India Uncut

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Saturday, March 05, 2005


"Mercurial" is a classic cricketing cliche: Shahid Afridi, they say, is mercurial; so is Yuvraj Singh; and so are Shoaib Akhtar and Zaheer Khan. Well, early this morning I discovered another meaning of “mercurial”.

I was sitting at a makeshift lounge near the baggage claim at Delhi's domestic airport, and there were no other passengers here. Only airport staff, who needed to nap in the few hours before the next plane came in. So, suddenly, the lights above me went off.

I asked the person near the switchboard, who'd turned them off, if he could keep them on please, because I needed to work. He agreed immediately, and said he hadn’t noticed me. I heard the sound of switches being turned on. Then he came and sat behind me. The lights stayed off.

"Um, what happened?" I asked.

"Oh, I've turned them on," he said, "but they shall take some time to come on. They're not like tubelights, you see. They've got mercury inside."

I nodded, and we chatted for a while. As we did so, gradually the lights above me came on. First one, three minutes after he turns on the switch. Then another, after two minutes. And then, at the interval of about a minute each, like popcorn bursting in extremely slow motion, or in cosmic time.

So now I turn back to cricket, and think: who is mercurial? Then the Eureka moment happens, as I think of a subcontinental captain running between the wickets.

Which one?
amit varma, 11:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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