The Stroll of Grace
A Seamer’s Googly…
Recently, an incident hijacked my musings—a soul-lifting performance by UB40 for a handful of audience at Pune’s Phoenix Mall. Not even in my dreamiest of moments in the 90s, could I have imagined swaying to the original beats of ‘Red Red Wine’ at a shopping mall in a developing country. The poster boys of yesteryear reduced to the vulnerable nobodies of today!
It made me wonder, which is a tougher climb—uphill or downhill? The will to create our destiny fuels us to climb higher, while accepting our destiny helps us to climb down. The journeys of ‘creation’ are flooded in business journals; the journeys of ‘acceptance’ find their place in spiritual writings. Gifted are those who are able to excel on both sides of the hill. Is there a secret that allows a rare few to handle the two contrasting journeys with an equal grace?
A few weeks ago, I received an impromptu dinner invitation in honor of Kapil Dev from a dear friend. I was semi excited. ‘Excited’ because it is a privilege to meet someone you grew up idolizing; ‘semi’ because at this point of time the idolizing was irrelevant. It was a select group of five. I sat next to the legend. He was relishing an exotic red wine from Bordeaux. I was sipping my mundane single malt. The two disparate glasses and their partakers made an odd pair. As we clinked cheers, I couldn’t help noticing—with some satisfaction— that his stomach bulged a little more than mine. Our ‘North Indian’ command over English was similar … good enough to strike conversations after years of practice, but not enough to make the cut as an English commentator!
It didn’t take long to discover Kapil’s infectious zest for life, and the raw honesty in all his answers. I learnt about his passion for Golf—“The game allows me to improve and compete with myself.” I also learnt about his passion for the ‘lighting’ business he ran—“It’s not very big, but makes me feel productively relevant.” But the moments he looked forward to most were the ones with his daughter. “We are a riot together,” he remarked with a devoted twinkle in his eye.
Clearly Cricket was now a fourth fiddle in Kapil’s life. Unfortunately, his other fiddles didn’t do much for me. I hadn’t come out dining on a weekday to hear about a stranger’s business, social, or personal life. I was here to extract insider gossip from the sporting great.
I changed the topic to his thoughts on India’s prodigy son: Sachin Tendulkar. Kapil fondly pronounced, “When the world sees Sachin, they see a star who conquered it all. What I see is cricket’s grandest, who could have been even greater but for his unwillingness to improvise with time.”
The subject moved to his arch rival: Imran Khan. Kapil smiled, “I had an ideological difference with the sport’s ultimate all rounder. In 1992, Imran became a national hero when he declared to the media—I will bring home the World Cup. I believe it is sinful for a captain to use the word I.”
The discussion moved to India’s rendezvous with destiny—the World Cup win of 1983. “Alumni get-togethers of the winning team must be full of fun and reminiscence,” I enquired. Kapil laughed, “We never socialized after the World Cup win. It was the call of the nation that got us together, and we moved on after lifting the cup together.”
I began to wonder. Here is a person who didn’t build permanent bonds with his teammates, underplayed Sachin’s achievements, and criticized the fabled Imran Khan. Was he bitter about something? Which would be understandable—after all, in the days when Kapil played, Cricket was not commercialized enough. In fact his legendary knock of 175 (after his team was reeling 17/5 against Zimbabwe) that got India into the 1983 World Cup finals did not even get covered on TV!
I tested my hypothesis “Do you feel you were born 20 years too soon?” “Not in my remotest dreams,” Kapil replied, “Life is a circle. I loved the game. I played the game. And I moved on. Each point in my journey has been equally relevant.”
The evening closed with the pic accompanying this blog. I thought of Kapil’s journey as I journeyed back home. And the pieces of the puzzle began assembling.
Most humans coexist in three parallel universes:
The first one is ‘Professional’, the one Kapil tackles with a sense of Duty, be it lifting the World Cup for his country, or keeping himself productively occupied in business even though he doesn’t need the money.
The second one is ‘Social’, the one Kapil approaches with a feeling of Devotion, as reflected in his “I”-less approach towards his teammates as a captain, or his doting moments with his daughter.
The third one is ‘Personal’, Kapil is forever in pursuit of Knowledge to stretch his potential, as deciphered from his observations on Sachin’s accomplishments, or his governing passion behind the game of Golf.
Translated in Vedic terminology—Duty is Karmic, Devotion is Bhakti, Knowledge is Gyan. Together, the three—Karmic Marg, Bhakti Marg, and Gyan Marg—define three paths towards life’s final goal. According to the scriptures, all three paths lead to salvation. We are free to choose whichever path we prefer to pursue.
Unless of course, like Kapil, our journey is not about salvation, but enjoying the journey itself. In which case, we need to master, in parallel, the pursuit of all the three paths at all times! A perfect and perpetual balance of the three spheres—Professional, Social and Personal—is the secret behind Kapil’s ability to handle both sides of the hill with an equally astonishing ease!
Kapil’s journey is rare; in fact there is no uphill or downhill – it’s only a graceful stroll in a leveled park. Perhaps it’s this elegant balance that has catapulted him to a timeless greatness, the one that hurled him ahead of his longtime-teammate Gawaskar and the crowd-favorite Tendulkar to win the “Wisden Indian Cricketer of the Century” award in 2002. As John Woodcock (arguably cricket’s most celebrated journalist), aptly summarized it once, “India has never had another cricketer like him, and quite conceivably they never will!”