For Kapil, straight from the heart

For Kapil, straight from the heart

Pramod K Chaudhari

Is Kapil Dev inside?’ ‘Who? Kapil Dev, the cricketer?’ I could not quite get the query. ‘Yes, he is there inside the pool,’ said a swimmer who met me outside the swimming pool of Talkatora Garden in New Delhi many moons ago.

I was in a hurry to go somewhere in Sarojini Nagar, but the thought of meeting an old schoolmate tempted me to again go inside the pool complex where I had gone swimming.

Talkatora pool was a big one divided into several parts when I last visited it for a swim. How come I missed him? Maybe he was not swimming or perhaps was in the pool office, I thought.

The thought of seeing him after ages thrilled me. I again went inside and inched towards two persons sitting at the edge of the pool, sipping a soft drink. As I went near them, I could make out that one was Kapil Dev and the other was Khazan Singh, the swimming ace. ‘Hi! Mr Kapil Dev, how are you?’ I asked, ‘Do you remember that we were together in DAV School, Chandigarh? I stayed in the school hostel. Many a time, I played with you on the school grounds next to our hostel.’

I looked at him for a second and went on, ‘If you cast your mind back, you will remember Mr Khanna was our sports incharge. Do you remember me? Perhaps not! You have become quite a big shot now. Maybe you have forgotten,’ I said all this in one breath.

‘Do you remember everyone from your schooldays?’ Kapil Dev asked. ‘No, not everyone,’ I said naively, forgetting his stature in front of a lowly journalist.

‘Then!’

I just managed to say, ‘I am a journalist. Want to interview you some day.’

‘Meet me here,’ he said. ‘So, you keep coming here?’ I asked. He replied in the affirmative.

After this brief encounter with an old schoolmate, I left.

I will try my best to meet him again for old times’ sake, especially after his heart surgery recently. I still remember the encounter with him in the mid-seventies. I was sitting in the school canteen and he entered and told me to give him a pair of knickers. I was a member of the yoga team and in charge of knickers worn by the team players.

He asked me, ‘Tell Khanna saheb that Kapil has taken the knickers.’

Feeling uncomfortable, I answered, ‘I have a fixed quota of shorts. I cannot give you unless Khanna sir himself tells me.’

The truth was that despite my reasonably good relations with him, hardly anyone knew then that he would become a star one day and rule over the hearts of people around the world.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since I met him. I cherish the last meeting and hope to meet him again.

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