Why there’s no such thing as a free lunch for Rahul Dravid

Or that matter, a free doctorate or freebies from cricket mates.

Rahul Sharad Dravid’s uncomplicated humility never fails to amaze. More so, in these complicated times that we live in. By now it’s common knowledge that India’s former captain has declined an Honorary Doctorate from Bangalore University. Dravid even informed the university that he wanted to earn his doctorate rather than accept an honorary one. Who does this these days? It also appears this is not the first time Dravid has refused an honorary degree, and by the look of it, it will not be the last.

After Dravid’s latest show of character, a spate of similar stories have surfaced. As expected, Dravid has refused to accept if any of these are true, though in his own mischievous way, he has not refuted them. He said, tongue firmly in cheek, “I have learnt not to declare, whether this is true or not, it’s for you to decide”

My way or the highway

One of the common stories doing the rounds is of a young, impressionable Dravid, still in college, pursuing his B Com in Bangalore, invited to a friend’s place for lunch. Dravid stunned his friend’s mother when he refused lunch, stating in no uncertain terms, “My contribution to this meal is zero. Just like cricket is a team sport, I think, sharing a meal together should also be a team sport, aunty”. Dravid’s friend’s mother was puzzled by the teenager’s eloquence in thought; so she simply asked, “Rahul, what are you trying to say, son?”

The reply zapped one and all present.

Dravid insisted he be given the task to wash the dishes. When it was argued that he was a guest and none of the other boys had volunteered, and a kitchen was not the domain of a young male student, his books were; Dravid was sharp, to the point, “Aunty, let us not stereotype students or gender roles, please let me contribute or I will be unable to eat”. Finally, Dravid had his way as he often does.

He took pains over doing the dishes, as he often did with his long, masterful innings. After that particular lunch, whenever Dravid was invited to his friend’s place, they served in paper plates, usually ordering pizzas.

A team man, to the last

Not to be outdone, Dravid also wanted to contribute to the take-away pizza meal. But as a young student, coughing up for pricey pizzas was not an option. Dravid thought hard and then offered to take the pizza cartons and paper plates to the closest recycling bin – in the early 90s, such bins were few and far between. However, Dravid would diligently cycle to the closest recycle bin (it was 2.3 km away).

His friend’s mother was pleased not to see him washing dishes in the kitchen. “What Rahul recycles and how much Rahul cycles is his business”, she would frequently say.

Dravid made his India debut against Sri Lanka in 1996. By then he was 23, also in the team were his Karnataka mates, Venkatesh Prasad and Javagal Srinath, both of who were his India seniors by a few years.

Dravid felt he owed his two seniors much gratitude for their concern towards him as a young rookie in the side. However, he did not know how to thank them till one day he sat them down and dished out his plan – “both of you love to bowl long spells, especially in the nets…but you know under Azhar as captain, there is a certain culture to the team and you always don’t have willing batsmen in the nets…specially against your pace, Javagal…what I mean to say is this…I’m very thankful to all you’ve done for me, to make me feel welcome here, and to show I really appreciate it, I’m ever ready to face you in the nets…specially you Venki…”, he wrapped up in a lighter vein, making an obvious reference to Prasad’s easy paced seamers.

From that day, the three were inseparable in the dressing room. Dravid was content, he never believed in a free lunch, not from his friend’s mom, not from his mates, not from anybody. Everything had to be earned.

Way back, as a student, when setting off to pay for the supposed free lunch of pizzas, he said, “it’s either my way or the highway…which is where I’m taking these boxes to recycle”

Perhaps, those were the days when the seeds for the world’s most-stubborn batsman were sown. Food for thought.

However plausible this may sound, this is largely a work of fiction.

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