Our life is a story. Each one of us has a story to tell. Over the course of our life, we have many stories on which is built our personality. In some of these stories, we play only a part but as we grow, we start creating our own stories. Some of these stories are shared but some are buried deep inside us as they may carry a personal tragedy, loss, failure, or a mistake. Yet there is always A Story to Tell.

Everyone tells stories. Ask the politicians who have made a career out of storytelling at the expense of others. I came across the phrase, “A Story to Tell” when I was managing the iconic German luxury brand, Montblanc during my time in Dubai. It was a fascinating idea and a great campaign because for a luxury brand, one is not required to sell the product but sell the story behind the product. It was such a simple yet a deep connect with the user as one always wanted to share their story of the Montblanc product they now possessed. It could be an ice breaker for a young man wooing a woman; an easy dinner conversation for someone to impress the audience listening in or just for the owner to bask in the story that the pen he was holding conveyed.

A story always resonates well with any audience as it allows them to get closer to the story teller. To my fellow bibliophiles, a fascinating book holds us enthralled only because of the story it is attempting to convey. With this blog, I will be sharing three stories. These stories revolve around one of my passions – collecting signed memorabilia. Yes there have been some memorabilia that were purchased at auctions or online. I do not have any story to share from that bit of my collection. But the following are my three most loved ones and there is a story behind each one.

Carl Lewis’s autograph: I have always been a fan of Carl Lewis. As a teenager, growing up in the eighties, I marveled at the way Carl Lewis sprinted. I thought it incredulous for an athlete to dominate both track and field. To win gold medals at the Olympics and the World Championship in not just the 100 and 200 M race but also in the long jump was something only the great Jesse Owens had done before him. For me Carl Lewis remains the most complete athlete ever. So, it was but natural for me to order his book – Inside Track co written with Jeffrey Marx. I had ordered it on Amazon US and the usual route was for it delivered to my sister in California. And then she would carry it during her India visit. It was delivered to her alright and when I asked where the book was when she visited Pune at my parent’s place, she very sheepishly claimed that she had perhaps lost it. Damn but there was nothing I could do as the copy was now very expensive for me to re-order. After around a year or so, when I was helping my mom spring clean, I found an unopened Amazon packet lying behind the book shelf. I opened it to find the Carl Lewis book I had ordered. But a bigger surprise was in store. The book was signed by the great man and his co-author. It was a second-hand copy that I had ordered and some clueless soul (in fact I found out it was a lady named Maria) had sent it to the Amazon re-seller, not realizing the priceless treasure she was discarding. And now it adorns one of the walls in my living room.

Wasim Akram and the broken stump: It was sometime in the mid nineties when I was working with Ceat tyres in the marketing department. Ceat had just launched the Ceat Cricket Ratings (CCR – I reckon it still exists in a different format now).  A concept that helped Ceat connect with a younger audience. CCR was the brain child of late Jal Khodaiji who was the Executive Director of marketing and my mentor. With Sunil Gavaskar, Ian Chappell and Sir Clive Lloyd as judges, Ceat had developed a point system to select and felicitate the best batsman and bowler of the previous year. Since I was the only person at the head office who had played competitive cricket, I was tasked with receiving and spending time with the invitees. Over the two years that I spent with this initiative, I was responsible for hosting Sir Lloyd, Brian Lara, Ian Chappell and Wasim Akram. The couple of days spent with Akram were delightful. He shared many stories of his matches against India and life in Pakistan. He was also eager to catch up with his partner in crime Ravi Shastri at his Alibaug farmhouse. I do not need to elaborate what happened there. When it was time for me to drop him off at the airport, I was pleasantly surprised to see him reach out to the driver to thank him and hand over a generous tip. That year the invitation carried a broken stump to honour Akram and to signify his lethal swing bowling. And I thought of no better piece than that broken stump for Akram to sign an autograph for me.

Sunil Gavaskar & Gundappa Vishwanath: Growing up for me was watching, dreaming, living, and playing cricket. Perhaps a routine for all of us back then. The kids born in the seventies, it was SMG, Vishy, Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev who provided us the required adrenaline and comfort to lead a happy and carefree life. I was fortunate that my dad a general physician was the family doctor to both the Gavaskar and Vishwanath families. So, one had the opportunity to have them over for dinner and meet them on many occasions. My collection of sporting memorabilia started only around ten or twelve years ago. It was around that time, when I visited SMG at his Worli home. He had just come back from a game of badminton and was alone at home and in a mood to chat. We spent around an hour together, no phone calls or any other interruption. He spoke about his playing days, his days as a commentator and many other topics. When I showed him the photograph below on which I wanted his signature, he immediately recollected the time and place. It was in 1979 just before the first Test match at Edgbaston. Duncan Fearnley had made a special bat for him with the sides on the top slightly edged off to offer a better balance (you can notice that in the pic). He had a good Test match and great Test series, becoming India’s captain after that tour. Vishy as always, India’s most loved cricketer was gracious enough to sign the same for me when I met him at his home in Bangalore. To have two of my favourite cricketers in the same frame with their autograph is perhaps my most treasured possession.

There are many more autographs as you can see from the pics and so many stories to share. Remember, there should always be a story to tell. Or else it is just a transaction. An emotion without any heart and soul.

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