Thu | Jun 17, 2021

Hiroshima, mon amour

Published:Friday | August 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Abraham Lincoln started his famous Gettysburg Address with "Four score and seven years ago." At the foot of the Lincoln monument, Dr Martin Luther King started his even more famous speech, reputedly the best so far by anyone in our time, with, "Five score years ago".

The King James Version of the Bible, which for those of us who love the English language is a pearl of great price, commented on the game of life in tones reminiscent of the best of all cricket commentators, John Arlott, and adjusted the possible score to a kind of Duckworth-Lewis system: "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength, they be fourscore years, yet is their strength, labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."

On Monday, I made my three score and ten with no major loss of wickets, just a few appeals, a couple reviews and with two balls left. I am not sure about the four score or if the scorer will get bored and close the book or some natural disaster, like rain, hail, a thunderstorm or a just a washout, will stop play.

A hedgehog ended a Derbyshire final in 1957. A deadly red-bellied black snake stopped an Under-17 match in Blacktown near Sydney, Australia. An eclipse, snow, and even a herd of elephants have at various times in different places ended important games. Penguins messed up one at the North Pole and snow was involved there again. Cricket is truly fragile - if the umpires don't screw it up, the weather or some unforeseen circumstance gets you every time.




In my time at the wicket or at the popping crease, I've had more than my fair share of Eclipses, but mine came from the Mount Gay distilleries in Barbados and, instead of stopping play, made it more enjoyable. I saw Snow fall in the Queen's Park Oval but the famous English fast bowler got up again and continued to take wickets.

In my life, I have seen snakes aplenty, but they had only nuisance value and never stopped my flow of form, and in the rooms I frequented, there were always elephants, but the game went on despite their trumpeting, mighty blowhards though they were.

In a way, as Jonathan Wilson, the ESPN cricket writer, says, "You play the hand you're dealt as best you can and hope that's enough. And that's why cricket is probably a better metaphor for life than any other sport."

Wilson uses this story: A priest I used to know, long dead now, loved the analogy that life was like seam bowling. "Some days," he'd say, "you'll get a greentop and some days you get a shirtfront. Some days you'll bowl beautifully and beat the outside edge 20 times and not take the edge, and some days you'll bowl a load of long hops and full tosses and take 5 for 20, but at the end of your career, your figures will be roughly what you deserve. If you keep striving and putting the ball in the right place, in the end, you'll be all right."

While J. Alfred Prufrock in T.S. Eliot's poem measured out his life with coffee spoons and I have done the same, whether with NescafÈ or Blue Mountain, Kenya Double A or meaningless Rituals, the carefully doled-out half-measures are not anything for me but grounds for rebellion and improvisation.

If I had to measure out my life with anything, it would be the pleasure I get from it, the sheer unalloyed joy that I feel every morning that I wake up. The fact is that, regardless of what I know is on the schedule, a court appointment daunting to any of us who is not a lawyer, going to any government office for anything, or even a meeting with the boss, I look forward to the day ahead - maybe hoping for an Eclipse, snowfall, snake or elephant to provide some variety, respite or rescue.

My three score and ten started on August 10, 1945. It was four days after the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan and, together with my birth and thousands of others throughout the world, it was the day that Japan surrendered unconditionally and so ended the Second World War.




The games of war and peace are still on, but in my little arena, I continue to seize the opportunity on some evenings to bowl about a hundred balls to my son Zubin. I find the elliptical walker, treadmills and rowing machines passive exercise. I love cricket. I was never a batsman. Bowling forces me to think, to try to be accurate and tricky at the same time, and as a professional communicator, to spin and spin some more. In other words, I treat each day after age 70 as a lagniappe or what some Caribbean people call 'broughtas' (brawta) or extras. Every day is a gift from the Almighty. Life itself and its every moment is the present. I live it one ball at a time.

I suppose I should end with my own message, but I read something from Mandy Hale, author of The Single Woman, and while we are different in almost everything that matters to most people, including gender, colour, age and country of origin, I am struck by our common view of life.

She says, "You'll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologise for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less travelled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in."

The one significant difference is my motto, told even to prime ministers, "I will tell you what you want to hear if that is what I want to say."

- Tony Deyal was last seen repeating that he wants to be buried at sea with the directors of the West Indies Cricket Board as his pallbearers.