Lockdown diaries: Field umpire takes to farming

Stuck in his village due to lockdown, international cricket umpire Anil Chaudhary decides to make the best use of the opportunity by helping out his family with farm work.

Special Arrangement

International umpire Anil Chaudhary ploughing the fields in his village during the lockdown.

Cricket took him away from Dangrol village in Shamli. The lockdown has now transported international cricket umpire Anil Chaudhary back to his childhood days when he would spend time in the sugarcane fields owned by his family.

“The India-South Africa series ended abruptly (on March 13) and I came to village on the 16th to fetch grains and jaggery. I brought along my sons (Aryan and Akshat), leaving my wife (Meeta) and mother (Kamla) back in Delhi. Then the lockdown happened. We decided to stay put in the village,” Chaudhary told Sportstar.

Anil Chaudhary says he has taken efforts to educate the people in his village about the importance of social distancing and hygiene.   -  Special Arrangement

 

In the village, Chaudhary has used the “opportunity” to rediscover his farming skills. “We are farmers. I used to stay in this village till 10th standard and help in the fields. When I came here I found the labour had left. So I plunged myself into ploughing the fields (sugarcane and wheat).The people are allowed to work in the fields for three hours beginning 6 am during which they can go to the nearby town and get essential stuff.”

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Chaudhary has taken the opportunity to educate the people around him. “I told them the importance of keeping distance, washing hands. There are now soaps at every tube well. Earlier they would wash hands and feet with mud. Now they have started using soaps. I have distributed masks too and told them not to gather to gossip or play cards. I am happy to share that they listen to me. There is no gathering of people anymore in Dangrol. We also never had this culture of shaking hands and greeted each other with a ‘Ram, Ram ji.’

“I miss my cricket, the packed stadiums, the travelling, the challenges of umpiring but there is life outside cricket too. It’s great fun here in the village. The sky is clear – blue during the day and star-lit at night. No man to be seen for miles. Nature has shown mankind its place. Even if forced to stay indoors, I have learnt new ways to live life.” -- Anil Chaudhary, umpire

On the experience of staying in the village, Chaudhary said, “I have been enjoying working in the fields. My childhood has come back. Every morning I drive the tractor (to plough the fields) for three hours but it can be tiring. I have discovered new muscles in the body (laughs).”

Chaudhary recalled his younger days. “My family has always been in the village. Some of my uncles and cousins did graduation in agriculture and stayed on. I and (brother) Harendra would spend months in the village. Cricket took us away from village where the bonding among people is amazing. I have never spent so much time at a stretch with my sons.”

The daily routine is well set. “We go around the fields in the morning. Not in groups. We distribute the work. Eat early and sleep early. By 9 pm, you are asleep. A melodious aarti from a nearby temple wakes you at 5 in the morning. Believe me, villagers are basically nice people. Very gentle, so selfless. I have discovered so much during this lockdown phase.”

Anil Chaudhary with his sons and nephews at their farmland in Dangrol.   -  Special Arrangement

 

A couple of 80-year-olds in the village, revealed Chaudhary, talk of this “unprecedented development.” But they insist “We shall overcome. It is a test of our will power. Stay within the perimeters of your house, accept the gravity of the situation,’ says the 55-yar-old umpire, who sometimes needs to climb on to the top branch of a tree to catch the internet signal in his village.

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“I miss my cricket, the packed stadiums, the travelling, the challenges of umpiring but there is life outside cricket too. It’s great fun here in the village. The sky is clear – blue during the day and star-lit at night. No man to be seen for miles. Nature has shown mankind its place. Even if forced to stay indoors, I have learnt new ways to live life.”

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