By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Monday, June 23, 2014

From Montreal to Brazil : Minus 36 Hours -- From Argentina To Brazil : Plus 36 Years!

My last blog before this one (13 May) was actually the second of three progressive cameos I had wished to show you in December 2012, when taking a retrospective look at the evolution of live intercontinental television in India around 30-40 years ago.  Due to some mysterious technical problem I couldn't understand, this didn't get posted then.  

And I just restored it a few weeks ago as a sequel to the series of essays on friendship, as it featured my fictional friends who used to figure regularly in my column Delhiberations in the Evening News in New Delhi during the 1970s and '80s.  

To view the whole context in the correct perspective, you must glance through the three sketches in the following order, tracing my increasingly exciting televisual impressions of the Munich and Montreal Olympics (1972/'76) and Wimbledon 1984 :

     India : Infant TV vs. Instant TV    (3 Dec. 2012)
     Delhivision : Magic Of Montreal    (13 May 2014)
     Delhivision : Miracle Of London    (9 Dec. 2012)

Well, as you can see, we have been watching glamorous sports events live on a global scale in India for 30 years now.  But still, for an ultrasenior citizen like me, that amazing old experience of ever-narrowing time-lag in televiewing can never fade from the memory.  

And quite naturally, I can't help recalling those thrills of transition when I stay awake for several hours around midnight in India these days, watching the World Cup football matches being played on the other side of the earth and trying not to get bored.

The difference in time between Montreal and most of the World Cup venues in Brazil is just one hour, but in my perception as a long-time journalist, it's actually 36 hours! 

And in this nostalgic frame of mind, I can't also help recalling the following article I wrote about football and sensational sports-writers in the context of the scandalful World Cup gala in Argentina in 1978, exactly 36 years ago!  

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Glossary & annotation

Goalswami  --  derived from Goswami, which is a very common name in the Eastern state of West Bengal in India, meaning 'Cowgod'  (Go = cow, and Swami = god, in Hindi, Bengali and other North Indian languages).

Red Brigade  --  Related to terrorist threats in military-ruled Argentina hosting World Cup tournament.  

Ezeiza airport  --  international airport, 30 kilometers from Buenos Aires.

MacLeod  --  Ally MacLeod, manager of the Scottish team whichperformed disgracefully.

Connaught Place  --  Historic commercial area in New Delhi, with roots in early 20th-century British regime.

Hindi films  -- Popular Indian cinema used to overflow (as it still does) with extremely naive scenarios.

Vish  -- Short for Raja Vishnu, pen-name I had adopted for my Evening News column, as for my articles in Shankar's Weekly, known as the Punch of India.

Reuters message  --  It wasn't unusual those days for sports writers in India to re-write teleprinted reports filed by international news agencies.  

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Evening News, New Delhi
23 June 1978

Making a scoop

My good friend Goalswami, the sports critic, who covers football and hockey for a Delhi newspaper, is not known to let any sensational news go by without scooping it.  In fact, I've known him to create a lot of news.

So when he left for Buenos Aires to cover the World Cup matches, I started looking for some juicy stories.  

And sure enough, Goalswami sent despatch after despatch with the juiciest stuff.

Red Brigade have landed at Ezeiza airport!  --  Leading players doped!  --  MacLeod has resigned!  --  Italian team pays Austrian team to send wives back home!  --  Scottish World Cup fans face execution!  --  and finally:  Bomb scare in Press Center!

The other day I was dining in a Connaught Place restaurant, when I found a bearded gentleman at the adjoining table.  His face was strangely familiar.  He looked like Goalswami.

I was intrigued and walked up to his table and asked what time it was.

"9-30," he said curtly, and attacked the food on his plate.

"Excuse me, but aren't you Goalswami?"  I asked.

"Never heard the name,"  he said.

But I wouldn't give up.  You can't just grow a beard and expect not to be recognized by an old friend!  That kind of thing is possible only in Hindi films.

"Look, Goalie!"  I said. "Let's call the bluff!  You're supposed to be in Argentina!  What are you doing here?"

Goalswami tried to glare me away, but he couldn't.  Under my steady gaze he wilted.  Then he couldn't suppress a smile. 

"Look, Vish, let's keep this strictly between ourselves, shall we?"  he said.  "I came back from Argentina last week, but of course, I can't let anybody know about it.  That's why I've pasted this bush on!"

"But I read your despatch this morning, man!  How do you explain that?" 

"Oh, I just scrambled the Reuters message and unscrambled it --  nothing to it, you know!"

"But why have you come back?"

"Don't tell anyone, Vish!"  Goalswami confided.  "You know, I started most of the rumours out there, but people got wise to it.  Somebody phoned me and said if I didn't leave the country within 24 hours I would be blown to bits in the Press Center.  So I took the first flight out!"

I could see it all clearly now, and an interesting thought flashed in my mind. 

"And I suppose before you left, you started the bomb scare too?"  I asked. 
"Naturally!"  Goalswami said, fondling his false beard.  "I just couldn't resist it, old man!"