April 22, 2011

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Three weeks late


This post is three weeks late. Three weeks late because, until now, I honestly did not know what to say. Three weeks too late, I had thought to myself, until just some time ago--since so much had happened since that day. An old gentleman had decided to stop eating until a country's demands had been met. His demands were then tentatively appeased. IPL4 had started off, with most of the teams in shuffle mode. As a result, most of the events of that day had perhaps been forgotten. Public memory is short, they told me. Therefore, I had my reservations about writing this post, and its relevance, if any, at this point of time. Anyway, here goes nothing.

I have, as stated before on this blog, the short-term memory of a 2-year-old. To compensate for that, I have been blessed with the long-term memory of a herd of elephants. Therefore, I may not be in a position to tell you whether I had coffee or tea with breakfast this morning, but I can describe to you, in unnecessary and extraordinary detail, what the beer tasted like when we beat Australia. I may not remember what I had for breakfast today, but I can tell you what I had for dinner when India beat Pakistan. I cannot remember what day of the week today is, but I can tell you what happened on April 2nd, 2011. The description, I admit, would be a bit hazy on account of our diluted beer, concentrated adrenaline and the general commotion around us, but I am sure you will forgive me for that.

Because on that day, a bunch of determined guys, whose average age is probably less than mine and whose average educational record is, uhm, pretty average, showed a nation of armchair intellectuals, scholars, cricket historians, diplomats, bureaucrats, students and ministers how it was meant to be done. These guys had managed to bring normally-sparring-politicians and other heads of state together. Not that that was their primary intention, but still. And its especially sweet  because it has given us a moment(or in my case, 3 weeks) to look away from our collective problems and focus on our collective successes. We may have scoundrels in power and power-cuts in summer, our best musicians may not be able to come up with a half-decent, five line theme song for the World Cup, the ministers we appoint eventually disappoint us, but, by God, if there is something we Indians are good at, its playing cricket and exporting Miss Universe winners to Bollywood.

Sweet also because, as I have been saying for quite a while on this blog, we are desperately in need of something that can bring us together. Language can't. Religion won't. And therefore, what those two failed to achieve collectively, fell at the feet of 15 men from 8 different states--from dopey-looking lethargic Delhi cricketers to uncontrollable specimens from the South, led ably by an unassuming man from Jharkhand. And if you don't believe that this victory brought people together, you clearly were not on M.G. Road that night. You did not hug strangers and hand out high fives to passers-by. You did not burst crackers after India beat Pakistan. You did not break into bouts of spontaneous but awkward dance. You did not sing We are the Champions at the top of your voice but slightly off-pitch.

Flashback to 1996---the first World Cup I was old enough to remember. Around the time when everyone's favourite band was the Backstreet Boys and before Football had made its foray into our living rooms. I remember the highs of the quarter-final against Pakistan and the unbelievable low of the semi-final against Sri Lanka. I also remember crying(inexplicably) when India had lost to Sri Lanka in a league match earlier in the tournament. Fast forward to 1999. India vs. Zimbabwe. Venkatesh Prasad lbw b Henry Olonga. Tears again. Fortunately for me, thereafter, I was able to take Indian losses in my stride and refused to shed tears for dismal Indian performances. For many years after that, we continued to watch--with disbelief at what Laxman and Dravid did in Kolkata, what Kumble did in Delhi and what Tendulkar did in Sharjah, not to mention the Natwest Series final and the T20 championship; occasionally furniture around the house would receive irreparable damage after frustrating losses--most notably after one Douglas Marillier decided to screw us with the Marillier Shot. Sometimes, we would watch in amusement, as Monkeygate unfolded, as Venkatesh Prasad batted and as Ganguly let fly from the Lord's balcony.

Talk about a roller-coaster.

Which is what makes this victory most special. Because when Dhoni hit that winning six, he didn't win the World Cup for Team India alone. It was won also for those that had tried previously and failed(sometimes miserably). For Vinod Kambli's tears. For Srinath's rotator cuff. For Dravid's persistence and Ganguly's groundwork. For Nayan Mongia's incessant appealing. For Kumble's broken jaw. But most importantly, for a few billion Indians and for a few techies who were looking for an excuse to drink.

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