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Nostalgia: Cricket in Agra
|by Proloy Bagchi|
Agra is only about 140 km from Gwalior where I grew up. Although I visited it at least twice later, yet my first visit took place when I was only in my teens and had just about entered college. The college cricket team was visiting Agra in December 1953 for a few matches to be played with the teams of various colleges there. Those days the colleges at Gwalior were affiliated to Agra University. The University had its jurisdiction spread far and wide - from Western UP to Rajasthan, Mahakoshal to the then newly created Madhya Bharat comprising parts of Bundelkhand and Malwa.
Food, for example, was very cheap. Breakfast in a restaurant near St. John's College would cost us six annas (less than half a rupee) for an omelette of two eggs and two toasted slices with butter on them. Lunch would be around twelve Anna's and for dinner our skipper, Madhu Hukku, discovered a joint, a sort of dhaba near Raja ki Mandi railway station. The man who ran it appeared to be particular about cleanliness as his place was spic and span. He would make us sit on a clean mat in front of his wood-fired choolha and pass on to us freshly baked chapattis costing one anna each. The delectable vegetables, daal and pickles were free. A quarter of a rupee would fetch us a very satisfying vegetarian meal. I always had a liking for UP cuisine having had it with neighbours. This was as good if not better.Though I gave a miss to the monuments most of which today are World Heritage Sites I recall, however, having gone to the Agra Cant. It was a big cantonment, seemed to be much bigger than what we had at Gwalior. No wonder, the expansive Agra Cant. Railway Station was and continues to be the main railway station for the city. I remember to have found the Cantonment area very clean – in contrast to the inner city which we used to frequent. One of the markets was well laid out on one side along a broad road with an extensive open space on the other side. The imprint of the Army was evident with neat road markings in black and white with proper signage all over
If I remember we played three matches, lost two and drew one. We returned from an unsuccessful trip but gained much in experience. We came back without even having a look at the Taj Mahal – at least I didn’t see it until much later in 1993 with my wife when we saw most of them. I was disappointed to see the Cantonment area. It had become much more crowded and gone were the imprints of the Army from various roads. Perhaps our Army also cannot deal with the rampant disorderliness of the exponentially rising civilian population. In any case, Agra like many other UP towns was filthy and, in all probability, continues to be so.
In 1993 I thought I saw far too many skull caps all over – a veritable sea of white. It certainly wasn’t because of the rise in the city’s population. The cap was perhaps the way the aggrieved community wished to display its identity and exhibit its solidarity after the meaningless demolition of the historical Babri Masjid.
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