Collar up! An interview with M.L.Jaisimha

Collar up!An interview with M.L.Jaisimha

M.L. Jaisimha’s house stood at a dead end in Maredpally. Its garden had tall shady trees, a neatly maintained lawn with flowers bordering it. In front of the garage stood a vintage Morris, its tyres punctured and its body covered with dust, the proof of its disuse. The two Labradors, Silky, the sulky and Flash; the furniture, the paintings, his photographs and trophies that were housed in the drawing room further displayed his taste for class. Before we spoke to him we expected to meet someone who would be boastful, justifiably though, and float on the waters of yester glory, someone who would nod and frown at our curiosity. But he turned out quite the opposite. It wasn’t an interview. It was a cool conversation.

He seemed rather casual in recollecting his academic credentials. He began, “ I studied in the St. Ann’s Convent. It used to be co-education up to the 5th class. No 4rth. I was sent to Bangalore where I studied in Bishop Cottons and Baldwin. I completed my H.S.L.C. from Mehboob School. I joined Nizam College to study my intermediate and Graduation. That was in 1954”. “When we asked him if he attended classes regularly there appeared a naughty smile with which he replied, “Yeah, occasionally”. Though unasked be seemed quite enthusiastic to reveal that he never completed his graduation!

“There ought to be a lot of change in college life from then and now. Sports were highlighted, particularly soccer, tennis, cricket, and athletics. We had in fact 15 to 20 international players. S P. Mishra, Abbas Ali Baig. Ahmed Hussain, Nayeem for instance. There used to be a lot of literary activities too. We had been tbe creators of the college’s first magazine, ‘The Collegian’ of which Shyam Benegal was the editor. We used to attend youth festivals in Delhi. In literary circles, I can remember the name of Shankar Narain Melkote.

He seemed forgetful and much confused when asked to remember old names. He knocked at his temple to assist thought. “I am sorry,” he mumbled, “I do not clearly remember. I’ll have to ask my wife Jayanti.’ Incidentally, we learnt that they came to know each other at college.

He complained that though there was co-education, there was considerable distance between the boys and girls. “They never entered the canteen. So the management ventured on having a co-operative canteen which eventually failed”.

Jaisimha the Cricketer did not come out of thin air. He loved the outdoors. As his father managed the club in Maredpally, Jai was either in the pool, on the tennis courts. or playing Cricket. ‘”n my child hood if it was not cricket, it was marbles or kite flying”. He had been outstanding in Tennis and Badminton but he had to forgo them for Cricket.

“I was selected to play for the country in the season of J954-55. 1t was a memorable moment. There was a glow and a sense of pride when I heard I was selected. He drew a red line between one day and five day Cricketer. “Each one is an entity. But one-day cricket is entertained as it brings in a result. It has provided an extra dimension to Cricket, and at the same spelt death to traditional cricket. There is an element of artificiality, a suspense at the end after a boring passage. However it has managed to capture the imagination of a large section, a totally new audience who never knew about Cricket. Also, television leading media innovation now has helped Cricket enter the bedrooms”.

In the course of his conversation he would move about smoking. (He offered the girls the cigarettes much to their embarrasment, and we settled sipping moosambi ka juice.) In a jet age we asked, “Can a play that lasts for five days last for at least fifty years more?”. He gave it a thought and continued with the same candor, “Conceptually cricket is loosing ground It has become an easy method of making money. There has been far too much of international cricket. It has been escaping those who govern the game. Today, you bear of a test match at the turn of a page. Not overlooking the fact that attendance in first class cricket has dwindled, test matches will still be played but probably with limited overs. Say hundred”.

Commenting on Vengsarkar being banned his comment was stern. “Once you sign an agreement you ought to abide by its terms and conditions. The Board took some kind of stance. He deserved it. He went to it with his eyes open.”

Jaisimha was in a world of cricket alone. Or so it seems. “I had no time for social work though I wished to. I used to be in the Round Table Movement but I quit as I could not pay justice to my job”.

For his pastime he reads a lot of fiction. Lawrence Sanders, Robert Ludlum and Agatha Christie. He loves jazz. Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley. Asked where he would like to live he replied, “I love Hyderabad except in May. Of the places in the world I love West Indies and Australia. The people and beauty of their lands. Those days it used to be stronger bonds of friendship with the West Indians and Australians. Though it wasn’t with the English. Even today I receive odd letters and phone calls to keep up cricket fraternity”. Age had not withered the veteran nor did custom stale his infinite variety. He loved style and class and made it a point to show it. The grace on his face as well as his wife’s stood the test of time. He felt a little flattered on being complimented handsome He told us, “I had two or three offers for films”. He has been working on a book since five years whose subject matter is definitely cricket. He hopes to release it in a year’s time.

He paternally advises. Have fun while it lasts. Try and get as much as you can from college. It helps you in the long run.

We spoke a lot. We about todays, and he, his wife and an old college friend, about yesterdays. Their elections. Their long-drives, picnics and sandwiches. We learned a lot. We realized how much college life meant. Today’s boring days or petty incidents, or so as we look at them, turn out to be embedded in our memories till the end of our lives with a sense of reverence as did the Jaisimhas.

(This article appeared in “The Collegian” on the 100th Anniversary of the Nizam College in 1989).

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