He was known to typify the man who walked on the field with swagger, played with flamboyance, and showed ability that borders on genius.
Who can forget his 6 sixes against England during the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa.
But the most enduring memory was Yuvraj Singh, who was often being criticised as a bit of a has been in 2011, come out and play the best cricket of his life. It was not surprising that when Indian became World Champs in 2011 in Mumbai – Yuvraj was the man of the series.
But the saga had just started. News trickled out that Yuvraj had been sick during the tournament. Over the next year, he fought lung cancer and with chemotherapy he survived and beat cancer.
He did not just beat cancer, he managed to get back to cricket and play at the highest level all over again. His international career after his comeback was patchy but is the most inspiring part of his career and a testimony to mental strength and courage.
I discovered this book thanks to a couple of podcasts, I came across. Also a cousin whose taste in books I quite like, highly recommended it.
The podcasts had Atul Gawande, sagaciously explain the issues around caring for the old and infirm. Atul Gawande brings in a lot of data, a lot of empathy and accepts that a lot of medicine is work in progress.
Fair warning, there are plenty of triggers in this book, as it does tackle a difficult topic. The topic of growing old, or falling sick and being mortal.
There are some beautiful and profound insights in the book. The writing is often arresting and sometimes beautiful.
Below is one of my favourites from the book
As our time winds down, we all seek comfort in simple pleasures — companionship, everyday routines, the taste of good food, the warmth of sunlight on our faces. We become less interested in the rewards of achieving and accumulating, and more interested in the rewards of simply being. Yet while we may feel less ambitious, we also become concerned for our legacy. And we have a deep need to identify purposes outside ourselves that make living feel meaningful and worthwhile.
Recently, I watched in bits and pieces, India winning a test match against England on television. I am one of those cricket tragics, who watches only test matches. The rest I feel does not have enough context. I was thinking a bit about why I think of the long form game with such romance. And I remembered a very blurry memory from my childhood.
I remember as a child (and that would be the 80s) getting a haircut from the local barber shop. The cricket match was playing on a grainy television set in the shop. The great West Indies team were hurting the Indian team (sometimes quite literally with their fast bowling attack) but everyone in the barber shop was egging our cricketers along, at the same time praising the opposition’s quality and excellence. My dad having with a general receding hairline had his haircut in a few minutes. Then it would be my turn. Though I love the game of cricket, I preferred the usual soft toned Mohammad Rafi songs that usually saloons played instead of the West Indies bowling at Indian batsman.
Why you might ask?
Well, the guy with scissors would mutter a cautious word to the Indian batsman. Snip, Snip, Snip he would go around my ears and suddenly groan “Play straight, play properly. Don’t throw your wicket away”.
“Yes, please follow your advice. Don’t cut off my ear now” – I wish I had the courage to say that.
That particular day, I hated the cricket great Kapil Dev. He was not the cautious kind. If someone bounced a ball at 90 mph at this head, he was going to hook it out for a six. Sometimes he would miss, sometimes he would flamboyantly smack it out of the ground for six. While it was all riveting, I hated him for making this man with deadly sharp scissors, very excited. Kapil Dev was getting him excitedly shouting sometimes in admonishment and sometimes in pure joy.
After that near death experience at the barber shop, my dad would take me to the nearest provision store and we would share a cold drink. It was always a bottle of Thumsup. Getting a Thumsup after a haircut, was our tradition. Apparently it was older than even before I could begin to form proper words.
We would walk back home and as a family watch a slow moving and detailed drama called Test cricket. Kapil Dev, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall would usually write unusual twists and turns that made watching a whole day’s game worth the time spent.
Back in school, in the 6th grade I had a friend. Actually, calling him a friend today would be not fair on my part. I was never really a friend to him. We sat next to each other for a whole year. I knew him since my kindergarten years. He was known to be a problem child. He would slack off from studies, would not do his homework, often get chastised by teachers, got into fist fights with other boys.
Sitting next to me for a whole year, I never befriended him. He was muslim, he lived in a place in Goregaon known popularly as a glorified slum but labelled as a colony. His life was surely nowhere close to the privilege I had.
This was back in 1992 – 93. Mumbai as a city was swept in riots. He had disappeared for several days. His muslim dominated locality was severely affected. There were many stories of killings and shootouts that had been talked about in school. I was scared if something had happened to him, to his mother and father.
I remember his mother, stoic looking, always worried about her son. He inherited her rosy red cheeks and the resemblance was striking between mother and son. I remember his father, bent, tired and ageing yet his posture showed a proud past.
One day he returned to school. I was happy to see him back. It made me think of his as a friend, as a person, as a human being more than some problematic kid who got into fights.
A couple of weeks after he was back to school, I was hit by a cricket ball. I lost vision for a couple of weeks in my right eye. I missed school for a couple of weeks. When I was back, he warmed up to me and showed a more considerate and caring side of his. We started talking more about life and the world around us.
With an extreme lack of tact and innocence that only a twelve year old could posses I asked him about muslims and how we (read middle class, upper caste Hindus) viewed them. He answered many questions and asked an equal number of them back to me.
But we never really got the time to become long lasting friends. He had a tough time in school. He flunked subjects and had to repeat 6th grade. I moved along to the 7th grade.
Our paths went along different roads. I did say hello to his mother a couple of times, who still had that worried look on her face. But I never saw my friend after school years had passed. I had heard from other friends, that he was still getting into a lot of trouble.
Today, someone told me he was found dead. Somewhere near Goregaon station and he had possibly become an addict. Society will shrug, school friends on their whatsapp groups will say “RIP” and move on to the next meme or joke.
We were sitting on the same bench together for a whole year. Why did I not become friends with him?