Thursday, June 2, 2016

Masai Mara hot balloon ride - a ride to remember.

This photograph was taken from the hot air Balloon, a week before we took our ride. Obviously the riders of that day were delighted with this sight. Picture was provided to us by our pilot.

A day before I went on this ride, I got up very early to photograph the view from outside my tent. As soon as I stepped out I could see this huge balloon right on my face. 

Soon enough I could see reflection of another Balloon in the river next to the camp. This river had several crocodiles but fortunately the riders of Balloon were safe !

My visit to Masai Mara was in  August 2012. I had traveled to Kenya with the sole purpose of witnessing the great migration. It had been an exhilarating trip which included driving through tough terrain, coming across amazing wildlife and of course the breathtaking river crossing by wildebeest. Spending hours with pride of Lions is now a distant but an unforgettable memory. Much of it was captured in an earlier blog and photo feature

The decision to take a hot air balloon ride was not an easy one. The cost was prohibitive. $ 550.00 is hell of a lot of money for a 2 hour ride notwithstanding the champagne breakfast they promised after the ride. My cousin Tushita and I finally took the plunge and booked our ride. We got up at 3.30 AM in pitch darkness ( there is no electricity in Jungle camps) and were picked by Balloon operators at 4.15  AM for a cup of coffee, a lecture on Balloon preparation and the actual ride. I remember the ride very well as the Balloon would soar above the wilderness and then the pilot would maneuver it in a way that we would come very close to the ground where the animals were spread out. 

The sound of fire blowing in the Balloon would excite the wildebeest and they would just start running ..........................and we would once again be touching the sky. Here are some photographs of that ride. 

Up, up and Away

It was fascinating to see the preparations before the Balloons took off. There were several companies in the forest and each had around 10 Balloons. So hundreds of Balloons would get airborne at almost the same time. 
It's a bit scary with so much fire as preparations get in full swing to take the Balloon airborne. 

Thankfully we had a skilled pilot. Didn't want to be landing in the middle of a Lion pride.

View from the Top

The sun was just coming out as we got airborne. It all looked very lovely and the air was cool and crisp. 

Some pictures from the top

In August it is the migration season so Wildebeest are all over the park.

The pilot keeps the fire going on the Balloon so it could keep flying. This blowing of fire makes a lot of sound and Wildebeest keep getting scared with that and keep running. 

Zebras give a great contrast to the barren looking surface. 

These tuskers can be dangerous if you are near them. 

All Balloons drift away as the wind takes them in a particular direction.

What you see on the ground are all animals,. Mainly Wildebeest, Zebras and Giraffe.
The Maara river separates Tanzania from Kenya. The biggest spectacle of migration takes place here as the animals cross this river and are attacked by crocodiles and Lions. 
Our Balloon was full of Chinese tourists so that chatter was in Chinese. Thankfully our pilot was an Aussie. 

The Landing

The Balloon landed in the middle of Jungle. 90 minutes drive from our camp.  It could have drifted in any direction due to the wind so the trucks carrying breakfast and support staff had to keep a lookout on the direction we were going. We could see wildlife around. when we landed. There could very well be big cats lurking around. 
The staff cleared things up and packed away the Balloons in no time. 

The Champagne breakfast

Right in the middle of forest breakfast tables were laid out and an amazing buffet breakfast was served. Chefs had produced some great delicacies. 

My cousin Tushita and I trying to enjoy champagne at 7 AM !

It was all very well done, I must say. 

This balloon ride remains a major travel highlight for me till date.
twitter : @arorarohin 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Road to Simla - fun with cousins

Delhi to Simla - It's all about food

The roads are smooth and smart. The car moves without many hiccups other than stoppages for tolls. Driving from Delhi to Parwanoo  has become a pleasurable experience. It used to be a pain earlier as driving through cities like Panipat, Ambala, Kalka etc. meant driving along with cyclists, scooterists, cows and rickshaws. Now elevated roads takes us smoothly over the congested areas. Just a few more bridges are left to be completed before the journey becomes seamless.  Those who travel to Chandigarh often talk about this improvement as their journey is now smoother and much faster. Compare this highway with that going to UP and you will know the difference. Last year we suffered enough while going to Nainital and Corbett national park.

Our first break at Daana Pani, Karnal. It took 2 hours from Vasant Vihar to get there in morning. 

Puran Singh ka Dhaba was voted as India’s best dhaba for many years. People used to be crazy about the chicken curry they served. But now we sail over Ambala and just catch a glimpse of this eatery. His sales must have dropped drastically. Many people now stop at Murthal beyond Sonepat. There are several eateries there like Gulshan Ka Dhaba and Pehalwan ka Dhaba which serve those amazing paranthas. They serve all kind of food but specialize in paranthas. Eat those early in the morning with loads of butter and curd, and you will want to visit the place again. But this time we gave Murthal a miss and had our breakfast at  Daana Pani near Karni lake. This was basically a food court with clean toilets. For the women, the clean toilets takes precedence over food so this place had been selected. Some had dosas at  Vaango and others paranthas from Chawla’s. A cup of coffee at Costa Coffee and we moved further.

On the way back we stopped at a restaurant called Haveli nearby in Karnal itself.  You get chaat, kulfi, gajar ka halwa etc outside in the open. Inside you get the vegetarian Punjabi food. For those who want burgers, there is a Burger king nearby. Food was good and the restaurant had big pictures of Punjabi heroes like Milkha Singh, Yuvraj, Dara Singh etc. For giving it a dhaba look they have a truck in the corner. I didn’t check  if it was real or made of cardboard.

The Truck inside Haveli.

 It is only the hilly part which causes some delays. One doesn’t have to go through Pinjore and congested Kalka to reach Parwanoo. A road from  Zirakpur  takes you through the new road made after cutting the mountains and you suddenly find yourself near Timber trail resort. Soon enough we reached Dharampur . Dharampur is known for its proximity to Kasauli and for Giani ka Dhaba. The dhaba was fully packed. The owner and waiters are not too welcoming but food is good. The way we ordered and then polished off everything, it appeared as if we had been hungry for several days.

Rising Mountains, dropping temperatures

Fresh light snow flakes greeted us as soon as we reached Simla.

Declared as the summer capital of British India in 1864, Simla is now the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh. It has some very fine buildings of colonial era.  The major attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and The Ridge which together form the city center. The Kalka–Shimla Railway line built by the British a UNESCO World Heritage Site is also a big attraction for tourists from all across the world.

We were driving to Simla to attend a function associated with my cousin’s wedding. 20% of those were supposed to attend dropped out at the last moment reading about the cold wave in the hills. Around 20 of us were traveling in 5 cars. I was with cousins in the car and it was good Company with good jokes , good music and loads of laughter. Whatsapp group bonded all the 5 cars and those family members who had not come for the trip.  Nothing scares the people living on the plains than the word ‘cold.’  But as we approached Simla, we knew that predictions were right. Soon we were welcomed by something that each tourist dreams of when visiting the hill station – Snow flakes! The tree tops looked lovely and the cold breeze hit us as soon as we disembarked. It was going to be a crisp and cold evening.

Walking the Mall & Ridge

The Ridge is so crowded in summer that you can't walk here. It was nice to see it as open and wide.
The historical christ church in the background

The energy level was high as we did not waste time relaxing but decided to walk the Mall and the famous Ridge of Simla. Some of the old world charm still remains. Many shops have become modernized but several old ones remain. It was a Valentine’s day weekend therefore many young couples from Chandigarh, Punjab and Himachal were on the Mall. The mountains looked very pretty from the ridge as they were covered with fresh snow. There was a queue in front of Baljee’s for their famous Gulab jamuns. Nothing better than samosas , Gulab Jamuns and hot tea on a cold evening. If you enter the Krishna Bakery, you smell the freshness of the newly baked bread but this bakery is also famous for the momo’s (Dim Sums) it serves. We wanted to sit down so the choice was between café Sol ( located in Hotel Combermere) and ‘Wake and bake café.’ The displayed pastries and patties  looked good at café Sol so we sat there and ordered cookies, pastries, veg puff and chicken patties. It was an hour of relaxation there over hot cups of cappuccino before we were ready to walk further towards the renovated Gaitey theatre and the famous Town hall (under renovation now). As always it was nice to be on the ridge which has the lovely mountains and the christ church ( The 2nd oldest church in North India) as backdrop. It was worth braving the icy cold winds.

Simla has many bakeries and cafes. Cafe Sol at hotel Combermere serves excellent food. 

 It's extremely cold- so let's party in the open !

The Bonfires kept us warm. With Aman (our host)  and Avin

Our hosts had organized a welcome dinner for us in their house. Panic set in as realization hit that the dinner was in open. The temperature at 8 PM showed 1 deg C. Woolen caps, gloves and extra clothing was taken out of suitcase. But these were not enough to fight the bitter cold. It was the bonfire and scotch which provided the warmth. Seeing our condition, Aman (the bride’s brother) was gracious enough to set up another bonfire. We stuck to it through the evening.

New day - different weather 

Simla bathed in morning sunshine. Not an inch of mountain can be seen as houses and hotels have cropped up due to unregulated construction. 
The next morning was bright & sunny. Entire Simla seemed bright and fresh. We drove to Mashobra as my cousin Avin's family's summer house is located there. The water bottle left inside the car overnight was frozen. Avin had several agenda's lined up for us and the main two were to show us his magnificent house overlooking the valley ; and for us to eat at his favourite restaurant located in Gables hotel which has now been taken over by Club Mahindra. He was extremely pleased when all of us went gaga over the house and the views it offered. But his disappointment was evident when everyone vetoed his suggestion of eating at his favourite restaurant. Nevertheless he is hopeful that we will accompany him again  to Mashobra so we could have a holiday together in his house and we could eat at Club Mahindra a few times.

Fun at Chalets, Naldera

Chalets boasts of revolving restaurant and a heated pool.
The sun felt good as we further drove to Naldera golf course. While Simla and surroundings  look like an overgrown slum with every inch of each mountain occupied, places around Mashobra and Naldera look very pretty. The houses in Valley looked nice and bright and reminded me of the houses we saw in Bergen, Norway. 

Chalets is a lovely resort next to the Naldera Golf Course. It boasts of a heated pool, a revolving restaurant, deluxe cottages and lovely wooded area behind the resort. Each cottage has a private lawn.  As the sun was nice and warm we requested them to set some tables in the lawn so we could have drinks in the open. They obliged and it was time for family to sit around and chat, gossip, laugh while bottles after bottles of Beer and soft drinks were guzzled.
For the family it was fun time.

Food order for 20 odd people was complicated as it was a mixture of steaks, sizzlers, Chinese and Indian fare. I loved my fish steak sizzler and seeing the food disappear, it was evident that chalets had lived upto its reputation.

Chalets has some lovely cottages, lawns and behind the cottages there are woods.

Snow time at Kufri

Driving through Kufri.
Kufri is just a few kilometres from Mashobra. If you wish to go to Chail from Simla, you have to go through Kufri. Luckily due to recent snowfall, the entire area had some nice fresh snow and we saw many sikh and punjabi gentlemen being very happy about it as they must have travelled from Chandigarh for touching the snow. Many parked cars had music  at full volume as turbans went up and down as these Punjabi’s danced away to the rhythm of Bhangra. Yes, they were very happy.

Our photo op with the snow. Rahul, me Kunaal and Amit

The pre-marriage function

I am here with Amit, Pooja (bride to be), Aditya (groom to be), Jyoti, Kunaal and Avin
The main function for which we had travelled was held at Marina Hotel. I had stayed in this hotel 40 years ago and it was difficult to recognize it now as it had become very plush . Our hosts had been living in Simla for many years so the entire Simla population seems to have converged here . The downstairs hall was covered and was full of women and old people who did not want to brave the 0 deg chill. The terrace upstairs was magnificent and huge and was partly covered where the food was served. My cousins and I found it even difficult to hold the whisky glasses . It seemed that hands would freeze. We discussed ways to fight this cold. Whisky did not taste good as it refused to warm us. We decided  to switch to boiling hot water instead of normal water. Now whisky tasted good & this suddenly made us warm and energetic. The guzzling started, the conversations became more fun. We met some very fine people. Our knowledge about Himachal, its hidden holiday spots and people increased as we talked to the locals. Many ideas were given to us about future holidays to the state which hopefully I will utilize. The younger cousins were trying to make conversation with some pretty young ladies from the city but failed to get their full attention. The bride and groom  mixed around with the people and getting photographed by all and sundry.

Getting ready for some serious photography session

The main function photographer was an enthusiastic gentleman who used actions to explain the kind of photograph setting he wanted. He had no choice as he happened to be deaf and dumb. His smiling face made others smile.

The official photographer and his infectious smile.

Then the scene shifted downstairs and it was DJ and dancing. A big roar went up when the DJ played a Himachali song. We all danced in Himachali style as the bride’s mother guided us through.

Everyone in a good mood.

A walk to remember

At around 2 AM, the four of us cousins ( Kunaal, Amit, Avin & I) found ourselves walking on the Mall walking back towards our hotel. We missed Rahul as he had left earlier. Actually all others from family had left earlier.  I had never seen the Mall so quiet and peaceful. No one could be seen anywhere. The fluorescent halogen lights gave it a lovely and serene look . The lights twinkled from several homes on the spread out mountains. We were oblivious to the temperature being minus 3 deg C as cousin Avin regaled us with stories. His enthusiasm had been infectious through the trip.  Every few yards we would try out a ‘selfie.’

Selfie at 2 AM on the Mall. Temperature -2 deg C

None of us wanted this walk to end even though we had to drive back to Delhi early next morning. Sadly, this short but a wonderful trip was coming to an end.

Here is most of our group. There are several missing as they had gone sightseeing elsewhere.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Riding on top of an Indian train

Chaiya Chaiya moment

In 1998 ‘Dil Se’ movie, directed by the legendry Mani Ratnam was released.  The song ‘Chaiya Chaiya’ was an instant hit as it stirred the imagination of the masses and classes. The song was picturised on Malaika Arora and Shah Rukh Khan dancing atop a goods train and the scintillating music was composed by the upcoming star A R Rahman. The train passes through tunnels, green meadows and the mountains as the dancers clad in vibrant colours danced with gay abandon oblivious to the danger such an act could result in. This would arguably be one of the most beautifully picturised songs in hindi cinema.  This one song capitulated a little known model  Malaika Arora into big league. Her delectable waist and her dancing rhythm would have made her quite a star.  However she became Malaika Arora Khan the same year after marrying Arbaaz Khan, brother of Salmaan Khan and could only come back to limelight several years later in husband’s produced Dabang with another wonderfully choreographed song ‘Munni badnaam hui….’.

It’s a pity that Indian Railway could not make the song ‘chaiya chaiya’ into their advertisement as most of the action is atop the moving train- totally illegal and dangerous! But this roof riding aspect on Indian trains is part of an unwritten script in rural India which repeats itself day after day. I experienced it first hand during an unforgettable journey. 

As my school friend Anjani and I boarded the train for Siliguri from the Charbagh Lucknow station in that summer of 1981, little did we know that this journey which was on paper for 28 hours would actually take 52 hours ! In the scorching heat of 44 deg C as we boarded the 3 tier sleeper (2nd class), we headed for cooler climes of Darjeeling . I hardly knew the people we were staying with and to top it all, I had a guest with me. Our hosts  were related to my mom’s friend and during that particular summer quite a few guests of theirs were gathering at their house. I knew all these guests very well but not the hosts. The invitation seemed very genuine and without using too much brains regarding the inconvenience which we may cause to our hosts, we had booked our tickets and were on our way to the views of Kanchenjunga in June 1981.

At the station Anjani’s dad informed me that he had fever and I was to look after him and ensure that his diet was as per specification and medicines were taken on time. He was a strongly built cop with UP Police and was a concerned father. Train left Lucknow on time but came to standstill just a couple of hours later in some remote countryside. We were told that  our steam engine had collapsed and new one will be brought from somewhere.  So, we decided to go for a walk in the fields and must have walked a km away when the engine whistled, blowed out the steam and train started moving. It was our sprint of a lifetime as we huffed and puffed and reached the train only to be told that engine was just being tested and train was not going anywhere. The net result was that Anjani’s fever disappeared and we just killed time till the time engine was replaced. It is another matter that Anjani started burning in a couple of hours  as the train moved towards Eastern part of India.

Gorakhpur is considered to be the badland of Eastern UP. This was our last major station before the train moved into Bihar. The train was already 3-4 hours  late when we reached here. I had told Anjani that I will get off and get some dinner. This became unnecessary as  2 police constables came looking for us carrying 2 thalis of station food. The perks of being police officers son were visible. They also carried a thermometer and a few medicines. Anjani’s temperature was checked and the constables waited till he finished food. A few doses of medicines were given to him  and the constables went off to give report about Anjani’s health to their seniors who would further report the latest health bulletin to his dad. All this worked as Anjani  remained fever free from next day onwards.  

Chaiya Chaiya moment came in Bihar. In the morning as we got out of train for breakfast we noticed hundreds sitting atop the train. There seemed to be more people sitting on top of the train than inside. No one was remotely as sexy as Malaika but later at one of the villages we saw a full marriage party boarding the train and then climbing on to the top . All were ticket-less and all fearless. Amongst the all male marriage party was  the newlywed bride with red sari and her face well hidden behind a veil. Her journey to a new life had started.

A common sight on Indian trains

Somewhere along the way the train got diesel engine instead of steam. The villagers sitting on top of the train knew all the tricks. There was not one village where train did not stop and none of them were the scheduled stops. They knew how to operate the vaccum system which would activate the ‘brake’ and the train would stop. After every few minutes there would be a loud roar from above and when I asked a co-passenger why were they making this sound I was told that they must be feeling hot.  In the evening I learnt firsthand why this periodic noise would erupt.

One of the co-passenger said that he was hot and sweaty so seeing the hand pump on the platform he stripped to his undies and had a nice long bath. I couldn’t resist the temptation so soon I was also doing the same. Anjani didn’t want to take a chance with his fever so he stayed inside and rested but made fun of me for doing this shameless act.  He said if he had a camera he would have clicked this scene and shown it to my parents, my girlfriend and the class teacher! I decided not to tell him that I did have a camera. 

Accessible bathing means at Indian Railway stations

My Chaiya Chaiya moment

At a station, when I asked one of the villagers how it felt to be sitting up, he gave me his hand and pulled me up. He asked me to experience this till next stop. I agreed. It was around 6 PM and sun was not so hot. But the train was burning hot. They would try to get water and throw it around so it would get cooler. I had to sit on my haunches otherwise my backside would have got burnt. The train took off and I felt that I would be blown away by the wind. I had to take off my specs and put them securely in my pocket. There were small handles on the sides which one had to hold onto. There were water filling covered holes to cling on to. The air was still hot and it seemed to pierce the skin. As a tunnel or an overhead wire approached , a team of spotters would give a shout and everyone would shout and bent down till the danger passed. In the tunnel it would get pitch dark and you could almost feel the roof scraping against your body. You could smell the dampness of the structure before suddenly the bright daylight blinded you as you got out of the tunnel. This happened twice in 10 minutes while I was up there. This was too nerve wrecking. Luckily a village came and vacuum breaks were activated. I was happy to be down in the compartment.  Anjani told me that I looked like a total wreck. My body was full of soot and dust and the hair was standing. I had to wait till next platform to take a bath under a hand pump.

The journey had many more incidents including a flash strike by the driver of our train at Raxaul, Bihar. I really don’t remember the reason but while waiting helplessly I realised that Anjani had disappeared. I went looking for him and in one of the rooms noticed that there were many people gathered and quite a bit of commotion. As I eased inside the room to check what had happened, I could not believe it when I saw a meeting taking place and Anjani being an active member of that meeting. The strike was called off and my dear friend had a role to play as many people came to shake his hand and thank him including the driver. When asked how he managed this, his reply was simple- “I have a cop’s blood in my veins !”

Chaiya Chaiya and 'Dil Se' happened 17 years after my adventure on top of the train. I have been to many amusement parks around the world and have been through thousands of roller coaster rides, but the thrill of those 10 minutes atop a running train remains unsurpassed. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Travelling for Cricket

The new look Green Park at Kanpur. Poor student's still sit on concrete. 

Being a protective parent, I don’t think I would have allowed my children to venture into an unknown territory at the age of 15. Our parents had more confidence in us. Travelling to Kanpur from Lucknow for test matches became a norm for me once the parents allowed me to go and enjoy the stadium atmosphere. 
The Australian cricket team lead by Kim Hughes had a test match scheduled for Kanpur in 1979. Lucknow was 80 km’s away from the venue and Kanpur was an established Test centre. Lucknow had hosted a Test match against Pakistan in 50's but it's stadium was not good enough for an important match now. The distance of Lucknow to Kanpur may not have been much but connectivity was terrible. Being an ardent cricket fan it was my desire to watch the match. I had never watched a proper Test match  in a stadium. I insisted on going to Kanpur and parents relented. From somewhere I managed to get 2 student’s tickets priced at a princely sum of  Rs 12 each for full 5 days of cricket ( I still have that ticket). 
The match was to begin on 2nd October, which was a national holiday . It was the 3rd test of the series and the first 2 had been boring draws. The Australians' third full tour of India  (6 test matches) was of great interest as Australia was rebuilding it's team after the likes of Chappels, Marsh, Lillie had been taken away by Kerry Packer's 'World Series Cricket.' It so happened that after this series a compromise was reached between Australian cricket board and Packer. From India's  viewpoint  it was an important series because India had never won a series against Australia. With the cream of Australian team being lured by Kerry Packer, this was a beatable young side which did not have much experience. The two countries had previously contested seven rubbers over 31 years, during which India had won only five Tests to Australia's nineteen, with six drawn. The 1977 series in Australia had been India’s golden chance but we narrowly lost it heart-breakingly by 2 matches to 3. We had lost first test in Australia by 16 runs and second by 2 wickets. We won the next two but got beaten by a small margin at Adelaide. It was time for revenge. 

The journey begins

The majestic Charbagh Railway Station

My neigbour Raju and I left home at 4 AM in the morning and it had started getting nippy. A 20 minute rickshaw ride got us to the majestic building of Charbagh railway station . We bought our tickets and had a leisurely breakfast of omelet and piping hot tea. The Gomti express brought us to Kanpur station very quickly, in just about an hour at 6.30 AM. Another rickshaw ride and a 20 minute walk got us to  the gates of the students stand at the Green Park stadium. A queue was formed and soon the queue started becoming long. We were quite ahead but as the gates opened around 8.30 for 10 AM start, the swell of humanity surged and  we were pushed in by thousands of people. Everyone wanted to be at vantage points to get a clear view. We got good seats at the top from where the entire arena was visible. The entire students’ stand comprised of cemented steps and one had to sit on them as they were the official  seats. You can imagine the condition of our  bottoms at the end of the day. There was no covering so as the day progressed and the sun got stronger, it became pretty uncomfortable. Even at that time there was huge wire mesh to prevent the boys  from jumping into the arena. I say boys as even though it may have been  a student’s stand , not a single girl was to be seen anywhere.  

A huge roar went up as son in law Gavaskar came out for some net practice. The people of Kanpur adored Sunny Gavaskar as he had married Kanpur’s daughter Marshneil a few years ago. Actually people adored Gundappa Vishwanath more as Vishy had scored century on debut at this very ground and had always done well here. His delectable wrist work and square cuts made people swoon. They kept referring to him as babaji ……I still don’t know why.  

Gundappa Vishawanth was a crowd puller

Vishy had scored a duck and a century in the same match on debut and in his entire career whenever he scored a century for India, we never lost that match. He was Sunny’s hero as well and ended up by becoming Gavaskar's brother in law by marrying his sister. Sunny named his son after the 3 heroes he admired very much – Rohan Kanhai, ML Jaishima and Vishwanath. Unfortunately this royal name of Rohan Jaivishv Gavaskar could not make Rohan a very good cricketer and he just played a few ODI’s for India without doing anything much. He did reasonably well in Ranji trphy and went on to captain West Bengal. The 3 year old Rohan was also around and was being pampered by the likes of  Karsan Ghavri. For the audience he was already a star. Each shot little Rohan played on the sidelines with his little bat during the lunch break was cheered by everyone in the stadium.

Kanpur treated him like a 'son in law'

The Match Begins

Sunny  won the toss and made an elegant 76 but disappointed his ‘sasural’ as he could not make his century. India got off to a great start but just before stumps lost a few wickets in succession. All day we  would constantly look to our right and envy those who were sitting in VIP stands. It was a beautiful stand with colourful bucket seats and was elevated enough to give a great view of the pitch to the audience.It seemed like a big luxury. They had proper seats and a roof over their heads. There were many girls also in those stands and many of the guys were more interested in them rather than the match as it was in that direction the binoculars was pointed most of the time. Someone told me that from that angle you could even see the ball turning. They would constantly look towards us as the student’s stand had some action every minute. People in our section would dance, sing and make a lot of noise. A guy sitting near us had carried mithai boxes with him and each time an Indian batsman scored a boundary, a little bit would be distributed to all his neighbours. There were a few brawls as well and police was present in large numbers.I learnt several new abuses and slangs that day. 

We were supposed to go back the same evening as one had to attend the school the next day. Raju’s relatives stayed in Kanpur so we went there for a cup of tea after the match. His cousin convinced us that he would treat us to a good dinner , show us a night show film and drop us to the stadium the next day if we decided to stay back. This was too tempting. Call was made to Lucknow and permission taken to stay back. Raju’s cousin kept his word and it turned out to be a fun evening as dinner out and movie watching was a big entertainment those days.It had turned out to be a 21 hour of non stop action but we were hardly complaining. 

India collapsed in no time the next morning but grabbed a few quick wickets. We left when Alan Border got out and took a rickety state transport bus back to Lucknow. We were stuck on Ganga bridge for almost 45 minutes. We were listening to commentary on transistor and to our disappointment Yallop and Hughes dug in and took 1st innings lead.

Once again Gomti Express took us to Kanpur on the last day of the match which happened to be a Sunday. Match was poised in India’s favour as Chetan Chauhan had played a dogged innings for India and Vishy played another wristy gem with great support from wicketkeeper Kirmani. As India’s new hero Kapil Dev and off spinner Shivlal Yadav ripped through the Australian top order, the roar with each falling wicket became louder and louder. Alan Border stuck on and when he was bowled by Yadav, the roar must have been heard in Lucknow !India won by 125 runs and we came back very happy feeling as if we had been responsible for the victory. 

Eng Vs India - Jan 1982

I must have had some guts when I went to watch a match at Green Park in 1982 just a month before my class 12 boards. By now I had become an experienced test match watcher at stadia. No one could believe that I had gone to watch a match to Kanpur during the study leave as you were supposed to slog at that time. Thankfully I did well in exams . England team here was being led by Fletcher and in the team they had the mercurial Ian Botham. With Fletcher and Gavaskar both very negative captains the 6 match series just had one result. The Kanpur match was drawn with not even 3 innings completed .  The match will be remembered for centuries by the two of the greatest all rounders in the world- Botham and Kapil Dev. When Gavaskar declared just 1 short of England's total of 1st innings, everyone was shocked. Now that moment is always referred to as the start of match fixing by several cricket writers. Sunny has never explained his decision even though taking a lead was always considered as half a victory in those days.

 I was delighted to see the elegance of left handed batsman Gower who made a sparkling 85. Just a month back I was in Delhi and had gone to watch a  match of the same series at historic Feroze Shah Kotla as I had pavilion passes. David Gower was wrongly given out lbw for a duck in the match. As he had walked back fuming, a guy  standing near the gallery from where teams went to pavilion patted him and said 'Gower well played.' Gower had turned around and caught him by his lapel and hurled abuses at him. I was right there and saw Gower's fair complexion turn deep red. David Gower had become the most hated man during that test match and each time he walked in or out there was slogan shouting against him. 

 But what I remember this Eng Vs India match at Kanpur is not for Gower's elegance or lusty hitting by Botham and Kapil but for something else.

Indians liked Gooch because of his mustache

The Match Stopper

This time I had been accompanied by my sikh friend Mohinder. He did not reach on time so we had to take the state transport bus which broke down mid way. We reached stadium when match had started. The cops wouldn’t let us go in and told us that all seats were taken. Somehow we managed to persuade them to let us go inside. As we climbed the steps and the arena came into view we saw Graham Gooch batting. Now my friend Mohinder was a tall sikh- around 6’2”. His shoes had heels and he wore a turban. This made him almost 6’ 6”. He wore black and walked like Feroze Khan the actor, with chest forward and head held high. As he walked in , he got noticed. Someone shouted “Sardarji has come !” and suddenly the crowd erupted. Entire student’s  section (around 12000 of them) stood up and started cheering and clapping. The people in VIP pavilion wondered what had happened and they rushed towards our side to check what had happened. The cops became alert and moved towards us with alacrity as this was a known trouble zone. There was so much commotion that the match stopped. The players gathered together and started looking towards us fearing that a riot had broken out.  The Umpires walked towards us to find out from the cops if it was safe to carry on. Graham Gooch with his big Moustaches had a worried look on his face, He was not used to all this in sedate Lord’s atmosphere in London where people politely clapped to show ther excitement. Mohinder had made a Test Match come to a standstill for full 5 minutes ! The match carried on but thanks to Mohinder we became VIP’s of the student section. Seats were offered to us in this full house and gratefully accepted. People came to shake Mohinder’s hand as if he was a filmstar. We got offered with food, mithai and soft drinks.The whole day it was party time. 

The match stopper. Mohinder Singh

I think for those who have not had the privilege of watching the match from stands , it must be amply clear that when you go for a cricket match in India and sit in student’s section or the general stands– the match becomes secondary !

Rohin Arora