T. Santhosh Kumar is elated as journalists crowd around him when he enters the mixed zone after the 400m hurdles final. They shoot hundreds of questions at him, about his parents, his home and background. He appears puzzled, but answers them all patiently.
But they forget to ask one key question: Is he the silver medallist in the event? No, he is not. The Madurai youngster’s photos have rarely made it big in the sports pages of major newspapers. That is the reason for the mistaken identity; they mistake him for A. Dharun, the silver medallist. Diary tries his best to suppress a chuckle.
As Diary strolls around the GBK Sports Complex — the main venue for the 2018 Asian Games that has a cluster of stadiums — there’s a lot of music, singing and dancing. There’s a carnival ambience out here at the Asiad, plenty of stalls, great food and some foot-tapping music. There is a rock concert and colourful lights everywhere, and plenty of pictures are being taken with the Games’ mascots. In one corner, people are even taught to walk on stilts! Indonesians certainly know how to enjoy their sport. They have a party around it; no wonder there are huge crowds at many venues.
After watching the great athletes in action, the Asiad organisers and volunteers get a feeling that journos are athletic folks, too, and they try to set up new, creative hurdles almost every day. At the swimming and badminton venues, the media gate is kept at a distant corner and Diary has to sprint a few hundred metres more than the normal spectator, and he rushes in from some other venue just before the crucial matches and races.
At the GBK Main Stadium, the venue for athletics, Diary and the rest of his ilk are first allowed to use the lift to the upper floor where the media tribune is. And then it’s suddenly closed because “VIPs are using it.” And after every Indian medal, which was quite a number this time, Diary has to take the long flight of stairs and then enter through a long corridor where the low beams that support the stadium’s giant stands act as hurdles for the head. There are more than a dozen such hurdles, and with every beam one has to bow one’s head to clear the “hurdle.”
After too much thinking, talking and typing, Diary is too tired at the end of each day. But one night, as he comes out of the athletics stadium, his friend and fellow journo sees a strange sight. There’s a cat with an excuse for a tail ambling by. Diary remembers another similarly strange cat he had seen a couple of day ago. His friend is eager to get to the bottom of the mystery. Back at the hotel, as they try out nasi goreng, which includes shredded chicken, for dinner, the friend asks the waiter whether cats in Indonesia have their tails chopped off for some strange reason. The waiter’s English is weak and he appears confused.
“Cats? No, sir. We serve only chicken, fish and beef here,” he says, a bit annoyed.
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