The Curious Case of The Blue Fever A Old Day Story
On Mar 26th, I sat in the morning to write this article down. But from 9 am to 12noon all I had written were two paragraphs of scattered thoughts on children and work, the field I have been researching on for long (3 hours and two paragraphs!!). This yet does not mean that I am not able to write about this topic, which is very close to my heart. The truth is I got unavoidably delayed!! Why? It was the semi-final cricket match where Indian clashed with one of the best cricket teams in the world – Australia.
At this point, the reader must be tapping his or her like Obelix and thinking, is she nuts?! I did have a cricket fever till Mar 26th! As a kid growing up with a cricket-loving father and older brother, I too fell in love with the game. I never played it, but I still remember cheering for my brother and his friends’ team during the Gully cricket matches. In the last ten years, I have been mostly away from India, and since my love for this game wasn’t so profound, the urge to support the team or watch a match also died down.
World Cup Tales Between India & Pakistan
On Feb 15th it was the historic India-Pakistan World Cup match of here in Adelaide. Now since we are living in Melbourne at the moment, friends made plans to see this match. The preparations for the trip started last year. From tickets to flights to accommodation, everything was booked since last year May! Trust me, I wasn’t interested in going, but since some of my girlfriends were also accompanying their hubbies. I joined, albeit reluctantly.
So the scene is set – we got to know that the Swamy Army (the name for Indian cricket fans around the world) March would start few hours before the match from the center of the town and they would walk towards Adelaide Oval. We had gone to drop off a few friends, and for the first time, I witnessed the frenzy of supporters. Thousands of people wearing the Indian team’s Blue T-shirt, waving large versions of the Tricolor flag and shouting all sorts of slogans for India. The Pakistani crowd seemed tiny as compared to the Indian one. The noise was deafening but remarkable! Adding to that the slogans and the vibrant colors of the flag and the tees woke up every inch of Indianess in me! I began screaming like a crazy woman, blew shrill whistles and danced like a madcap – my poor husband, at this point, must have thought, what has got into my wife??!!
Honestly, this is what happened to every fan in the vicinity. All inhibitions were shed – Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Garwhali, Tamilian – nothing mattered then. We are Indians. That is what mattered. Being in a foreign country like Australia, surrounded by your own country people and supporting your team – that is what mattered. Your love for the game was irrelevant at that time – all that mattered was the need to support our countrymen beat the pulp out of the opposition! In the stadium, when the national anthem began, I got Goosebumps. It was as if the whole stadium would explode with our song and the Jaẏa hē roared louder than anything I have ever heard. From then on it was sheer rock ‘n’ roll. The players on both sides played, and every time there was a boundary or a six, the crowd erupted with slogans and drum rolls. And mind you, all this in 39 degrees of a searing hot Adelaide summer day!!
Everywhere the Indian team went, this frenzy of supporters followed. Heat, rain, and sunshine – they bore everything to make their country team win. Even pregnant women, babies, and 2-3-year-old kids joined this madness. Reports confirmed that the day India played with South Africa in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the authorities saw an unprecedented number of prams in the parking bays that are specially earmarked for disable people and babies. To top all this, there was an informal group of drummers playing the Dhol at every location. They were traveling everywhere the team went and played a significant role in electrifying the atmosphere. And the team outperformed every time.
People have traveled from countries as far as the USA to see these matches. What was fascinating for me was to see this sort of support outside India. Had we been in India, this wouldn’t have surprised me; but being in Australia, surrounded by your country people, singing the national anthem at the iconic landmarks of Australia like the Federation Square and the Sydney Central Station and marching through the streets with our flags held high was unexpected. There was a moment when hundreds of Indian fans were passing through the closed building of an Adelaide train station. Suddenly slogans like “Jeet Gaya bhai jeet Gaya, India jeet Gaya” erupted. The whole station exploded with our booming voices!! This was after the team defeated Pakistan. It was just sheer joy and excitement to be part of this madness!!
Indian Effect In WorldWide
In today’s globalized world, non-resident Indians or NRIs get everything Indian in the country of their residence – from spices to food to clothes – literally everything. But this feeling of being with your country people is rare – at some festivals like Holi or Diwali things do happen. But whenever I attended Indian celebrations in Melbourne, I realized that everything was pretty much subdued. Low noise, hushed tones and soft music in enclosed areas marks such parties. In India, it’s the exact opposite. Loudest possible noise, screaming, dancing and a party-like atmosphere characterizes celebrations there. These matches were exactly like this!! For me, that was one of the fascinating things about these matches!! No other country got this kind of support. Even Allan Donald, the bowling coach of South Africa, remarked that any game for India in this World Cup would be a home game for them and the biggest challenge for the opponent team was to bypass the loud intimidating support of India. In fact, it is true. If the Indian cricket team plays anywhere in this world, it will be a home game for them. Reason – cricket has been genetically wired into us Indians!! The other thing that amazed me was something unexpected.
Honestly, in such big crowds, I feel a bit insecure. But everything happened in its limits – civilized limits. No fights (unless between two groups from different countries especially on the Bangladesh matchday); no lecherous stares; no groping; no lewd comments. On the day India defeated South Africa, we had a massive celebration at the exit hall of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Hundreds of men were dancing and shouting to mark the victory. There were just a few girls here and there (my friend and I couldn’t resist and joined the crowd to dance!). After a few moments of fear, we joined the frenzy. We felt safe even among so many men (mostly high on beer). It was only because it was just a massive group of fans who were enjoying and celebrating the victory of their country team. Pure fun! This is the behavior I yearn for when I am in India. If Indian men can behave like this outside their country, then why can’t the men in India behave like this? Are the men living outside India being brought up differently than those being brought up in India? I want to throw this question, yet again into the Indian cosmos which is struggling to be fair to its women.