Clay vs Ali

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Clay vs Ali

Illustration: Mudit Ganguly

C

assius Marcellus Clay, Jr was the face I used to have in mind when I got bullied in the schoolbus as a boy. Muhammad Ali is the man I think of when I have to decide between my principles and how the world works. The universe separating boy and man got all blurred and bent out of shape, when I heard of Ali’s death. I don’t think I have earned the right to write the obituary of The Greatest. I can, at best, explain the place both he and Clay have built inside me – the place where a lot of “me” comes from.

Idolising Clay was neither easy nor therapeutic. A God who was comfortable anointing himself The Greatest wasn’t exactly a Bengali Bhadralok-friendly God and you had no business following such heretics. You see, in the Calcutta of the ’80s and ’90s, if you had ambition it was akin to having a permanent boil on your ass. You couldn’t sit easy and you never spoke about it – your atonement was a painful, uncomfortable silence. The omertà of the cultured Bhadralok. I wasn’t a cultured Bhadralok by any definition but I had jumped out of the loins of educated doctors and nursed on the sweet milk of Bhadralok culture. So for my parents’ sake, I had to hide the monster chip on my shoulder and the ambition to show the world something, anything.

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