Monday, 23 November 2009

Of Kanpur, Woolmer and a rickshaw straying down memory lane

Kanpur can be cruel in April. And it did not make an exception in 2005.

The dust, dirt, soot and dung flies. Frentic autowallahs with a hand on the horn and a foot on the brake.

Desperate bikers, tilting their vehicle and bobbing their head to make a mockery of the railway crossing.

Pedestrians crossing the remnants of a road with outsize bags in their hand and a prayer on their lip.

Chimneys dotting the skyline belching poison. Air is thick and the heat saps you.

For a man of his shape and size, Bob was panting, trying to squeeze his bulky frame into the choc-o-bloc ward of the Georgina McRobert Memorial Hospital. He was returning after 57 years to collect his birth certificate.

I could not resist pushing the doctor in front to peep into the certificate. The exact time read 2.15 a.m. on May 14, 1948.

Bob shook hands with everyone. He sweated profusely but the heat and discomfort could not sap him of that illuminating smile.

Amused patients got fruits and flower. Kids even a pat on their head. Bob then fished out a jersey, signed by the Pakistani players, and asked the authorities to auction it.

Bob promised he would come again. He did not.

Instead, his corpse was found in a far away Kingston hotel in 2007.

India plays Sri Lanka tomorrow. I suspected my rickshawallah wasn't sure he knows the way to my hotel and he doesn't let me down. The moron on pedal has dutifullly bungled it and I've strayed into an alien area.

To be honest, not exactly alien since I first visited Georgina McRobert Memorial Hospital in 2005.

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