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Watching 3 a.m. cricket matches keeps me close to my dad, even when we’re worlds apart

Karan Walia is a cricket fan. But after immigrating to Canada from India, the time differences between the matches on the other side of the world don’t help with keeping his passion alive in a new country. And yet, he’s determined to make it work.

I took a week of vacation to keep my passion as a sports fan alive in a new country

A smiling man in a blue shirt cheers as he holds up an Indian flag in the stands of a crowded stadium.

This First Person article is written by Karan Walia, who lives in Richmond, B.C. For more information about First Person stories, see the FAQ.

Growing up in India, I was fanatical about sports. It was something my father, brother and I bonded over. My father even turned the word "sports" into a family motto of sorts: Sincere, Polite, Obedient, Respectful, True, Social. It pretty much shaped my attitude, rubbing off in every other sphere of my life as a teenager.

Of all the sports I played and watched, it was cricket in particular that had my heart. The game truly allowed me to live in the moment, where all I cared for in the next few seconds was the sweet sound of a bat hitting the ball.

The matches I watched with my father and later with friends occupy a large nostalgic corner of my heart. In 1999, for example, my father arranged tickets for a famous five-day test match between India and Pakistan. He would wipe the windshield of his old Maruti 800 on foggy February mornings, drive us to what was then called the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi early, where we would stand for three hours in a never-ending security queue before entering the stadium. But boy, was it all worth it!

Yet like every cricketer's journey from debut until retirement, I sensed every fan also has a time frame that they dedicate to the sport before also leaving it. Many desi people I know who have immigrated to Canada told me how their interest in cricket waned over the years. Their fandom morphed from watching a full eight-hour match of every bilateral series to merely keeping up with the highlights of major tournaments.

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At the age of 37, having lived in Canada for more than three years, I wondered if I was also nearing my fanboy retirement. The Cricket World Cup began in India in October with the matches starting at 1:30 a.m. PT, which makes it nearly impossible for me to follow all matches live.

My dad, however, remains as dedicated as ever. He video-called on a Monday morning while I was getting ready for work and immediately launched into a conversation as if we were resuming a previous chat.

A smiling man puts his arms around the shoulder of a smiling older man as they both pose for a photo.

"What do you make of it?" When he saw my perplexed face, he clarified. "Will Pakistan be able to chase the total?"

I shrugged and told him I wasn't following the World Cup because of my work schedule.

Instead of chastising me, he smiled and praised me for working hard. Just as I was about to ring off, I remembered to ask him about his meeting with a publisher for the memoir he had written.

This time, it was his turn to shrug. He said the publisher was only available on Saturday when there was a cricket match on, so my dad postponed the meeting.

"But I'll send you the manuscript," he said. "You can be my first reader."

I was shocked. How could my dad so casually choose to watch a game of cricket (which he could have recorded) over a meeting with that one publisher he had been chasing for so long?

During my lunch break in the office, I opened an email from my father. It was his 300-page manuscript and the title read, "How sports changed my life." I didn't have enough time or focus to read it then, but just seeing the title was enough for me to relive my childhood.

A man bows in front of a statue of a cricketer wearing an all-white uniform and holding his arms up in victory.

It made me realize that perhaps I was taking my work more seriously than I needed to. Yes, there are bills to be paid and groceries to be bought, but what is life without some passion? And cricket was my passion. It was a passion my dad and I shared, and I didn't want to lose that.

So, I looked up the World Cup schedule and saw when the semifinals were scheduled to begin. Then, I walked up to my boss and pretty much announced to him rather than requesting leave.

"I will be taking a week off in November."

He commented on the rather short notice and asked if I had any travel plans.

This is where it got tricky. If I invented some urgent need to travel, perhaps he would be more accommodating. But I gathered my courage and decided to go for the truth.

"No travel plans," I said. "The Cricket World Cup is on, and it is the finals week. I want to be able to watch it without thinking about work."

He laughed wholeheartedly. I steeled myself to defend how watching cricket was as important to Indians as hockey and basketball is to Canadians, even if it runs much, much longer. Butto my surprise, he had nothing further to say other than to enjoy my game and give more notice next time.

Soon thereafter, I created a new WhatsApp group with my father in India and my brother in the U.S. to discuss our cricketing opinions during the live matches. My wife, too, accompanied me one whole night during a crucial game. While I had to adjust my sleeping schedule, it was all worth it to protect my game and my family time, and to let the cricket fan in me live forever.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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