“I am a Rahul Dravidian, sir...” a heady teenage girl’s opening words as part of her question to Rahul Dravid at a session that featured sports writer Suresh Menon, scholar Ian Buruma with Rajdeep Sardesai as anchor, drew maximum applause. This was a scene from a panel discussion during last week’s sixth edition of the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival.
Dravid, ever bashful and tongue tied with praise of this kind, chuckled and almost turned pink in the wintry Jaipur sun, on hearing this term that celebrated his name. But then, Dravid is probably the last of this rare breed of cricketing persona to have emerged from India.
Going by his articulate replies, insights and take on a game (often peppered with humourous anecdotes) that drives most of this nation crazy, one was reminded, once again, of his unique qualities. Peals of laughter reached another level with mentions of how Dhoni and Sehwag never read on tour. The hour-long session was a terrific celebration of ‘The Wall’s’ influence on India and its people, despite his flashier counterparts.
Here was a cricketer who spoke with effortless ease about a range of issues from why India’s museums need to get more than a cosmetic facelift, and why Indians, particularly the youth, should read books with the same finesse and flair as he did while speaking about his memories from the Indian dressing room or why the Indian Premier League helped ease tensions between players of rival nations. Egged on by Sardesai when asked about his take on why Mumbai didn’t host the Pakistani team for the ongoing Women’s World Cup, he didn’t shy away from speaking up, unlike some of our khadi-clad decision makers in Delhi.
“Yes, it’s a game, and politics and sport should not mix but lives are being lost on the front, and we cannot ignore this reality by continuing to lead our lives as if nothing has happened,” was his candid reply, followed by a minute-long applause. Another insight – of how success has come easier to today’s generation of cricketers, thanks to TV and the Internet, was perhaps, the most telling comment piece of our current showing, especially in Test cricket.
His unassuming nature, even as he played down being conferred the Padma Bhushan, was admirable. One wondered whether his Rajasthan Royals’ teammate S Sreesanth, who has seated in the crowd, new look et al would have soaked in all of this as more than mere celeb-speak by just another Indian cricketing stalwart.
But then, post this event; we noticed interesting contrasts from both cricketers. Dravid, after having patiently signed every autograph for waiting fans near the dais headed to a press conference at the media centre while Sreesanth donned his model avatar at an off-access section inside Diggi Palace, for a shoot.
The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY