenge tumko umr bhar
tumko naa bhool paaenge

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