Solitude down under

In the suburb of Thebarton, there are houses with cars parked in their driveways, but there is little sign of their owners. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

The Diary is quite taken with Adelaide. The suburb of Thebarton, where the Diary has rented a house for the week, puts it in mind of Bhogadi, a little township on Mysore’s outskirts. There are houses with cars parked in their driveways, but there is little sign of their owners.

At 5 p.m. one evening, the Diary steps out for a walk in the neighbourhood and does not sight a single human face until 30 minutes later (an elderly couple playing croquet in its front-yard). The silence seems eerie and unsettling at first, especially when not two days before the Diary was swearing and honking at a motorist in Bangalore for riding over its foot at a red light. But this solitude grows on the Diary, bit by bit. Returning to God’s Own Traffic Nightmare already seems a loathsome proposition.

Asian flavour

The Diary notices that the majority of Adelaide’s taxi drivers is Indian and of Punjabi origin. So it comes as no surprise when it’s announced on the local news that there will be a severe shortage of taxis on Sunday. Most of them are headed to the Adelaide Oval; the rest will watch it on TV. Gaadi chalayega kaun? one driver from Bhatinda asks, before ridiculing a popular Hindi film from a few years ago for misleading people by setting the story in his town but actually doing the shooting elsewhere. “There are no hills anywhere near there, sir,” he says indignantly. “I know that place like the back of my hand.”

On the eve of the match, the Diary finally meets a taxi driver from Pakistan. Mohammad Ashfaq, it turns out, is from Karachi, and has a massive grouse against the PCB. “Most of our players are only from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he protests. “They are not selecting anybody from Karachi. They have not taken Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam or Faisal Iqbal. Sarfraz Ahmed is the only one in the squad but mark my words, he will not play tomorrow.”

Sarfraz, a specialist wicket-keeper, indeed does not make the XI. Umar Akmal keeps wicket instead and drops Virat Kohli on 76.

Surprise package

The world has so many surprises in store for the Diary. In casual conversation with its landlord one afternoon, it discovers that he is a professional soccer (in these parts) player. Osama Malik, it emerges, is a centre-half for Adelaide United FC in the A-League, with experience of playing in the Club World Cup and the AFC Cup. He has played against Bengaluru FC’s Sean Rooney and Dempo’s Tolgay Ozbey at youth level, he reveals.

The Diary digs up an interview of Malik’s from two years ago in the Adelaide Advertiser. Born to a Sudanese father and an Australian mother, Malik is asked for his response to an incident of racism at the Hindmarsh Stadium.

“Obviously after September 11 (2001), Osama wasn’t the best name to have but I was always pretty cool with it because at the end of the day it’s a unique name, I think,” he is quoted as saying. “To be honest I copped it more during my cricket days when I was batting.”