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Umpire Anil Chaudhary during the lockdown — at home in the field

Forced to stay back in his village, umpire rediscovers farming skills

Cricket took him away from Dangarol, a village in District Shamli. The lockdown has now transported him 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 the village on the 16th to fetch grains and jaggery. I brought my sons (Aryan and Akshat) along, leaving my wife (Meeta) and mother (Kamla) back in Delhi. Then the lockdown happened. We decided to stay put in the village,” ICC panel umpire Anil Chaudhary told The Hindu.

In the village, Chaudhary has used the “opportunity” to rediscover his farming skills. “We are farmers. I used to stay in this village till the X standard and help in the fields. I found the labourers here had left. So I plunged into ploughing the fields (sugarcane and wheat).People are allowed to work in the fields or go to the nearby town to get essentials for three hours beginning 6 a.m.,” he said.

Teaching others

Chaudhary has taken the opportunity to educate people around him. “I told them the importance of social distancing and regular washing of hands. Soap is now kept at every tubewell. Earlier they would wash their hands and feet with mud. Now they have started using soap. I have distributed masks too and told them not to gather to gossip or play cards. I am happy that they listen to me. There is no gathering of people anymore in Dangarol. We also never had this culture of shaking hands and greet each other with a `Ram, Ram," he said.

On the experience of staying in the village, Chaudhary said, “I have been enjoying working in the fields. Feels like my childhood days have returned. Every morning I drive the tractor 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 graduated in agriculture and stayed on. (Brother) Harendra and I would spend months in the village. Cricket took us away from the village where bonding among people is amazing. I have never spent so much time at a stretch with my sons,” he said.

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 p.m. you are asleep. A melodious aarti from a nearby temple wakes us at 5 in the morning. Villagers are basically nice, gentle, selfless people. I have learned so much during this lockdown.”

A couple of 80-year-olds in the village, revealed Chaudhary, talk of this “unprecedented development".

Bit of advice

"But they insist ‘we shall overcome. It is a test of our will power’. Follow guidelines, accept the gravity of the situation," is the advice from the 55-year-old, who sometimes has to climb trees to catch the internet signal in his village.

“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,” he signed off.

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