SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Itinerant sports reporters usually tag along with their compatriots during assignments on foreign shores, partly because of the chummy nature of sports journalists but also because it makes sense, i.e. it is paisa vasool.
Newspapers and magazines pay a decent-enough per diem these days, but it’s never enough to enable each reporter to go out on his own and do stories without blowing a big hole in the expense account. So sharing a cab, rooming together, splitting meals, etc, is par for the course.
Most times, such clubbiness results in identical stories on the same day. Sometimes, it can result in hilarious situations, like it did with three cricket writers covering India’s tour to the West Indies: Bharat Sundaresan of the Indian Express, K. Shriniwas Rao of The Times of India, and Amita Gupta of Bangalore Mirror.
In Port of Spain, Trinidad, the three of them decide to gatecrash into the great Brian Lara‘s home in St. Clair. And, well, each can only hope that their readers do not read the accounts of their partners!
Hear it in their own words:
Bharat Sundaresan: “On Tuesday, I meet the latest in the line of fascinating cab drivers…. Without second thoughts, I ask Clifford to take me to Chancellor Hill, the private hillock on which Lara’s house is located…. It’s around 7 in the night.
“Led by Clifford, we walk up to the main gate. It takes only one press off this buzzer for the light to come on behind the curtains. I hold my breath. The door opens. It’s the man himself….
“‘We’re a bunch of Indian journalists, Brian. We just wanted to come in and see your house and see how the Prince of Trinidad lives,’ I shout elatedly…’Oh, I just had an event at home and the house is in a mess. Or else I would have certainly invited you boys in. Sorry,’ he says.
“‘Oh, that’s all right, Brian. Thanks, anyway,’ I reply.”
Shriniwas Rao: “Oh yeah, he lives on top of that hill, there,” says the cab driver, pointing to one of the many hills that stand between the island of Trinidad and the Atlantic Ocean. “But which hill?” I ask. “It’s a private hill, man. It’s for the super rich,” says a shopkeeper.
“So, I hail a cab and along with a couple of other scribes, ask the driver to show me the Prince’s house…. We press the buzzer half a dozen times. Finally, the lights come on and the door opens at last. “Yeah, who’s that?”
“‘We’re Indian journalists,’ we blurt out in excitement and add embarrassingly… ‘We came to see your house.’
“Lara doesn’t know how to answer that. He’s shocked someone can just walk into his house, ring the bell, wake him abruptly and say he wants to see the house. But he’s kind. To our utter surprise, he actually considers the request for a few seconds and says, ‘I’m sorry but I had an event here and it’s actually quite messy inside.’
“‘It’s okay. Please don’t bother. We’ll come some other time,’ we tell him. Sheepishly, we get back into the cab and Lara walks back in.”
Amit Gupta: “Three of us — myself and two other journalists — were at Port of Spain’s main square. Our cabbie, a man of Indian origin, was so amicable that we could have a free conversation…. Instantly, we decided that we were going to Brian Lara’s house….
“We buzzed about four-five times, there was no response. But my friends spotted another door bell at the big gate too. We decided to take a chance.
“This time someone switched on the light in one of the rooms. The door swung open and it was the great man himself.
“Dressed in shorts and a half-shirt, the man with 11, 953 Test runs asked us: ‘Yes, who is this?’ One of us answered: ‘We are a bunch of Indian journalists who have come to see your house.’ The small pause gave us hope that the legend would ask us to come in. That was wishful thinking. ‘It’s a bit of a mess inside. I had an event here, so may be some other time,’ Lara said.
“We didn’t insist otherwise. After all we had no business knocking his door. But our evening was made. Brian Charles Lara opening the door for us. Imagine something like this happening with foreign journalists at Sachin Tendulkar’s place. Just no chance.”
Photograph: courtesy Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday