No cracker was burst. No screaming and shouting was heard. I was having ice-cream with a friend in Bangalore. A message from a cousin on my phone informed me that India had won against Australia. I was happy. Very happy, in fact. Knowing the Autralian cricket history in the recent past anyone would be happy to know that India defeated Australia.
Once i reach home i log on to facebook, which is my new source of news with views- which also has a running commentary of cricket matches from different sources. Yes, as expected there was celebrating the victory of India over Australia but more than that there was an excitement- vulguar excitement i can say- about the match to follow i.e. the India-Pakistan match in the semi-finals.
It was still better on that day, i believe. From the next day it appeared like nobody even remembered the victory over Australia but were just looking forward to the India-Pakistan match, which gained more imporatnce than the world cup finals. Status messages on facebooks turned to be only slogans. Be it cheering for India or against Pakistan, all had either some vulgarity attached to it or clear references made to non-sports issues to be more precise political and ideological issues. A close reading would give an anti-Pakistan message and make the hatred for Pakistan more and more clear.
A friend wrote something like, “Pakistan, apply oil to your asses we are going to hit you hard.” Another wrote something like, “Two years back few Pakistanis couldn’t be stopped from entering Mumbai, now the onus is on 11 Indians to stop some from doing so .” Not to say there was no anger displayed against Australia. There were some like “It is victory over the Aussie arrognace.” There were friends who had jokes on Australia too. Like, “Today Pointing is renamed as Disappointing.” But it did not get as vulgar as it got with the Indo-Pak match. Plus, the anger expressed towards Australian team had references made to instances and examples from within the game of Cricket. But when it came to Pakistan references were being made to the issues and examples outside the game of Cricket. But what is the connection between 26/11 and 30/3? What is the connection between Kashmir and Mohali? To ask such questions is just to make way for questions being raised about your own patriotism.
When India played against England no Indian said, “They colonized us. Let us give it back.” When India played against Australia no Indian said, “They attacked our people who went there to study.” But when India played against Pakistan almost every Indian said, “They attacked Mumbai” or “They are after our Kashmir” and hence “Let us kick their ass”.
Not to say that such statements should have been made. But trying to look at how the idea of a nation gets closely connected with a sports team which is to be representing the nation. My former colleague and friend Sudipto wrote a beutiful note which reads:
“India does not lose when a 22-year-old Dalit youth sets himself on fire over a land dispute. India does not lose when a young mother and her infant are killed by her family less than 50 km from its IT capital for marrying a man from a lower caste. It is not India’s loss when 90 per cent of its media gets dominated by a community that makes up 3 per cent of its population. India does not lose when a bunch of gun totting hooligans, who call themselves commandoes, kill and rape its own people. It does not lose when a timid judge in the Karnataka High Court issues a stay in an open and shut case of corruption against the Chief Minister. But India WINS when 11 individuals employed by a private company win a cricket match”
It is sad that we, as a nation, identify ourselves with a bunch of players and not with many fellow human beings who are, most of the times, not even counted as a citizen of this country.
It was almost like an unooficial bundh declared on 30 March. I did watch the match. It was a good match, i thought even while i have my own doubts about it being fixed for the obvious reasons that the best batsmen gets five lifes in the same match, that too a crucial match, in terms of world cup, as it is a knock-out. But may be it can be argued the while playing under so much pressure they did quite a bit of mistakes. Any way, it was a watchable match, no doubt about it.
Many did ask the question as to why the Pakistan Prime Minister was invited. The objection, it appeared, like, was against mixing of politics and sports. But when even the most common of us was also mixing the two, i dont know how only the act of the PM becomes questionable. But it is true that the move of the GoI made the game take other colors than just of sports.
A news channel also showed the clippings of 1971 war footage while the match was going on. This was just an extnded show of the media which enjoyed the gap between the quarter final and the semi final just to bring in too much of patriotism in and thus build up the vulguar excitement for the match.
Once the match was over the whole of country celebrated like India had won the world cup itself. But no, this match was more important than that. A viewer of the match at Udupi Rajangana (a hall belonging to the Udupi temple where the matches are screened. An initative by the seers of Udupi) said, “We won against Pakistan, its enough. It is ok even if we lose against Sri Lanka now.”
The celebration in coastal Karnataka, of the victory of India over Pakistan, was very scary i must say. This part of the world, known for its communalism, had a lot of saffron flags being waved during the celebration of the semi-final victory. What is the saffron flag doing in the celebration of the victory of India, is not a question one should ask in costal Karnataka. It is a part of the collective subconscious that India is a Hindu country and hence the victory of India over Pakistan is a victory of Hinduism over Islam. From a note titled, “To Afridi, With Love“, written by a Pakistani, i understand that even in Pakistan it was viewed as a war of Muslims against the Hindus.
A report in a news channel showed a Muslim man whose car was smashed after the match in India. The man in his byte to the channel said, “I suuported India. But still they attacked my car. I dont know why.” As if no one would believe his words he shows, to the camera, his photo with the Indian bowler Shreeshant. What had he done? His only ‘mistake’ is that he is a Muslim?
I cant even undertand the photoshop knowledge displayed by many where a Pakistani player is falling to the photo of Sachin Tendulkar, who is in the get up of a Hindu- more specifically- Brahmin God. How do we understand this?
A friend of mine shared her “new experience” with me saying how in her hostel many were supporting Pakistan, which she found strange. Another friend of mine also said the same and he felt offended by the fact that many were supporting Pakistan. In the Sabarmati hostel of JNU, the broadcasting of the match was stopped because some of the viewers were supporting Pakistan. Now, if one were to see the game as just another sports event without letting the idea of nation and patriotism seeping in, what is wrong if one supports the other team and not the team carrying the name of the country to which he or she belongs? As i make this statement i wonder if people would take it so offensively if i- or any other Indian- were to support South Africa or any other country for that matter?
I think many of us are just lying when we say that Criket is our religion. If it were to be our religion we would have loved the game and not displayed vulguar patriotism in the game. We wouldnt have brought religious aspect into the game.We wouldn’t have objections if someone supported Pakistan, IN THE GAME. We are also lying when we say that Cricket unites the nation. It also breaks the nation, even if symbolically in the form of breaking the glass of a car belonging to a Muslim. If Cricket were to be our religion, we would have enjoyed the Cricket as a game without letting geopolitics and other aspects govern our excitement about the sports.
To me it was not Pakistan which lost on the 30th of March at Mohali, but it was Cricket and this sports which lost the game over Jingoism and vulguar patriotism. And not to forget to mention it was also the defeat of an idea of India as a secular and democratic country. This can be seen also in the new slogan in circulation now calling the finals of world cup as a battle between Ram and Ravan.
There is a call, everywhere, to bleed blue. I cant bleed blue. But i feel blue, for cricket and for the idea of India.