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Where Many Bhashas Meet: The Bol of Indian Cricket Dressing Room

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By Nishant Arora:

Sachin Tendulkar, the God of cricket, the mild mannered middle class Marathi has become the ‘Paji’ (elder brother) of Indian cricket. That’s how one generation, which is younger to him and the one after, fondly calls him. Around the early 2000s, when the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh walked into the Indian dressing room, they addressed him as “Paji”, and then it took over from there. So, it doesn’t matter if you are Zaheer Khan from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, or Gautam Gambhir from Delhi, KL Rahul from Bengaluru or Mandeep Singh from Jalandhar, Sachin is Paji to all of them. That’s the power of language.

The Indian cricket team’s dressing room is one place where languages meet and cultures melt. This is a place where the sophisticated Dada of Bengal is most comfortable with Virender Sehwag’s dry sense of humor.

In the late 70s and early 80s, the difference of culture and region was huge and used to play a massive role in dressing room politics. That was also because in those times, Indian cricket was heavily divided into zones. The rivalries in domestic cricket were legendary and fierce. Therefore, the North Zone of Bishan Bedi was always a little skeptical about the West Zone of Sunil Gavaskar.

On the funny side, there are banters about music and the curse words in different languages. Obviously, in both, Punjabi music and Punjabi curse words win the race. (Photo: Saumya Pankaj/The Quint)

However, with the passage of time, these things faded, and under Sourav Ganguly, there was an evident effort to unify the fabric of Indian cricket. That’s the time when players made the most of diversity among the group. Javagal Srinath was an automatic mentor to the likes of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. Anil Kumble ensured that Harbhajan matures well as a spinner. The likes of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were good sounding boards for Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni.

And since then, the mentor-mentee culture has thrived and prospered in Indian cricket. With the advent of the IPL, it has gone to new levels. It is the level where language or region or culture isn’t any hindrance. In fact, they are used to learn new things about cricket and life at large.

In the current set up, most of the players are keen and eager to learn from Virat Kohli. Kohli is the epitome of fitness and symbol of discipline. He is the ideal brand ambassador of how a modern cricketer should be and everyone is willing to observe and absorb from his work ethics. He is more than willing to share his experience and learnings from cricket and life.

On the field, every North Indian batsmen wanted to pick the typical ‘khadoos’ mindset of Mumbai batsmen. And on the contrary, South Indian players have been inspired by the flair and attacking mindset of North Indian players.

On the humorous side, there are banters about music and curse words in different languages. Obviously, in both, Punjabi music and Punjabi curse words win the race. Till today, Ganguly’s biggest challenge to Tendulkar is to speak fluent Bengali. Everyone knows two or three special Punjabi swears as you can’t survive without them. Srinath has always been in awe of North Indian player and their swag.

In the Punjab dressing room, the hilarious stories come from their ‘English day’, started by their seniors like Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. (Photo: Saumya Pankaj/The Quint)

In the Punjab dressing room the hilarious stories come from their ‘English day’, started by their seniors like Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh, where every Sunday you have to speak in English only and if recorded, it will probably give a very good competition to “Comedy Nights with Kapil.”

This reflects in food as well. At the Eden Gardens dressing room, everyone expects good Mishti Dohi, and despite very strict diets, no one minds to cheat with one or two spoons of the local specialty. Down south in Vizag or Chennai, Dosas and Rasams are favorites for everyone in the dressing room. Every player swears by the Poha of Indore and Tandoori Chicken of Mohali.

Sourav’s room was flooded by Sachin. (Photo: Saumya Pankaj/The Quint)

Then there are friendships that are formed at an early age when most of them were playing junior cricket. At that time when no one knew them, when they lived away from the glamour and lived in dormitories to dream together, they forge bonds for life. Sourav’s room would always have Sachin come in, Virat knew everything about Ravindra Jadeja since his Under -16 cricketing days, and Mandeep Singh and KL Rahul are brothers in arms.

No other team in the world has such diversity of cultures, languages and faiths. And despite coming from such different backgrounds, their unity is a lesson. Communication is never a challenge. It doesn’t matter if you understand each other’s language or not. Eventually, they all speak the language of their religion. And that religion is cricket and they know the linguistics of cricket very well.

(Nishant Arora is an award-winning cricket journalist, and most recently, the media manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He also co-authored the best-selling book on Yuvraj Singh’s battle with cancer.

Would you like to contribute to our Independence Day campaign to celebrate the mother tongue? Here’s your chance! This Independence Day, khul ke bol with BOL – Love your Bhasha. Sing, write, perform, spew poetry – whatever you like – in your mother tongue. Send us your BOL at bol@thequint.com or WhatsApp it to 9910181818.)

Click here to visit the Bol microsite.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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