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Bangladesh cricket

August 20, 2014

Me, my Bapi and Bangladesh cricket

Zeeshan Mahmud

My Bapi could not sleep after watching Mohammad Ashraful flay Australia © Getty Images

Back in 1958 I was in Zurich, and there I met an extraordinary man by the name of Karlfried von Dürckheim. He was a former German diplomat who had studied Zen in Japan and when he came back after the war, he opened a meditation school and retreat in the Black Forest. And he said, "Well, I'll tell you what, a lot of my work has to do with people who went through spiritual crises during the war." And, he said, "You know, we all know when a person is in an absolutely extreme situation, and they accept it, there is a possibility of a natural satori." And that's what I mean when I was explaining that when one gets to an extreme - that is to say to the point when you realize there is nothing you can do about life, nothing you can not do about life, then you're the mosquito biting the iron bull. Well, so in the same way he said, "Look. You heard a bomb coming at you, you could hear it whistle, and you knew it was right above you and headed straight at you and that you were finished. And you accepted it. And suddenly, there was a strange feeling that everything is absolutely clear. You suddenly see that there isn't a grain of dust in the whole universe that's in the wrong place. That you understand completely, absolutely, totally what it's all about, cause' you can't say what it is.
- Alan Watts

Cricket transcends from being just a sport when it ends up building a bond between father and son. Both of us are completely different people: He prays five times a day, while I am agnostic. He keeps fit, and me? Well, I am just fat. He prefers formal attire; while I like white t-shirts and jeans. He graduated with a Masters in Public Administration and I am a college dropout. He has travelled to at least 40 countries while I get my fill of the world by collecting stamps. We share the same genes but we are two different souls. But, as Steve Jobs said, it is only when you reflect back upon your life and when you connect the dots that you begin to see patterns.

Bangladesh beat Pakistan by 62 runs in the 1999 World Cup

Our story begins in South Africa. Like every kid, my mind ran amok with what I wanted to be when I grew up. One day it was a 6'4" renaissance man from Harvard, or a magician like David Copperfield. But I desperately wanted to be a cricketer and never got the support from Bapi, as I call him. Bapi worked at the embassy and he would urge me to focus on studies, often highlighting Anil Kumble's engineering degree. So when I left him for the US, I wept like a little infant.

I followed the game via Cricinfo before the era of Sopcast. Naturally when Bangladesh pulled off a stunner - controversy or not - I was ecstatic. Then one day I travelled to South Africa to meet Bapi. We roamed here and there, sometimes to Italy or Egypt or Zimbabwe bordering Zambia in a river boat cruise and Windhoek. We visited a Bangladeshi friend's house and as chance would have it, they had the VHS tape of the Pakistan-Bangladesh match. "Lagaan! Lagaan! Khela lagan!" My Bapi could not ontain his delight, which roughly translates to "Put it on! Put it on!" Although I do not remember much of it, but I do recall someone telling me how fat I was. But that moment is one of the most cherished of my life. It began my bond with Bapi.

Bangladesh beat Australia by five wickets in June 2005

I had to return to California soon after the South Africa trip, but I occasionally went back to Bangladesh to visit Bapi, who moved back to the country. Then one day he had to visit India for work but I got to tag along. So after visiting Humayun's tomb, Agra Fort and Qutb Minar and enjoying the local flavour, I returned to hotel.

Bapi took one bed and I took the other with Robert Ludlum's Lazarus on my lap. As he flipped the channel, highlights of Mohammad Ashraful's innings came up. This was years after I ran away from home, but I can still recall how Bapi said the adrenaline from watching that game left him unable to sleep.

Bangladesh drew with India in the Chittagong Test of 2007

I was hospitalised for mental instability, but things did get better after I was discharged. Bapi and I grew fonder of each other. Bapi, by the way likes his records. So when highlights of the Test came on television and Mashrafe got Wasim Jaffer with a jaffer off the first ball of the match, Bapi was up on his feet. "Bowled!" he cried out. "May be Bangladesh won this that is why they are showing it," he said. I chuckled. It was actually drawn as I would later find out.

These are some of my most cherished moments. I roll them over and over in my head. Recently, I was back in hospital for being danger to myself and all I could think about was if my stay would end before the West Indies-Bangladesh ODIs start.

After I got out, I called Bapi. After the initial exchanges, he asked, "Do you write for ESPN?"

"You know how hard it is to get published," I replied.

"Oh" he said. "I love you."

I did not reply. In our culture it is a bit awkward to say something like that. But, I am saying it now: I love you too, Bapi.

This article is dedicated to my father who is in the early stage of cancer.

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Players/Officials: Mashrafe Mortaza | Mohammad Ashraful
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