January 18, 2020
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Omar Abdullah

“When I said things are bad, I was referring to Kashmir....” His response was typical: “Was it ever good, beta?

Omar Abdullah
Illustration By Sandeep Adhwaryu
Omar Abdullah

Last Friday I got a surprise call from Dad. And late at night. He was in Johannesburg and sounded rather down. “How are things?” he enquired. “Well, it all looks bad,” I said without going into the details. “I know,” said the voice at the other end, “when Sachin and Shikhar Dhawan put up 83 runs for the first wicket I thought the Mumbai Indians would win. But then the wickets tumbled...” Dad said, disappointment writ large in his voice. I could understand his predicament. After all, he had taken time out and flown to South Africa to root for the Mumbai Indians in the Champions League.

But cricket was the last thing on my mind and I pointed this out to Dad. “When I said things are bad, I was referring to Kashmir....” His response was typical: “Was it ever good, beta? My advice to you is that you shouldn’t get too worked up.” “But, Dad, the stone-pelters just won’t stop...,” I said. Which is when Dad had a flash of genius. “Why don’t you make the best of a bad thing, hold a stone-throwing competition at the Bakshi Stadium? Announce it to the state that the person with the strongest arm will be sent for training to the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai and later given a place in the Mumbai Indians team. I can sound out Nita Ambani on this,” he said, excitement in his voice. I told him the Kashmir problem was nothing to joke about. But he said that one has to keep one’s humour intact and then went on to recall his glory days when he rode a motorbike through Gulmarg with Shabana Azmi riding pillion. Well, what does one say to that? I guess Dad’s Dad.

Three days later (Monday, Sept 13), I rung him up panic-stricken, news from the Valley had left me shaken. Fourteen people had been killed in the violence and as bad luck would have it I was in Delhi. So I was accused of abandoning the state (again) and celebrating Id in the national capital. As I updated Dad on events, he rather nonchalantly reassured me that the violence would die down and that, anyway, people have a tendency of speaking ill of others. “Now, Omar what’s wrong with celebrating Id in Delhi? And if one has to do some shopping, Delhi’s Khan Market is far better than Lal Chowk,” were his exact words. Well, I must admit Dad had a point there, the shopping is cerainly better in Delhi. And, one doesn’t have to bother about curfews.

Anyway, Dad was soon off on one of his own tales. “Sunday was great with the Royal Challengers trouncing Guyana. Kallis bowled and batted well. I only hope my team too bucks up. I feel the Mumbai Indians have to improve their fielding.”

I told him he was bang on target. But what about demands for my resignation? “Well, Omar, I am returning to India,” he said, “we will take it up then. But tell me, why this hurry? Why this worry?”

Phew! It’s tough being in office nowadays...maybe Dad could take over as chief minister. And I could take his motorbike for a spin....

(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)

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