Hit or Miss

The knowledge you never forget

Adam Gilchrist and the bicycle of cricket

Tishani Doshi
23-May-2009
Gilchrist unleashes a bit of the old <i>chamatkar</i>&nbsp;&nbsp;&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;Associated Press

Gilchrist unleashes a bit of the old chamatkar  •  Associated Press

I hate to be the one to say, "Delhi, I told you so," but I think I'm going to say it anyway. Because after last night's semi-final performance by Adam Gilchrist, I don't think there's anything left to say… except perhaps, a final word about genius.
But first, a short anecdote:
Over a year ago one of my dearest friends had a car accident in Bombay. The accident injured his spinal cord, leaving him paralysed waist-down. He was the kind of person you trusted with your life, so for this to happen to someone like him was unfathomable. I was distraught. I went to be with him in the ICU.
Around the same time was the one-year memorial service for my dance teacher, Chandralekha. I was to be part of a performance of her last piece as a tribute to her memory. Just thinking about performing got me all panicky. I was physically and emotionally a wreck and I knew that I wouldn't be able to do justice to the performance, so I called it off.
Instead of the dance, there was a musical performance by the Gundecha Brothers - considered to be the finest Dhrupad exponents in India, whom we had the honour of working with for many years. I flew back for the memorial service. The Gundechas were brilliant, as usual. It was a fitting, moving tribute.
After the performance, the older of the brothers took me aside and said, "I want to ask you something: Why didn't you dance tonight?"
I told him - my friend, the hospital, the wear and tear, my idea of the world shattered.
He listened patiently. "I know about all those things," he said, "But still, you should have been able to do it. After all, what are you an artist for if you cannot draw upon your art in moments of despair? This is what your daily practice is for, your sadhana, so you can draw this energy when you most need it. Your duty was to be with your friend, but your duty was also to perform. You could have done both."
He was not berating me, he was just saying, that's life - things are going to happen, not all of them great, and if I was going to choose this artistic path then I had to find a way to do it. He said that all musicians practised everyday, going in search of that perfect note. He said that that perfect note had evaded even the greatest, but no matter, their calling in life was to wake up the next day and chase again.
He was also saying, believe in yourself more. After six years of doing these movements, making them your own, did you really think you wouldn't be able to call them up again when you most needed it?
Of course, I regretted not dancing. I should have danced. I should have believed in my own capabilities, but there was a lesson learned - that the pursuit of perfection is a worthy one; that more often than not we'll fall short, but the idea that it's there, on the horizon, glittering, is the thing to keep in mind.
Yesterday I listened to Gilchrist talk about how playing cricket after a long break was kind of like riding a bike - it is knowledge you never forget. It reminded me once again that the body is a great repository of energy and memory. A lot of the times we underestimate it when we should believe in it. Gilchrist must have believed in something, because when he went out there, doing presumably what he tries to do every time he goes out there, something connected. He was able to draw out the best that his body was capable of producing, and what a sight it was for us.
And so, coming back to this final point about genius. Perfection is a bit like what they say about life: it's the journey, not the destination. No matter how many hours of the day you practise, no matter how mechanical we tailor our responses to be, at the end of the day human beings aren't machines. We react to emotion and environment and circumstance. There are always going to be good days and bad days. We can chase that perfection for our entire life without ever reaching it. But once in a while we may come close to touching it. And when that happens there's a word less prosaic than genius for it, and that word is chamatkar. It's magic. A thing that sparkles.

Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer based in Chennai