From a stuttering 47 for 2, Steve Smith, by general consent one of the best batsmen currently dominating the 22 yards, was virtually single-handedly clawing back every inch of that pitch at Bangalore to notch up a respectable 286. Leaving a Shikhar-Dhawan-bereft Kohli – the only other in the reckoning for that top berth -- no option but to lend an 89-run shoulder to a prolific Rohit Sharma to riposte a fitting reply.
However, there did not appear to be many takers for this white-knuckle drama unfolding on the giant screen at the Main Bar on Sunday, the 19th. The bar wore a forlorn look. Even sports-buff, Samir Doshi, could be seen flitting in and out all too often. All seemed eager to soak in the mellow sun filtering through the red and white strips of the marquee, hemmed by the white valance running the perimeter of the lawn and held aloft at the centre by the tall mast on the lawns of DI. Evidently, Smith’s fluent knock of 131 was no competition for the Carnival luring DItes and their 367 friends and relatives who descended on the lawn that late morning. Every table was taken, every square yard of the lawn chock-full. Relishing their alfresco elevenses, lunch, tea.
And, pray, why not? With thirty seven food stalls vying for their palates? From the Burmese khowsuey to the Italian pizzas to the south-Indian idlis to the Goan vindaloo. Sidra, spread over two stalls, rustled up mouth-watering mughlai fare; the President himself vouched for their taste. And such was the quantity that he had to share a plate of biriyani with Michael Rao. Candy floss, popcorn and Chill ice-cream – with Fat Little Penguin’s home-made artisinal icecreams giving a good run for their money – were a favourite with the kids. And had Kipling been around now, he would scarcely have written those lines on the recalcitrant east and west; here at DI the delectable nolen gurer sandesh of Balaram Mullick stood just a few yards from the mouth-watering brownies of the equally renowned Saldanha Bakery. Both did brisk business, though one could not help wondering if it was the young Alisha’s beatific smile or the famed confection that drew the crowds. Wow Momo wowed all, with stiff competition from China Green and Wokies. All to be flushed down with an assortment of fresh juices from The Yellow Straw. Beer, by comparison, evident from the grumpy countenances of the barmen, did not have as many guzzlers that afternoon; did they ever dream they were a match for little Suhana’s tea and lemonade?
The ale that saw many try their luck on, however, was at Leslie D’Gama’s spinning wheel. A dozen competitors per round, ten spins of the wheel and a crate of the carbonated beverage gone. Winners were advised to swap these with chilled ones from the bar. Leslie alternated this with the chocolate roulette. This, for the kids. Their enthusiasm matched their fathers’. Visibly. And of some mothers as well. A sore-throated Leslie was later relieved by an equally convincing Raju Raman. Between the two, they punctuated the spins with a delicious – in the absence of a more appropriate attribute -- commentary on the rows of food stalls.
Which were outnumbered, if by a small margin, by the forty four stalls arranged in four rows at Indoors. From the ubiquitous salwaar-kameez and saris to wellness products and cosmetics, ladies’ accessories and coordinates, – one stall peddling hand-made ones, -- to trinkets, to hand-painted pegs, tumblers and bottles, predominantly manned, to borrow an apparent contradiction in terms, by women. Among the few exceptions was Mr Tawar who set aside his hoteliering to help his wife. As can be expected in the circumstances, the male footfall at this commodious hall was conspicuously marginal.
Stepping back outside to the lawn and into the now-fading sun, one noticed the games stalls against the north wall. Yours truly tried a hand at the shoot-the-balloon stall. That barrel and the sight guards, dear DIites, had been tinkered with. And I should know: IOA – Indian Olympic Association, in case you are wondering -- had elbowed me out and selected Abhinav Bindra instead, simply because of my none-too-Adonis-like visage. All right, call me the sour-grapes guy but it was just not one of my lucky days, no: lost here, another twenty chips at Leslie’s beer spin earlier, and again at the lucky draw next to the shooting stall. Had almost bared my chest to be indelibly needled with the legend, underdog, at the tattoo stall also there at the back.
What revived the sagging spirits was the sight of the heavenly cauliflowers at the organic farm stall at the children’s corner. Shorn of fertilizers, the vegetables here were a big draw. A first-timer here, the stall had, among other vegetables, gourd, – bitter and regular, -- roughage, cabbage, eggplants, beetroot, all of which brought the diet and health-conscious thronging. Heartfelt thanks go to Abidur Rahman for having carted all these products all the way from the Sunderbans, a balanced bio-agriculture project there, for us DItes.
The sun had, by this time, sunk prematurely beyond the not-too-distant horizon of the high-rises across Jhowtola Road. Cue for the stalls to commence giving out discounts. From ten per cent the offer increased to twenty and thereafter, in desperation as it were, to the clichéd one-is-to-one. Signalling the curtains on DI’s swansong of the fast-fading winter.
With thanks to Michael Rao and Tanya Robinson for providing a comprehensive low-down on the event.
Picture credits: Shubham Poddar, Tanya Robinson, Samarjit Choudhury.