GAME FOR A PUNTER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DEPARTURE LOUNGE - Susan Kuro­sawa

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.)

Pic­ture: Craig Green­hill

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