Notes from Mohali

Note: Very cricket-fanaticky post. Choose to skip if you’re sick of cricket or *dramatic gasp* hate it!

Born into a cricket-crazed family, I am just one like billions of Indians. However, like everything, my family had to work on making me like them here. You see, I was the one who rolled her eyes when my brother would start narrating the 43rd over of some 1989 Titan cup final bowled by Venkatesh Prasad complete with details of the long-retired batsman’s batting averages. The brother lives, breathes and eats cricket. He is that annoying sibling who would always be doing that bounce-the-ball-off-the-walls-with-a-bat thing till the sound of tuk-tuk became one with your heartbeat and breathing pattern. The father? He is the person who watches ONLY cricket and news.  News about sports, that is. There used to be a huge void in our dinner table conversations when Team India decided to take a break during the year. To better describe, my father is that PSU employee who has travelled long distances in a train with a radio stuck to his ears for the better part of the journey listening to Lala Amarnath drone about the proceedings of a very forgettable test match. The mother, well, once shocked me when I found her sobbing away because Sachin had been bowled by some *insert inappropriate un-parent-like word*. She understands so little about cricket that it is a wonder in itself she still watches it, but she trips on the emotions of the game far more than most people I know. Me? I had ADD. I’d support Steve Waugh and “that kameena” Ricky Ponting  just to spite the brother. I’d insist my mother cook me “something nice” just when the cricket match was on, and go on a repeated loop of “nobody loves me”.. many pizzas were ordered by way of this modus operandi. I’d bug my father no end to change the channel THE SECOND the over finished, when he obviously wanted to catch the replays.. this slowly strengthened my case to bring a second TV in the house. However, the mania rubbed off when I wasn’t looking. In the middle of all this scheming and plotting, I got my own memorable moments of cricket. Sachin’s devastation of Tom Moody. Ajay Jadeja’s knock in that quarter final. Alan Donald’s last ball desperate run. Srinath’s and Kumble’s winning last-wicket partnership. Maybe all Indians remember these. They remember the atmosphere, the people they were with, who said what, how it ended, the celebration afterwards or the deep personal remorse they felt. I do too, with all these details, and the knowledge that they miraculously turned into a cricket-convert when I was gunning for the absolute opposite.

What I didn’t know, however, that I was about to be married into a cricket-crazier family. The boyfriend, now husband, would go into long monologues right before or after a match but naive louuu didn’t read the signs. He nonchalantly mentioned that he had been a participant in the Harsha Bhogle Dream Job commentary contest, but I.. err.. wasn’t paying attention. I felt the blow the first time, when he said he HAD TO be at the Brabourne on a weekend night for some IPL naansense, because Sachin was playing. Since then, it has just been a series of shocks. His family is of course involved too. The father-in-law easily travels 200 days a year, and his entire schedule is built around India’s cricket calendar.. and let’s just say, IPL has added to his “bag of woes” 😀 And FIL’s father? He suffered a major stroke about a year back, and his only demand the day after his surgery was if he could please get access to a TV so he wouldn’t miss Sachin’s innings in some “very important” match.

Obviously, in my case, a family that watches Sachin belting the crap out of the opposition together, stays together. So how could I pass up a chance to watch the World Cup semi-final at Mohali when husband and FIL managed to get passes? There was also the tiny bit that I will NEVER refuse to go to Chandigarh – a place from where I have many stories of childhood and of my parents as a young couple. But I kept dilly-dallying because of silly reasons, till someone mentioned that the semi-final could just be India versus Pak. That moment sealed it. Ofcourse, India hadn’t even convincingly made it to the Quarter Final stage at that moment.

The morning of the Pak-WI QF, I tweeted that if Pak won that day and Ind won the next day, my Mohali tickets would be worth everything. And guess what? They were. I’d never forget the emotion and the excitement that ran through the air on March 30th, 2011 in that stadium. Imagine thousands of people just screaming their lungs out because they can’t believe they’ve made it there. Imagine seeing the Tricolor everywhere with a few flashes of the Green-and-White, but the same passion in every face. Imagine that absolutely unconscious, uninhibited jump-from-your-seats reaction about a 100 times in the game. Imagine many hearts forgetting to keep running and many hands folding in prayer instinctively, every time a review opportunity came up. Imagine an entire stadium going delirious at the very sight of Yuvraj and Harbhajan, because well in Mohali – Singh is King, and the stunned silence when Yuvi walked out in a space of 5 minutes. Imagine the crowd standing and singing Vande Mataram when the 8th wicket fell. If there was ever a religion that could and should bind people together and make them keep the faith, Cricket suits the bill for India. My family is already a convert, and I’d glady subscribe.

Of course there were those moments that one chooses to forget. The anti-Pakistan slogans that had nothing to do with sport, and could easily have been avoided. The embarrassment that comes with war and terrorism references being shoved as posters in the face of Pak supporters. I’m no bleeding heart and of course I wanted India to win (and by that coin, Pak to lose the match), but I wish I could show them that we didn’t mean the insult. It was a bit of getting carried away and losing the plot. I wish I could show them that in the heart of our hearts, we only care about the sport and this is just a case of a misfired sense of humour of a troublesome few. We did our bit in telling some idiots to take it easy, but it was hardly a setting for changing world views and individual philosophies.

 However, there are always people who bring a smile. A rumour that quickly picked up during the first half of the match was that every time one Pakistani lady in our stand got up to get herself some water or food, an Indian wicket would fall! Guess who got VIP treatment for the rest of the match and was served right where she sat, by the cops!! 😀

Lastly, I may be biased here, but I have to say that it was all the more fun for me because it was Mohali. Maybe because my default setting when I’m over-excited is to launch into very violent and very raucous Bhangra, and I didn’t feel alone being like that in Mohali? Or maybe for the first time, I could sing along to all the local music being played and wasn’t bothered how bad I sounded? Or maybe because the post-match celebrations in the streets looked completely Bollywood-ish with cops joining the masses, and forgetting about disciplining traffic!

As the last battle looms large and India prepares to get the cup home, I am preparing for Wankhede. Yes, I’m going to be there. Bleeding blue, like always.

Here’s me @ Mohali, an hour before the match began.

For you, India, a thousand times over