Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Yesterday, Villarreal beat Aalborg BK 6-3 at the Madrigal. It reminded me of a rather funny incident which took place about two months back, involving an identical scoreline.
This happened when I was travelling from Victoria to Gatwick Airport. With me in an otherwise empty compartment was a girl, about my age, maybe slightly older. (I’ll continue calling her “the girl” since, in the course of a 30-minute conversation, we didn’t think to exchange names.)
By and by, we began to chat, and I found out she’d been on a backpacking tour of Scotland. We fell to discussing the vicissitudes of being a lone traveller. In the mutual whining that ensued, I mentioned that on top of everything else, I’d missed part of the Olympics. The girl replied that this didn’t worry her a great deal, since her country doesn’t do so well at the Olympics, except for swimming and fencing. So I took an educated guess, and asked her if she was from Hungary, and it turned out she was. Accordingly I introduced the first topic that comes to my mind when I think about Hungary. I mentioned Ferenc Puskás.
At this stage, a brief background may be required for people who haven’t heard of Puskás. Normal people may skip the following paragraph and move on.
The Magical Magyars. Puskas is on the far left.
The Hungarian football team of the 1950s is one of the many things I happen to be crazy about. Puskás was captain of the team. They entered the 1954 World Cup with an unbeaten record stretching back to 1950: clear favourites to win the trophy. They waltzed through to the finals, playing fairytale football, and scoring twenty five goals in four matches. In the final, playing a West Germany team they had earlier beaten 8-3, they inexplicably lost 3-2. That was the last time the Magical Magyars would strut their stuff at a World Cup. For Hungary’s golden generation, there was to be no second chance. 1956 was the year of the Hungarian revolution, and the team was broken up.
Anyway, as soon as I mentioned Puskás, the conversation became more animated.
Girl: Oh! You’ve heard of Puskás? I didn’t think many people outside Hungary knew his name!
Me: Of course I’ve heard of Puskás. I’m crazy about that team. If there was one thing in football history that I could change, I’d change the outcome of the ’54 final.
Girl: We beat the Brits, you know?
Me: (speaking as of a personal triumph) I know, I know. 6-3!
Girl: And at Wembley too! Beat that!
And on cue, spontaneously, illogically, we high-fived.
Now there are a lot of things I don’t like about travelling alone. I often get lonely, I worry almost continuously, I hate taking all the decisions myself, and I have to ask strangers to watch over my luggage when I go to the airport toilet. But for all that, there are some good things about travelling alone. You talk to a lot of different people, and some rummy things happen.
On that trip itself, there were other incidents. In front of Harrods, when I was photographing a Gallardo, a distinguished old gentleman asked me, “Your car, son?” And at Abbey Road, I lent my camera batteries to an Italian couple who had made the pilgrimage to photograph each other crossing the road, but had run out of batteries at the crucial moment. I particularly noticed them because they were singing “Don’t Let Me Down” to their camera. But the Puskás incident remains my favourite.
Was it pointless, laughable, for two people, one from Budapest and one from Calcutta, to high-five on a southbound train to Gatwick, because 55 years ago, on a cold West London night, something special happened on a football field? Probably, yes. But the delight on her face, and the high-five: will I forget that in a hurry? I don’t think so.


Pratiti said...

Used to travel in a group of 25, can't but see the advantages of travelling alone. Not that I don't like travelling with my very weird, very large family.
And I'm such a retard. I typed my word verification code(hedablo) as hew.

Pratiti said...

And it wasn't pointless, laughable. It was amazing. There should have been thunder and lightning and music rising to a crescendo in the background when you high-fived the girl. No, seriously, this kind of thing gets me very very excited.

Pratiti said...


A Couch-side View said...

Puskas is one of my heroes too. I once read somewhere that when he went to coach the Vancouver team at the end of his playing career, he demoralized the goalkeepers of his team with the power of his shooting. Looking at some of the past videos makes one wonder if he had God's left foot.

A Couch-side View said...

You might want to read this:

It's an article published today, where this guy compares Kumble to Puskas. I am not sure I agree with him, but thought I'd let you know.

Abhiroop said...

Arjun Sarkar's favourite anecdote about Puskas is one which will remain evergreen in my memory as well. Why did the great man have possibly the greatest left foot ever??? Apparantly poverty forced his brother and him to share one pair of football studs. And he got to use the right leg one. So in order to ensure that it remained undamaged, he practised shooting with his left foot.

Voila, the Galloping Major!!!

I once also watched a movie called The Miracle of Berne about the 1954 final. Unfortunately it focussed on Helmut Rahn, and left the story of the valiant Magyars untold. Quite predictably, I couldnt get Arjun to come with me to watch that one!

God! How politics changes the most sublime things in Life!

Shrabasti Banerjee said...

Woah. A lot happens to you=)

Rahul Saha said...

That really is one of your your best posts Sryon. At least in my opinion you've outdone yourself.

Here's to more solitary journeys.

Indecision Personified! said...

We really MUST start playing TT again.... hearing the stories first hand from you is far more entertaining than reading them on the blog! and hmm... so the sharing of a pair of studs story was Arjun's eh? you never acknowledged him!!! tch tch tch! :-)

RC said...

To Puskas ....

and to Italian pizza (allegedly!) in a Tibetan cafe in an Indian hill station ... ;)

Lovely post!

Doubletake, Doublethink. said...

see, that's why travel is one of the most underrated forces in the universe :D

Abhiroop said...

Offf RC... stop being poetic now.....

To aatels!!! :P

Amrita said...

RC told me to read this post. its really wonderful. i always thot travelling alone is a baaaad idea but it seems like ur experience has definitely been worthwhile...

Karthy said...

Love this post. I wish I could start conversation that easily...the 'by and by chat' hardly ever happens in my case. I always think (with regret) that I probably would have tons of interesting conversations if I just said something to the person sitting across...ah well.

By the way,knowing it shall please you to know, "I got Lan-ed":)

Sroyon said...

@pratiti: Tried travelling with huge groups of friends?

@suhrith: Ha! Liked the anecdote.

@lahiri: Arjun Sarkar’s anecdote? It was me who told him that story. Me.

@shrabasti: To me? I thought a lot happens to everyone. Some blog about it, some don’t.

@saha: Much flattered to receive such effusive praise, that too from no less a personage than the great Saha.

@manavi: Really? I thought my conversation skills were even worse than my writing. And as for the story, see the reply to Lahiri’s comment.

@rc: The parallel is strikingly similar!

@doubletake: Also sports. Very underrated.

@lahiri2: Where there’s the RC, can aantlami be far behind?

@amrita: A transnational discussion about my blog? Seriously?

@karthy: Woohoo!

Ravis said...

Wowww! Some blog, this! I don't know who you are, but you definitely do seem to live an extraordinarily amazing life!
And what made you think it could possibly be considered "pointless", "laughable"? It was wonderful...!! I really envy the life you lead. Are you a tourist?

Sroyon said...

Hullo Ravis. Glad you like my blog.
And "Are you a tourist?" That actually made me smile. No, I wish I could describe myself thus, but I'm really only a law student. Not such an extraordinarily amazing life after all. :)