In a land where every Tom, Dick and Harry seem to be an Arsenal, Manchester United or a Chelsea fan (in that specific order), I present to you the curious case of Leeds United. My single biggest claim to fame as I’m probably the sole Leeds United fan in the whole of India. To describe Leeds United to an average football .. they are one of the bravest, one of the coolest, one of the biggest and the greatest clubs in English Football …… to have never made it to the English Premier League in the last 10 years. But my passion and loyalty towards the club has remained undeterred. So what if they suck at football? So what if their name is ‘Leeds’ United when they have never led in a game? I still love them. I have managed to stay connected to the club for the last ten years quite actively through an internet message board. Hey their matches don’t come on TV okay! But I’ve followed each and every game of theirs in my spiritual stadium, i.e Chat Rooms.
What is the greatest dream of any English football fan? It is to go to UK and watch your team play live in a stadium a where fans don’t have to break their keyboards to celebrate a goal (chat room, spiritual stadium – remember?). That is exactly what I wanted to do, so I applied for my Visa, and in the application form, there was a question that said – “ reason for visiting UK … “ and I wrote one of the most passionate essays ever, about my decade long passion, unwavering loyalty and undying love for Leeds United. Few weeks later, I get a letter from the Visa office and it read …
“ Dear Mr Aravind, your story sounds endearing, engrossing and fascinating, and would make one heck of a Bollywood film but unfortunately, it does not sound CREDIBLE enough for a VISA………………………………… “ Here is the best part “ If you had been a Manchester United fan, we would have probably let you in! “
Pause. Manchester United and Leeds United are like the biggest rivals in the footballing community. They are like India and Pakistan. They are like Obama and Osama. They are like Apple and Google. They are like Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Therefore comparing me to a Manchester United fan is blasphemous. I told my Firang Leeds friends about this in the message board online and they decided to make it an issue. They started a petition, that was signed by 5000 Leeds fans from all over the world, testifying my love for Leeds united. Wipe that surprise off your face because there are 5000 of us in this world okay! That petition was immediately sent to the HOUSE OF COMMONS and my issue was discussed by the Leeds MP. He fought for my case in the house and the next day. There was a walkout staged at the house of commons by all the Leeds supporting MPs ! A grand total of 2 out of the 650 MPs walked out.
I became an overnight star of sorts, every radio station wanted to interview me, BBC Radio Leeds, BBC World, BBC International, BBC 5 live, BBC Asia etc. They wanted to tell the story of the small town boy fighting against the system, to realise his childhood dream.. But there was just one small problem, my story sounded way too similar to one of their films that had just swept the oscars, as I was going live on air. So one of the interviews went like this –
“ So tell me Mr Aravind, how are you feeling right now ? “
“ Oh well I am agitated .. devastated … frustrated …. “
“ Yeah but come on, “Slum Dog Millionaire” just won the oscars ! “
“ Eh ? so ? I want my visa and I will fight, I will scrap, I will graft till the end “
“ Oooooohhh ! So are you from the slums as well ? “
“ Alwarpet is not a slum ! I live right opposite Rajnikanth” (Google that shit yo!)
“ Rajni Who? “
“ Rajni who ah ? RAJNI WHO AH ? yeeeeee , thalaivar ah paathu yaarunu ketutan, adinga *censored Tamil abuse*… saroja samanikaloooooooo…. “
That is how this radio interview went but the rest of my media coverage were a lot better. So by the end of all this drama, I had great paper work. I had letters of support from BBC Radio Leeds, Leeds United’s Chairman, Leeds MP and I had a petition signed by 5000 Leeds fans. So along with all these I re-applied for Visa.
As I was heading to the airport with a night flight for Leeds, I stopped at the embassy to pick up my visa. I was given an envelope and I opened it. BEHOLD. I was introduced then to one of the finest, one of the simplest, one of the most effective yet most abused inventions of the digital era – CONTROL C CONTROL V. I was given a copy pasted version of the first rejection letter all over again. Dear Mr Aravind, your story sounds endearing, engrossing and fascinating, Bollywood blah blah … !! but with two changes..
First, the date was changed. Quite clearly they are not as bad as our Indian Govt.
Second, remember the Manchester United part ? IT WAS IN bloody BOLD !!!!
So thanks to the British Embassy, I now have two black marks in my visa. This probably means that I am eligible for citizenship in Pakistan. Anyways, I slapped my thigh like Rajnikanth in “Annamalai” (Brother Mountain) and told the British High Commission – ‘You can take me out of Leeds but you can’t take Leeds out of me’. But then I was politely reminded that I’d still need a Visa for that punch dialogue to hold true. Damn it!
PS: This blogpost is the opening piece of my first ever Stand Up show. I am going to shamelessly plug that disastrous debut. Cheers!