Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Confessions of a Cricket Challenged Indian

Today is my day of feeling out of place. The season has started sometime back and now there is no escaping. The planetary position is adverse for me for some time to come. It’s a day when rest of my country would be going crazy with excitement about the India-Pakistan Cricket match and I would be somehow ensuring not making a stupid or insensitive comment. Being Indian and not knowing about Cricket is sacrilege. Everyone in my family from my sisters to aunts and from my husband to grand uncle is like a good Indian, interested in cricket. My father was in fact captain of his university team and a very enthusiastic cricket player. Unfortunately I am a Cricket-challenged person. I have watched parts of matches now and then (generally when forced to) but I fail to get into “the cricket mood” unlike my fellow countrymen and women. Even before the world cup started, I had a sinking feeling in my heart. Things are going towards worse since then. Cricketers are suddenly everywhere- selling cars, colas and houses, making guest appearances in the TV shows, and even the newspaper is full of them and their lives. Starlets feel grateful for rumoured affairs with them and politicians brag their connections. The journos are offering deeper and deeper insights about the game and the players and here I am thinking, “Jeez…the madness starts once again”. Even in the midst of finalizing a very crucial report, one of my seniors would have a computer window opened on and would, rather guiltily, take a peek on score every five minutes. People in office started falling ill on match days and leave applications started pouring. The FM radio had nothing but cricket to talk about. I felt like an outsider in my own country.

Cricket is definitely much more than a game in India. It is a bond, a passion, a sudden rush of adrenaline and in its purest form an emotion.Someone once quipped that what holds India together is parliamentary democracy, Bollywood and Cricket- not necesarily in that order.  In India cricket has an accepted protocol. Even a stranger can strike a conversation asking about score. Listening to radio cricket commentary, watching of a match in front of a TV showroom and now web-TV in office is very understandable ….more so when India plays with Pakistan. Believe it or not, even in trains /public buses they tune to cricket commentary on match days. However important is the meeting, it is important to update everyone about the latest in the ongoing match. In brief the entire country waits with baited breath for the match. The cricket fans come in several colours-

The Passionate- they associate cricket with patriotism, cannot think of cheering Pakistan even if they play very good cricket. Capable of breaking TV sets (and someone’s neck), slamming doors and abandoning food when India loses a match, they firmly believe that cricket is like worship- or even more, it’s like your first love- pure and unconditional.

The Cynics: they always predict that India will lose hoping in the heart or their heart that it won’t. With every falling wicket, they sigh and give I-Told-You-So expression and if India wins a match, predict that it was just by luck next one they will surely lose. They believe that every match is fixed and yet for reason unknown watch the match till last ball.

The Rationals: they quote a lot of statistics to predict who is in better form and which team will win…and when the opposite happens can produce even more statistics to support the result

The Superstitious: well, cricket can make even the most rational fans superstitious. A radio channel is running a competition on your favorite TOTAKA (charm) to make India win. People dress up in a particular colour, sit in a particular pose and eat some particular food to make the team victorious. People cancel meetings, trips, offer bribes to gods and perform havan. In effect, the winning and losing is a product of the combined strength of our charms vs the rival charms. The funniest such fan I knew was my friend Manish, who was an ardent cricket fan but would not watch any crucial India matches on TV as he “knew” India, will lose if he watches the match. I wonder if the Indian Cricket Team knows what sacrifices are committed for their victory from a rickshaw puller to a business tycoon (Come to think of it has a very socialist message!).

The Know-alls: they always know who is going to win, which is going to perform how and are never surprised. Usually their favorite team wins or has a noble reason to lose. It’s always a fault of the other team if things do not go as they “knew”. By the way, they know the best cricket anecdotes and jokes.

The Hero worshippers: with a fair representation of fair sex, this category has people who do not look for the game but for the men- or more specifically few men/a man in the game. They cheer only for the hero/ dream lovers and cry when the hero performs badly. Their rooms are usually decorated with this particular cricketer’s posters and they have some crazy trivia ready for whoever cares to listen about their favorite star (his favorite drink, soup, city, his unhappy life, his appearance, clothes etc etc). They buy everything from Cola to instant noodles as per the supposed preference of their star cricketer and participate in Orkut and Facebook fan forums with great enthusiasm.
But then while you can divide almost everybody in Indian population in the above categories, there are some miniscule citizens of this country who do not fall in any. Loosely we can call them the Disinterested. For them cricket days are hard days , they almost feel ashamed of not knowing/not taking interest in this noble game and at times wonder if that makes them bad Indians. Some by peer pressure try to look interested, others like me stay out of any cricket conversation to hide their cricket ignorance. They question why cricketers should tell them which product to buy and which brand to wear; they sneer at people glued to TV sets and sometimes even dare to change channels when a match is going on.

Dear reader, I confess that I belong to this last category. The category of the damned – as my cricket crazy hubby would put. He would not have minded my being a vampire as much as he regrets my being a cricket challenged Indian. Over the years, while my father, my sisters and now my husband is eating and breathing cricket- I just try to leave them with their game of glorious uncertainties and look at the cricket crazy world around me with a very knowing philosopher’s gaze. Well, let me confess when the entire country is at halt, there is nothing much to do anyways.


skm said...

Excellent post more so coming from someone who belongs to the 'disinterested' category:-)

Alok said...

Seeing your hubby celebrate along with the entire neighbourhood in the late eve of 2nd April must have beeen confusing.