GAME FOR A PUNTER
BACK in her beloved India for a short break, Departure Lounge has been caught up in Twenty20 cricket mayhem. Touring the south with Travel &Indulgence ’ s contributing editor Christine McCabe, Lounge spent most of the 10-day break in the Silicon Valley hub of Bangalore, where the first match of the new Indian Premier League’s series took place on April 18.
We soon discovered that cricket in the subcontinent can be dangerous, especially on the roads. ‘‘ The sun has stopped shining in which country since you left?’’ inquired our taxi driver. We told him Australia and, sensing his approval, we felt that by this simple disclosure we’d pulled off an amazing achievement.
Flushed with our success, Adelaidebased McCabe told him she is from South Australia.
‘‘ Ah, home county of Darren Lehmann,’’ announced the driver, switching his attention from the chaotic road ahead to McCabe in the back seat. Narrowly missing an assortment of weaving vehicles, including buses and a bicycle festooned with balloons, he continued to engage her in detailed cricketing conversation.
‘‘ Yes, Boof,’’ she said. ‘‘ Boof? What is this boof?’’ he asked, now almost twisted backwards in his seat and driving with his heels. Australian cricketers’ nicknames may be things of mystery in India but this sport is the national obsession.
Australian cricket captain and Kolkata Knight Riders’ star Ricky Ponting was ensconced at our Bangalore hotel and while the staff tried to remain cool in the presence of cricketing royalty, there was clear evidence of autograph books tucked under sari skirts and into doormen’s ornamental headgear. When he went off on a photo shoot with The Advertiser’s Paul Starick and TheDaily Telegraph’s Craig Greenhill, traffic stood still (imagine this in a city of close to 5.5 million residents).
Ponting was aboard an autorickshaw, the black-and-yellow three-wheelers that buzz about Indian cities like agitated bumblebees. Autographs were sought and signed, Bangalore policemen in their white slouch hats and crisp shirts blew their whistles with a mighty bellow to let the rackety old autorickshaw pass, and traffic was diverted for Ponting’s ceremonial progress. Boys jumped about shouting out his match averages and career triumphs as if they had swallowed entire libraries of Wisden almanacs.
About a decade ago, Lounge travelled with Dennis Lillee to Chennai, where he was running fast-bowling clinics. While dining with him one night, as I glowed with radiated glory and diners at neighbouring tables mock-bowled samosas in his direction, one enterprising waiter was busily stapling a wad of paper with carbon between each leaf so Lillee just had to sign the top. Presumably the signatures could then be sold off in bulk. Lillee, who’s an adviser
Knight Rider on the move: Ricky Ponting’s journey in an autorickshaw contributed to the cricket fever in Bangalore to the Delhi Daredevils, was in Bangalore this month for the inaugural match. ‘‘ Fifty-eight years of gravity sobered with a salt-and-pepper balding pate . . . Dennis the Menace is now Dennis the Modest,’’ cooed The Times of India, never a newspaper to hold back on flowery prose.
The Indian Premier League teams are owned by Bollywood heavy-hitters and zillionaire entrepreneurs, and there’s definite showmanship in the names: Deccan Chargers, Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings. But Sachin Tendulkar’s team, Mumbai Indians, lacks the zap-wow headline factor.
‘‘ It is a weak name. Personally, cowboys are more interesting to Indians than other Indians,’’ our taxi driver obliquely commented as we whirled around a corner on what felt like a rodeo ride. Yee-ha.
APROPOS Jill Hocking’s piece on Britain’s best bookshop towns ( Travel& Indulgence, April 5-6), reader Rebecca Rogers has sent Lounge details of ‘‘ a fantastic booklovers’ find’’, Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland (north of Newcastle upon Tyne), which has been described, she says, by the NewStatesman as ‘‘ the British Library of second-hand bookshops’’.
‘‘ Barter Books fills an old stone railway building,’’ Rogers writes. ‘‘ There’s an open lounge area with old sofas in front of a fireplace, and tea and coffee and biscuits available if you simply want to sit and read.’’ Sounds magical. www.barterbooks.co.uk.
FIND of the week: In Vientiane a few months ago, Lounge met tapestry weaver and textiles entrepreneur Carol Cassidy at her reconstituted French colonial villa cum store and workshop. Cassidy, an American, has been in Laos since 1989 and is dedicated to preserving the traditional practices of Lao silk-weaving.
Behind her Lao Textiles gallery and store — where shelves are stacked with shawls, clothing, cushion covers, curtains and spreads in jewel-bright colours — bamboo handlooms go clickety-clack as her specialist workers turn out exquisite pieces, which are often made to order.
Cassidy’s curated exhibition, Lao Tapestry: Weaving Dreams and Aspirations, is on display in Canberra at the Australian National University school of art, Foyer Gallery, until May 4. ‘‘ It has been a most interesting journey down laneways to weavers’ workshops, through remote markets and into villages with a loom under every house,’’ Cassidy says. ‘‘ The exhibition marks a new context for Lao tapestry within the international contemporary field.’’ www.anu.edu.au/ITA/CSA/textiles/ index.html.
And if you visit Vientiane, drop by Cassidy’s villa on Ban Mixay for some superior retail therapy and a peek into the merrily industrious workshop. www.laotextiles.com.
loves: The tango and samba lands will soon be within easier reach. Qantas is planning its first nonstop services to South America: three return services a week from Sydney to Buenos Aires are scheduled to start on November 24; onward connections to neighbouring destinations, including Brazil, will also be offered. www.qantas.com.au.
loathes: Announcements at Australian airports that are impossible to comprehend; equal opportunity employment is all very well but a nasal condition is hardly an advantage for those required to speak over PA systems. (However, the regular announcer at Auckland’s international airport is marvellous. In the slow, fruity tones of a posh headmistress, she calls out names phonetically and makes it plain to dawdlers that more obedient passengers are boarded and waiting for you.)