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• Punj Lloyd PSA Masters 2009 • 05-10 Dec • Mumbai •  





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Mumbai En Bref ... Issue #4
Everything you never knew you needed to know about the PSA Masters


… About my quarter finals day…

First of all, waking up after 8 hours sleep, didn’t happen for a very long time. A quick breakfast, with first James & Saurav, and then Thierry. Then, listen to that, a two hour massage. Sue me.

Here, a massage starts with a little stay in the steam room, then a detox tea. Little scrub, to make your skin baby soft, and then, 90m of TLC.

That was nasty.

I have to say that after that, I go straight back to sleep for another hour!!!!! After that, treating the 52 messages in my mail box (yes, I promise you), working on the en brefs, French site, and at 3pm, I had arranged a walk from the Taj Hotel to the Gymkhana Bombay Club, where the Glass Court is

So at 3-ish, my girls turn up along with a few college friends of theirs, and off we went. I’m taking the pics, of everything I can put my camera on. Monuments, buildings, stalls, people, kids, dogs, taxis, trees, it is a non ending source of inspiration.

Remember when I told you how close to Madagascar this place made me think? Well, at some point, my two girls – their mates having gone back to school – asking if I want some juice. Me, getting an intake of sugar??? Bit like Mick Todd with a beer, that’s something I NEVER refuse..

I have absolutely no idea what kind of juice they were proposing. The amount of flies on the stall was not going to scare me, like I’ve said, made me feel like home!!!!

In fact, it is a sugar cane juice, same I used to get with my mates in Tananarive, as we were going to school. I had problems withholding the emotion rushing down my throat…

We go on walking in the streets, they show me Museums, and Art Galleries, and Clocks, and Officials Buildings. The walk is pleasant – they are keeping the beggars away – you’ve got to have blinkers on when you walk – like everywhere else in the world, we have to jump over a few roadworks, and the temperature is perfect….

A few crossing roads where I think like my last hour had arrived, a few curious looks on my camera – there are in fact not so many tourists where we are – a few more stalls all along the avenue leading to the Club. It makes me feel of the “Bord de la Seine” in Paris.

Like Thierry said, yes, it’s like the Seine Riverside, apart from the fact there is no river here, and it’s clothes there are selling, not art like in Paris. But yes, Fram, apart from that, it’s the same.


Arrived at the BombayGymkhana . Yes, you’ve got to be precise, because I’m told that many clubs wear that name, and that a few players, taking taxis to come to the venue, were sent all around town bless them…

Raj is there. Raj is Ritwik's partner in this amazing adventure, and like Ritwik, he’s been so efficient, adorable, caring, attentive and professionally efficient. The Dream Team…

As ever, he offers me lunch – it’s 4pm by then, and I’m starving, as ever, my only excuse is that I didn’t have lunch…. I’m supposed to go and do some work, of course, but here I am, chatting away with that adorable man, when one of the sponsors from Punj Loyd comes and meet us.

Looking at that stunning scenery, with young adults playing cricket in the background, the kids that have been helping with the event chatting around, laughing, being relaxed and happy; the ventilator above my head cooling the air…

By the time I move from that chair, it’s five-something. Mmmmm. Better do some work then, especially as Steve is on his way to Saudi, so no webmaster for a while…

The quarters finished, back to the hotel, where the internet is not working. That’s tough, at past midnight. After a few chats with the Business Centre, it’s all back in order. Put everything on the page, photos that Ritwik’s photographer has been sending us right on time, after every match, bless his little socks, reports, quotes.

At 3.30 am, it’s all done and dusted.

As I’m going to bed, I’m having a strange thought. Although I’ve been working ever so hard this week, I have that weird feeling that I’m on holidays…. And that is the first time ever since I’ve been involved in International Squash that I’ve feel that way.

Strange, really strange…

Mumbai En Bref ... Issue #3
Everything you never knew you needed to know about the PSA Masters

Ziad Al Turki (Saudi Promoter, PSA Chairman, in Mumbai.... A man's work is never done...

Right after a game
with Hisham & Mick Todd

Listening to Hisham's
coaching tips...

with Mr Atul Punj, Sponsor of the event (Thank you Sir)


You’ve got some countries where the players perform in front of very little crowd, and then you’ve got tournaments like among many ToC in NY, full from the first round, Paris, Rennes, where all the seats are taken – shame there are not more tournaments in France – and here, in Mumbai.

What is amazing here is the passion that the spectators feel for the game. First of all, at the end of every match, the players are submerged by waves of kids and fans begging for autographs. Honestly, since the Commonwealth Games, I didn’t see anything like it.

Actress Neha Dhupic & Friend VidushiBut the crowd vocal involvement warms my heart, they are just amazing. From the “Go for it Gaultier, PLEEEEEASE!!!! from a lovely lady in the VIP box to a deep “Come on LJ, work your socks off” from the stands, so many come on X, one more point, Y, you can do it, Z….

This is a wonderful crowd we have here, and I’m know that the players have been enjoying it to the full. Again, what a great country we are in…


PSA News. Julian Illingworth is now replacing Mark Chaloner on the PSA Board.

The elections were held during the last PSA AGM during the World Open a few weeks back. There were 7 seats to be filled, and 8 candidates. The PSA players voted for Julian so that Mark Chaloner, after years of service to the Sport, can now enjoy a bit of retirement at last…

“We were 8 running for the board for seven seats, and the players who vote normally go for current players more than for retired ones, so I guess that’s why I was elected,” Julian said simply to comment his arrival on the Board.

Julian is from the US, and unfortunately, I don’t get to see him much, like Gilly Lane and other US pros I rarely meet. So I’m really happy that I’ll get to see him more and more, as I’m ashamed to say I don’t know much about him.

The only thing I feel from him would be “Don’t even think about bullshitting me.” Sorry for my English. But Julian has got that penetrating look, as if he can read through you, that I have to say is a bit intimidating, and I seem to go brain dead every time I have to ask him questions!!! No many people can make me speechless, I assure you…

When I asked him why he applied for the Board, he replied “The players always complain between themselves about what need to be changed, but normally don’t take things further than that. It was frustrating that I couldn’t have any say in the direction PSA was going for the two three years I’ve been around, so I decided to do something about it…”

And don’t believe for a second he won’t… I truly believe Julian will ask some questions, and expect answers…

They said....

Because of the sweat, the ref asked Beng Hee if he could change his shirt which was dripping. BH kindly refused. At the end of the marathon 4th game (40 minutes), as he was about to serve…

Beng Hee :
Ref, you asked me to change my shirt, can I change it now??? Because I’m really tired

After a third ball called not up against Ramy....

Ramy :

Ref, when I play the ball, don’t look at my body language to decide if the ball is good or not up, my body language doesn’t mean anything. Look at the ball, ok, not at my body, look at the BALL…

Dog at work...
Mumbai En Bref ... Issue #2
Everything you never knew you needed to know about the PSA Masters

No offence to ANYBODY, but this country is probably the first hot country I’ve been to that has found the perfect temperature balance. The Air Conditioned is cold enough to make us comfortable, but you don’t have to wear mittens and winter clothes to survive while watching matches or eating in!

And I have to say that the fact that the glass court is outside allows us to feel that we are in a warm country too! Instead of being cooked up inside, well, frozen up would be a better way of describing it, during the duration of the tournament, we are looking at the outside world, the skies, the birds that fly around the court, the horns from the traffic that rhythm the night…

Normally, I don’t know in which country I am, venues look like any another venue really, and I don’t come to see anything around. Here, I know exactly where I am….


When I was told minutes before my departure that I was probably staying at the Taj, I had a slight “Ah” in my brain of a real blond. For you who have lived on the Moon for the past year, there was a terrible terrorist attack on that amazing landmark of the Indian Tourism.

The City of Mumbai was hit at the true core of its essence: hospitality. As I’ll come to tell you a few times, this is my first time – but not my last, I can assure you of that – in this God-given country.

And the first thing that strikes you here is the will of people, EVERYBODY, to help you, to assist you the minute they see you are in trouble. Example. When I arrived at the airport, and couldn’t find my driver, two security guards immediately came to me, asking me how they could help, and assist me in getting hold of the right people.

I didn’t stress or worry for a minute. It was obvious from the start that nothing was going to be a problem here. Same thing as I arrived at the hotel.

Of course, my room was ready, and the passport details already in the system, as Ritwick made sure he sent them way in advance copy of it to the relevant office.

Of course, they gave me flowers, and placed a little red sign on my forehead to welcome me and chase the bad spirits away.

 Of course the lady who signed me in helped me in changing my dollars into rupees, took me to my room herself. And of course, she was smiling all the way through. And with a true smile, not one of those commercial ones. She was truly nice. 

Hospitality. Kindness. Welcoming. Everything here is made to make you feel better. Everything is well presented. They put flowers everywhere, in everything. Everything they give you smells divinely.

And this attack to the Taj was I realise it even more now I’m here, meant to hurt India where it hurt the most, didn’t it?

Well, I guess the only way we, the “little people”, we who do not have a voice in the high spheres, is to combat terrorism, is to loudly say to those fanatics of all extracts, YOU WILL NOT CHANGE THE WAY WE LIVE.

We will keep on taking planes, trains, tubes. We will go on travelling abroad, and go out, and live our lives the way we always did. 

Get used to it.


Well, I’m so relieved that David Barry, SquashSite official photographer, hasn’t made it here. Because honestly, I don’t think he would have survived the journey Airport/Hotel.

“In Egypt, there are no spaces between the cars, and we just drive around each other”, laughed Ramy, “but here, there is no space, but they still create the space, and rush into it! I thought we were mad in Cairo, but here, it’s even more crazy!!!!”

And he is speaking the utmost truth. It’s a complete “no prisoner” feel, cars, people, straight dogs, all that is cohabiting on the tarmac, and yet, it’s working fine, thank you very much.

They don’t stop at the traffic lights? Doesn’t matter, because the other cars don’t either, so they are expecting the unexpected. People are walking in the middle  of the way? Well, cars just wait till the people get out, that’s all. And the dogs, numerous here, they just navigate between passersby and vehicles of all size…

Cars are small, look at those taxis, Big Mick just need two of those to accommodate him! Imagine James Willstrop, Omar Mosaad and LJ Anjema, bags and all, in a taxi like that???

It’s a bit of a “how many people can you get into a phone box game, isn’t it…

Like in Cairo, they use their horns CONSTANTLY. And if there seems to be a code in Cairo, one beeb, I’m here, two beeps, get out of my way you idiot, three beeps you are going to get killed, here, no code. Just beep beep beep beep.

Day and night…

I just fell in love. Utterly and with no limitations. With India. With Mumbai. With the kindness and the way everything happens here.

First of all, the proximity between the “back courts”, where four of the matches are played from 1pm, and the Gymkana Club, where the superb glass court Ziad Al Turki, Saudi promoter and PSA Chairman, gave to the event, is installed. It’s virtually 2 minutes down a charming road, with hardly any traffic. Well, actually, we’ve got like a wave of cars, and then nothing for another 5mn. Weird.

So, yes, we don’t have internet at the back courts. But I’m not told, “oh well, if you want internet, you have a StarBucks 10mn down the road”, like I was told by a charming tournament director in the US last year. No, I’m told, “Fram, don’t worry, we’ll give you two assistants, and they’ll just go to the glass court at the end of each game, and make sure the results and your articles are sent to Steve”. Hard to get more helpful, isn’t it…

So, even if, like Raj and Ritwick, in charge of the show here, smile “a few things are still rough around the edges”, the atmosphere is so relaxed, you just cannot help follow the flow, and not worry about things. People will have to wait 10mn to have the reports? It’s not a life or death matter, is it?

Like in Qatar, people are constantly checking on me. “Are you happy Fram, anything you need, just tell us”. And they just make it happen. Stress??? I don’t even know how to spell that word anymore, especially as I’ve got Big Mick here too, Mick Todd, our SquashSite financial director, whose favourite line to me is “Relax, Blondie, I’ll handle it”.

At the glass court, seconds from the Gymkana Club famous terrace, it’s the same atmosphere really.

No “you can’t go there”, access to the players is easy, I have an “All area” pass, that really makes my life so easy and simple, Ritwick has given me the same chair position that the adorable John Nimick gave me in the ToC, just behind the VIP box, next to the left ref, easy access, in and out, again there, no stress there either.

But what makes it even more special for me, what’s the most amazing of all, is the amazing resemblance this country has with the country I was born and raised in, Madagascar. The vegetation is the same, the roads, pavements, the infrastructure is the same, with bumps and holes everywhere, the dust is the same, the way people stand in the middle of the road and walk around the cars, the relaxed, non aggressive, “joie de vivre” general attitude, is basically the same.

I haven’t felt that much home since 1972. It’s like a “bain de jouvence”, a travel back in time kind of feel.

Like I said, I’ve fallen in love. With a whole country.
Mumbai En Bref ... Issue #1
Everything you never knew you needed to know about the PSA Masters

Thursday, 1.30am. Finished the last article on the French site. Going to sleep.

5am. Wake up for a 6am taxi pick-up, direction Heathrow T4.

09.30. London Bahrain. Great, I’ve got the most overweight passenger of the plane next to me, and as I’m not skinny, things are not going well.

Of course, he is drunk, keeps on trying to make the TV work while we are still on the ground, banging into my elbow/bust constantly, and finishes by dropping asleep, his snoring echoing around the plane… This is going to be a looooong journey.

19.00. Arrival in Bahrain (UK Time + 3). Getting my other boarding pass to get on my second flight is a bit of a challenge, but 45m of queue, and victory is acquired. Opening the computer, with 29 messages waiting for me. Normal hour at the office.

Duty Free Zone in Bahrain

21.00. Off to India, only three hours of flight this time.

Friday. 4.00am. Arriving in Mumbai. My first time in India. Although Ritwik organised transport to perfection, the driver is nowhere to be found – and of course I don't have the country code set up on my mobile to call him.

Although it’s the middle of the night, Ritwik, from his bed, sorts things out, and I see a rather sleepy skinny thing arriving with a note and my name on it.

6am. In the car to the Taj. The journey is long, and bumpy. Those holes in the tarmac don't do any good to a lady's attributes I tell you!!!!

The roads are empty at that time of night, just as well, as my driver doesn’t stop at any red traffic light. Mind you, the few cars we come across don’t either. My conclusion is that they are all expats from Marseilles, the city in France where stop signs and red light don’t mean much…

I get slightly worried when my driver stops for a second, and splashes water over his face. Basically, the man is afraid to fall asleep at the wheel. He’s got now my full attention. But thank God, the constant ringing of his mobile phone (about 8 calls during the drive) keeps him awake, and we eventually arrive to the Magical Taj.

7am. Opening the door of the room. Lovely airy room, with an incredible view of the Gateway to India.

Along with the Harbour View from the Renaissance Hotel in Hong Kong 4 years ago, and the first sight of the Glass Court in front of the Pyramids 3 years ago, that’s the most emotional moment of my travels.

7.30am. Going to sleep. I have a slight smile on my face. Things hardly get better than this...

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