It is a lovely Sunday afternoon – the kind any man would give an arm and a leg to spend curled up on a couch in front of the television. We are pretty good at this sort of thing. No, not giving up useful limbs but parking our behinds on the sofa. For some inexplicable reason, this activity is completely beyond the comprehension of the wife. And it is exactly for this reason that you find men in a shopping mall on sunday afternoons.

It is not all bad. It is not that women need men to shop. They simply need us to drive them to the mall, carry their bags, and then drive them back home. This usually leaves us with an inordinate amount of time during which the sane amoung us have nothing to do save ogle at the wives of other men. There is this other species of men who goes around playing arcade games or checking out the latest electronic gadgets but since that is a species much lower than the salmonella bacteria we will not talk about it.

Sometimes, though, there is a higher purpose for our existence in shopping malls. Imagine a scenario where a Martian lands on earth, more specifically a pub when a cricket match is on. All he hears are chants of ‘Sachin! Sachin!’. The Martian is now confused. He had done his research on earth. He had come prepared. He spoke 11 languages. But he was unfamiliar with the term ‘Sachin! Sachin!’. Scratching his head the Martian goes out in search of answers. This is when he conveniently bumps into you.

This is an opportunity not to be scoffed at. You could possibly be standing at the cusp of inter-planetary war. What if the Martian mistook the chant for a war cry? After all, adrenalin-fuelled chants do get quite bloody vociferous. It is upto you to usher in an era of cosmic peace. Fortunately, your wife has just gone into the trial room with five tops which leaves you with enough time to explain facts to the Martian.

The most logical place to start would be with an elaboration of the game of cricket. No other game is so self-obsessed with its rules that it infact calls them ‘laws’. The easy bit first. Cricket is a game played by two teams with 11 players each. Now things get complicated. Somehow you manage to explain the intricacies of batting, bowling and fielding. Beads of perspiration appear on your forehead as you struggle to make the Martian understand the modes of dismissals.

For his part, the Martian has been quite a sport. He has listened intently and absorbed the essence of what you have said so far. Now comes the tricky bit. Out of the corner of your eye, you notice your wife has made her choice of the top. This leaves you with a window of time, yes. But a small window in which she gets the billing done.

You talk a little faster now. You try to explain to the Martian power play overs or field restrictions. During power play, there cannot be more than 2 or 3 (depending on which power play is on) fielders outside the 30 yard circle in the limited overs format. In any format, there cannot be more than 5 fielders on the leg side and not more than two between the wicket-keeper and the square leg umpire. The Martian wears an amused look. It is easier to send a man to the gallows than this. Heck, after this cricket session the Martian would gladly walk to the gallows himself.

But it is not done yet. You are still to explain the restrictions on bouncers, the wide rule, the beamer rule, the no-ball, the pitching outside leg stump LBW rule, the disinction between offering a shot and not offering one… Phew! On the bright side, your wife has been told there is a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on. She has gone back to trialling tops. So you still have the time.

You are finally done with making the Martian understand the game of cricket. Yes, your handkerchief is soaked in sweat. But you pulled it off. Bravo! It is now time to tell him about the phenomenon of ‘Sachin! Sachin!’. Your eyes light up in glee. This was your moment. The climax that made all the cricket gyan worth it. You take a deep breath, the hint of a smile beginning to form. You are about to tell the Martian about God.

Sachin is the best cricketer on our planet, you say. He is what makes us watch a match at 4 in the morning. He is to us what atmosphere is to a Martian. You stand back and smile. You feel this sense of glow that a mother feels on the success of her child, a sense of pride that a father has on the success of his child. You breathe in your greatest possible moment – of introducing to an alien being the joys of ‘Sachin! Sachin!’.

The Martian quietly muses. He is absorbed in thought. Perhaps he is coming to terms with the greatness he has been told about. After a long while he finally speaks:

“So, you are telling me that in a setting of complex rules this man is the best.”

He walks off into the proverbial sunset. That’s the last you see of him. But he leaves you with more questions than answers.

If this man is the best in a setting of complex rules, then you would be best too in another setting of complex rules. Unlike a sprinter who is the fastest human or a weightlifter who is the strongest human, given the right set of complicated rules you could be the best in that environment.

The thought stays with you as you drive home. May be you could aim to be the fastest driver with a load of shopping bags in his car.

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