Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Sri Lankan odyssey

February 2012

When I was in Bangalore for work, I receive a phone call from Meghana (my sister) who says, “Kits, let’s go to Sri Lanka in September for the WorldT20. We can go meet the Aussies, watch all the games and won’t it be really cool that we’re traveling to watch cricket?” Of course, it would be great to watch cricket in another country and watch the WorldT20 in a country that I’ve always been keen on visiting – Sri Lanka! But, the idea was crazy, and I brushed it aside.

Fast Forward to September 2012

I landed in Colombo around 11 but in my head, I was still in India. My phone gave way and I couldn’t use it to call someone who was supposed to receive me at the airport. I got out of the airport to find a phone and in the process was greeted by a jeering bunch of yobs. It still felt like I was in India. Frantically, I babbled away to a security guard asking him for a public telephone that I could make an international call with in HINDI! He stared at me, quite clueless, while I kept explaining my problem. He finally said, “Madam, English, please?” I then realized I was not in India. I had made an absolute fool of myself. That was how my Sri Lankan odyssey began.

I was headed to Kandy where I would be covering the games between England, West Indies, the home team Sri Lanka and New Zealand. We drove down from Colombo to Kandy which took us about 4 hours. Kandy, in contrast to Colombo was lush green; I hadn’t been surrounded by that much of greenery in a long time. We headed straight to the Pallekele stadium to attend England’s training session. The stadium is beautiful and quite different from the ones in India. I have always loved the concept of a lawn-seating-arrangement at stadiums; Pallekele had it.

Kandy was great; the cricket was even better – close games, super overs, Gangnam style dancing and a fantastic atmosphere. I got to witness – in the three days of cricket – what Sri Lankan fervour for the game is. The atmosphere at the grounds was wild; around-the-clock music (through both games), an array of colours in the stands, whacky outfits, maniacal fans and great entertainment. Not to forget, the Sri Lankans, who are extremely amicable and helpful people, who would often even go out of their way to make you feel at home - it was as good as it gets.

Not one day did I actually watch a complete game in Kandy; instead, I was witnessing the genius of various systems in operation. I visited the commentary box, the broadcast and media centers  the ICC office, the hospitality areas, player-dressing rooms, the third umpires lair, watched games from adjacent to the player dug-outs and learned heaps. I learned the different dimensions of organization and the meticulousness of detail required in planning and execution of a tournament of such magnitude.

Over the course of my stay in Sri Lanka, I met quite a few people – current and former cricketers, commentators, producers, directors, etc. I made new friends, socialized with people in and around the industry, people associated with the management and others. I was humbled by the self-effacing bearing and realized that by the end of the day, they want to and some even live like any one of us. We all came from different countries, different upbringing, have different opinions, but we shared the same love for the sport.

I met cricketers and quite a few of them; some of who are very different from the image they portray on the field and some, conflicting. My premeditated opinions about certain cricketers were proved wrong, while strengthened about a few. I wrote about things I never knew existed and pried into the unknown.  I was out of my comfort zone with nobody but a bunch of strangers; I loved it. I then was convinced - for me - meeting new people is an exciting endeavour. Everybody has a story which is different from mine and I loved knowing them. Sometimes I found similarities in the most forlorn places and thought to myself, ’hmm..maybe not so different after all.’ Everyone has dreams, ambitions, despairs and struggles; the only difference lies in the level of perseverance which ultimately is the difference in the outcome. I learned that through the tête-à-têtes I had with all these different people I met.

They usually say that you should only dream the possible, but who defines the possible? We do. I can vouch – not for the first time – that you make your dreams come true if you want them enough. Someone I met on this trip said to me one evening, ‘Sometimes in life you get experiences that make you sit and be thankful and smile.” This was one such experience for me for which I am grateful to MoneyGram; it has been life-changing. Thank you!

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