He stood at the gates of Heaven. He was happy. He had lived a contented life till the age of seventy-eight. It was then that one day during the shooting of his movie “Kahin Toh Mera Pyar Hoga” opposite the granddaughter of yesteryear actress Madhuri Dixit, that his heart missed one too many beats during the song “Yeh dil kyon dhak dhak dhadakta hain”.
The nation had gone into mourning, Times of India blackened out its front-page and Dev Anand and Hangal had spoken touchingly, to the cameras, about what a great man he had been.
He turned around. Standing behind him were a bunch of farmers who had committed suicide a few decades ago but were still there, looking forlorn lost and desolate, outside the gates.
‘God probably doesnt know they are there’, he thought. ‘After all he only reads Mid-Day.’
But the fact that he had arrived at Heaven’s door was well-known. The gates had a huge poster that said “Welcome King Baazigar.” In the distance, he heard a remix of “Dard-e-disco” being played by the angels who, as we all know, have long since abandoned their harps for DJ stations.
Presently a man stood in front of him. Old, bespectacled in a rather dirty dhoti, he was holding a clipboard and just looking up at him.
“Are you God?” he asked.
“No I am not. I am just the guy you need to pass in order to go to Him.”
“Oh hello then.”
‘My name is Chitro Gupto, a Bengali from Kolkata. Now here is where you have a problem. You see, I am the person who decides whether you can even meet God. In other words, I have the power to make you wait for a million years right here. It’s not a coincidence that I also work at Writer’s Building, the seat of Bengal’s administration in my spare time.’
‘Kolkata. Oh no. I am so….Please it’s the whole Knight Riders thing isn’t it?’
‘Yes of course. In three years of IPL’s existence, we were the only team that never made it to the semi-finals. And for that, I as a Kolkatan, demand an answer.’
‘Mmm…I mean…it’s a game…I mean honestly….pyar ka har mor asaan naheen hote, jeet ke haarne waalon ko Agarkar kahete hain….’
‘Please. Your dialogs won’t work here. Listen to me carefully. In 2008, while other franchises assembled a team with the express aim to win games, you created a squad so as to appeal to the Pakistani market—-with crazy buys like Shoaib Akthar, Salman Butt and Mohammed Hafiz. More criminally, knowing that batting is the heart of T20, you did not take a single top 15 Indian batting star—not a single one. This left you to depend critically on foreigners for batting power, who you were not allowed to play more than four of.
And then in 2009, even after a disastrous season 1, while other franchises like Bangalore rectified their team situation you chose to now target the Bangladeshi market buying for 650,000 USD a player who you played for one match where he gave 21 runs in the last over. Finally in 2010, you just went ahead and bought a has-been fast-man on pitches where pace-varying bowlers were seen reaping the most benefit. You never cared for our city. I spent so much money on buying the official KKR jersey and then you changed it so that you can milk us again. In the meanwhile you tried to get the name Kolkata dropped from the franchise name—the only owner who tried to ditch his city, a city which reciprocated by packing in stadiums even for your dead rubbers. Sorry sir. You only existed to make money.’
He scowled. The urge to shake his lips and make his eyes red was immense. But he couldn’t make this dude angry.
‘First of all sir with due respect, IPL isnt about winning. It is about sweating for equity. It is about making money. The competition is not between Knight Riders, Daredevils and Super Kings. No it is Nokia vs Karbon vs Maxx Mobile. The only heavenly presence in IPL is the MRF blimp that floats above and even the Lord’s name would not be uttered unless he got a company to sponsor the word. So let’s first get this “winning-losing” thing out of the picture.
Second, when you say I didnt care for the city, among all the franchisee owners I spent the most amount on that blasted team. I got that wretched Buchanan based on some nut’s recommendation—-I remember his exact words of endorsement “What you are to acting, Buchanan is to coaching.” It was two seasons later that I realized that ass was being tongue-in-cheek. But by that time I was paying through my nose to support Buchanan and his extended family—all of whom he had hired as expert consultants. Then next season I got Wasim Akram—WhatMore could I do?
Third, I just had some rotten luck. Every player be it Gayle, McCullum or Hussey, the moment they appeared for KKR. they would hit the nadirs of their form. All other franchises had their stars and their dodos. I only had the latter. We were just a black hole for talent.
And lastly, and I hesitate to say this because I know I may be shooting myself in the foot here, it was Dada who should get a lot of the blame. The man would come out to open and score at a strike rate of 110 match after match when other openers in other teams would be going at 170 in the first few overs. Dada was playing big shots true but he was wasting too many balls, moving legside and not rotating the strike. When the ball was the hardest and coming onto the bat on slow Indian pitches, we lost deliveries thanks to his inability to get off strike and consistently hit boundaries.’
Chitro Gupto looked angry. It was then that he noted a wrist-band on Chitro Gupta’s hand which said “Dada Forever”.
‘Hah. If you had only bothered to select some decent Indian batsmen to follow then Dada wouldnt have to take the responsibility of anchoring the innings. Look at the record books. Even at a strike rate of 110, he was the most consistent batsman for your team. Your strike-rotators and big hitters, great as they must have been, were cooling their heels in the dugout since they rarely lasted more than three overs. Maybe if Dada could have been able to trust those who came after him, he would have been able to open up. We never found out did we?
In 2010, you must have realized the mistake of your selection. When the ICL players were available, you had a chance to rectify the situation of the lack of quality Indian batsmen. What did you do? You let the best ICL performers—R. Satish, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Ambati Rayadu be taken by other teams. By mistake perhaps, you did buy one half-decent guy named Ganapathy Vignesh. Yet you never once played him. Instead you played your other ICL star—-Rohan Gavaskar who was not called to bowl and batted after the bowlers.’
He stayed silent. It was futile arguing with this guy. So he tried another track.
‘Come on sir. Don’t you know I was only doing God’s work at the IPL. Didn’t God say “Take in those that are weak and you shall obtain mercy.” I took in Akash Chopra and Sanjay Bangar. Didn’t God say “Embrace those that cannot see and you shall see light.”. I hired Murali Kartik. Didn’t God say ” Give shelter to those that are dumb and you shall be wise.” I hired Ishant Sharma. Didn’t God say “Remember those that are forgotten and thou shallst live for ever?” I hired Rohan Gavaskar, Hokkaido and Tatendra Taibu. Didn’t God say ‘Heal those that are sick and you shall be well?’ I paid top dollar for Shoaib Akthar and his genital warts.
‘And even if you did not consider any of this, you should remember that I hired Ajit Agarkar. You of all people should know that he is no ordinary mortal. Like Jesus Christ who was brutalized by the Romans and still he rained mercy down upon them looking to God with a “Forgive them for they know not what they do”, Agarkar match after match took the worst form of punishment from the batsmen, equivalent to crucifixion and still came back, again and again, asking the sinners to do their worst, giving the world an idea of what true ethereal love is, the love that only gives and does not take. Just for giving the world that, if not for anything else, I deserve an audience with God. Please.’
Chitro Gupto looked up at him through his glasses, sadly shaking his head.
But just then there was light everywhere. Chitro Gupto trembled in fear.
Another presence was there. White, glowing, with a flowing beard, extending from eternity to eternity.
God spoke. His voice was shrill like a teenager.
‘Aaaaaaaaaaa I just cannot believe it……………… I have like seen Mohabbatein a million times…. Oh my God it is YOU….’
Relieved now, He looked at God, flashing that smile to the side.
Then he glanced in victory at Chitro Gupto, who looked away in shame.
His dimpled cheeks now radiated the halo of eternal light.