DURING my college days in the 1970s, students were open to working and earning pocket money. Life was hard and I treasured every penny that I earned. A job as a packer at the Bible Society of India on the upmarket Mahatma Gandhi Road in Bangalore was my maiden job.
Many employees came from the margins. The nine-to-five routine was back-breaking. We hunched over, sitting cross-legged on the floor, right under the unforgiving gaze of the supervisor. The job required us to sort bright-coloured leaflets and literature and bundle them into stacks of a hundred each. Despite the long hours of toil, we only earned Rs 25 for a week’s work.
In stark contrast, working as an usher at the Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium was a joy as one could feel all the excitement. Many fans came armed with cameras, binoculars, autograph books and placards. The authorities paid us Rs 100 for a five-day Test match. We also got freebies such as caps, T-shirts, goodies and Coke. To top it all, one got to watch cricket stars in action without paying for the tickets. The stands were abuzz with enthusiasm and a carnival-like atmosphere prevailed as the cricketers showed their mettle.
Later, I took up a job as a cricket umpire. I received a daily remuneration of Rs 100 whenever I officiated at any tournament conducted by the Karnataka State Cricket Association. Studying the manuals and rule books, I became familiar with the game’s laws and regulations. Inter-school cricket matches came with free lunches and snacks. But the generosity I received never swayed my decision-making.
Cheers and chants echoed around the stadium as St Germain and Frank Anthony, two elite teams, locked horns for the Cottonian Shield at the Bishop Cotton Boys High School grounds. After electing to bat, the St Germain openers were going great guns when misfortune struck.
Their opener sent a square cut thudding against a tree trunk inside the boundary before it ricocheted back into play. The batsman, convinced that it was a four, stopped running and engaged in a mid-wicket conference with the non-striker. But the fielding side, well versed with the rules, swooped on the ball, threw down the stumps at the striker’s end and roared out an appeal. I raised the dreaded finger! The batting team argued, but I was unwavering in my conviction that the tree was within the boundary ropes.
Losing a prized wicket had a domino effect and the team crumbled like a house of cards. The opponents made short work of the target to storm into the final. The openers’ overconfidence cost the losing team dear, and the story could have been different had they consulted the umpires about the rules. With a heavy heart, I bid goodbye to umpiring when I accepted an offer for a bank job.
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