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Sunday Sentiments

  • WHEN A SIMPLE CALL LED TO AN UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH

    Posted On November 6, 2022

    By Karan Thapar

    It was 7.00 in the evening and the end of a tiring day when she rang. “What do you think of cricket?”.  From her voice I could guess she was one of those pretty young things who masquerade as journalists.

     

    “I don’t think about cricket” I replied, stressing the second word.  I was trying to be both witty and succinct.  But she only giggled.  Sweetly, no doubt, but disconcertingly nonetheless.

     

    “Tell me something more” she said, recovering her composure.

     

    “Why?” I was only half teasing.  The other half was intended as a challenge.

     

    “Because I want to publish your answer and the first won’t do!”

     

    I suppose her bluntness got to me.  But she also had a point.  What would I do if those I professionally question chose to answer as I did?  At any rate, whether out of sympathy or vanity, I found myself tempted to speak.  I should have resisted because once I began I was caught in a trap.

     

    “I find cricket mindless, dreary and tedious” I said.  It was meant tongue in cheek but the truth is I was saying what I actually feel.  I don’t like the game.  I don’t even understand it.  When forced to watch I struggle to keep awake or, at any rate, sit still.

     

     

    “How funny”.  She wasn’t giggling this time.  In fact she sounded deadly serious.  “Why?”

     

    “Because cricket is a game where eleven oafs in flannel chase a ball hit alternately by two others whilst a stadium full of duffers cheers them on.”

     

    I’m not sure if I was consciously quoting but the mellifluous fluency of this pithy description did not sound original to my ears.  Nevertheless, I was pleased with it.  Not so the lady journalist.

     

    “Oafs?” she queried.  It wasn’t the pronunciation she was uncertain of but the meaning.  She had mistaken it for a sylvan term.  From little acorns do big oafs grow, if you catch my drift.

     

    “Flannel?” she asked once her first question had been taken care of.

     

    “It’s spelt …….” but she interrupted.

     

    “Like those people in a TV studio sitting together?”

     

    This was my turn to laugh.

     

    “No doubt they’re oafs too but I wasn’t speaking about them.”  I spluttered. “No, it’s not television panel discussions I’m referring to but the clothes cricketers wear.  White flannels.”

     

    “But which is the team in white?” she asked missing, or sidestepping, my point.  “I thought everyone wore colours.”

     

    “Of course they do.”  But as I reassured her I realised the difficulty of extricating myself from a conversation that had not merely veered off course but perhaps entirely disappeared from the track.  My heart sank.

     

    “Well?” she said.  “Which one?”

     

    “None.”

     

    “But you just spoke about oafs in flannel and you said flannel was white. So tell me, who is playing in white?”

     

    “That’s not what I meant?”

     

    “Then what did you mean?”

     

    “Oh dear” I exclaimed, somewhat exhausted by the prospect of putting matters right.  “I wish I knew.”

     

     

    It wasn’t a serious comment.  In fact it was said more to myself than to her.  But she pounced upon it with a journalistic ferocity that ordinarily I would have admired.

     

    “Are you saying you don’t know what you mean?”

     

    “You could say you don’t know what I mean” I answered combatively.  But she failed to grasp the twist in my reply.

     

    “In other words you don’t know what you’re talking about?”

     

    Perhaps she was right but I was stunned.  In fact, quite speechless.  The conversation had taken a bizarre turn.

     

    “Yes, I suppose that’s what it must look like.” My voice sounded defeated.  In fact, clean bowled.  “But I did forewarn you, didn’t I?”

     

    “Well, I’m sorry I rang.  I seem to have made a terrible mistake.  Goodbye.”

     

    I must have held on to the phone for a while – long after the line disconnected-- because when Santosh walked into my office he thought I was in trouble.

     

    “A problem?”

     

    “Yes” I replied.  “I just spoke the truth about cricket.”


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