Born on 25 June, the same date India played its first ever Test in 1932, known commentator Gautam Bhimani considers cricket a passion, a passion that remains as strong even today.
There’s more yet that the cricket connoisseur has achieved. As television presenter, copywriter, radio jockey, DJ and author (of a book on his travel anecdotes titled ‘Reverse Sweep’), he’s a man of many tastes, experiences… and travels.
Here he talks favourites.
Where was your last trip?
Cape Town, South Africa.
Where is your next trip?
Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
What is your first travel-related memory?
Enchanting Bhutan at age 7, travelling with Bhutanese royalty and high ups from the Indian Army. Puri Beach from age 5 with unending picnics in non-AC first class trains with ice boxes full of soft drink cans, and stereos blaring the best disco music of the time. And, Thailand and Australia age 11. My first apparent touchdown on foreign soil was Bangkok. First impression: the cars looked foreign but the jams looked Indian!
Aisle or window seat?
Aisle, unless touching down at a scenic spot, then window always.
Any travel habits or rituals?
I tend to collect security tags much to the annoyance of CISF staff at airports. I tried to be a light traveller but failed. I ‘have’ to have luggage that stands out in a crowd.
Your most unforgettable travel memory?
Crisscrossing Europe at age 14, on my own; sitting in the cockpit of a Boeing 737 while looking out at the continent of South America for the very first time; and taking a five-hour flight with Sachin Tendulkar as my co-passenger.
Favourite cricket city?
London and Cape Town jointly. Adelaide and Melbourne follow.
What was your most challenging experience on the road?
Being stranded in London age 14 after I came back from a trip to Europe and found that my aunt and uncle (who I was meant to stay with) had gone to Scotland for three days, having miscalculated my return date.
They say that for many cricket is like religion and travel a passion. Is that true for you too?
Almost there. Sometimes the two get interspersed. Travel becomes religion and cricket, a passion!
What is the one thing, according to you, that remains the same for both cricket and travel?
That every destination, like every match is a new beginning, a new adventure.
That one place that you came across in a cricket city that really stands out in your memory.
It would have to be everything in and around the surrounds of Newlands in Cape Town. The spectacular backdrop is unparalleled.
Are there extra benefits to working while you travel?
I think it works both ways. In my case I generally travel when I work. But even working when I travel ends up being the same thing as the two things go hand in hand when travel ‘is’ your work!
Your best or worst travel souvenir?
Tiny but precious. It’s something I got at the end of a five-hour flight in the Caribbean that I once took with Sachin Tendulkar sitting right next to me. We chatted for the bulk of the journey and at the end I asked him for his boarding pass as a souvenir. Our names were printed on them so it made it extra special. I still have those! And even printed them in my book!
What would the traveller in you pick from street-side local cuisine and an authentic premium restaurant?
Street cuisine five days a week, and to pamper myself, a ‘premium’ restaurant, not for the lavishness but for the fact that there are certain local delicacies that street vendors just don’t give you. Like a giant garlic and butter grilled Lobster.
DSLR or smartphone-camera?
Smartphone camera anyday. DSLR is great but the holiday becomes more about looking after it than enjoying the sights.
Navigation maps or directions from a local?
Maps and local interaction. No GPS whenever possible.
The most picturesque cricket ground you’ve ever been to is?
Newlands, Cape Town. Dharamsala comes second mainly because the city is simply a challenge to get to and get around. Cape Town is a tourist’s delight.
Sometimes travel schedules can really be crazy in between matches leading to jet lags and much more. Are there days when you wish for a break from travel?
‘All’ the time. But if the place is beautiful, the food good and the weather decent, then work becomes a holiday and a break in itself. A good sunny day in London, a warm day on Bondi Beach in Sydney, a trip to Barossa Valley vineyards or Paarl South Africa… or the great barrier reef, all qualify.
Your favourite traveller cuisine is?
A funny incident that you recall from your travels?
A duplicate seat that had a happy ending! I got on my first domestic flight ever in the West Indies and discovered that my seat was already taken. A case of duplicate boarding passes. I was livid having just landed from a Delhi-Dubai-London-Barbados marathon flight. And this was the last leg of a crazy fligth from Barbados to Georgetown. At the end, the compensation was that we would get to travel up front. For take off, me in the stewardess’ jump seat, and for landing, in the cockpit! The other passenger (a famous Guyanese cricket legend’s son) got to do the opposite.
What’s your biggest travel fail?
To travel light.
Which is the one travel dream you’d rush to fulfil?
There are five places on my bucket list: Maldives, Rio de Janeiro, Spain (Madrid, Mallorca, Málaga, Barcelona), Ibiza, Amalfi.
As told to Tanya Sirohi.