I was expecting an article from my favorite Goddess of Overbloated Things, Ms. Roy on India’s triumph in the World Cup. Since I presume she has not written one yet, let me write it for her. This is *a parody* and does not purport to be written by Ms. Roy. It is also considerably shorter than her 25-page rantings.
Rudyard Kipling, that endearing old-world colonialist, once called cricket a game of “flanneled fools”. They don’t wear flannels any longer though, favoring tacky, garish uniforms made glossy by shining droplets of sweat from the foreheads of those who made them, in Mexico or closer home in Dhaka. What still remains are fools, namely those who believe they are watching a gentle competition between bat and ball and not a few hours of vacuous manufactured reality, whose raison d’etre is to serve as an orgiastic assertion of India’s overwhelmingly Hindu middle class’s hyper-nationalistic vanity.
The world may not know much of cricket. In India though it is a big deal, being the only game that the Bramhinical population, not comfortable with the physical labors of games like soccer, excel in. If you can call coming first in a game played by ten other countries, “excelling” that is. When I use the word “deal” I of course mean it in every sense of the word. Cricket in India is a commercial behemoth, fuelled by post-liberalization (or as the Hindu fascist parties labelled it with the finesse of an ace advertising agency: India Shining) prosperity that, if we believe the media spiel, was brought in by the economic policies, initiated by the present Prime Minister when he was the finance minister. It is another thing that this so-called prosperity is built on the shoulders of tribals, minorities and the lower castes. Neither were the good doctor’s policies dreadfully original or imaginative, being simply a clerical regurgitation of World Bank/IMF handbooks.
But I must not mention it, lest I prick the bubble of gloating self-achievement. As many dissidents like me, SAR Geelani and others have found out, such an action does have consequences in a “democracy” like India.
Last week, Indians won the cricket World Cup, held in their own country. As if there was any doubt that would be the case. I was there for the last week, when India (which, strictly speaking, is merely a representative team of a private club, the BCCI, governed by some of India’s most well-heeled industrialists) defeated Pakistan and Sri Lanka to lift the trophy. India, as a country, is not without its ironies and the fact that India would beat two of its neighbors, who bear the brunt of its imperial and expansionist muscle-flexing, was just one of them.
Irony. Not just irony I would say. Symbolism too. Dhoni, the small-town ticket-checker and now the dashing national captain with more zeroes in his bank account than villagers displaced by the Narmada Dam, the poster-boy for the post-liberalization “Indian dream”, thumping an enormous six to win the tournament, the sound of the ball striking the willow reverberating with the hollow pride of a heartless nation. Then there was Yuvraj Singh, the man of the tournament, with his girth representative of the lard of Indian civil society and his double chin, its two-facedness and Sreesanth, his scalp as verdantly vegetative as the hills before the logging mafia denuded them, symbolic of the Indian idiocracy. He is lucky to be in the team though unlike Rahul Dravid, who has been left behind because he is a Dravidian.
The final coup d’grace? Sachin Tendulkar, the chaste Brahmin Hindu, being carried, inhumanly I would say,on the shoulders of Yusuf Pathan, a Muslim from the state of Gujarat, site of a state-sponsored pogrom against people of his kind, whose chief minister was, not insignificantly, a chief guest in the quarter final which was held, again not insignificantly, in that state itself.
Such is the level of middle-class indoctrination in India that the man carrying another is smiling happily, blissfully unaware of his exploitation.
The emperor is naked. The Indian dream is but a sham. But I must not say this. Not at this time of national triumph. That would be the most unpatriotic thing to do.
I was at the ground during the India-Pakistan game, billed by the corporate powers-that-be as the matchup of the century. As a child, I had read of gladiatorial contests in ancient Rome, where the crowd would bay for the blood of slaves forced to fight for their freedom and where the Caesar, with his upturned or downturned finger, held the power over life and death.
I never thought I would see one of these. I was wrong.
The all-powerful Caesars were there in the royal boxes. So was the belligerent Indian crowd, representing the urban well-heeled moneyed patricians who had put aside their suits and tailored trousers and skirts for a day of neighbour-bashing, roaring with blood-lust as the national team inflicted blow after blow on Pakistan. Cest magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre. It was not a battle between equals: Indian players, fitted with the best of armor and provided the best of training courtesy generous corporate sponsorship, were the prize gladiators. The green-shirted Pakistanis, enervated by an illegal war forced on them by the Americans and the proxy battle carried by India, isolated from international cricket for years, were the slaves marked for death, set onto battle with but a trident and a cape.
Not that the crowd cared.
All they wanted to do was to hunt some Green.
Operation Green Hunt anyone? Somewhere P Chidambaram was smiling.
I looked at the innocently clueless face of Shahid Afridi, the Pakistani captain. I wanted to ask every one there, cheering wildly for India, “Does this small boy, merely sixteen years old, look like an enemy? Do these other men, who are so scared that they cannot hang onto a single catch, look like people over whom you should even cherish victory?”
Of course I did not. That would be the most unpatriotic thing to do.
I did talk to Suhas, twenty years old. A call-center employee, who brings home a salary which would feed an entire tribal district for a year, he had his face painted with the colors of India. I asked him if he was aware of the origins of face-painting, if he knew that it is one of man’s oldest shows of aggressive intent in battle, a potent non-verbal method of opposition intimidation. I asked him why the saffron was painted more prominently than the white and why was the green smudged? He did not reply, instead choosing to scream loudly——-
I wanted to tell Suhas that people do not bleed blue. They bleed red. They bleed red in Kashmir, where courageous youths flying green flags and calling for religious purification, go up against garrisons of Indian oppressors. They bleed red in the forests of Dantewada where innocent Naxals butcher policemen.
I wanted to tell Suhas all this. Of course I did not. That would be the most unpatriotic thing to do.