THE TIMES OF INDIA
31 March, 2011
Never a cricket buff, but I dashed to Delhi cancelling a stay in Hong Kong, with my other MP friends and watched in my room the Mohali match. The roads in Delhi wore a silence usually seen during a curfew.
Even to get up for a hurried lunch or answer a phone call looked like a crime. Glued to the screen we prayed that Sachin stays longer , so did the rest of the nation crossing all boundaries of faith, colour and class. With Munaf and Zaheer shining in glory and Nehra, Tendulkar, Dhoni and Harbhajan making a combined assault on the rival team, it was a victory well deserved by the tricoloured India. Delhi broke into a burst of joy and sounds of Diwali crackers, with Connaught Place witnessing an unusual riot of colours and the cars zooming fast with overjoyous youths inside fluttering the tricolour and shouting India-India. The "curfewed" streets turned into life, bursting with mass happiness till midnight. I know a few friends who forgot to go to the mosque for evening prayers and remained seated before the television, not being able to afford to lose a single second of the excitement, and "dua" for India.
The moments of a spirited game and the united prayers for our victory brought the core Indian sense of unity alive so beautifully.
I love this India. Incredibly Indian and essentially united.
The India that politicians fail to recognize and appreciate was this India that saw all news channels, their anchors and reporters, entertainment gods and goddesses, seculars and non-seculars, fundamentalists, leaders of all colours and even the weird varieties of large-hearted, small-hearted crowds come together and celebrate India’s victory together.
This was the India which stood like one solid rock during the Kargil war and which says unitedly no to the scandals defacing our name and honour.
This India is woven together by the youth, who shun all hatred of any ideological variety, and at the same time want to score a victory. If Pakistan was not the harbinger of all terrorism and hatred against India, if it had not committed the unpardonable sins of sponsoring bloodshed and economic terrorism through the circulation of fake currency, if it had not indulged in cross-border mischiefs resulting in the killings of thousands of innocent Indians, the match between India and Pakistan would have remained as exciting as when we play Australia or Sri Lanka.
The very fact that youths thronged and leaders of all shades converged in Mohali, the Prime Minister found time to be there the whole day with his Pakistani counterpart, millions watched it in every city of the country and whoever Indian was abroad saw it in his land, wishing the tricolour victory, made this event more than a mere six-hour game.
It wasn’t just a game of 11 players versus another 11. It was a nation's yearning to see that we win over the evildoer. It was a democratic India’s spirited answer to the evil assaulter that it must behave and be friendly. India fights a war with Pakistan whenever we meet them even at the pavilion. Hence the patriotic fervour for victory. Hence the loud noises of "Vande Mataram" seeing the last Pakistani player packing up.
Turning such sports events into a diplomatic symbolism of peace sounded good for a media bite but its consequence was just the bubbles of meaningless courtesies. If such tactics worked, then peace should have reined on our borders after Zia-ul Haq visited Jaipur to watch cricket. Hardly anyone who came to see the match at Mohali had a heart for such a diplomacy. It simply ignored the hard facts. Cricket is not like soldiering the nation. Pakistan remains deeply entrenched in terror acts against India. Our soldiers are asked to shed their blood to keep the Pakistani state’s mafia army in check and to have their stooges sent as infiltrator mujahideen restrained. When a sports event is turned into a political gesture of peace with an unrepentant and uncooperative neighbour, it affects the morale of the patriotic people, including the security forces.
Mohali united us all because the fight was on and none shared the idea that we should lose to make Pakistan happy, as that would help forge a stronger friendship.
The battle cry and the victory essentially bring everyone together. It's not warmongering; none of us want an avoidable war. But the wicked must be trounced. That spirit gets expressed during Dussehra. Ram won over Ravana, hence the celebration.
The night we celebrated Team India’s victory together, crossing the boundaries of religion, caste, creed and ideological differences, has this lesson for the political leaders.