Travel Blog 3# – My First IPL (CSK vs SRH at Pune, Maharashtra)

You Americans have your NFL, your NBA and your baseball. And then there are all those football clubs with fans all over the world who worship either Ronaldo or Messi. But here in India, we’re all about the cricket. One of my very first posts on this blog all those years ago when I started writing, was about cricket. I’m not much of a sports person. I enjoy the outdoors and the fun in games. But the passion for cricket has nothing to do with that. Cricket is something that brings every Indian family together and that’s why it’s become so important to so many of us. Cricket is something I share with my Dad who I have a very close relationship with. Going to this game with him was a wonderful experience altogether. I’m always up for some father-daughter bonding. 😀

The World cup games are serious. There’s a lot riding on them. The Indian Premier League or IPL is the fun version of this battle. We have several teams that consist of local Indian as well as foreign players from countries like Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa. There are 8 teams currently and each team is named after a particular city. These teams are owned by companies and individuals. These matches are often friends battling each other for the esteemed IPL cup. And this is what makes it extra fun. Who wouldn’t love to watch the Indian Cricket team fight against each other when we’re so used to watching them play together in the World cup and T20 series games?

I’m from Tamil Nadu so naturally the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are the ones who represent my state. But the fans of CSK are spread throughout the country because the captain of CSK happens to be the most beloved ex-captain of the Indian Team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He’s not just a great cricketer, he’s known for his humbleness and overall character. Having witnessed all that in person I can vouch for him myself. “Captain Cool” as we call Dhoni, is the nation’s favourite. And so CSK has the biggest fan base in the country.

Going to a home game of their favourite team is something any sports lover would enjoy. And this wasn’t just any home game. This was a home game against our biggest competitor – The Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) . It was undoubtedly the most epic evening of my life.

All the flights from Coimbatore (where I live) to Pune had terrible timings. So I departed at around 2:45 AM early in the morning. It was a long night. And after that, the next day, we put all the woes of uncomfortable travelling aside and set for our journey to the stadium where the match was going to take place. Just before we got into the taxi we were joined by some unwelcome guests who decided to “share” our ride without really being invited.

The crampy ride in the tiny car only got worse with the increasing traffic. I did not expect the roads to be so shitty and I definitely did not expect for the driver to be shittier. The IPL is played for 20 overs with each over having 6 balls. Each team bats for 20 overs with the other team bowling and they try to beat each others score. CSK won the toss and decided to bat second so it was SRH that batted first. We literally missed the first 8 overs of SRH’s batting. I was vexed and heart broken. The game was also going very bad for our team during these overs. So it was not looking very good. We spent a lot of money on this trip for just two days for one game. It wasn’t even all about the money. It’s not fun when it seems like you might be losing your first game.

Did I mention the shitty roads? We got to the stadium after ages and even after that we had to walk through piles of stones and garbage to get to the actual stadium entrance. The whole path was laid out so poorly and managed inefficiently. It’s a miracle we even got to the entrance without getting trampled. You’d wonder why the Chennai Super Kings had their home ground at Pune instead of Chennai, the city it is named after. Well that is because of some annoying politics and gullible people who follow the words of those politicians and caused misguided riots at the stadium in Chennai. So due to security concerns the matches at Chennai were moved to Pune.

I was mad at everyone. Starting from the unwelcome guests who shared our ride, our shitty driver who had no skill to even switch between lanes, and the idiots who caused the riots and moved the match so far away to Pune which had the worst stadium at the worst possible location.

As mad as I was, it was all replaced by awe and excitement as soon as we entered and got to our seats. We had AMAZING seats. I was right behind the bench where our players sat. We were so close to the ground. I’ve never seen so many celebrities at once in my life. And they were so good at the game.

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SRH batting at the Maharastra Cricket Association Stadium

The first thing I noticed was how tiny the ground actually was. It might look big in this picture and it always looked huge to me on TV too. But in person, I’ve got to say. Not at all what I expected. And the players were HUGE. Compared to the normal sized umpires they were like giants. Dhoni especially.

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The Chennai Super Kings retreating from the ground after they’ve finished bowling.

The first half of the game was over soon. It was not at all looking good for us. All we could do was stay optimistic. SRH has been playing really well this season. They’ve defended scores as low as 118 to victory. But this time they had set a high target of 180. It seemed like a very easy game for them to win.

We were seated behind the bench and in front of the players lounge. So if they needed refreshments or even a place to sit they had to come behind us and our row could see them up close. Most of the time people were just sat turned around staring at the lounge instead of the actual game and some newbie players like Lungisani Ngidi really seemed to love the attention. Then there were some like Jadeja and Bravo who ignored their devoted fans like they were somehow beneath them. I guess all that cheering gets annoying after you’ve been famous for so long. They could have also not wanted to distract the audience from the actual game. And then there was Dhoni. The poor guy was ducking for cover from his fans who managed to spot him through the glass walls of the lounge. They kept chanting his name as if that would make him come out. After he realised they weren’t going to stop he gave them a quick wave and ducked back into cover to make sure he wasn’t stealing any attention.

The thing is no matter how hard he tried to avoid it, he got all the attention. It was hilarious sometimes. An entirely different player would have scored a six and the entire crowd still chanted Dhoni’s name like him sitting in the chair was a bigger accomplishment than Shane Watson’s 6. I felt bad for the other guys sometimes. But towards the end of the game I kind of realised why Dhoni has such a religious following. His number 7 jersey was the most popular outfit that every single CSK fan had on.

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Dhoni’s number 7 jersey everywhere.

The crowd went wild every single time one of the players hit a six or a four. They went even wilder when someone scored a wicket. The went WILDEST when the cameras were directed their way. Everyone wanted a bit of the limelight. 😀 The best way to get yourself caught on camera is to make a lot of noise and bust out some moves.

The second half of the game with CSK’s batting was very intense. There was a thin line between winning and losing and everyone was on the edge of their seats. At that nerve wrecking moment, Dhoni’s powerful strike which landed an amazing six sent the crowd wild. It was the highlight of the match and it honestly made all the troubles of getting there worth it. Because I got to see it in person.

The match went on in a much more positive way than it started out for us. And somehow our guys managed to pull a victory out of their hats. I felt like I was a part of something huge. Something bigger than myself. There were tens of thousands of people supporting their respective teams in unison by executing crowd waves and perfectly coordinated chants. To belong. Isn’t that what we all want? Sports is the best way to do just that.

We were in the last and final moments that decided whether we were going to win or lose. Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu were the two batsman in the field and Ambati was very close to a 100. It was Dhoni’s turn to bat and he could have easily hit a six and finished the game early. But that’s not what he did. He wasn’t just famous for his amazing shots. He was an even better person than he was an amazing cricketer. He hit a single run and gave Ambati the chance to hit his maiden century and only when he was done hitting his century, Dhoni finsihed the game with the final shot.

This is what the people love. Ambati was the one who hit a hundred runs but the crowd loved Dhoni more for being the kind of person who would give his opportunity to someone else, a budding player like Ambati to help him reach greater heights in his cricket career.

The match had the perfect ending where we won. It was a great moment. After that the crowd started fanning out and the stadium got quite empty.

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The Maharastra Cricket Association Stadium after the match

The media was getting it’s statement from the important players of the match and everyone was congratulating Dhoni. He treated them all alike. Right from the rich businessmen who sponsored him , to the reporters and even the low level maintenance guy who cleaned the ground after the game.

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The Reception Banner for CSK outside the stadium

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Sweaty, dirty but happy me ft. a CSK cap.

This was a game to remember. I’m officially a Dhoni fan. Not that I wasn’t one before but I’m even more sold on the guy now. I never in a million years thought I’d have the time to go to a game. I’m glad I did. It was a “Legend—–wait-for-it——-dary” kind of night.

– The Obsessive Writer

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Travel Blog #2 – My College trip to Mysore, India.

It was an emotional time both because it was going to be my last college trip and also because I was having a hard time with life in general.

I was and still am so busy with college. That’s why I haven’t been writing as much as I used to. I’ll be back here in a few weeks time. And well, this trip was a very welcome break. I was quite reluctant to take it at first and I might have even been quite salty during the trip 😀 but I’m glad I did.

If you’re wondering why I was salty, just imagine sharing a hotel room with your TEACHER. Yikes. It was too much information for me to be around to watch her bodily functions and the happenings of her personal life. 😐 Listening to my teacher talk to her mother on the phone while in our room totally changed my perspective on her. She was this strict, authoritarian professor who took no shit from no one. But getting all up close and personal has made her a lot more human in my eyes. She’s not THAT bad I guess.

There was some epic class bonding as always. People who had their noses buried in books all day let loose and tried to have fun. It was nice seeing a different side to everyone. It always happens I guess. When a group of people are thrust together and forced to coexist, they go from classmates to friends. Survival buddies if you will.

For those of you who do not know, Mysore is a city rich in culture and vast beauty. It has marvelous architecture. Maybe even some of the best you’ll see in India.

We went to the Mysore Palace. The royal family still lives here. It was like an underrated Taj Mahal of sorts.

And then we went to the head quarters of Infosys at Mysore. It’s a software company. And it put the palace to shame. Have a look and you’ll understand why!

I don’t understand in what world people get to work in places like this. I mean, if it were me. I wouldn’t be able to sit inside and look at a computer screen all day. I’d probably be out in the campus all day gawking at how beautiful everything looks.

So if you ever go to Mysore, whether you visit the palace or not, make sure you visit the Infosys headquarters. 😀

We also went to the zoo. It was hilarious because we were way too old for a place like that. 😀 But I love animals so I didn’t really mind.

– The Obsessive Writer

Travel Blog #1 – Dubai

To be even typing this, I am ecstatic. This is the feeling of finally living a life long dream. For 19 years I have dreamt, and waited patiently for my opportunity to trot around the globe. And it came in the most unexpected way : my mother’s midlife crisis. What else do you call it when your mother of 50 wakes up one day and starts travelling across the country(India)? I could not join her on most of those trips because of college. But for this one I somehow made time and things just fell into place for my first trip abroad.

We were unprepared and excited, and I’ve come to realise that it’s a great combination if you’re looking for some adventure.

We landed in UAE, Dubai. on the 13th of October. I was rudely woken up by the flight attendant at around 4 AM. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to wake up! The first hour went in just taking it all in. It was all smiles and sunshine till the hunger kicked in and our tour guide still hadn’t shown up to take us to our hotel. Then the stark realisation that we had no means of communication made things worse. We didn’t get a SIM card that would work in Dubai, and apparently talk time is pretty darn expensive there. But it really didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to be able to ask for some words of advice from my Dad at this terrible hour. But I never got to do that. I ended up eating at the airport. The double chocolate muffin sort of turned things around and I saw a little clearer.

We finally found our guide at around 8 after four hours of waiting. He unapologetically informed us that we couldn’t check in to our hotel until 2 PM. The tour company’s carefully thought out plan was to show the tourists around Dubai WITHOUT SHOWERING OR GETTING ANY SLEEP. What you’d probably know about me by now is that I am hot-headed and a control freak so things were not going very well for me with this whole lack of organisation. But the City made it all go away..

There were underwater bridges, and palm shaped Islands. I saw buildings that could almost touch the sky and white sandy beaches that stretched out into the beautiful coastline. And oddest of all, trees in the middle of a desert. I had never seen anything so surreal in my life. We drove around Sheikh’s palace and all the beautiful buildings on the Dubai Skyline. In those moments I was a child again, seeing the world for the very first time.

This trip had a lot of bumps. For instance, it wasn’t part of out tour package to visit the Burj Khalifa. (For those of you who don’t know it’s the tallest building in the world.) I was extremely dejected that we couldn’t get the tickets to go. It was the lack of communication that hit me hard at times like that. Then, we got lost often and we couldn’t easily find our way back because I didn’t have GPS without a SIM card. Let’s not even talk about the terrible service in the restaurant in the hotel we were staying in. I was pretty miserable. After the city tour, going to the mall was a big let down. There’s nothing adventurous about a bunch of outlet stores.

What I learned in time (thankfully) is that I could survive on my own if I tried. Even in a different country. Even without a cell phone. I ended up tracking down an agent and going to the Burj Khalifa the very next day. I honestly felt like someone who had just climbed Everest. It was exhilarating. Standing on top of the Burj, I felt as high as I was. It wasn’t just the view, it was also the pride in having found my own way there. It might seem silly to you but I’ve never really done anything on my own. I’ve been protected my whole life. This was my first taste of freedom. and I LOVED it.

The desert safari was another touristy thing that I enjoyed on the night of the second day. The thrilling drive was just the beginning. It was a night of meeting these new amazing people. Right from the Camel herder to, the Emirati (a local) who drove our jeep, none of them failed to amaze me. I never thought I could relate to a Camel herder on selfie skills. Seriously. And watching my first ever sunset in the desert was incredible! It was truly a night to remember.

When I woke up on the third day, little did I know that things would take such an unexpected turn. Did you know that Dubai is a hub for illegal first copies of branded goods? One morning, we were walking down a shopping street when a man suddenly approached us asking if we wanted brands for less. Having watched my share of the Sex in the City movies I nodded along. I did not think it would be that cool but it was!!! I won’t lie that it wasn’t scary. We stood in a dark alley with men talking in hushed tones carrying sacks from one room to another. For a minute there, it felt like the beginning of a bad horror movie. Then they took us to an apartment in the back with piles and piles of bags, watches and purses in Coach and Jimmy Choo! I’m pretty sure I even saw a few Rolex’s just like in the movie. I got a few things just to remind myself that I went where Carrie Bradshaw did! Pretty damn cool for my first overseas trip, I’d say. 😀 But I don’t think it’s as illegal as they made it seem in the movie because no one really cared that much about busting them.

We also got a glimpse of Abu Dhabi the capital of UAE the next day. It was much bigger than Dubai, and the people seemed richer. But it was quiet and residential. I prefer the aura of a busy City to suburbia. I got to wear a burka and everything to enter a sacred mosque which was extremely cool! 😀 The whole building was filled with an eery silence and it smelled sterile. I spent around 5 minutes at each pillar photographing the intricate carvings. I’ve never seen anything so beautifully crafted, and I don’t think I ever will. You’ve got to hand it to the Arabs for their craftsmanship.

After a tiring day of roaming around Abu Dhabi I eagerly awaited the cruise that had been planned for the night for some long over due relaxation. The Dhow cruise was indeed memorable but not in the way you’d expect. I went on board a leaky ship with dreams of getting a perfect view of the skyline with the lights and everything. Instead, the cruise was in an area with virtually NO buildings. Or anything except for the other sad boats that were floating around. The tour company had failed us once again. But it was almost the last day and our tour group was so exasperated that we ended up laughing so hard at our own plights. We were at this point where nothing more could go wrong. The on board entertainment wasn’t all that bad. A man wearing colourful skirts twirled around and around in circles until everyone but him felt dizzy, that was his talent of choice. I guess you can literally make money out of anything if you tried hard enough.

The last and final day, I decided to just do everything I possibly could and say good bye to the beautiful Dubai city. I got to see dolphins for the first time. I dearly missed my dog each time the dolphin did a trick and looked to its trainer with excitement, for approval. I’m pretty sure I teared up. But it was a good feeling. The first thing I did when I came home was hug my dog. It’s funny that it was my dog I missed the most during this trip.

When I thought I’d seen everything, I was in for a treat on my last evening there. I fell in love with their cuisine. It is what I miss the most right now. What I would give for a bite of Arabian Shawarma, or a taste of Pakistani biriyani. It was a shame that I only discovered my love for their food on the last day. Till that I never had time and ended up eating in the hotel we were staying in which had a pathetic excuse for a restaurant.

The flight back home was bittersweet. I was coming back home, where things felt more in control. But I knew that I’d miss that uncertainty and the excitement that came with getting lost in a foreign country. Getting lost is truly how you find yourself. If you’re reading this, you’ll probably wonder whether or not I’m happy about the trip. Well thats the thing. Everything in life comes packaged with the good and the bad. It can be a trip, or something else you’ve wanted for a long time. When you actually get it, I can guarantee that it won’t just be what you imagined. There will be ups and downs. When you’re open to the lessons life has planned, it’s hard not to have a good time.

– The Obsessive Writer.