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banner Sunday, 25 February, 2001, 20:23 GMT
Like bees to a honeypot

Australian batsman Justin Langer sends his latest postcard from the tour of India.

If you have ever wondered what it feels like to be a breadcrumb in an ant's nest, just take a walk through the bustling streets of downtown Mumbai.

Captain Steve Waugh, a God in this part of the world, John Buchanan and myself were invited to visit a community in the red light district and talk to the street children.

What a humbling experience!

Once again, these kids with no material possesions but the dirty and torn shirts on their backs or ankle length dresses, couldn't get close enough to see and touch foreigners like ourselves.

Within five minutes of arriving, the word had obviously got out that 'Tugga' was in the area.

Like bees to the proverbial honeypot, we were surrounded by hundreds of inquisitive faces searching for a glimpse of Steve Waugh and members of the Australian cricket team.

Steve Waugh with street children in Mumbai
'Tugga' is surrounded by his ever-smiling fans
The very fact Steve Waugh was walking through the streets was enough to have these Indian cricket fanatics shaking with excitement and disbelief.

It was like a chapter in the Bible, with followers of Jesus doing anythng to get close to the miracle worker.

This was the real India for me.

On the streets there were animals roaming, people sleeping and washing and rice boiling.

The smells, the sights and the noises are so different to home - I walked with my eyes opened like a child seeing his first circus.

It was fascinating, sad, enchanting, profoundly confronting, complex and yet so simple.

The way of life seems so simple and yet in this squalor, the questions of why? seems to me to be so complex.

Photo-shy women

But then, when there are so many people in such a relatively small area, the answers become so obvious.

One thing that I noticed was the reaction to the women as we walked through the streets.

Without fail every woman we saw turned their face from us and hid behind a scarf.

I was told the reason for their reaction was that they wouldn't want to bring disgrace to their families by being photographed by one of the many photgraphers following our every move.

Because we were in the poorest of areas, a red light district, these women are considered by Indian society to be at the lowest echelon of the community.

Equally noticeable was the incredible knowledge about the game of cricket that even these people possessed.

Fans follow Justin Langer in Mumbai
Nothing escapes the cricket fans of India
All of the children said their greatest hero is Sachin Tendulkar - and they knew everything about each member of the Australian team.

There is no way any of these adults and children own a TV set, or even radio, so how they acquire such a wisdom is beyond me.

Then again, I guess it is not that unbelievable when you consider the way these kids continue to smile and play, even though their living conditions are as unfortunate and dire as one could ever imagine.

This tour is turning into more than just a cricket tour for yours truly.

It is becoming more of an eye-opener into how lucky the majority of us really are.

In two days time, Australia and India start a Test series and a battle that everyone is looking forward to.

With every passing day I have to think that the battle of two cricket nations is minor compared to the battle that goes on every day for some people to survive on the streets of India.

From Mumbai,

JL

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