Disclaimer: Ignoring the new age and all-encompassing definitions of the sacred word ‘Football,’ I will refer to it as exactly that and no other term.
Football brings out a lot of things in people – this note, for instance. Other stuff include loads of nostalgia wrapped in sweet memories, some irretrievable moments, forgotten habits, and a sea of passion for something that most people would call off as ‘just another game.’ I was introduced to this enigma in Italia ’90 at the age of eight. My father decided to sow an interest of the sport he loved the most into me as early as he could. Not much of that world cup remains in the memory barn except the image of ponytailed Roberto Baggio swerving around. USA ’94 is more memorable, with Baggio and Gheorghe Hagi and Jurgen Klinsman and Hristo Stoichkov, watching teams like Bulgaria and Colombia play which have become almost extinct in world football now. ’94 was special in other ways too. I had started getting interested in football before that, spending summer vacations listening to maternal uncle and cousin brother fiercely debating about who’s a better player, Roger Milla or Gabriel Batitusta.
It is a big room. Rather, a huge room. The store-room. Or, dryer as they say here. The ceiling is quite high, though not enough to drift your thoughts to any wonderland. And it is sloping on both sides. Not even a false, plain ceiling. I wonder why these people make all buildings with sloping roofs. None of the houses have a terrace. None that I have seen till now. Occasionally, rarely a house or two with a plain roof, but no terrace to climb upon the stairs and cherish the summer breeze or rain.
The building, just one large room has four collapsible shutters and two doors. The interiors are stuffed with a variety of smells that seem choking at first. Smell of grass, in its different stages of drying inside two monstrous ovens. Smell of onions, mostly fresh and some rotten, lying on the floor in boxes, unused, unsold, untested. But it is the intense, overwhelming very typical smell of grass which is dominant. And when the initial surge of these smells subside, a third one lurks from inside, the musty smell of a closed, less ventured room. Though it is not that less ventured, visited almost everyday by someone or the other, the smell still remains.
I seem to be the only person working here today. All on my own, in this ominous room. I arrange my stuff on a table near the machine I am supposed to work on. It stands beside one of the collapsible shutters. I have been instructed to keep the shutter open for ventilation. Having done that, I venture to take out samples from the oven. I have to switch off the temperature, open the door and enter inside. Hot air gushes into my face, I gather my sample bags and come out before it starts baking my skin. Starting my work I place one of the samples, all grass, dried, into the grinding machine, switch it on and sit on a chair, waiting for the sample to be ground nearly into powder.