The flight from Chicago to Colombo was long to say the least, I didn’t help my cause by taking connections through New York, London and Bahrain but hey you can’t beat the price ($900!!!). The flights from New York and London were surprisingly empty and I got to spread my self over three seats while watching snippets of one horrible movie after the other….RED (which stands for Retired & Extremely Dangerous for any one interested)….Lucky A (at least I think that was the name)….Karthik calling Karthik (seriously enough of these wannabe Hip Indian films with stupid titles, we get it Farhan Akhtar…India is hip now, every young guy has a job, a cool scooter and wants to go on dates it’s time you came out of your Dil Chahta Hai faze and dealt with some real issues).
I of course managed to lose my wallet once on the flight to London, but wasn’t really worried as it always comes back. I am not even kidding about this one, I have lost it at least twenty times, including in a Cricket Stadium in St Lucia and THE Obama rally in Millennium Park when the entire five million strong of Chicago was there (that was really epic btw!!!! Suck it Feroze :P). So all in all it was quite smooth until the flight from Bahrain to Colombo. The airport it self was a horrible mix of Hey we are just like Dubai, so we will park a Lamborghini in between the clutter of bus terminals we are trying to pass of as an airport. Got seated next to the annoying crying baby on the flight (never fails to disappoint) and I know this sounds really bad but I just wanted to slap her really hard once
Colombo Airport was nice and simple, what the Islamabad airport should be like. As soon as you enter you know you are in a cricket mad city, every single ad poster is either about the world cup or has Sangakkara etched on it or both. Seriously this guy endorses every thing in Sri Lanka, Pepsi, cars, shirts, real estate companies, toilet paper…you name it Sanga’s got it covered. Was really nervous about the airport pick up and where I was staying to be honest, as I had booked with this really shady guesthouse listing by the name of Keerthi Perera (come on the name of the place was Aurora Guesthouse for $10 a night with WiFi and “smart and comfrtible stay” how can you not book that), but as it turned out my alarm bells were ringing for no reason. The pick up was in a nice Toyota Corolla with (to my extreme annoyance Keisha and “Baby I’ll catch a grenade for you”) playing in the car. My first impressions of Colombo was of an over populated Rawlapindi. There was quite a bit of traffic on the streets for four in the morning, and almost every other shop or business was still open). The main mode of transport is buses and to a lesser extent Rikshaws (or Autos as they are called here). Couldn’t tell much else about the place in the thick of night. It turned out Keerthi Perera was a high ranking official in Mobitel (the biggest phone company in Sri Lanka), and had sent his driver for the pick up. The driver much too my extreme jealousy had a Word Cup free pass around his neck, and as you can imagine the entirely justified thought of choking him, cutting him up in pieces and running away with the car did for a fleeting instant cross my mind.
The place I am staying at is very comfortable for the price, granted the sheets and pillows are very hospital like, but there’s running water and electricity 24/7 plus surprisingly as promised free high speed Internet, you can’t ask for much more. Tried to sleep a bit to make sure I didn’t pass out during the Pak-Canada game but that turned out to be a massive fail, so decided to go exploring a bit. I had to pick up my tickets from the SLC office for all the games I was watching and the plan was to get there and then go to the Premedesa for the match. Four hours till the game I was at least going to be sitting in the stadium for a couple. Going Ghetto is the theme for this trip and trust me it doesn’t get more ghetto than the public buses in Colombo. (Yes I know what you are thinking Abbas bhai and Asad bhai I haven’t had much public bus experience in Pakistan) but those buses and Suzukis are a joy ride compared to these. Imagine the worst possible rickety piece of sh** bus possible, pack in the most hideous looking male species on the planet and some really tacky bollywood music, (Yea for some reason all the buses I have traveled on have had Hindi songs like my new all time favourite “Nazrain mili, dil dhadka Love you Rajaaaa” playing in the background. I think the Sky Ways genre just redefined itself). And when I mean packed I mean packed in like Sardines, I mean packed in like the guy next to you is dozing while standing up and drooling on your arm and you don’t have space to move it packed. What I must add here though is how nice the people here are, it has to do with being an Island country. They are way too chill for the sub-continent. The biggest surprise are the police-walas, they actually try to help you out instead of sniffling out a 500 ruppee note from you at every possible instant. The same goes for the administrative officials, I was actually in and out of the SLC office with my tickets in twenty minutes, what ever mishaps the BCCI is carrying out with tickets have not filtered down to there Southern neighbors thankfully.
(View of Galle Road in Colombo during one of the more pleasant bus rides)
I reached the stadium with about an hour and half before the match and ran into this really annoying Phatan guy from Bannu who works for the Pakistan embassy. Seriously never sit with a Phatan when Afridi is playing in a match. This guy would have done unthinkable NC-17 rated things with Afridi if given the opportunity. I mean for God’s sake we are 184 all out against Canada and the only thing you can talk about is how Afridi should have been made captain after his 37 ball hundred on debut. (Imagine Feroze’s blind obsession/sexual infatuation with Afrid times a hundred, or Tarika on crack and talking about Sachin, or me and Asad bhai just having a chat about Wasim bhai :). The support for Pakistan cricket amongst the locals is quite amazing, this is one thing that I have noticed both in the Windies and here, countries that play unorthodox cricket and have flare in the way they play the game love the Pakistan cricket team.
After eating some tasty fish and daal from a dhaaba that would have made Ammi go SHOAAAAIIIBBB SUAAAARRR KI ULAAAD!! I managed to sneak myself into the nets area and was lucky enough to watch Younis Khan and Misbah (the last two batsmen in the team right now that need it) hitting out volleys dished out by Asad Shafiq and Junaid Khan. Even got to talk a little with Misbah (the guy is pure muscle I tell you) and get an autograph from Younis on a placard. Also I had the side on view while Junaid Khan was bowling and for all concerned his action seemed just fine. The team looked way to relaxed and for a lack of a better word “dheela” during the warm ups and one got the feeling that shit was about to hit the fan. Sure enough the annoying Canadians made quite a match of it and if it wasn’t for the perfect conditions for Afridi’s skiddy spin we would have been staring down another coach killer of a defeat. The decision to bat first was a real poor one given the over cast conditions, heavy chance of rain at the back end of the match and the fact that the team needs some real chasing practice as it would come in really handy with teams like India.
(Catching Junaid Khan’s action Side On)
The bus rides back were the most painful of all, got a nice egg/chicken/roti/rice stir fry thingy from an eatery near the guesthouse to go but didn’t manage to eat it as I just dozed off. It had been a long 48 hours. I woke up at seven in the morning with grand ambitions to go to the beach and explore a bit more of Colombo after having conquered my jet lag successfully the first night back but alas! that was all a bit to premtature as the body clock gave in to another 10 hours of sleep and I woke up at 9 in the evening! Basically SHIT ho gayee hai. Tomorrows match has been sold out for ages, but I have heard that tickets are available in black and I am also pulling some strings with Perera to get me a spot. It should be a cracker of a game, hope the Lankans can come out all guns balzing. It’s off to Kandy in what’s suppose to be a wonderful train ride next. Will keep in touch. All comments are welcome. GO GREEN!