“A few years back that’s where I used to grow sugarcane,” he says. Shifting his gaze to the cover region he talks about his dhaan fields; pointing to midwicket he remembers his chanaa saplings.
Being the owner of 28 acres of fertile agricultural land around the stadium would see him make the cut to Lahli’s Fortune 50 any day but that’s not the reason he is the most important man in this hamlet near Rohtak, which has a population of about 5,400.
By virtue of being the one-time owner of the land that will host the Mumbai-Haryana Ranji Trophy game — more importantly the patch of land where Sachin Tendulkar will start his long walk to the exit — the old man in spotless white kurta-pyjama has got 50 VIP passes for the Sunday-to-Wednesday game.
That thick, multi-coloured stack on which is printed ‘Block A, Level 1’ bulges in his kurta pocket, making him the envy of Lahli. It is understandable since the rest of the villagers will have to figure out a way to distribute 550 passes among themselves.
Tendulkar’s much anticipated last domestic game happens to be in their backyard and no one wants to miss it around here. The quaint outpost has to deal with complications it has never dreamed about.
“I am getting a headache, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Just now my doctor called. How do I refuse him? I am an old man,” says Malhotra, sipping tea after a hearty meal at the stadium.
But there is someone else here who happens to be in a bigger fix. Sarpanch Bahadur Singh is the man given the responsibility of collecting the passes from the Haryana Cricket Association officials, carrying them to the village and the dreaded job of distributing them.
For the last 10 days, the village talk has been about who the sarpanch will favour and who will get his snub. At the bus stop next to NH10, where the village elders exchange gossip and news over hukkas, a few suggestions have been floated.
Harish Kaushik, a man who owns a fleet of buses, says that the youngsters should get a chance to watch it. “They should takes turns during the four-day game,” he says. The sane voice gets drowned in the din since no one is keen to go down the queue and watch the game on the third or fourth day.
A middle-aged man in track pants and fake Nike cap says that the women from the village are also keen to be at the ground. He too gets pushed away from the core group. With the media around, a young boy fishes out a Tendulkar poster and makes a claim for the passes. An old man is disgusted with the talk. “They are Sachin fans only if they get the tickets,” he says. By late night, a fragile compromise has been agreed upon. The passes will be distributed among the panchayat members. “They will keep two for themselves and the rest they will distribute,” says the brave Sarpanch Bahadur. Some say that dawn on Saturday will see another meeting.
Away from all this, Malhotra smiles. He will be getting paid by HCA for the temporary road he has built on his land for the parking lot that also happens to be on his property. The old farmer isn’t regretting giving up the land where he once grew sugarcane.