How Shakespeare, Shah Rukh Khan, and Cricket Changed My Life

There was a time, not that long ago, when I was down.  Blue.  Struggling.  We all go through phases like that.  Only my phase like that had been dragging on for a decade at least.  That happens sometimes too.  And then something miraculous happened.

This is the story of that miraculous thing.

So there I was, directing a play for my community theater group.  I was directing Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, my favorite of the Shakespearean comedies.  But I wanted to do it differently.  I set it in Bollywood.  Olivia in a sparkly sari equaled pure awesome!  Then I went searching for music to play during intermission and scene changes.  Of course I went looking for Bollywood music.  I found this song, the title song from the movie Salaam-e-Ishq.  (see video below)  I fell in love with this song.  And I thought to myself “I need to see the movie this song comes from”.  I had never seen a Bollywood movie before but lo and behold, Netflix had it.  So I got it.  And I watched it.  And right away I knew this was the best movie I had ever seen!

Of course I quickly realized that it was not the best movie I’d ever seen, because I kept getting Bollywood movies from Netflix.  They are awesome!  So much light and color and music and dancing!  I love them.

And then I came across a little film called Chak de India! about the Indian national women’s field hockey team (not a true story, I might add).  It was good, but what really turned my head was its star, Shah Rukh Khan.  Who was this strange man with the penetrating eyes and gargantuan nose?  I needed to know more.  So I went back to Netflix and loaded up my queue with SRK movies, Main Hoon Na, Devdas, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Veer Zara, and of course Om Shanti Om.  When I reached Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi I knew that I had at last found The Best Movie Ever Made.

I was in love.  Hopelessly, definitively in love.  Shah Rukh was, and is, everything a man should be.  Warm, loving, generous, talented, devoted to his wife and possibly even more devoted to his children.  Like a thirteen year old girl I plastered my walls with SRK pics.  And then I found out that SRK owns a cricket team, the Kolkata Knight Riders.  Well, I was suddenly a cricket fan.  This happened right as IPL2 (the second season of the Indian Premier League) was starting.  I jumped hard on the KKR bandwagon.  I bought a t-shirt all the way from India. … And KKR sucked.  I mean, they SUCKED.  They were so bad it was pathetic.  I could hear the sucking sound all the way over here in America.

Something had to be done.  Because now I was intrigued by this strange British-esque sport known as cricket.  I mean, it’s referred to all the time in all things British, historical and contemporary.  But all this talk of wickets and overs and bowlers and LBWs baffled me.  And KKR was not helping the situation one bit.  So I decided I wanted to see what real cricket looked like.  I popped on Google, typed in “Philadelphia” and “cricket” and ended up being directed to the website for the Philadelphia Cricket League.  Fancy that!  An entire league’s worth of cricket teams all playing in my area!

So a friend and I figured out which team played closest to us and went to watch a match.  We were a bit anxious as we walked out onto the field – and it was just a field with a wicket plopped in the middle – with a pad of paper and a pencil to record what we saw and try to figure it out.  There were a few gentlemen setting up.  They said hello and we asked if we could watch … and they were shocked and amazed.  As the match commenced they kept glancing over and asking us what we thought the score was and correcting us when we had it wrong.  But more than anything I remember one of the guys (Shariq) saying “Wait.  You’re girls, and you’re American … and you’re interested in cricket?”  Yes.

By the innings break the guys were excited that we were still there and still interested.  Shariq asked me, “Do you want to keep score for us in the second half?”  I replied, “But this is the first cricket match I’ve ever seen in my entire life!  I don’t even know all the rules.”  “That’s okay,” he told me, “We’ll teach you.”  And they did.  I sat at the scorer’s table and Tahir taught me the basics of scoring and the Laws of Cricket.  It was fantastic!  At the end of the game we had pizza.  And then I asked if I could come back and score for them next week.  After recovering from their shock they said yes, absolutely!  So I went back.  And I went back.  And I went back.

And that’s how I became (one of) the official scorers for British Officers Cricket Club.  (Yes, that’s me in that picture with a tiny fraction of the team)  That first summer two years ago I learned not only how cricket is played and how to score it, I learned a fair amount of Hindi, I learned that men from all sorts of backgrounds and nationalities can get along in spite of the political state of their countries, I learned that I was wanted and needed and liked by these men.  I’ve gone on tour with them to Toronto and to the UK last summer.  (Though sadly I don’t have the money to go on tour with them to India this January)  I have made life-long friends and mentors amongst these men.  I have also branched out and score for other Philadelphia cricket teams.  I am a venue scorer for the Philadelphia International Cricket Festival.  And a wonderful gentleman by the name of Clarence Modeste who plays with the Staten Island Cricket Club and is being inducted into the American Cricket Hall of Fame this year called me one of the three best scorers in Philadelphia.

Me with famous Indian cricketer Sunil Joshi

More importantly, through cricket and BOCC I found a sense of purpose and self-worth that I had never known before.  So many of the wounds of my past have been healed by knowing these guys.  I’ve come to a really happy place by stepping way, way outside the box to pursue something that interested me.  And I met one of my very best friends, the wife of one of the cricketers and mother of my friend-baby.

It’s a very special thing when you can look back on the events of your life and trace the flow of fate.  Who would have thought that directing a play would lead to a love of Bollywood?  Or that a giddy obsession with a movie star would lead to becoming part of a very special group that gave me things on an emotional level that changed the way I view myself and my life?  It’s a wonderful thing.

*The song that started it all, in all its cheesy Bollywood glory:

And since I can’t write this post without showing you a little of what makes Shah Rukh Khan so awesome…

I sifted through literally dozens of SRK videos to find just the right one.  I chose this number from Don because he’s just so bad-ass.  The irony of the song is that he is NOT Don, he’s a guy impersonating Don.

P.S.  This is my cricket team, British Officers Cricket Club. =D


12 thoughts on “How Shakespeare, Shah Rukh Khan, and Cricket Changed My Life

  1. Pingback: How Shakespeare, Shah Rukh Khan, and Cricket Changed My Life …

  2. Bollywood makes everything better 🙂 I feel in love with SRK when I was 7. In Chaahat (With Pooja Bhatt)
    There is a movie that you should watch (if you haven’t seen it already) called Lagaan – It’s about cricket, and how one game can change everything. Brilliant film!

    A xxx

    • And now I’ve got “Chale Chalo, Chale Chalo” stuck in my head. 😉 I LOVED Laagan. But Aamir Khan doesn’t do it for me the way Shah Rukh does.

      And yes, Bollywood does make everything better. =D

    • Ooo! Well then when I come visit you someday, when we’re done cathedral hopping I’ll take you to a game at Lords and explain the whole thing to you. It’s a lot of fun. =D

  3. I have always felt that some of the best life lessons came from being a *fan* and Merry, you’ve exemplified how life changing it truly can be. Now I know who to ask if I have any Cricket questions! 🙂

  4. I grew up around cricket and thought it was the most boring game on earth until I developed a crush on the captain of the school cricket team. It’s still not my favourite game (now rugby, there’s a game), but I learned to like it a little better.

    I do love a good Bollywood though. If you like Shah Rukh Khan there’s a movie I watched on Netflix, not a Bollywood but a very interesting one about an Aspberger’s suffering Muslim (Khan) who falls in love with a Hindu woman. The story is much deeper and follows attitudes towards Muslims in America and I thought he played his part really well. There were a couple of cheesy moments (like where he single-handedly saves a flooded village) but on the whole I loved it.

    • “My Name is Khan”! That’s SUCH a great movie. I saw it three times in the theater, and that’s saying something for being in the US! The first half is perfection … the second half has some flaws. But I think every American should watch that one.

      Rugby always seemed a little too violent for me. I love a good, polite, gentlemanly game like cricket. Although I know some men who can yell “HOWZZAT!!!” like it’s a battle cry. 😉

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