BOOKMARK Saad Bin Jung, who is out with his book Subhan & I, talks about how he turned from cricketer to angler
From cricket fields, compiling runs in an artful style that once fetched him a century as an 18-year-old against the West Indies at Pune, to angling in the Cauvery River, Saad Bin Jung has encountered varied challenges. His racy account, Subhan & I (Roli Books), keeps you engrossed.
Subhan is the driving force of this brilliant tribute. “Subhan was an amazingly difficult and intricate personality whose character was crafted by the failures of India to deliver basic amenities to her lost citizens. His life had to be highlighted for the powers to acknowledge their mistakes. Apart from that he was the godfather, the WG Grace, the Don Bradman, of mahseer angling. He was a genius who understood the mood of the river. He could foretell where the fish were and predict the outcome of a battle before it took place. He believed that guest anglers did not know much about the nuances of angling in the treacherous gorge for the mighty fish and would make basic mistakes; he taught me how to take corrective action before the angler lost his fish. He was God on the Cauvery. He was my best friend,” says Saad. Halfway through the book, Subhan succumbs to tuberculosis.
Saad gives an early indication of his style with a fascinating narration of Subhan’s encounter with a young tusker. Superbly written, Subhan’s escape is depicted in a breathtaking manner and he sums it up, “The first few brushes with death that define life in a jungle are probably the most exhilarating experiences in one’s life….”
The cricketer-turned-author loves wildlife. In fact his first book was Wild Tales from the Wild . “It’s black and white living; the raw savageness mixed with a simple serenity and peace only found in the wilds. Life and questions connected with life haunt me on a regular basis and many challenges arise whilst trying to find answers to such life defining queries. After cricket the one challenge that really seeped itself deep in my bones was the issue of conservation and wildlife in India. I knew that in order to find the solutions to conservation I would first need to know the questions; the very reasons that make conservation so challenging to understand. Once I had taken the first few steps into the heart of rural and wild India I realised that I would need to get deeply entrenched in the hearts of the local people and the wildlife for me to comprehend the many nuances that affect their lives. And it was a matter of time before my family, my life, my character, the local people, the wildlife, the government — all became entangled in a terrifying and heartrending yet at most times beautiful struggle.”
‘You Never Forget Your First Big Bang’ is a chapter that describes his initiation into angling and his mentor Subhan’s incredible understanding of the subject. Saad refers to Subhan as the god of angling on the Cauvery; preparing the bait for the prey and his early lessons in fishing bring the best out of the author. “Though angling to me is a sport, to Subhan it was a livelihood,” adds Saad before pointing out his mentor’s concurrence with his views.
How come a book on angling and not cricket? “I was 16 when I was invited to the Hyderabad nets by Abid uncle (former Test cricketer Abid Ali). It was there that he told us something that stuck with me. He said that we should not try and be like Gary Sobers. What he had meant was that we play within our limitations but I mistook it as a challenge and believed that unless we believed we could be the best in the world what was the point in playing? Ever since I have tried to find such perfection in everything I did. When I played golf I realised that I would be running with the bottom at least with this sport. I chucked that up and through my wild encounters I found angling and that too under the tutelage of Subhan. That’s when it hit me that though I didn’t make it to the top in cricket, maybe I could in angling for the mahseer . And I believe that between Subhan and I, we delivered one of the best angling experiences in the world. That’s how angling took over from cricket.”
The mahseer dominates Saad’s narration in the latter half as he gives the reader priceless insight into becoming a good angler and also the importance of conservation. He notes, “The politician, as a general rule, cannot understand why the world is fighting tooth and nail to protect the forests, the rivers, the elephants, the rhino, and the tiger, leave alone the mahseer , which is running from one deep pool to the next, to survive.”
He concludes with a fervent plea that “the powers see the light through the pages of this book and reach out to help.”