After finishing high school, in July 1965 I joined Rajasthan Arts College, Jaipur for my BA degree.
College days were expected to be exciting.
Freedom from school discipline is something to cherish.
No fixed timings.
No overbearing Principal lurking around the corners.
Its joy personified.
But it's never roses all the way.
Within a month of starting College, a notice on the Board informed the Freshers that it was compulsory for them to collect the NCC application form.
Fill up the form. Get a token.
Go across to the NCC office.
Collect your uniform.
Turn up for Familiarisation on 1st Sunday of September at the Parade Ground, College campus. 7.30 a.m.
Selecting one's uniform turned out to be an exercise involving scratching your head vigorously, tears rolling down the countenance and frustration welling up.
The uniform room was a huge rectangular room. Khaki uniforms were strewn around the room.
Pants, Shirts, Socks, Shoes, Belts.
Many freshers were frantically searching through the pile.
For that perfect fit.
After watching the unfolding scene for a few minutes I too joined the ‘searchers'.
But I was in for a shock.
No pant, no shirt, no shoes, and no socks fitted. Either they were too big like for Amitabh or too small like for Rajpal Yadav.
I ended my search by picking up the nearest fit. But they were all too big even for a loose fit.
But no choice.
How will I ever be able to wear these and present myself smartly turned out.
NCC cadets in uniform. Stock photo.
But it was not all gloom.
Good news did filter in. And how I loved the Good news.
Cricket Captain Lalit bhai sahib told me: those in the College cricket 16 were exempt from NCC Sunday drill.
And the Annual camps.
But with one caveat.
The cricket guys would have to attend one camp for one night in three years to ‘mark' attendance to receive pass out certificate from the NCC Directorate.
Else no graduate degree.
But it was not all Hunky Dory kind of good luck.
The day I chose to attend the NCC camp at Kaladera, about 45 kilometres from Jaipur, turned out to be their Route March Day.
4 kms to a nearby village.
Lunch and rest.
Trudge back to the camp for the night.
It was very painful in those ill-fitting heavy boots.
Clomp plumb clomp plumb was the rhythm.
The memories of that route march simply don't fade away.
But I made sure that I played good cricket for three years to stay in the team.
And escape every Sunday NCC drill.
The team practised for three days a week at the nets.
And they invariably played a match every Sunday.
In the second year, our cricket team got a boost. A few talented cricketers joined the college and the team.
Parthasarthy Sharma was one such budding and talented cricketer who came on board.
I knew him well. We had played lots of cricket together at school. He was talented.
Destined for bigger things to come.
His weakness: hated running for quick singles.
He went on to make his Test debut in 1974 at Calcutta (now Kolkata) against the mighty West Indians, who had Roberts, Marshall, Holder, and Julian in their ranks.
[I was posted in Cal at that point of time.
It was easy and simple to meet the team members in the dressing. No restrictions at all. Parath and I had a long chat over several cups of hot and sweet tea.
Parath had a miserable debut but improved his performance in the next Test at Delhi. But foolishly ran blindly and got himself run out on 49 in the second innings, He was on the cusp of making minor history: Half a century in both innings in the same Test.
Parthasarthy Sharma. Circa 1970s.
Much water has flown down the Ganga since then.]
Thanks to the newcomers the College team sailed into the Quarters. Now, the team was required to play their next match outside Jaipur.
Collegians at play. Stock photo.
We were drawn to play Raj Rishi College at Alwar. The game was scheduled for one of those wintry Sundays in December 1966.
And in those days, winters were very harsh. Very severe. Very troublesome.
The team assembled at Jaipur railway station by 9 pm. The train was due at only 12.02. Why do I remember the time so precisely?
It was the most prestigious train for Jaipur.
Many entered the wrong date in the reservation slip due to date changeover within minutes.
It was like missing the train by a whisker for quite a few.
Of course we had no reservations.
But we were a cricket team. No holds were barred for the muscle power of a cricket team.
Anyways, we had a three hour long wait at the platform.
The Captain generously sponsored a cup of tea for the team. And candidly advised all of us to catch up on sleep.
On the platform.
Some chose to ignore the advice. Immediately they had a pack of cards out to play Teen Patti.
But after sometime they also decided to catch up on beauty sleep.
Finally all of us were asleep on the cold floor in our woollens. Banyan, Shirt, Full sleeves all wool sweaters. And blue Blazer with the College crest.
And cover ourselves with the quilt brought from home.
Within half an hour, it was all too inadequate. Several layers of warm clothing felt like cotton clothes.
Howling cold winds from three sides were sweeping the platform. And the wind chill factor was easily reaching the bones.
Chilled to the marrow some of us were beginning to cramp up.
After nearly three hours of struggle, the Delhi Mail hooted its way on to the platform No. 1 with double headlights piercing the mild fog.
All of a sudden, the platform came alive with activity and rush of passengers and coolies and ticket checkers.
Of course we all clambered into the unreserved compartment with our cricket gear with ease.
The compartment's ambient temperature was a major relief to the cold souls.
We quickly spread ourselves in the bogie, and lay down wherever we found enough space.
Another three hours and we were on Alwar platform.
More surprises followed.
We would be able to reach our hostel rooms only after six in the morning as only the day-chowkidar had the keys.
Two more hours at Alwar platform. But, inside the waiting room, much to our relief.
But once I stepped off the train I straightaway felt at home
I was born at Alwar.
Jai Mata Di!
The game was to begin at 11 am. Before that we were to get ready.
But we spotted no bathing rooms at all.
Our host point man took us to a single tap just outside the hostel.
That was the Tap for all.
And for all purposes.
Use it for brushing Teeth. Washing face. Bathing.
Water tap. Stock photo.
It was like Kabhi Khushi (reached Alwar without much damage) Kabhi Gam (One Tap for All).
And we all used the same Tap.
One at a time.
Almost freezing water greeted us on using the tap.
But Bathe. You got to be kidding!
By Eleven O'clock, the team was rearing to take on Raj Rishi College.
We won handsomely.
Return to Jaipur was a cake walk.
I was home by 9.30 at night.
We played the Finals. But, with Parath on duty elsewhere, we just didn't have enough power to take on Maharaja's College.
[I gave up regular cricket after graduation but played for the National Academy cricket team. I played a lot of cricket for Jaipur and Ahmedabad Customs as well.]
These days I am a reputed critic on social media. Only I feel that way. Never mind!
© Subhash Mathur 2018
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