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CricketCountry’s reporter Nishad Pai Vaidya was returning from Dhaka in the midst of some cricketing frenzy. He writes about his journey and how he came across Om Prakash Mundra, a man who has been at seven Olympics, four FIFA World Cups and nine Cricket World Cups.
“You lost the final,” said the attendant at the check-in counter at the Shahjalal International Airport, Dhaka. I was wearing a ICC World T20 2014 T-shirt while checking into my return flight to India. On seeing the Indian passport, the attendant couldn’t help but make the comment with a cheeky smile. There is a cricketing hangover in Dhaka a day after the final, where Sri Lanka beat India. The road outside the Sher-E-Bangla National Stadium is still decked up in lights and they would only come off gradually. However, there is less security and the main gate of the stadium was as open as one would have seen.
There are many memories one would take back from the Dhaka trip. Of course, the Bengali sweets stand-out. The rasagollas, mishti dohi etc. were simply irresistible and your meal wasn’t complete without them. However, as a journalist, one came across a very interesting figure in the press box, surely someone you won’t forget anytime soon. Here was a bespectacled elderly man, dressed up in colourful clothers, with a camera hung around his neck. And, at the press conferences, he would ask the most interesting and candid questions. As I wandered through the Dhaka airport, I ran into him and heard one of the most remarkable stories.
Meet Om Prakash Mundra, a businessman from Nagpur, who has a penchant for attending world events. His enthusiasm and willingness to learn would put a youngster to shame. Have a look at his CV: he has attended four FIFA World Cups, seven Olympics (Winter and Summer) and nine Cricket World Cups (The 50-over tournament and T20). The World T20 in Dhaka was his first as a journalist, but on all other occasions, he has been a volunteer. Picture a volunteer at such an event, and you may think of a youngster, someone in his or her early 20s. But, here is a man well past 60, bubbling with enthusiasm.
“I am a very positive person and always try to look for the good things,” Mundra says. At the press conference, he would come up with questions other journalists wouldn’t dare ask. For example, he had asked Indian skipper for his “sandesh” to the country and for his “gurumantra.” Other journalists looked at him with skepticism, but he chose to maintain his own identity. “People did come and ask me why I asked such questions, but why not? Plus, I wear these colourful clothers. Some felt I have come to play holi. But in fact, these were our clothes at the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi.”
Back home in Nagpur, Mundra’s three sons handle his business. He isn’t a volunteer alone as his wife also accompanies him to all the world events. “This is the first time she didn’t travel with me,” he says. Mundra travels everywhere to volunteer and now he braces for his fifth FIFA World Cup, which would take him all the way to Brazil. Have a look at the official website of the tournament, and you would see him featured in the volunteers section, where he describes the importance of the duty. There cannot be a better man to do it. “Once a journalist asked me why I was spending so much money and going to these world events to volunteer. I said, when you go to a university or a school, do you pay? Of course you do, as you learn something. For me, it is about traveling and going to learn things about different countries etc,” Mundra says.
Volunteering isn’t Mundra’s only passion as he is also known to make posters for cricket. “During the opening game of the 2011 World Cup at the Sher-E-Bangla, my wife and I were the only Indian fans in the stadium with my posters. During the 2003 World Cup, they were picking the top 10 posters for the entire tournament. Three of them were mine,” Mundra says as our flight gets ready to board. We part ways there and he says, “Ab toh milte rahenge cricket ke bahane.” (We will keep meeting thanks to cricket)
On the way back to Mumbai, there was a long stopover at the Kolkata Airport and I took a seat in the departure lounge. A CISF guard came up and said, “Hello sir. Have you come from the matches.” We then discussed about the tournament and invariably, there was a comment about Yuvraj Singh. “People have been nasty to him. He just couldn’t get going, but has won us three World Cups in the past,” he says. “Social media,” is one word he uses! Well, the tirade against the southpaw is humongous. And then comes a calming message from the master, Sachin Tendulkar, who says, “You can criticise him, but don’t crucify him.”
There is a lot one can learn from such journeys and you may find inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources. Surely, Yuvraj knows that and he does need doses of inspiration to put away the horrors of Mirpur 2014.
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