Monday, April 19, 2010
My maiden at Eden
On the Sunday that was 13th of March 2010, Eden Gardens not only bore testament to Kolkata’s unremitting support for their home team, the Kolkata Knight Riders but also set a new benchmark for the Bangali’s resilience to searing summer-afternoon heat and the city’s famously obdurate humidity.
As our car devoured the great Red Road leading to one of the most politically significant corners of the city housing the Raj Bhavan, Writer’s Building, the High Court, the Mohan Bagan football club premises (The Bangali’s somewhat equate football with their passion for Leftist governance therefore the distinguished mention among places of political importance), All India Radio office and the Eden Gardens, all scooped within a 3-4 Kilometer radius from the Tribunal; indications of a sporting event being held in the city became palpable.
Cotton hats held tightly in place by ribbons fastened underneath the chin, grown men hurried towards the stadium tugging their little ones behind them, who also had miniature cotton hats on their miniature heads. Whole families, grandparents, fathers, mothers, daughters and sons marched on either side of Red Road’s smooth asphalt heading towards Eden Gardens for the second Indian Premier League 20-20 cricket match pitting KKR against liquor maven, Vijay Mallaya’s Royal Challengers Bangalore.
I like to view The Indian Premier League as a fat, rich man visiting a poverty-stricken village. Everybody wanted to be associated with him, to do favors for him, to ingratiate themselves with him, they would travel impossible distances to see him and to propitiate his cash-rich kindheartedness and soon he would have his own little cabal of followers, yes-men whom he would happily exploit later to stuff his coffers.
Expectedly the traffic grew thicker and subsequently impenetrable as we neared the stadium and after attempting numerous permutations of trying to find the least crowded route and the best parking space our driver gave up and disembarked us at a walk-able distance from Entrance no. 11, our designated entry and drove off to find suitable parking space and a smoke.
Outside, we were just two heads in an ocean of thousands; like fungi pullulating on a piece of damp wood in a stagnant pond. I saw people as far as my eyes could take me. Heads with long, stretchable balloons tied around them, heads with Vodafone ZooZoo caps, heads with shiny, frilly paper hats meant for birthday parties, heads with inordinate amounts of hair, heads with no hair, heads with cotton hats and still more heads with cotton hats. Painted faces and purple-gold stippled the galaxy of crazed homo sapiens pouring in from every direction and route available.
They formed huge bottlenecks near the entrances enumerated by boards, hanging from above, flashing bold numbers in black. The Kolkata Police personnel were visibly having a hellish time. Standing lined up alongside the entrances to make sure the queues were straight and their constituents obedient, many of them got pushed around violently and sometimes cussed under collective breaths, affording a frustrated Bangali or two the opportunity of a lifetime to vent their resentment towards the law enforcing bullies unleashing as much violence on them as the overwhelming crowd pushing from behind could make available.
With dada out in the field today let’s see who contains the Bangali, I sniggered to myself when suddenly dad grabbed my hand and yanked me near him forcefully and almost immediately a huge KKR flag swooshed before me passing exactly through where I was standing, cutting through the air sibilantly!
It was a couple of youngsters, KKR’s acolytes on a motorcycle, two of KKR’s throngs, hordes of unsung and woefully insignificant foot soldiers, clad in purple and gold. They swayed the massive flag from one side to another and zoomed past the queues wailing out the team’s war cry, the passion inducing, “Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo Re” literally translated as, “We shall do, we shall fight, we shall win”; obviously not as peppy as it would sound in the Bangali tongue.
Nevertheless, dad and I managed to meander our way through the gates and over to the security counter about 30 meters from the entrance to the seating facility and as we entered a dull thump of speakers started to assail our eardrums. It only mean one thing, there was a DJ in the Stadium! Now, the security check, simply involved a famished looking boy running his hands all over your body, starting from the face, all the way down to your privates and finally stopping at your feet. No one checked me for cameras or other electronic pocket-equipment. Careless. Yet, I felt sickened at the thought of blaming the poor guy seeing the sheer thousands more he would have to molest after us.
We couldn’t avail Club house tickets like my father always did but we were able to manage the next best available, to my knowledge, the Rs 1200/- tickets. It so turned out that our seats weren’t “right at the front, just behind the fence’’ at Section - G as dad had earlier speculated. Our search began to take us all the way to the back, further and further away from the fence and under the shaded area. With every step ascended, our heart sank a little till we finally spotted our two little seats at the farthest row of the Section. Disappointing. Now, although we were far at the back, surprisingly the view of the field was remarkably clear and the shade was a bonus!
I was on my way to experiencing an IPL cricket match at a Stadium for the first time in my life! What a moment for a couch-potato!
Both teams practiced and limbered up on two opposite ends of the field. Covered in velvety, green grass, the spotless outfield had three pitches in the middle (the one in the middle, covered by a Tarpaulin sheet being the main one), also multitasking as an implied partition which both teams seemed to respect very much.
To my left were the boys in purple, the hometown heroes, KKR and to my right, the RCs, looking dapper in their bright red uniforms. In my opinion, this season’s KKR uniform is a tad tacky. It always was, ridiculously shiny and loud, in complete contrast to their performance on field. Although this year’s purple and gold proved to be a bit of a relief to the eyes, the previous uniform resembled the liveries an 18th century knight. ????I don’t have anything against gold on black or purple but I do not fancy seeing the combination on anything except for sarees and designer pens. Period.
The view was nothing short of breathtaking! If you have ever witnessed a carnival in progress from a slightly higher plane you will know precisely what I am trying to get at. Never before had I seen anything that measured up even closely to this. The music set the mood for the evening as dance numbers boomed and echoed across all four corners of the stadium from monster sized speakers. There were giant screens along the entire periphery of the field, some showed popular commercials and some highlights from previous matches.
A loud voice echoed across the stadium announcing the names of contest winners, sponsors and general safety measures to be taken when inside. The MC of course, did his bit to raise a notch higher, passions already running high among the crowd, “Joddin ache Dada, ke debe badha?” (As long as there is Dada, who can stop us?). Almost immediately a cacophony of pipes, horns and trumpets sounded from every corner of the crowd in acknowledgment, a loud, reassuring reciprocation to a mere mention of Dada’s name. Dada, the magical trick-word, aroused passions, buoyed hopes of a dazzling performance and promised to bring back the elusive glory to the Knights. People danced to the beat of drummers thumping away powerfully at big marching drums strapped on to their shoulders, there was colour, lights, firecrackers, paper rockets zig zagging from one seat to another, confetti. “Look, our boys!”, dad said to me; the crowd suddenly exploded in a deafening tumult and roared. Thousands of flags fluttered as the KKRs jogged gracefully up to the fence lines, their legs falling and retreating in perfect synchronization with each other’s. Every camera in our Section followed the men led by Saurav Ganguly as they finished their last lap and slowly headed back to the pavilion.
As if to compensate their departure, out came from nowhere, the Cheerleaders! And it was then that the Bangali almost entirely lost it…
The thumping of the speakers came close to becoming unbearable as these voluptuous belles, each befitting a lifeguard’s role in Baywatch pranced out in groups amidst earsplitting applause from all corners, running gracefully along the boundary, encircling the stadium and entrancing the Bangali. Although their attire now showed palpable signs of generous tailoring to suit Indian standards of ‘decency’ and ‘civility’, two virtues we Indians are richly endowed with and would lay down the lives of our countrymen protecting, quality is a virtue that cannot be concealed and these girls overflowed with it. What would the Bangali not give just to have a photograph taken with one of these dancers, what would he not forsake to shake a leg with these pom-pom sporting, blond nymphs, what would a Bangali not sacrifice just to stand next to one of these ethereal beings??
The Toss ensued shortly, declaring KKR as the winner who chose to bowl. It was a bowling wicket alright. An indication to which became apparent during Ishant Sharma’s bowling practice that we had the absolute pleasure of watching. His long tresses trailing behind him, the Goliath of a man hurtled down the runway like a speeding comet and reached the bowling crease within the bat of an eyelid. Like a Cobra poising its hood before a lethal strike, he rose high up in the air and landing back softly on the ground heaved the ball towards the wicket with all the force that six feet something frame could draw together. Almost immediately the wicket on the other end of the crease exploded with all three stumps bouncing off in different directions and bales spinning in the air like ejected cartridges from a machine gun, the interesting bit was, I never saw the ball, just a whizzing blur. Now, I wouldn’t want to be standing on the other end facing that!
Pre match interviews were quickly wrapped up as the crowds were getting impatient and typical Bangali sentiments rich with expletives started filling the air.
The screens that till now kept flashing images of Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif talking to important people and other Club house ornamentations amidst camera flashes, journalists, etc; suddenly began showing the KKR players pouring out into the field and assuming respective field positions. Dada marched out, eyes blinking, talking to Owais Shah, looking thoughtful as always as the crowds greeted their Messiah with another wave of deafening cacophony, flags, confetti, pipes, drums et all. The MC blathered all the adjectives his limited Bengali could afford him in welcoming KKR and Dada on to the field but was almost muted by the tumult. Seconds later, appeared heading for the batting pitch, were the two RC openers swinging their arms and jogging on their way. They were cheered for too, I just couldn’t hear it!
Suddenly everything went dead still, it almost seemed like someone had turned a giant volume knob somewhere. The batsmen were in position and so were the fielders, Ishant Sharma stood silently like a towering giant, heaving, waiting, the gleaming new Kookaburra sphere safely ensconced between his fingers in a fast-bowl grip.
The screens went blank for a second or two and immediately thereafter came to life showing the Umpire signaling Sharma. With an earsplitting bang, off went firecrackers blowing humongous and billowy clouds of silver and gold confetti into the air as Sharma commenced his hurtle of death down the runway. And so with it began my first IPL 20-20 experience!
Now, everything was rosy till the game actually began, what is interesting are the events which followed, which in a way also happens to be largely the intended subject of this blog entry.
Much has been said about Kolkatans at the Eden and what great sports they can be, they handle losses real well and refuse to leave without a burning, searing impression. But this time around there was a generous distribution of Biriyani chomping Kolkata Police personnel among the people to make sure that no such frivolities took place. Completely ignorant of the many unattended boxes and bags scattered around, our “Pooleesh-men” slouched on their shaded, back of the stadium seats, discolored napkins spread on the necks, demolishing mega size boxes of Biriyani.
I was just taking my mind off them when a bunch of teenagers rushed in from somewhere and noisily occupied the seats in front of us. Not only were they completely inebriated but all of them wore those longish ZooZoo hats. These annoying inflatable hats consist of a rubbery, tubular balloon meant to be worn around the head with a big, grinning ZooZoo over the forehead, a simple contraption capable of completely blocking out the view ahead of anybody seated behind the wearer. As if that weren’t enough they wouldn’t stop chattering and jumping on each other for no reason, which literally cut us off from the entire cricket match because now, not only could we not see, we couldn’t hear anything either. Dad and I joined forces with a gentleman seated next to us in sternly asking them to choose other seats as they were disturbing us. Instead, these hoodlums took their ZooZoo hats off and resumed their annoying prattle.
“Give us a Mexican Wave now..” echoed the MC’s booming voice and what a spectacular sight it was to watch the wave originate from the farthest end of the stadium where everybody, old and young, men and women alike rose up from their seats arms raised to make the wave. When it rushed at us, I did too. Dad just sat there sulking; “How did we end up with these seats? How did these bumkins get into this section, cant I even watch the match peacefully without asking people to sit down all the time, is this what I paid for..?” I convinced my father that it was a stadium and such things were expected, “It’s all a part of the experience!”, I said, slurping my Coke.
The RCs by now were limping on their way to not a winning but a face saving score which I speculated wouldn’t cross 110-115 by any means, wickets had fallen like nine pins and their batting had taken somewhat of a lackadaisical disposition. Ganguly, like the chief conspirator always shuttled between mid on and mid off, staying close to his bowlers and whispering into their ears every now and then. Jaques Kallis who had initially raised hopes for the RC by striking a boundary or two bandied the ball around a few times before getting dismissed and the other batsmen above and below him on the roll began following suit quickly. With their hero down the RC’s batting turned even more lackluster. In deep contrast to that was the mood in the stands….jubilant! That only meant that dad and I had to forsake our seats and start standing up just to get a clear view of the field. People just wouldn’t sit. Excited teenagers stood atop their seats at every boundary and gyrated their posteriors vulgarly to the music. We weighed our options; we could either keep standing up and sitting down with the crowd , that way we could at least see what is going on in the field or remain seated and be canopied by gyrating buttocks from all sides. Next boundary, we stood!
The first innings were over before schedule and there were around twenty minutes for KKR to come out to bat. The DJ pushed his music to overdrive, the MC commenced his nonsense and out came hopping, skipping and jumping the Cheerleaders and with them the IPL mascots; big, fluffy tigers called Hoogli. I imagined poor Bangalis trundling inside those heavy, tiger costumes, laboriously prancing and lolloping around in the heat, cursing the whole venture, swearing by the very succulence of the podda-ilish, what a confoundedly lousy job!
The RCs had managed a paltry 135 during their 20 overs and the public couldn’t wait for the second half to start, to watch Dada dear and his boys chew the heads off Mallaya’s RC. Dad and I quickly discarded our seats and raced downstairs to the lower areas, there were many unoccupied seats there and our aim was to get two corner ones, free from the prancing, screaming monkeys, two of whom, I saw, had already occupied our discarded seats above. It was safe as the match was already half way through and no one would check our tickets at that juncture, besides we would get a better, closer view of the field. The crowd there looked decent, at least not the type to act like lab monkeys on a testosterone overdose every time a four or six was hit!
The second innings had already begun under the day-like brightness of the floodlights when I reached our new spot with fresh supplies of chilled Coke and a couple of paper hats for dad and myself. We were no longer under the shade. Although it was post 5.30 pm and we didn’t really need those hats, I thought we should do our bit to blend in, be a part of the IPL fever, represent a more respectable, dignified audience who being very much a part of the revelry wouldn’t at any cost lose composure and discard self respect at the tiniest provocation and I was sure the hats would do it.
Our new location was a good 10 rows away from the fence. A TV camera propped up by a crane and manned by a camera man standing on the field, hovered over us like a bespectacled professor keeping a close eye on his students at an examination. It bothered me. I have always been rather ill at ease with things and more so, people hovering over me, keeping a close eye, observing and making copious notes of my behavior, my mannerisms.
Nevertheless, my reverie was broken when a loud crack assailed my eardrums; it was the percussive outcome of a Kookaburra ball meeting ninety eight centimeters and two kilos of pure willow. The harder the smack, the sharper the crack. The percussionist here, Hodge had executed a powerful lofty drive sending the ball shooting at an unfathomable pace hundreds of feet far into the evening sky like a missile. All of us strained our eyes and craned our necks to spot it but the floodlights made it impossible to do so, it reappeared again in our visual horizons as a miniscule white dot hurtling down from the gossamer tropospheric echelons over Eden Gardens, disrupting the flight path of a pair of eagles that scattered away in the sky, utterly bewildered by the speeding white comet, the Kookaburra ball began plummeting towards the stands assuring six runs to KKR’s scorecard. What a phenomenal knock! And as feared, the Bangali lost it again! Dad and I were complacent though, “there is good crowd here, they won’t get rowdy!”, dad told me. No sooner had he said that, Eden erupted and we were standing again!
An elbow butted in from the side and knocked off my coke and a thin boy of about fifteen whose elbow it was I presumed, leapt atop the seat like a frog and began jumping up and down noisily holding up a huge ‘Knight Riders’ banner between both his hands and he was not the only one to be doing so, Eden exploded with a uproar comparable to the proportions of a thermonuclear detonation to celebrate the ball’s homecoming from its great cosmic sojourn, firecrackers went off and there was confetti everywhere, the crowds were blanketed by fluttering flags and banners, THUMP..THUMP…THUMP…THUMP went the speakers, the MC began blabbering, out came the dancing beauties and the peripheral screens flashed funny exclamations. What a party!
The carousing had died down a little when I turned towards the culprit who had knocked off my Coke. He wasn’t there in the first place when we had taken those seats. I realized he had come down leaping over the rows behind us and had managed to noiselessly creep into our’s and of all other places had chosen the seat next to mine. I had no mood to chide the cretin for the Coke and neither did he apologize. He just sat there gaunt and proud, a bespectacled nerd, as thin as a reed with a faint, developing forestation above his upper lip and an oversized mobile phone hanging from a strap around his neck, a rolled up KKR banner in one hand and a half eaten sandwich in the other. A stereotypical marvel!
By now, knowing fully well which direction the match was heading for the KKR batsmen started taking it easy. The started missing a few balls here and there and ran tardily across the wickets. This was not acceptable to the Bangali and no sooner had Tiwari missed hitting a ball, “ Ei Bari ja!” (“Go home!”), “Kaavarta puro phanka, Kaavarta maar!!” (“The Cover is completely unguarded, hit it in the Cover!”), “Ei maar na!” (In exasperation, “Oh please, hit it!”) and other expressions of dismay started becoming audible.
The Knight Riders however were brought to a safe disposition with Hodge and Manoj Tiwari going on to score their respective 50s and Dada still duking it out. Now, it was his turn to disturb the peace by beautifully cover-driving the ball straight to the boundary for a four. Amidst the din; “Maa Maa Maa, akhon score holo eksho dui, aaro choutirish raan jetar jonno, tumi TV-te dekhchho to?!” (Mommy Mommy Mommy the present score is 102, 34 more runs to win, I hope you’re following it on the TV!!), the nerd said on his Walkie Talkie. Soon, there was another four, “Maaa Dada Char merechhe!” (Mommy Dada hit a four), thereafter, two runs, “Maa Maa Maa, duu raan, duu raan”, (Mommy Mommy two runs, two runs), I was just reaching the end of my tether when as if by divine intervention, on came a three minute Strategic Break.
As the peripheral screens showed the countdown I notice something odd. The seats around us had started filling up gradually and the very crowd we were running away from was slowly closing in on us. By then two very different, somewhat queer people came and parked themselves right in front of us. Both had unusually done up hair, definitely not something one would expect to find at a stadium. Their hairstyle reminded me of actresses from the 70s’ Eastman color Hindi movies era, hair bundled on top of the heads in a huge, flawless bun with thick spiraling strands bouncing up and down in front of the face. On the other hand those shoulders looked incredibly masculine and their voices, deep. One of them raised an arm for some reason and it was then that I noticed it, hair! Lots of it! Eunuchs! The only two Eunuchs at Eden Gardens and they sat right in front of dad and I and again, our view was blocked by two humongous mountains of hair! I looked up at the sky but there was no heaven over Kolkata.
The crowd began chanting… “Five…four….three...two…one!” Strategic break being over the game resumed. A snack vendor scurried past our row like a house-rat. He was trying to sell his wares and avoid been spotted by the Police, he bent as low as his backbone permitted and was in a great hurry. He had almost gone past us but the transmitters on nerd boy’s head spotted him right away; “Daadaa, daaadaaa, daadaa…Bhel Puri…Bhel Puri!” (Too annoying to translate!), he hollered, “Dada Badam dao badam, lonka dio na” (Hey, add lots of nuts, no chillies!); his plate passed through us, hand to hand from one end of the row to where His Majesty sat. He gazed at it for a bit, then with a disdainful expression and to my utter exasperation said, “O ma, sauce koi? Sauce dao sauce, Sauce Koi, daoni keno!” (How come there’s no sauce, gimme sauce, why is there no sauce, why didn’t you give me?!), the plate went back again from whence it came, passing from one hand to another all the way to the furious vendor who jerked a bottle of ketchup all over it and again placed the plate on the human conveyor belt. The payment also went to him the same way much to our chagrin and that of the others in the row.
With the consequentiality of the game being more or less known, the entertainment hungry Bangali waited impatiently for boundary hits as it was then that the young Cheerleaders would show up and once they did, there was no stopping these people;
Young and old alike stood boldly facing the Cheerleaders. Pot bellies, wobbling, arthritic knees, spectacles with magnifying glasses fitted in them, broken teeth, all swayed and jerked to the music. This section of the audience privileged enough to have obtained front-seat tickets cavorted with twice the conviviality and thrice the energy of the rest of the crowd.
The middle aged men resorted to a dance form I have keenly observed over the years as THE stereotypical ‘pot-bellied-middle-aged-man’s-dance’; a sort of ‘bastardized bhangra meets Shantiniketan’ approach you’ll observe at uncle & aunty parties after Ghazals give way to Hindi music and the whiskey begins to benumb senses, infusing the attendants with enough lightheartedness to abandon all inhibitions and with it their self respect. It is an interesting dance form which has, in fact, little to do with the tempo or rhythm of the music, it involves the dancer holding both his hands up in the air, slowly pushing them up and kicking his legs about gently, giving the billowing belly the leeway to swing and wobble like it were alive and had a name!
There’s another amusing dichotomy I noticed among the younger crowd at Eden. While the rather well-supplied, 50 Cent fed youngsters did what seemed as the Gangsta Rap moves; standing atop their seats they swayed from side to side with their legs wide apart, one hand on the crotch and the other in the air, replete with a bandana and shiny, long necklaces! The other somewhat less privileged youngsters with their bizarre, badly misplaced sense of style (often provoking embarrassing misunderstandings) , tight t-shirts, curly hair, painted nails and fake, blonde streaks interrupting an otherwise normal, black mane, swayed their arms and curled their wrists gently resembling sea weed in strong current. While with strange, feminine grace these youngsters expressed their pleasure at the lolloping, white skinned beauties, the former, the gangsta rappers decided to take over the reigns. One particularly enthusiastic guy stood on his seat and assiduously pointed his finger at the Cheerleaders gesturing at them as though he were taking dance classes, as though he was instructing them… “Comeonnowgirls, one, two, threefourfive, six, seven, eightnineten!”
With 18 more runs left to be fetched from 10 balls, the peripheral screens began showing a thumping heart symbolizing, quite unnecessarily though, a nervous finality. A dull mottle of red and pink, the appendage throbbed with a sound of “Dhuk Dhuk Dhuk”, cutting clearly through the now hushed crowd. They took the thumping seriously, it was time to chomp nails and blink eyes when a huge six by Dada set the ball rolling again. The sea weeds swayed; the gangsta rappers grabbed their crotches harder and began belting out dance instructions and the giant mounds of hair in front of us wobbled in delight.
Dad and I were standing again! Next ball, Dada was happily walking back to the pavilion swinging his bat to and fro.
I had noticed her soft, black hair through the wired fences before but couldn’t catch a proper glimpse of her face. I was not anxious initially but her facial contours, that kept playing hide and seek with me through her hair was increasingly becoming a diversion and I often felt tempted to look her way. Each time the wind blew into her face, it displaced some of her hair and fragments of her features started revealing themselves to me. High cheekbones gave way to a smooth, angular descent before ending in a pout, delicate lips, childlike, baby-pink, un-colored and un-spoilt by artificial, chemical hues promised prospects far dislodged from mediocrity. But I hadn’t felt the full impact of her radiant presence until she rose up from her seat, it was that the entire extent of her youthful resplendence unfurled before me like a rose in bloom. As she sashayed down the stairs towards the drinks counter I noticed her lissome body, a penumbral shape of a young woman somewhere between late teens and a generously bestowed adulthood, a flawless form of hand-drawing-like perfection, every stroke, shade, soft curve, a rare, fitting tribute to the ineffable artistic genius nature often reveals itself to be.
Her soft skin gave off an opalescent glow in the effulgent overhead lights and spangles of bright light dazzled from the tops of her thin shoulders like diamonds as she delicately raised both arms and with thin, long fingers and restored behind her delicately carved ears the wind blown hair from her face. She could not have possibly learnt that gait from anywhere or anybody and I could not imagine she would be the type to emulate those white skinned carcasses that cat-walked down ramps on Fashion TV but there was something definitely extraordinary about that walk. It was not much of a walk, really. Calling it one would wrongfully deny her grace, justice; it was more like an elegant dance, one that exuded overwhelming sensuality. Her fragile arms swung elegantly ahead and behind her hips as she walked, dainty step after step and her elbows danced freely with long forearms hanging gracefully there from. The clusters of hair hanging in front of her face rested in clumps over her shoulders and jumped gently every time she took a step and her large earrings dangled. They dangled, close to her cheeks, like they were best of friends with her cheekbones, why wouldn’t they?
Slowly and gracefully she disappeared inside and I was still gaping at the doorway long after she was gone when all of a sudden I awoke from my time-warp. The Cacophony and din of my real-world surroundings came rushing painfully back to my head and filled up the empty spaces like high tide at a rocky shore.
“ 3 more runs to go, 7 balls, don’t leave now stupid, we’ll be off pretty soon anyway, might as well see the boys through it!”, dad said as I was getting up to go downstairs. He made sense, as people had already lined up in long, serpentine queues making their way outside the stadium and it would be madness trying to get downstairs now. The object of my awestruck-ness had somehow managed to take her lithe self through the sweaty, hairy crowds but it was futile for me to try to look for her. She was lost. Lost like a fresh, minty breath in a giant, dark mouth. Like the Biriyani chomping policeman’s?
As for the hypocrites, whose enthusiasm popped as soon as the victory of their home team had become a certainty, started pouring out of the stadium by the hundreds. My father and I decided to sit till the winning score was secured and soon a blazing four struck by Owais Saha hammered the last nail in RC’s coffin. We felt the need to hang around till the last blow on RC was struck. We owed it to our Knights. Surprisingly there was hardly any din this time. Where were the pipes, where were the drums, the horns, flags? The winning run was secured wasn’t it?
Money’s worth had been redeemed and KKR had showed its big fun trick, Dada had saved the day with his 23 and so nobody wanted to hang around anymore. The award-ceremony didn’t matter a dime and nobody seemed to give it any more consideration then they would to a rodent’s posterior. The Cheerleaders with their flowing, golden hair were nowhere to be seen and the big, fluffy Hooglies lay deflated, propped up against the walls across the boundary and their inhabitants sat spread-legged on the field panting, gasping, trying to devour as much oxygen as their orifices could imbibe. I think I saw one of them retch, from inhaling for too long the fetid smell of their own perspiration.
The geek was gone, we didn’t see him go. He must have left the same way he came, bounding and leaping over the rows behind us. He left behind his half-eaten plate of Bhel Puri for his buzzing and whirring little friends who had already started making circles over it. The mounds of hair in front of us rose; gaudy dresses and hairy arms; looking back at us the both of them pouted their lips and one put his thick finger on the edge of his lower lip. They said something to each other in baritone whispers and then waddled away. The Gangsta rappers, distraught that their blonde, voluptuous, pom-pom sporting students on the field had been ushered away were now preparing to leave and so were the sea-weed, one of them started playing a popular Hindi film song from his huge and elaborately detailed Chinese made cell phone and for one last time did his waving-sea-weed-ocean-hydra move, grinning from ear to ear, only his white teeth visible under that explosion of curly gel-greased hair with shiny-blonde streaks.
Making sure the award ceremony had ended my father and I started our descent down the stairs, down to the refreshment floor, through the security check and further out into the open, out of Eden Gardens. I turned around to take one last look at the crowd that snaked out of Eden Garden’s belly. Deflated Zoozoos, crumpled clothes, wet armpits, disheveled hair and babies sleeping on their mother’s shoulders, all sauntered out into the evening air. I wondered if she was around. No, she wasn’t. She was gone and my heart sank a little.
The sound of hooves and gallops filled the air as a number of mounted policemen closed in tightly along the queues to prevent the crowd from entering the High Court premises which were almost next door to the Garden. The horses, with their crusted tails and muddy bottoms caused swift crinkles and ripples on their skins to keep out annoying flies that kept buzzing around the dried excrement and watched silently as the foot soldiers, the lesser Knights began pouring out into the night lamp-lit streets, heading home in the hundreds, back to their regular de-Knighted lives where missed busses, perspiration stains, flies, low pay, pot-holed roads, sleazy politics, slums, power and water shortage and not cheerleaders, confetti, pipes and fluffy tigers, were the reality.
A horse neighed and lowered its hairy, glistening neck to gnaw on something on the ground revealing a large hoarding. It showed Shah Rukh Khan in a dramatic poise with KKR Cricketers radiating out in every direction from behind him in a spangled explosion of purple and gold. It appeared as though they were reposing on a chariot that spurted stars and glowing orbs in the purple sky. The great corporate chariot whence mavens, barons, movie stars, millionaires, billionaires, gazillionaires and if there exists a kind beyond that, drove the populace, whipping them into coughing up ridiculous sums of money they could ill-afford, to buy a few hours of their product, a mini carnival-esque cricket match. These foot soldiers probably will never realize that while the real game transpired within the confines of board rooms and conference halls where billions changed hands and talent, new and old, measured, auctioned and sold; on the field there was no point being heartbroken every time their beloved teams lost by narrow margins, committed annoying mistakes, missed simple catches, scored ducks or ran tardily across wickets. The pain didn’t matter to anybody, neither the ones inside the boardrooms nor the ones outside, on the field.
IPL primarily remains that fat rich profligate man visiting a poverty-stricken village seeking propitiation of its people only to milk them later on of their own money.