June 24, 1983. Place- Connaught Place. It was less than 24 hours for Kapil Dev led Indian team to take on mighty West Indies. The mood in CP was joyous and electric. Unlike present CP where every second guy glued to their mobile phone, there was less crowd and less cars on roads. After all, India did not witnessed either auto or telecom revolutions then. Those were the innocent tims. Nevertheless, Cricket was flavor of the day then too. Everybody was talking about the prospect of final match as our team had proved the merchant of dooms wrong with their stunning show. For me, however, more than the D-day, when we thrashed the world-beaters, June 24 had very special memories. That day had etched in my memory bank.
But for my late mother's insistence to give her company to Hanuman Mandir and Shanker Market, I couldn't meet strolling Lala Amarnath in CP. Though I used to see him watching matches at Karnail Singh stadium in Delhi, I never dare talking to him. Perhaps during those days, I was too young too talk to him on cricket. I,however,once took his autograph at the Karnail Singh when he was with the great Pankaj Roy. Lala ji used to watch almost all the matches as he used to live at Panchkuin Road.
Anyway, as me and my mother were near Regal, which was at shouting distance from our house, suddenly I saw a very familiar looking gentleman coming to our side with pipe in his hands. Within split seconds, I recognized him.
'He is Mr. Lala Amarnath,' I told my mother. Now, he was at a handshake distance from us. There was an eye contact between us. I bow my head down and wished him. There was a sudden break in his brisk gait.
Before wasting any time, I told him, 'Sir, I am a great fan of Surinder and Mohinder Amarnath.' Perhaps, it didn't impress him. But it was a clincher of sort when I told him that my father had seen him playing in Lahore, Delhi and Patiala.
The smile came on his otherwise very grim face. Do you also play Cricket? Venerable Lalaji asked me. I was shaking and somehow I said,'Yes, I do.' Even before he could leave, I muster some courage and asked him another question.
Sir, should we hope that India would win the world cup? ' May be. The performance of Jimmy would be crucial.' That was his parting comment. My mother, who was listening our dialogue, asked me to touch his feet.
I did and Lalaji put his hand on my back and disappeared in the crowd. His prophetic comment about Jimmy really proved crucial as his all round exploits proved too much for West Indies team. It was dream come true for me as I was seeing him watching matches at the Karnail Singh stadium since long.
I also took his autograph when he was with the great Pankaj Roy. On the very same evening, I narrated my tryst with Lalaji to my friends of my locality. Among them was a young scribe. He came to Delhi to work in a newspaper.
He was living in Minto Road on a rented flat. He told me that ‘ the way you have talked to Lala ji, you should be a journalist.’ He also proved right as I somehow managed to become a small-time scribe.