On a very hot afternoon in Jaisalmer in late March 2011 , ‘Jawan’ Lakhbir Singh was struggling hard to tune into the All India Radio. An encounter/ shoot out had an all-together different meaning today. It was not different in the second class compartment of a local train in Mumbai as people started checking their phones for updates. A healthy crowd started to build-up outside the television selling store in the small suburb of Matunga in Mumbai. Somewhere in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi, Mr. Garg’s small house was filled with his friends. And in an Indian middle class family like mine, my mother was just lighting up the ‘diya’ in front of the small temple in our house. India playing Pakistan in the World Cup Semi-Final,2011. Be it 1996 or be it 2011, I cherish each India Pakistan World Cup game. The emotion has just never died. We all have grown up, but we still have the kid in us who wants to watch the game with our dear ones and cheer in unison.
Sometimes I wonder how different was the atmosphere in a middle class Indian family household in 1990’s. 1996 saw World Cup come to India – a nation growing in economy. To put things in perspective, 1996 was one those years when one had a Sachin or a Kapil Dev sticker on the cricket bat, so that one could hit the plastic ball as hard as them. One of those years when people heard the commentary in offices and homes, because television was still new in India. One of those years when everyone did not have a telephone. And one of those years when owning an Ambassador was a big luxury. We all must have had the experience of watching the India Pakistan game in 1990’s. I was just 7 years old. India played Pakistan on March 9th, 1996 at Bangalore. It was a festival for a middle class Indian family like ours. Parents invited their friends over; mother and other aunts finished cooking before India went into bat at 2:00pm. My neighbors were all set to stop by my place for the match. And so were 20 others. The streets went dead at 2:00pm. I remember Ajay Jadeja playing the blinder and then Prasad knocking off Aamir Sohail’s off-stump. That was one way the nuclear Indian middle class families united. The next day, each kid wanted to name their team India and the opposition as Pakistan. That kind of brought in some extra seriousness to the plastic ball cricket. Again, it was only the emotion. That was an early part of the post mid 1990’s.
There are very few public sectors in India. Bhilai, Chattisgarh is one of them. It is a known fact that the friends and families in a public sector are more closely knit than in a private sector town. People visit each other more often, there are more family gatherings and events that bring people from various backgrounds under one roof. In 1999, I was in Bhilai, Chattisgarh and India vs. Pakistan was one such occasion when everyone got together. I was at my grandparents’s place and all his friends and their families gathered to watch the India – Pakistan battle. We kids, were even asked to go on the roof to adjust the antenna, at times. This year was particularly special because of the political unrest and the unfortunate Kargil war. People celebrated the victory with distributing and feeding sweets to everyone. My grandfather and his friends sat down on the porch to discuss every detail of the match. Every India Pakistan game was a gala moment for an Indian middle class family like ours. This is just before the 90’s ended. And with that ended the innocence in cricket.
With the new millennium, the times changed. Technology grew at the same rate as Tendulkar’s runs. Most of the middle class families owned a television set. But still for festive occasions like the 2003 India Pakistan World Cup encounter, people believed in getting together. Children born in late 80’s grew up enough to invite their friends over. Parent’s still took time out of their schedule to watch the match with their friends and relatives. The result – India survived through Sachin’s knock of 98 and escaped with a victory. Fans like me, read and discussed every detail of the match at the school, cricket coaching academies and at our tuition classes. That was the early 2000’s.
2011 and India was growing as a big economic power in the world. The middle class Indian family have progressed well in life. The children born in late 80’s are on the verge of completing their graduation and are looking to settle into the work life. Times changed but the reaction of people to an India vs. Pakistan did not. That fine afternoon in March 2011, while travelling through the trains, the buses and the taxis – one could hear the commentary on the radio. On the trains, every Indian boundary and every Pakistani wicket was applauded with all the fervor and pride in the world. Some watched the match on a big screen, some saw it in a small home in a chawl and some just watched it standing outside a television store. Again, an India Pakistan match brought people together.
The outcome from any sporting event comes with an emotion that can either be ‘Delight’ or ‘Anguish’. Nadal’s Wimbledon victory in 2010, Owen’s 4th goal aginst Manchester City, Saina Nehwal’s Gold, Sachin’s dismissal in the 2003 WC final, Dhoni’s heroics in the 2011 WC final and so on. All of these moments came with emotions that did end up giving us teary eyes.
The emotion is always special when it potentially affects everyone, right from the women working in the kitchen to the soldier guarding the border. India playing Pakistan in a World Cup is an example of one such emotion. It is a romantic affair filled with rivalry that is above ALL and above ANY emotional standard. Be it Cricket, be it Hockey or be it a 400m Relay – we get the rush of an adrenaline, when we say India and Pakistan in the same breath. It will be one of those moments on Feb 15th during the Cricket World Cup 2015. It’s been 4 years when I last celebrated my passion for India vs. Pakistan in a World Cup. I will again, on February 15th.