Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reflections of a 'normal' cricket fan..!!

26th May 1999   
Udaipur, Rajasthan    …

I sit in massive room surrounded by at least more than a dozen of my cricket crazy relatives. It is the cricket World Cup in England that has caught the imagination of one and all, not to mention all my fanatic relatives here who love to dissect the game in details. It is India vs Sri Lanka at the Taunton; an important league game for us as we haven’t fared too well before this in the tournament. A victory is imperative. India is batting first and the prince of Kolkata, Sourav Ganguly has opened the batting for India. My relatives knew very well that I was from Kolkata and of my love for Ganguly. Out came some not so nice comments, “Kya re, tera Dadaji kuch karega ki nahi..?“ .. 13 years old then, I just told them silently, “He is the best..You will see..” 

They laughed…I prayed….

Soon as the match progressed, the prince showed his class…Scoring an outstanding 183 studded with glorious drives and 7 scintillating sixes. I was over the moon. However, what was even more surprising was to see each of my relative, uncles, aunts, cousins, cheering each cover drive Ganguly stroked…With each six some of them would reply…"Dada kya mara hai…Khub bhalo…Khub bhalo....” As he got out after scoring his magical innings, all my relatives stood up and applauded; among them was a 65 year old uncle and a 9 year old kid… I watched them around fondly..They had always teased my state Bengal and Ganguly, but when it really came to it, they were cheering and egging him on.. Miles apart from his city some true blue Rajasthanis were cheering a Bengali for bringing the country some glory.. I felt elated …Felt like a true Indian..

5th May 2012
Kolkata, West Bengal   …

Its' just a game dude..Just a game...!! 
I sit in a massive café with a couple of my friends surrounded by plenty of cricket crazy fans, or so I believed. It is the Indian Premiere League (IPL) that has caught everyone’s attention. It’s a big match today; the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs the Pune Warriors India (PWI).  Though it should have remained a normal cricket match fans here have built it up as the clash of the Prince, Sourav Ganguly who now is the captain of the Pune side, against his own state team.  Some of the unusually biased media houses here have billed it as ‘The return of the Prince to his lair”. The city supposedly would be divided in its support for its beloved Dada and their own city team.

I scoff at all this. Surely, that should not happen. There is something called the city pride, city loyalty. And moreover, no individual can be bigger than the game. No matter what.. In the end, it should remain just a normal cricket match. But as it turned out, it was far from that. As we watched the match on a giant TV , the scenes unfolding at the Eden Gardens make my brains go numb. More than half of the crowd is donning the Pune jerseys and showing placards which welcomes Dada and asks him to beat KKR to pulp. I feel sick.
The match starts..KKR have gotten off to a blazing start, but stumble later on. As some wickets fall, some people sitting nearby start cheering every fall of the wicket and making their feelings clear on whose side they are on. I am baffled. Isn’t this the same city which keeps crying about loyalty, sports love and all that?  Where is the sports love? From the looks of it all it matters was communal loyalty and love for one’s regional idol and nothing else…I felt frustrated..Ashamed to be an Indian..


That's what you get SRK for doing what you think is right
The contrasts that I have put here by displaying two incidents from my lifetime which left a deep mark on my psyche is deliberate. You can take it the way you want to. The smart ones would decipher my real intentions of doing so. The not so smart ones would well..Remain dumb..So I won’t really bother.. This blog of mine has covered issues similar to this. Every time I see some regionalistic maniacs go wild, it makes me frustrated. 

Unfortunately, enough, I keep seeing them in my very own city.  Days before the IPL match I kept seeing comments on a social networking site from various people here, displaying their zealous emotions towards their beloved Dada. Pictures were drawn which showed Ganguly running with a sword after KKR owner Shah Rukh Khan. SRK obviously is now the most hated person among many Dada fans here for doing what he thought was right with his own team after three years of failure with the 'world's greatest captain'. But then again, you can't add logic to any Dada related conversation here.  Some posted status updates openly challenging and abusing the KKR supporters and SRK. Another particular picture caught my attention, which informed fellow Bengalis (not Kolkatans mind you)  that Warriors are owned by a Bengali and captained by a Bengali, as opposed to Knight Riders, who are owned by a Delhi Pathan who now lives in Mumbai and captained by a brash Punjabi from Delhi, and they should thus support ‘their’ team.  Really what has the world come to?
The number of ‘likes’ in the picture rose to thousands, shouting their approval for the same. Ideally, I would have just laughed it out, but it wasn’t a laughing matter anymore. I can’t even claim this to be a one off incident. Kolkata, though very proudly claims to be a sports loving city, the reality though seems far from that. Most of them it seems are obsessed with their culture, religion and idol worshiping of their hero who is beyond any criticism, beyond any reasoning..He can do no wrong.. He is bigger than the game.  Rahul Dravid and his Indian team experienced something similar in 2005 when they came to play a match against South Africa here. The ‘sports loving’ crowd booed India, and applauded South Africa for thrashing the team that had no use for their Dada. Dravid had famously commented then upon arrival in Mumbai that it felt good to be back in India.

This kind of attitude defeats the very purpose of us being united as Indians, as one. If we are so obsessed with our own regions, culture et al how shall we progress? The time of me being a 13 year old kid in awe of Mr. Ganguly is long gone.  Some cricketing reasons and some of this ‘there is no one bigger than Dada’ has contributed to it. I shall not waste my time here, comparing with statistics on who really is great and who is not. It’s futile in any case. The picture though is larger than just a cricket match.  It speaks volumes on how utterly obsessed we still are with our own religions and castes. It’s a simple point that I keep shouting that in the end we are not Bengalis, or Sindhis, or a Marathi manoos or Muslims.. We are just plain and simple Indians..The day all of us inculcate that in ourselves we shall perhaps see a better India.   

It’s evening time at the café. I am still with my friends watching the match on TV. Ganguly has arrived for the Pune team and plods and scratches his way to a 30. He hits a six soon, and the Pune supporters next to us cheer madly. One of them comments, ‘Look at him. At 40 hitting a six..What a player..”  My best friend goes red with anger on hearing this. The next ball Ganguly holds out in the deep. To my surprise many in the cafe erupt in unison. My best friend, a Bengali and  known to be a Ganguly fan, jumps up in elation and gives Dada a mouthful as he walks back to the pavilion. Perhaps the Kolkatan in him couldn’t take it anymore. Pune, after that loses the match in a thrilling last over. It was great game of cricket, but in the end cricket won…My city lost…

Or did it??

As the match ends, chants of KKR …KKR.. chorused around the café. The Pune supporters had already thinned out. The Dada fans sitting next to our table however were numb with disbelief as their beloved icon had not claimed his lair.  Suddenly, out of nowhere a girl came striding in towards them, her boyfriend tries to stop her. But she is adamant and shouts a loud ‘Loser’ to the Dada fans.. I laugh, so do my friends..She looks at us, and gives us winning smile..Is she a Bengali?? I think to myself..Does it matter?? No, it doesn’t.. I answer back..

I feel relieved…A little sane…There still are some normal people out there after all..!!

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