There are many ways to get to England from Singapore to watch the World Cup. Driving around 22,000 kilometres spread over 17 nations is perhaps the toughest one. But for Anupam Mathur and his five family members, it was worth it just to watch Virat Kohli and his men play. And though their journey may not have ended with India winning, all six members of the Mathur family say the last month-and-a-half have been the most memorable of their lives.
So why did the Mathur family take the Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand-Laos-China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-Russia-Finland-Sweden-Denmark-Germany-Netherlands-Belgium-France route? Anupam says it may have to do with a newspaper cutting he saw when he was bunking class.
“It was a childhood dream that started when I was 10-years-old. Back in the day, an Indian couple from Delhi drove around the world in their Contessa Classic in a record 42 days,” he told indianexpress.com over the phone from Manchester, a day after India’s exit from the World Cup.
When he was in school in Chennai three decades ago, Anupam says he religiously bunked classes during the World Cup to stay updated about matches. He says the emotion every time the Indian team takes the field has remained unchanged.
“I still cry when I think of how the team lifted Sachin Tendulkar after winning the 2011 World Cup. Like a billion others, I am a huge Sachin fan,” says Anupam.
This time Mathur, who is now a strategist for a banking firm in Singapore, took leave, while his wife Aditi, who is a partner in a law firm, also got special approval for a long leave so they could take the trip. “We did not have time to look for sponsorships, we have funded this trip with our life savings,” says Anupam.
The Mathurs’ itinerary took them through countries with little knowledge of cricket, but Anupam says they were perfect ambassadors of the game. In Sweden, they found themselves in an intense conversation with strangers in a restaurant regarding the World Cup points table.
“Given the artwork on our car, we were frequently asked about our trip. We had some great conversations with people along the way, we were asked about cricket many times,” says Anupam.
The Mathurs were on the road for 48 days before they reached England and were just in time for India’s last round-robin match against Sri Lanka, for which the tournament’s organisers had arranged tickets.
“We were living the dream every day of the trip. Even when I was tired, it was about being in the moment – I knew these would be the 50 most memorable days of my life,” Anupam says.
There were tears when MS Dhoni was caught inches short of his crease in Thursday’s rain-prolonged semifinal against New Zealand as India’s run at the World Cup came to an end. However, Anupam says the dominant emotion in the stands was one of pride and he’s now looking forward to the final.
“I can now support cricket in the final! No emotions involved. I will enjoy every four, six and wicket irrespective of whether it is for England or New Zealand,” he says.
Anupam credits his other family members for making the trip possible. His wife handled the “massive undertaking of getting the trip right for the children”. His father, Akhilesh, handled the visa process and navigation while his mother, Anjana, ensured a steady supply of Indian food throughout the journey, often getting up before the others to do so.
The two children, seven-year-old Aviv and three-year-old Avya, also had very important roles to play.
“Aviv was the entertainment manager of the trip. He kept saying ‘You can do it’ every time I felt tired or had to rev up the car on steep mountains. Avya was my guide while reversing the car.
She would say ‘Le lo le lo‘ from her seat and I would reverse. It was only after a few days that I realized she was just saying ‘Le lo’ because she liked the sound of it and that it had nothing to do with the obstacles behind,” Anupam says.