By Sameer Khan
My 8th standard final exams coincided with the 1992 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan. It was the most important match for India, much more important than winning the final, as defeating Pakistan was no less than winning the World Cup. As I sat studying in my bedroom, I heard Ratan’s peculiar whistle and rushed to the balcony.
It was drizzling. Ratan stood in the shelter of the bus stop, along with Uday, smiling cheerfully at me. I turned around and saw Abbajaan sitting in his armchair in the living room. He seemed to have dozed off while watching TV. I sneaked past him and ran down to join my friends. I was glad to see that Uday actually carried an umbrella with him. The three of us huddled under the black umbrella as we made our way towards Ratan’s house, which was about a fifteen minute walk from my house.
Ratan’s parents had gone to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine. His house was our temporary fiefdom. It was an exciting day for us because we could watch the entire match, all by ourselves. Uday brought some laddus from his home; they were a delicacy prepared by his grandmother. I had bought a bottle of Thums Up. Ratan brought out some goodies from his refrigerator.
This was the first little adventure for us. We had never watched a match all by ourselves. I had always watched cricket matches at home under the strict eyes of my father. While I would wait to watch the Man of the Match ceremony, Abbajan would always switch off the TV once the match was over. I would be left sulking.
This was our moment – we screamed, jumped, danced in joy, when India won the match against Pakistan. More importantly, my hero, Sachin Tendulkar, scored 54 runs and was declared the Man of the Match. We hugged each other when Sachin received the Man of the Match award. There were fireworks all over the city. I could hear one garland of crackers exploding for almost ten minutes. For the next hour, the fireworks did not stop.
We rushed down to the street, where many boys went zooming by on their bikes, honking in celebration over India’s victory. The bursting of fireworks and the honking of cars made it a total chaos. It was unbelievable. We joined some boys on the streets, going berserk with happiness and rejoicing. We kept whistling and shouting as we returned to my house.
On the way home, as we neared the Hari Masjid, we could hear that the sounds of the celebrations had turned unusually loud. There were a few boys, who were throwing red gulal (vermillion) on the mosque walls in a provocative manner. The crowd surged as we tried to move forward jostling amidst the many faces, laced with gulal. In the melee, someone hit me on the back and screamed, “Pakistan Murdabad” (Death to Pakistan).
I fell on my face. When I turned around, I saw Ratan was fighting a group of older boys, who had assaulted me. Uday began to cry. My hair was completely covered by red gulal. My head hurt badly. As I touched my head, I found it was not just gulal but was also covered in blood. Ratan managed to punch a few boys. When he realized he was not going to win the fight, we decided to beat a retreat. He began to run, screaming my name, “Sameer, bhaag!”
I ran for my life, along with Ratan. The older boys began chasing us and Uday stood weeping in the crowd behind. We kept running and did not stop till we reached my building, panting for breath. I looked towards Ratan and said, “Hindustan Zindabad!” (Long Live India). Ratan hugged me and burst into tears. I could hear our wailing and I also heard the beating of the dhols in celebration of India’s victory.
Sameer Khan is an Independent writer and blogger. He tweets at: @samkhan999
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