It's Christmas time! If you are from the beautiful city of London, is there is a better place to be than home? Not for former England captain Mike Brearley. He instead prefers the warmth of Ahmedabad.
It’s been a routine for many years for the Brearley family — most Christmas vacations have been spent in Gujarat. He has good reasons for it.
Brearley has a strong Gujarati connection. It was in Ahmedabad that he first met his wife, Mana Sarabhai, during England’s 1976-77 tour of India, and the bond has remained strong since. “London is too busy during Christmas time, too hectic and noisy. And the weather in Ahmedabad is beautiful this time of the year. For many seasons now, we spend our Christmas breaks in Ahmedabad with Mana's family,” says the 69-year-old Brearley, rated as one of the finest England captains. The scholarly man was credited with bringing the best out of wild characters like Ian Botham.
“Our idea of celebrating festivals is having a warm, family dinner on Christmas day with cousins in Ahmedabad. It’s the same for Diwali, which is in London, or Christmas,” says his daughter, Lara, who works for a children's charity.
The timing of the ‘Voice of Cricket’ lecture at Raj Singh Dungarpur World Cricket Summit was just perfect for Brearley’s family. “If she can spend eleven months of the year with me in London, I can spend a month in Ahmedabad,” says the amiable Brearley.
Has he picked up any Gujarati? “Not really, but he made a lot of effort. He bought many CDs and listened to Gujarati programmes before finally giving up,” reveals his wife.
But he loves Gujarati dishes. “He cooks vegetarian food very well. His preparation of dal and rice is better than mine. He can make two-three vegetables and is great with brinjal (the favourite Gujarati dish),” says Mana.
Lara has inherited her father's complexion and going by appearance it is difficult to make out the Gujarati connection. But ask her ‘Kem cho’ (How are you in Gujarati) and she is prompt to reply ‘Saru chu’. “I can manage a little bit like my dad,” she chuckles.
It's not just the weather and hustle-bustle, Mana says Brearley is more Indian than English.
“We were at a function with the Maharaja of Baroda and he came up to us and said Mike is very Indian.”