Vanity Fair

October 19, 2022by Rajeev Hora0

Vanity Fair

Normally all fairy tales start with, ‘Once upon a time’ and so shall ours.

Once upon a time, there was a very gifted and skilful cricketer who was the toast of the sporting fraternity. Stepping on every ladder of success, he rose to the topmost rankings in no time. Centuries after centuries in all formats led him to be proclaimed as “The Prince”. He sure had the Midas touch. Captaincy was a natural corollary and he revelled in the additional responsibility. Cupboards over-flowing with trophies, he could do no wrong.

Teams across the world studied his match-videos to identify weaknesses in his armour. But he was always one step ahead of the game in his preparation and anticipation. His work ethics in the gym and the field were worth emulating. Million-dollar sporting contracts and his face emerging from almost every second advert on the Television, it was indeed a fairy tale.

Rival coaches tried everything in their manuals including sledging to rile him up. But they could not identify an effective counter strategy. In fact, sledging brought out the best in him as he played with lot of pride and was always up to a ‘in your face’ challenge. With an uncluttered mind and unparalleled focus, a true showman he was.

And then a bright idea hit an opposing youngster. Going across to his coach, he suggested, “Coach, why don’t we hire a sports psychologist to study this terrible guy?” “Not a bad idea”, he acknowledged and went ahead with it.

The consultant’s analysis and solution was simple. Don’t sledge him or engage him or enrage him. “So, what do we do?”

“Act to the contrary and praise him endlessly. Give him a swollen head. Turn his pride to vanity and watch the results.”

Accordingly, just before the revenge series, the benevolent media was briefed on the strategy and so were the ex-players and the entire current team. Hailed as the GOAT (Greatest of all Times), every media instrument started acclaiming his greatness and superstar status. How deserving he was of his pole position!

The vanity treatment was slow, steady and effective. Now he had to perform to justify the image that had been created around him about him. Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ played out splendidly as planned.

A bill-board image of his own self replaced his real self. Clarity of thought and sub-conscious decisiveness which were his USP were suddenly gone. So did the runs dry up from his coffers with the hint of a doubt and the micro-second delay in his reflexes. No one could explain his loss of form and desertion of luck. And of course, the baiters were long waiting to snatch his captaincy away. In optimistic sounding tones, the soothsayers assured him that class is permanent although form may not be. After all, too much of sponsor money had been betted on him.

Anti-dotes for most poisons are available but none really for this type. Undoubtedly, one of the most misunderstood and exploited failings over the times. Blames, justifications, denials and extra efforts could not alter his luck. Love for the game gone or perhaps greatly diminished, he continued to struggle off and on.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”, he asked repeatedly hoping for a different answer every time. Every reflection still said “You of course master.” But a very faint voice from within whispered, ”Bloody Liar.” He was almost going to scream, “Shut Up” but for some strange reason, held himself back short of the precipice.

Instead, he heard himself murmuring a faint, “True”. Unknown to him, the first step to his redemption had probably begun. Even now, not quite able to make sense of what was going on, he badly wanted someone trustworthy to listen to him. As he reflected, he could only think about his childhood cricketing coach, Ram Singh.  Although, he had not been in regular touch with his guru, he just seemed to be the right person to share his heart with.

Living a peaceful retired life in Satara in his late seventies, a widowed Ram Singh was singularly proud of his ward’s achievements. Pleasantly surprised when ‘our man’ called up, Ram Singh was more than happy to receive him. Moving out into the veranda with tea poured in humble Yera glass tumblers, they both sat down to nostalgically reminiscence about their long association.

”Guruji, I want your advice badly”, he gently broached the subject about his frustrations and recent tribulations. “Everything seems to have fallen apart. I am in shambles. My average this year has fallen to almost half of my career average. What do you think is wrong with my technique that even newbie bowlers are able to break through my defence? The Cricket Association guys are as it is scheming to ease me out after the next series.”

Ram Singh could read his protégé’s mind like the back of his hand. After a patient listening, he asked gently, ”Are you not grateful for where you are today?” Puzzled by the query, he replied, ”I am but…..”. He stopped short.

“But what? Go ahead and list your blessings to me”, the Guru prodded him. Well he sure had plenty to be grateful for. Digging deeper, he also acknowledged his thankfulness to many people who had touched and shaped his life all these years. As he counted so one by one, he suddenly found the nagging tension leaving his mind. A certain calmness and peace  descending on him. Quite not sure about the reason for this inexplicable change, he asked, “What is this kind of therapy, Guruji?”

“Its quite simple logic actually” Ram Singh explained, ”Your mind is a like a one-bhk apartment. It can either accommodate your ‘vanity-driven grumblings’ or your gratitude. So accordingly, your choice either clutters your mind or liberates you. And you very well know that cricket is a game for an uncluttered mind. So there you are; you can have what you want.”

The penny dropped. A paradigm shift and a humble awakening it was, as ‘our man’ rediscovered himself after so many years. Although a probability function or a coincidence, the runs did make a re-appearance. And when finally the century drought ended, he did not pump his fists in his trademark style for it did not matter anymore.

The Great was already Grateful.


Well so is,

Horax (Casper)


P.S: Our man was lucky to have an enlightened mentor, for they say:

“Vanity dies hard. In some cases, it even outlives the man.”


First published at on 19/10/22

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