This first-person article is written by Karan Walia, who lives in Richmond, BC. For more information on first-person stories, see frequently asked questions.
Growing up in India, I was a sports fan. It was something that my father, my brother and I bonded over. My father even turned the word “sports” into a kind of family motto: Sincere, Polite, Obedient, Respectful, True, Social. He practically shaped my attitude and it rubbed off on every other sphere of my life as a teenager.
Of all the sports I played and watched, cricket in particular was the one that had my heart. The game really let me live in the moment, where the only thing I cared about for the next few seconds was the sweet sound of a bat hitting the ball.
The games I watched with my father and later with friends occupy a large nostalgic corner of my heart. In 1999, for example, my father got tickets to a famous five-day test match between India and Pakistan. He would clean the windshield of his old Maruti 800 on the misty February mornings, take us early to the then called Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi, where we would queue endlessly for three hours before entering the stadium. . But wow, it was all worth it!
However, like every cricketer’s journey from debut to retirement, I felt that every fan also has a period of time that he or she dedicates to the sport before quitting it. Many desi People I know who have immigrated to Canada told me how their interest in cricket waned over the years. Their fandom went from watching a full eight-hour match of each bilateral series to simply keeping up with highlights from major tournaments.
At the age of 37, having lived in Canada for over three years, I wondered if I, too, was approaching my retirement as a fan. The Cricket World Cup began in India in October with matches starting at 1:30 am PT, making it almost impossible for me to follow all the matches live.
My dad, however, remains as dedicated as ever. He made a video call on a Monday morning while I was getting ready for work and immediately launched into a conversation as if we were revisiting an earlier chat.
“What do you make of that?” When she saw my puzzled face, she clarified. “Can Pakistan reach the total?”
I shrugged my shoulders and told him that I wasn’t following the World Cup because of my work schedule.
Instead of reprimanding me, he smiled and praised me for working hard. Just as he was about to hang up, I remembered to ask him about his meeting with an editor for the memoir he had written.
This time it was his turn to shrug. He said the editor was only available on Saturday when there was a cricket match, so my father postponed the meeting.
“But I’ll send you the manuscript,” he said. “You can be my first reader.”
I was shocked. How could my father so casually choose to watch a cricket match (which he could have recorded) instead of a meeting with that editor he had been chasing for so long?
During my lunch break at the office, I opened an email from my father. It was his 300-page manuscript and the title read: “How Sports Changed My Life.” I didn’t have enough time or concentration to read it then, but just seeing the title was enough to relive my childhood.
It made me realize that maybe I was taking my job more seriously than I needed to. Yes, there are bills to pay and food to buy, but what is life without some passion? And cricket was my passion. It was a passion my dad and I shared and I didn’t want to lose it.
So, I looked up the World Cup schedule and saw when the semi-finals were scheduled to start. Then, I approached my boss and practically announced it to him instead of asking permission.
“I’m taking a week off in November.”
He commented on the short notice and asked if I had any travel plans.
This is where it got complicated. If I invented some urgent need to travel, perhaps I would be more accommodating. But I gathered courage and decided to search for the truth.
“No travel plans,” I said. “The Cricket World Cup is underway and it’s finals week. I want to be able to watch it without thinking about work.”
He laughed heartily. I mustered up the courage to argue that watching cricket was as important to Indians as hockey and basketball are to Canadians, even if it lasts much, much longer. But To my surprise, he had nothing more to say other than enjoy my game and let me know more next time.
Soon after, I created a new WhatsApp group with my father in India and my brother in the US to discuss our views on cricket during live matches. My wife also accompanied me all night during a crucial match. While I had to adjust my sleep schedule, it was worth it to protect my game and family time, and let the cricket fan in me live forever.
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