Ajay was two years my senior at Osmania College of Engineering. He had none of those airs then, none now. So chilled out was he that I would call him Princess Diana - he really looked attractive - and had the sweetest smile. If there were two people who I thought would be stunningly good looking as women he was one - the other was Boy George.
|Me and Princess Di (Ajay)
Anyway Ajay and his class mate Krishna and Sridhar were all serious cricketers with pretty solid talent. Ajay was playing for an A division club Gujarathi CC, Krishna was one of the fastest bowlers I had ever seen and Sridhar had this beautiful outswinger and played for Osmania. they welcomed me into the college as I was already a state player and we played several games.
Apart from the banter and madness at college, Ajay and I had a couple of star turn. We were both playing for Osmania Combined Colleges in the 3 day Abbasi Inter Collegiate tournament. The final against Nizam College was at Osmania A grounds. Packed crowd. The star studded Nizam College batting piled up 425 in their first innings with Ehtesham getting a huge hundred, 188, I think. Suresh, Swaroop, Clement, Zakir, Chakkar and others were part of that squad. In reply we were some 200 for 7 when I walked in at number 9. Ajay was already at the crease. We only looked at one another and decided we would hang in there. No other strategy - just stay at the wicket.
Within 20 minutes we started seeing the ball well and boundaries started flowing - a fifty partnership, then a hundred, then a 150. Ajay got to his 50 and soon I got to mine. And then, after adding a scintillating 188 runs for the 9th wicket Ajay fell at some 380. I was on 80 and completed my hundred. When I got out at 408 we were agonisingly short of the first innings lead by a mere 20 runs. If Ajay had not got out we would have got it that day.
But the best part was the way we tore apart their second new ball - straight drives, pulls, cover drives, flicks off Vasanth Pai and Kannan - and we must have added 50 in six overs. The crowd went berserk and I remember how exhilarated everyone was.
Ajay and I can never forget that.
We kept in touch after college. Krishna died - of a heart attack while playing a match when he was all of 24. Ajay did his MBA in Badruka perhaps and was kind enough to gift me his wicket on the only hat trick i ever got in my life - in an Inter Collegiate game. And once in a while in league matches.
I would bump into Ajay when we started working - at Srinagar Colony. Then he went abroad. We kept in touch somehow - he always made the effort to call. A few years ago Ajay was part of an Amway team that bought some 5000 copies of 50 Not Out. Imagine his surprise when he got a copy gifted by his office in the UK. He instantly called me and we had a lovely time talking about it. He tells me his colleagues gave him a lot of bhav when they found out his old mate had written that book. He also tells me they were all quite happy with the content.
|Ajay, second row from bottom on the left
He still looks just the same. He came this Diwali with his family. He's very proud of his daughters and what they achieved - Nishta and Disha. Sometime I should meet them all. He was talking of his long courting period and the love letters their children had found on this trip. We drank a couple of coffees at Minerva and spent a lovely one hour and a half. While we were elaving he politely said thank you to the waiter - perhaps it was being in the UK but Ajay would probably do it even otherwise. I would like to do that myself. I realise I am not very good at these.
'I have few people with whom I connect,' he says with rare honesty. 'I am so glad we met.' I am so glad for all the years we have known, the moments we spent together, the laughs we shared, the highs and lows we experienced.
Thanks Ajay for making it. It was lovely meeting and I hope to meet up before you go back.