Tag Archives: cricket

Batting, Baking and King Chilli Pork

I’m inducted into the creed of cricket and cringe as bandits attack; I’m thanked with pink icing and farewelled with pork.

As well as power cuts and oppressive heat, summer brought the 76-match IPL cricket series.  The Indian Premiere League is apparently the second-highest paid sporting association after the NBA.  Players earn on average US$4 million per year and teams have been sold for over US$300 million, some to Bollywood stars.  I’ve read that 80% of cricket’s global revenue comes from India.

I’m at sixes and sevens when it comes to cricket, but many Indians have said I resemble NZ’s cricket captain Daniel Vettori.  I wouldn’t know.  I hadn’t heard of him before I came.  There’s even a Kiwi or two on the IPL teams.  I thought I should experience the Indian obsession before I leave, and I can almost count it as religious study.  Cricket is practically a creed here.  When Sachin Tendulkar came to visit one front page screamed, “GOD COMES TO TOWN” – only at a second glance did I see the small font “cricket” that came first.  So I joined the boys to watch the gods play live on TV several evenings.

Cricket must be one of England’s most enduring gifts to its former colony and it’s been called an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British, but the IPL hype recalled American football more than leisurely British reserve.  Teams have names like the “Delhi Daredevils”, “Pune Warriors” or “Deccan Chargers”, with logos of roaring lions, a snorting bull or a mounted spearman.  Cheerleaders in miniskirts dance with pompoms.

india-ipl-cricket-teamsMy students taught me the rules, or tried: as one writer said, “baseball is to cricket as simple addition is to calculus”.  I understood enough to share their excitement as the Chennai Super Kings took out the Kolkata Knight Riders with a six in the very last ball.  I savoured the accent of an Aussie commentator, and was surprised by eloquent outbursts from the junior cook, whom I’d thought did not speak English: “Catch, catch, come on… very good, very good catch – three wickets out!…  Oh beauty, what a six, yeah!”  Phrases from years of cricket-watching, I presume.  I shared the frustration when lights and TV died – praying for power to come back, beseeching someone to switch on the diesel generator, texting friends for updates.  At 9 pm, someone from the North replied, it was still 45oC in Delhi.  I’m glad I’d escaped to down here by summer.

I enjoyed the adverts as much as the game, for their snatches of Hindi and humour.  A car drives through a rocky desert on a dark and stormy night.  It is forced to stop where a tree trunk blocks the road.  A gang of fierce bandits swoops down.  Driver and wife quail in terror.  The bandit chief, with a wicked grin, taps on the car window with the butt of his gun.  Electric window slides down a crack.  With an even broader grin the bandit asks in an eager wheedling tone, “What is score?”  Camera zooms in to the built-in TV on the car dashboard. Batsman strikes and crowd erupts and bandits group around to watch: it’s the latest feature of car model X.

One morning in the last week of English teaching, as the wives and children of students arrived for the coming semester, I found a baby bat trembling on the curtain of my classroom.  It flew off once gently bumped onto the windowsill.  For our farewell party, the lady teachers baked peanut brownies, chocolate chip biscuits and cupcakes with pink raspberry icing.  The smell reminded me of home.  The class presented us each with a hand-made card and a group photo with warm thanks, although some admitted of our Kiwi accents that: “the first few days I couldn’t get much because of adjusting pronunciation.”

kiwi-cookiesIn the final days of teaching, I had a little Bangalore belly, my only sickness here.  The other teachers covered my classes while I studied the tiles of my bathroom and made occasional excursions to bed.  I’d read that Indians love to play doctor and it seemed to be true.  For my stomach, one student prescribed gulab jamun, a desert made from balls of milk powder soaked in sweet syrup, or maybe lemon juice.  Another said that sleeping under a fan with a bare stomach is bad for digestion – I always do!  A third recommended I try bananas and avoid jackfruit.  Several expected me to be dosing up on drugs.  I took my own prescription of dry crackers or toast and Marmite, with glasses of the orange-flavoured rehydration mixture my Auckland doctor had prescribed – almost the only item of my medicine box that I used except for daily malaria tablets – and a day later things were looking up.

On most weekends students from the Northeast states prepared their chilli pork special, so hot it made their own noses run.  On my final evening, I helped Worchihan cook it in the male students’ kitchenette.  For chefs among my readers, here’s the formula:

Ingredients: pork, onions, garlic, ginger, salt, turmeric, and chilli powder from local markets.  King chillies and fermented bamboo shoots from the Northeast.

Instructions: Peel and slice onions, garlic and ginger, then crush with mortar and pestle.  Combine all ingredients and cook for an hour or two.  Do not add water.

In the cramped room, in long sleeves with trousers tucked into my socks to keep off mosquitoes, it was sweaty work. While we peeled and cut and crushed, Surendra entertained us with his guitar – Amazing Grace et al. – and with music on his phone.  “This is when we have fun”, said Worchihan once the pot was bubbling away: time to relax and chat, shaking the saucepan every five minutes to mix and avoid burning.  They helped me identify words in Bollywood songs and Hindi Christian choruses, before dancing to the Back Street Boys and Justin Bieber’s “Baby Baby Baby”.

chilli-pork-specialThen up to the TV room for the interstate cricket semi-final of Delhi vs Chennai.  The last Delhi batter went out around 10:30pm and we trooped back down for pork and rice.  The spicy pork was a slight gamble with my recovering stomach but too good to miss, and despite my contribution it didn’t disappoint.  Except for Kevi, who complained that we’d only added four king chillies: there’d be a better taste with eight.

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Rioting Colour: Movies and Mayhem on Holi

I’m bombarded by colourful threats and left red-faced; I’m rejected by Bollywood but star in cricket; I meet a pimp and hot chicks, pink drunks and purple pups.

Today was International Women’s Day.  Newspaper articles honoured female Indian leaders and deplored on-going problems.  A recent Hindustan Times survey found 91% of Delhi women have experienced sexual harassment, which Indians euphemistically call Eve-teasing.  Two thirds of women find public transport unsafe, few have complained to police and nearly three-quarters who do have found them unhelpful.

Today was also Holi, the Indian festival of colours that celebrates the start of spring.  Over the last few days street stalls sold vibrant packets of powders and dyes, and all manner of water pistols.  Plastic pipe-and-plungers were built like the bamboo rods I saw in an 18th-century painting of Holi.  “Machine guns” hold 6 litres of ammunition.  Figurines pee spray when pressed.  I read of upper-class parties with swimming pools of coloured water.

holi-colors-marketNewspapers exhorted dye-fighters to purchase safe organic colours, not cheaper industrial dyes – made from nice substances like lead, mercury, asbestos or other toxins – that may permanently stain clothing, damage skin, hinder breathing, cause poisoning or even blindness: that charming glitter comes from powdered glass.  My SpiceJet magazine showed how to make your own eco-friendly colours from natural substances.  Crush black grapes and tomatoes for purple and red, dry and crush Marigold and Jacaranda petals for yellow and blue, mix henna powder with spinach paste for green.  It recommended smearing face and hair with coconut oil or petroleum jelly to protect your skin.  Papers carried big adverts for washing powder.

The Hindustan Times said laws against psychoactive drugs are relaxed at Holi and warned against overdosing on sweets and drinks containing cannabis bhang.  It also warned of eye injury from high-speed balloons: don’t try to clean your eye as contaminated water can cause infection, but just shut it tight and rush to the nearest hospital.  I visited a Toastmasters club the night before Holi and heard more tales of wild intoxication.  One speaker feared the hazardous holiday and planned to stay at home.  After all this build-up, I faced the big day with both anticipation and trepidation.

At my hotel breakfast this morning, two enthusiastic American women had already smeared each other and were keen to initiate others.  I consented and sallied into the fray with reddened hair, cheeks, beard and shirt.  Countless cheerful “happy Holi!” greetings from locals delighted to see a foreigner participating.  Now and then a guy gently topped up my smears with red powder, which I’d read was the most safe and wash-outable.

Everything was closed for the public holiday and the metro didn’t run until the afternoon when most of the action is over, so I wasn’t sure what to do.  An auto-rickshaw driver offered a lift into town at a dirt cheap rate.  As his first customer of the day, he smiled, I’d bring good luck.  I’ve heard this line before and, as I suspected, he took me for a ride all the way to his mate’s emporium.  I refused to enter and endure high-pressure sales tactics, thanked him for the ride, consulted my compass and headed for Connaught Place.  I’d retreated in defeat on my first night (see here) so thought I’d take it back by day.

The circle was almost deserted.  Then a man darted across the road in desperation, dodged oncoming cars and leaped into a moving bus.  “Cut!”  The vehicles reversed a block, and then it all happened again.  The film crew waved me away – the fools didn’t want a skinny kiwi in red sunhat to grace their Bollywood blockbuster, although teenage guys take photos with me everywhere I go: I must be a Hindi Facebook sensation!

I joined the assorted spectators, their clothes blotched in assorted colours.  Another ear cleaner approached, cotton buds stuck in cap, and flourished a note book of references from satisfied customers.  He even had one from NZ.  He was eager to investigate my otological condition – “No touch, just looking!” – but I was having none of that.

holi-colorsOn a corner by my local metro station between drink-vending carts is a tiny mosque you’d almost miss if you blinked.  I popped in after the Bollywood action and 8 Muslim boys befriended me.  They were 10-13 years old and live here to study the Koran.  Good Muslims don’t participate in Holi so they were bored and enjoyed my broken Hindi attempts to chat.  Then I was ushered out to the parking lot behind the Metro, given a bat-shaped plank and placed before a concrete slab with stones balanced on top for bails.  The lads cheered valiantly when I finally hit the tennis ball before it hit my wicket.

My friendliest Hindi experience yet was followed by the worst.  A dozing guy hailed me as I farewelled the lads.  After greeting him I clumsily asked, “Do you have boys and girls?”  Most people are proud of their offspring.  When I asked the rickshaw driver the same question that morning, he had happily enumerated the ages of his kids.  This guy’s response seemed to be different.  I shook my head in puzzlement and he resorted to a visual aid.  Curling one hand into a loose fist, he thrust his other index finger in and out.  It dawned on me that he was offering a youngster for less savoury pursuits than cricket.

I played the dumb foreigner – no comprendo – and escaped to the metro, now open, and sped off to another market for the afternoon.  One courtyard was lined with cages of live chickens and boiling pots of dead ones.  The ground was covered in carcasses, blood, feathers and flies.  I was tired and hungry but scenes like this made me unsure what was safe to eat.  I found a small general store and bought a pack of digestive biscuits and another of chips.  So many of the highs and the lows in India revolve around the stomach and food.  Sometimes I eat like a king, with a bottomless delicious platter for three dollars; sometimes I spend the day in a fascinatingly aromatic market where all visible fodder swarms with flies and I’m forced to fast.  Perhaps that’s appropriate in Lent.

In the market maze I saw statues of Shiva and Krishna.  These gods mostly have blue bodies, which was most fitting for Holi.  I was still coloured red and amiable drunks with pink hair and lurid faces shook my hand.  Bright splotches on the footpath marked the scene of morning bombardments.  The streets were roamed by green and purple dogs.