AT only 18 years of age, Port Alfred born Carla Gailey has had an adventure few others have ever experienced.
Gailey went to India as a cheerleader at this year’s IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket tournament.
“I heard about the auditions for cheerleaders at the IPL tournament from my mom, who had heard it from a friend,” said Gailey. “I simply wasn’t interested. I had never been further than Johannesburg on a plane before, and the thought of India didn’t appeal to me at all.”
DANCING QUEEN: Carla Gailey of Port Alfred is one of a group of South African cheerleaders who travelled to India to perform at this year’s IPL cricket tournament Picture: SUPPLIED
Nevertheless, with her family and friends telling her she should at least audition she finally relented. She was contacted by the audition organisers and, instead of attending the Cape Town auditions, she travelled to Johannesburg in early February this year and went to the auditions there.
“By the time I arrived there were six other girls there, and all of them had learned the routine,” she said. “I had to catch up but, fortunately, I received a call-back for the next day.”
Gailey said it was difficult but, knowing the routine better, she re-recorded her audition which was sent to Mumbai for the consideration of the IPL Mumbai Indians team manager to make a choice.
“My agent made me think I had already got the job, but I hadn’t. Still, I was told to get my passport in order for when the call came,” she said.
After three anxious weeks of waiting the call finally came, and Gailey was off on an adventure she will never forget. Following two weeks of intense training in Johannesburg, Gailey was on a plane heading for India, which would be her home for the next few months.
After a stop in Dubai to pick up other South African team members, the plane finally touched down in Mumbai.
“The Cape Town girls thought I was from Johannesburg, but I put them straight about that,” said Gailey. “I’m an Eastern Caper!”
Stepping off the plane on a hot and humid day in April, Gailey was hit by the sheer volume of people, the smells, the colours and the dirt of a country where almost every one of its over a billion inhabitants are stark raving cricket-mad supporters.
“I could hardly believe it,” she recalled. “We were always chaperoned wherever we went, and we were well looked after. But we were never babied.”
The team of 10 South African girls on the Mumbai Indians team soon became fast friends and spent their off time travelling around India, taking in the sights and sounds of a place so alien yet so overwhelming.
“India is a beautiful country, and the people treated us like celebrities everywhere we went,” she recalled. “Whenever we appeared in a night club the DJ would announce our presence and, from then on, we wouldn’t have to pay for anything. It was absolutely fantastic.”
Trying hard to avoid suspect local food and drinks, the girls were all careful for the first two weeks but still fell ill with the infamous Delhi Belly and the less well known but equally debilitating Mumbai Mumbles.
The IPL season finished at the end of May, and Gailey headed home with the rest of her teammates.
“It was the best experience I have ever had,” said Gailey. “It has made me understand myself better. I would like to exploit the contacts I have made and would love to go back to the IPL next year.”
Still, Gailey will be travelling to India once more to cheerlead at the much smaller Indian Champions League in October. In the meantime she is looking forward to studying in Cape Town.