From South Africa With Love
After days of running around filling visa paperwork, Friday, September 17th had finally arrived – the day I would be on a plane to South Africa! My parents had been scaring me the entire afternoon about how they would make a call to RCB’s Vinay Kumar to keep a tab on me. I’m sure Allen and Kunal would be thrilled to seize any opportunity to meet the team, but I was sweating bullets just thinking it. They couldn’t. They wouldn’t. No. Well, even if they didn’t follow through, Vinayak Sir was more than ready to make the phone call which he made amply clear in a phone call to me when we all reached Bombay. And with that mortifying thought to ponder about for the next 9 hours, I boarded the plane to Jo’burg…
Sandton, Jo’burg seemed like a sleepy town. I’m pretty sure the hotel we were staying in was haunted. My room was a bit of a walk from Kunal and Allen’s room and when they called me from the reception to come come down, I managed to get lost. Maybe, it’s because I’ve rewatched The Shining recently, but running around those halls, I felt positive I would run into the Grady sisters asking me to come play with them. Luckily, I followed a lady leaving one of the rooms and she ended up going to the reception area and I breathed a sigh of relief.
We decided to head to the Sandton City Mall. The guys were disappointed because they were hoping for safaris or a visit to Soccer City, (and yeah, I would have enjoyed that too) but the mall is like my mothership; I can’t say I was all that dejected.
I was mesmerized by the gorgeous jewelry, the figurines, hand-painted kitchen utensils…there’s even a bar of soap in the form of the SA flag!
We had lunch at the food court where I encouraged Allen to be adventurous and try what I’m assuming now was the bunny chow(Jo’burg style!) just so I could have a laugh. He had no idea how to eat it and I asked him to get a spoon all the while laughing into my chicken wrap. The guy at the counter gave him a funny look when he asked for it. Well, obviously Allen! You should have gotten the spoon from another place! We later lunched(again because Allen wanted a proper lunch!) at the Raj, a fantastic Indian restaurant near Nelson Mandela Square. The Nelson Mandela Square has a water fountain like the one at UB city, but here the kids are allowed to play near it. As we sat on the steps watching the kids skateboard and bike around, I decided to call Disha and tell her we’d be in Durban the next day. I spoke to both Disha and Shireen and they were excited to see us. Then, ever so casually, they mentioned how they had been telling Ross Taylor one of his biggest stalkers was coming from Bangalore to meet him! WHAT? I was worried all this time about my parents and Vinayak Sir embarrassing me, and the Chief Blogger and Podcaster had already beaten them to the chase! Sure, I’m eager to meet Ross after missing the chance to meet him at the Send Off and never having gotten him to sign my poster. I mean honestly, the poster lies in my room unfinished, haunting much like Mozart’s Requiem; it’s all very tragic. And now he thinks I’m a stalker? And with THIS horrifying thought planted in my head, which kept me tossing and turning in the night, I left Jo’burg for Durban…
Durban. Was. Amazing. The beach was walking distance from the hotel and there was so much to do!
This hotel was so much better and the view from the window was gorgeous.
A 5 minute meeting with all three Chiefs aside, we had to rush for lunch before we missed the match, promising we’d catch up later. Lunch was possibly delicious – I wouldn’t know: we were running late and I asked the server to bring the meals in whichever order which resulted in ice-cream with fruit salad coming first and hot shrimp curry after that, which burnt my tongue from trying to eat it so fast. We made it to the match just a few minutes before the first ball was bowled. The atmosphere was fantastic: from the nice MI fans in front of us TO the crowd nicknaming Saurabh Tiwary as “Pretty Woman” when the DJ played the Kal Ho Na Ho song TO the guy selling soda trying to sing the MI theme song. It was spectacular to see Pollard get sent back for a three-ball duck by Dale Steyn; I didn’t want to risk getting hit by one his trademark sixes! It was just as frustrating to see Kumble get belted for 45 runs from his four overs…the DJ in Bangalore would have gotten the crowds to egg him on with cries of ‘Jumbo, Jumbo’ which didn’t happen here so maybe that’s why. We were chasing a steep total of 166 and while I was happy to see Dravid play the entire 20 overs, I wish Robin or Ross had played the sort of the innings they are capable of at the other end. Even with Virat making his way towards the crease, we felt our shoulders droop looking at the scorecard. Kunal must have been looking especially sad because while I was reading the sorry scoreline, I saw Kunal’s face on the screen! All three of us jumped and waved wildly and after that we were pumped up to cheer RCB more loudly.
Virat pummeled plenty towards the ropes and we were up on our feet…could Virat come up with something special? Unfortunately he top edged the ball to the keeper and it was all over. A case of so close, yet so far. We decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel.
With a flight back to Jo’burg at 11 the next morning, we decided to head to the beach as early as possible. It was AMAZING.
At around 9, I called Disha and Shireen to say goodbye thinking after last night’s loss maybe it was better to give the team and them some space, but they asked us to meet them at their hotel and MAYBE we could meet the team. We met them for breakfast and we had only twenty or so minutes with them before we had to leave for the airport and only a few of the team were up and about.
We met Vinay, and no, he had no idea who I was! Thank the LORD.
Now I had stitched two jerseys for Disha and Shireen in Bangalore amid college projects galore and their excitement when I gave it to them almost made up for the fact that Ross wasn’t there. They showed it Gautum Bhimani and team manger, Avinash Vaidya who both were impressed with it. Shireen even excitedly flaunted it to Dillon Du Preez who loved it and asked me to make one for his wife! Hmm…designer of the WAGs of RCB cricketers…I’m game for it! Finally on a happy note, I boarded the plane back to Jo’burg!
Back in Sandton, we went to the mall(where else?) and I still hadn’t gotten sick of the shopping. I spent over an hour in one store itself searching for that perfect gift for my friends and family back home. The guys tried to help me to speed things up but eventually they gave up trying and said they’d wait outside. And while I was mulling whether I should buy this endearing leopard and zebra print elephant-shaped candle, Allen came and mentioned that he just saw Ross in the mall. I stopped my shopping and rushed outside, but Allen quite conveniently lost track of where he disappeared off to. We tried looking but to no avail. The guys suggested I call Disha. HA. Like I would be so desperate to ask Disha to locate Ross Taylor in a huge mall lending truth to the claim that I’m some sort of stalker? Please. I would either bump into him on my own or I would not meet him and lay all the blame squarely on Allen. And so the latter happened.
I went back to the gift shop and bought myself a gift to cheer myself up.
Well that’s pretty much it. So now we’re back in India, back to normalcy. Back to never having to spend so much time in a mall for Kunal and Allen. Back to online shopping for me. And back to watching RCB on tv. It was fantastic to go to South Africa even for a little while. The adventure, the food, the sights and sounds, the people we met, the people we didn’t get to meet(but will meet one day for sure) and all the hilarity that ensued is something I’ll always remember…thanks RCB! Hope IPL 4 will be luckier for us!