I have never been asked to write a post for someone’s else’s blog, so this is definitely a first. There is also a neat bit of life symmetry at play here, because RK, the art director who produces the blog you’re reading now, hails from Bangalore, the city where my mother was born.
As a sports writer covering cricket and tennis for the weekly magazine Sportsworld, I was privileged to visit Bangalore several times. I was in my early twenties at the time and could not believe that I actually got paid to travel to all the sporting meccas I had dreamt about as a child. The other thing I found really intriguing in my rookie years was that I sat in the same media centre (okay, so they were called press boxes back then!) with all the people whose bylines I had read so avidly in my school and university years.
At Lord’s on one occasion, I remarked to David Frith, then the editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly, that it seemed strange to be rubbing shoulders with John Woodcock and John Thicknesse, whose work I had admired for years. David reply was warm and succinct. “You’re here on your own merits. You’re here because you’ve earned the right to be here.’’
It was great advice for a wide-eyed kid learning the ropes. When I travelled, I travelled quick and I travelled light. On one trip to England in pre-laptop days, I invested in a terrific gadget, a Canon Typestar 5. It was, I guess, the precursor to laptops in that it had one line of built-in memory, so you could actually edit what you wrote before printing it on the thermal paper rolled into the slim, hi-tech machine. It also had a little rectangular screen where you could review what you had typed. You could run the Typestar off mains power, or on a battery pack – and this was critical for me. It meant that I could work while I travelled. And because the Typestar was such a novelty, I often got asked on flights and at airport lounges what sort of gizmo it was.
It was so slim and so compact that it fitted easily into the side pocket of the burgundy Samsonite shoulder bag that I took with me on every flight. Both bag and Typestar would have clocked up at least 100,000 miles of air travel – and I still have them both, for purely sentimental reasons.
But on one trip to Bangalore, I had to carry a Samsonite suitcase for someone else. Unaccustomed to travelling with check-in baggage, I had to keep reminding myself not to a) leave the suitcase at home, b) not to leave it in the cab on the way to the airport, c) not to forget to take it with me to the check-in counter and d) not to walk away and leave it, circling endlessly, on the baggage carousel at Bangalore airport.
I am proud to say I remembered the suitcase at every juncture. But I left the keys behind, 1500 kilometres away. Any other suitcase would have probably snapped open if I used the point of a compass or divider on the lock. But nope, not a Samsonite. I had no option but to take the locked suitcase on a borrowed scooter to a pavement locksmith. He asked me no questions, took out a piece of wire, sized up the supposedly impregnable Samsonite lock and took up the challenge.
In less than two seconds, the lock sprang open.
So if you were on Bangalore’s streets that day, wondering who on earth this idiot was, riding a Lambretta while balancing a full-size suitcase near my feet, I’ll ‘fess up.
If you’ll forgive the mangled grammar, it was me.
(David Mcmahon is a Melbourne-based journalist and internationally-published photographer. He served as managing editor (production) of `The Age’ in Melbourne, one of the world’s best broadsheets.
His first novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo’, was published in April 2006 by Penguin Books India and has been on the bestseller lists since July 2006. He was born and educated in India, where he finished high school at St Joseph’s College, North Point, Darjeeling and university at St Xavier’s College, Calcutta. He has lived in Australia for 19 years.)