I didn’t even want a mobile phone but, after conceding that my post-Uni employability depended upon being contactable, I caved in and took on my schoolboy cousin’s chunky, silver Ericsson when he upgraded. It worked; I got a job and earned enough money to fly to Bombay to watch the first Test of the 2004 India v Australia series. I’ll always call it Bombay because that’s what it was when I first visited, as a 10 year old, in 1989. The trip was memorable because I got bad diarrhoea and we got stuck at the airport for ten hours on the way home.
Back to 2004. The plan was to stay with a cousin for two weeks, see the sights and watch the Test. My cousin, who had moved out there from London a few years beforehand, will tell you he gave me a bed, took me out and introduced me to his friends. That he did. However, if I tell you that ‘taking me out’ meant watching him work out at Gold’s Gym, you’ll get the idea that he didn’t change his routine much to accommodate me. He didn’t, in fact, change his routine at all.
At least I had the cricket to look forward to. There was talk of my cousin’s friend sorting out some tickets and taking me down there but by day three I realised it wasn’t going to happen and went on my own. The train down to the hilariously-named Wankhede was nice and cool because the carriages were open, like the ones on which American hobos hitch rides. The signage for the stations en-route was in the same style as the London Underground.
At the stadium I bought my 500 rupee (about a fiver) ticket and started queuing. They don’t bother with unnecessary luxuries such as stewards in India – they hire moustachioed coppers with wooden sticks. It was a couple of these who told me I couldn’t take my mobile phone into the stadium – a policy introduced after the Madrid train bombings. My protestations that extortionate roaming mobile charges meant that I couldn’t afford to detonate anything via text message fell on deaf ears, so I asked them what I should do with my weapon of mass destruction. Amazingly, they had no suggestions. There wasn’t even a bush nearby under which to hide it.
The phone was useless in India and worthless back home. It had served its purpose and I hadn’t paid for it. I chucked it away and joined the enthralled masses inside, who were roaring as if it was a rollercoaster T20 rather than a Test.
Except for some reason I didn’t do that. What I actually did was go back to my cousin’s flat, mobile millstone in hand, and watched the match on TV. I’d like to say it was on principle but I don’t think it was. As has been the case for much of my life, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or why.
The pitch was a raging turner, Michael Clarke took a six-for and Tendulkar made a sixty-something that was probably worth more than his many centuries. Australia were spun out cheaply and lost the match. It all happened on that third Day.
A few days later, deciding there was nothing else to detain me in the vibrant, exotic land of my forefathers, I cut short my stay and went home. Another sound decision, I’m sure you’ll agree.
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