Narayan kaka’s observant eyes did not miss much. As he cradled his nephew of a few hours lovingly in his arms, he noticed that the bundle of joy, kicking freely on being delivered from his mother’s womb, had a tiny little hole near the top of his left ear lobe. He didn’t want to upset the infant’s mother Minal by drawing her attention to that identification mark.
He visited Minal in the hospital the next day and, as was expected, picked up the baby from the crib next to her. It did not take him more than a moment to realise that the baby in his hands did not have the hole on the left ear lobe. “Wasn’t there a hole on his left ear lobe?” he asked himself, carrying out another inspection of the child. “Surely, there is a mix-up.”
He did not lose more time and raised an alarm – as quietly as he could. Even in the best of times, a maternity ward knows little peace. And, this was a full-blown crisis. Bedlam broke loose. All nurses and attendants in the ward were summoned to take part in the search. In her bed, Minal grew tense. She was not sure why Narayanji had summoned the Head Nurse and what he had told her in hushed tones.
The Head Nurse addressed a meeting and her staff immediately set out in search. Minal noticed that each one of the nurses, a tad reluctant but complying with her superior’s advise, went up to a crib and look closely at each infant. Some did their best to wear blank looks on their faces but, try as they did, they could not wish the worry creases away.
Before long, a triumphant looking nurse found the infant with the hole in the ear lobe. Having been given a bath, he was found sleeping in a crib next to a fisherwoman and was restored to his own mother. Narayan kaka had saved the day. What if he hadn’t been as observant? What if the infant were not born with a tiny hole on his left ear lobe? Simply stated: History would have been different. Well, it would never have been made
Born on July 10, 1949, restored to his mother Minal the following day, the child was named some days later as Sunil Gavaskar. And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history. He went on to become one of the greatest cricketers ever, scoring a world record 10,122 runs with 34 centuries in 125 Test matches between 1971 and 1987. The younger fans know him as a columnist, TV commentator and Cricket Committee Chairman of the International Cricket Council.
In his autobiographical book, Sunny Days, Sunil Gavaskar wrote: “I may never have become a cricketer and this book would certainly not have been written, if an eagle-eyed relation, Narayan Masurekar, had not come into my life the day I was born (July 10, 1949). It seems that Nan-Kaka (as I called him), who had come to see me in hospital on my first day in this world, noticed a little hole near the top of my left earlobe. The next day he came again and picked up the baby lying on the crib next to my mother. To his utter horror, he discovered that the baby did not have the hole on the left earlobe. A frantic search of all the cribs in the hospital followed, and I was eventually located sleeping blissfully beside a fisherwoman, totally oblivious of the commotion I had caused! The mix-up, it appears, followed after the babies had been given their baths.
“Providence had helped me to retain my true identity, and, in the process, charted the course of my life. I have often wondered what would have happened it nature had not ‘marked’ me out, and given my ‘guard’ by giving me that small hole on my left earlobe; and if Nan-Kaka had not noticed this abnormality. Perhaps, I would have grown-up to be an obscure fisherman, toiling somewhere along the west coast. And what about the baby who, for a spell, took my place? I do not know if he is interested in cricket, or whether he will ever read this book. I can only hope that, if he does, he will start taking a little more interest in Sunil Gavaskar.”
July 8 2005