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Hart in the right place

Waveney Hart has an interesting family tree with roots in India. The spirited lady, who loves jazz and cricket, watched Brian Lara blast an awesome 400 against England

GRACE PERSONIFIED Very few people have been privileged enough to watch Brian Lara's electric brilliance live Photo: AFP

As I enter her daughter Gail's living room, Waveney Hart is excited about Wavell Hinds's and Shivnarine Chanderpaul's feats in the first test against South Africa in her home town, Georgetown in Guyana. "One of them has got a double century and the other is on his way to it."

She'd been talking a few hours ago with her sister Lucille in Antigua, but I've just heard the BBC news. "Correction," I say. "They both got double centuries and West Indies declared at 543 for 5 just before close." There follows a long and animated discussion on cricket and on how Brian Lara and the other six absentees might find their places taken when they try returning in the next Test. We of course don't know that West Indies are in for a thrashing in the next two Tests!

Three months ago when I'd met Ms. Hart again, after eight years, and rekindled our two common loves, the joyousness and liveliness of West Indian cricket and classic jazz, her first remark had my jaw dropping in wonderment. She'd seen Lara scoring his awesome 400 against England at St. John's, Antigua, last year. If there's another person living in Bangalore today who was an eyewitness to that prodigious feat, it's time to stand up and be counted, since I'm sticking my neck out to proclaim she's the only one!

Today this petite woman with a lilting voice and twinkling eyes is in full flow. We recollect the calypso written in honour of his record 500 in first-class cricket, and then the famous calypso sung over half a century ago by The Mighty Sparrow to celebrate a notable triumph at Lords: "... When everything was said and done/ Second Test and West Indies won/ The bowling was superfine/ With those little pals of mine/ Ramadhin and Valentine."

Heckling fans

When she started her career as a nurse in those days, Ms. Hart made sure she got night duty whenever a Test match was on. The irrepressible Caribbean fans used to heckle the English cricketers: "Is the sun hot enough for you? Are you getting a good tan?" The women among them used to dress up in their best outfits and parade down the aisles to the wolf-whistles of the male fans. She laughs off my question: "Is that how you found Gail's father?"

We talk about the three Ws of West Indies cricket, Worrell, Weekes and Walcott, and those Guyanese stars who came a little later, Rohan Kanhai and the retiring Lance Gibbs. "Gibbs was a personal friend. He came to my wedding," she says.

Unusual hitching

The conversation turns to her mother Ramdai, daughter of first-generation emigrants from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, and how unusual she was to marry an Afro-Guyanese. Ramdai used to cook vegetarian food separately for herself on a chulha and non-vegetarian food for her husband and children on a modern stove. Ramdai and her brother Balkaran Singh were close, and through him her children got some familiarity with Indian culture. "I got married twice over," she tells us, "once in church and once the Hindu way. My maternal uncle officiated as the priest."

History repeated itself when her daughter met an Indian student in Princeton and married him in New York. With part of her roots and her daughter now in India, the voices urging her to make this her permanent home are strong.

But there are several contesting pulls. Her sister and brother-in-law in Antigua, with whom she spent a few months recently, nicely timed to watch Lara in action, lead the clamour. She's also been visiting cousins and other relatives in England. No doubt several of them or their parents were cheering wildly at Lord's when "those little pals of mine" were doing their calypso-inspiring stuff for The Mighty Sparrow.

But when "everything is said and done", she'll return to New York, where she's lived for over 40 years and her heart is. It's the city where she spent most of her long and satisfying professional career, where her avocation won her recognition in the Who's Who of Nursing.

And as we talk of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, it's logical to me. If my home has for so long been in the city that is the home of jazz, would I move? For the present, though, this "little pal of mine" is staying right here in Bangalore and, we hope, savouring every moment of her sojourn.


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