Wednesday, 6 April 2011

India – The first ride on the roof of a car

April 2

Hello everyone!

My last blog was long, but didn't even mention the main event of my recent stay in Mumbai. An integral part of previous blogs has been India’s progress in the 2011 Cricket World Cup, in which they had reached the final. This had happened whilst I was sick, and as a way of passing the time when ill I finalised my travel plans, and booked all of my trains. But India reaching the final posed a conundrum. I was due to leave Mumbai on April 2. April 2, they day of the final. The World Cup final, being played in…Mumbai.

This could not be missed. The little town of Panaji became a carnival after the semi-final. Imagine being in the biggest and brashest city of them all if they won the cup for the first time in 28 years! Trains – cancelled.

Between 8 and 10 people – the friends who I spent all of my time with in this latest Mumbai sojourn – ventured up to the stadium at lunchtime to sample the atmosphere. The energy was irrepressible. The nerves were secretly jangling, but hidden behind a defiant and confident exterior that symbolises an important aspect of New India.

No chance of a ticket – black market prices ranged between Rs50,000 and Rs120,000. The latter is over £1500. No big screen to be found either, so we located a bar, stood for the national anthem, and then observed Sri Lanka set a challenging total whilst sipping on some rum we had snuck in.

Bottles of this rum, called Old Monk, were found on the floor by staff at the halfway point of the match, and we were subsequently ordered to leave. After being taken to a place devoid of any atmosphere at all, we ended up in a sports bar, where I perched myself against a column and watched India gradually hunt down their target of 275. Well, until a seated Indian man got angry that, in spite of me being in the same spot for half an hour, I was in his way, and shoved me across the room.

He was, however, a grumpy needle in a very joyous haystack. Each boundary was celebrated with horns and whistles, with cheering and dancing. Then, with three runs required, India’s captain, MS Dhoni, launched a ball high and far into the sky, flying like a comet through space. If the video managed to upload at the bottom, that is the moment that India was launched into a frenzy. India had won the World Cup.

The country had been waiting 28 years for this moment; this chance to be Kings of the game that she cherished so much, to hold the World Cup trophy aloft. Did we see this momentous event? Not a chance! We were out on the streets, being assimilated into the ecstasy and the joy.

What was shown on TV around the world is exactly what we witnessed and experienced. Flags flowing from the back of motorcycles. Drums and horns being hit in unison. Fireworks illuminating the night. Throngs of proud Indians dancing and embracing one another.

This particular scene was on Marine Drive, the road outside the stadium and our final location. In the immediate aftermath of the game we were interviewed with a backdrop of screaming men jumping on the roofs of their own cars. We walked slowly down Colaba’s Causeway, being sure to cheer with or embrace every man, woman or child we passed, for they longed to include us in their moment. We joined a march, and danced our way back to our guest house before opting to get to the big party.

The journey towards the stadium was arguably the highlight for many of us on this memorable day. Some were allowed to sit on top of the taxi. Others, myself included, opted to get out when our black-and-yellow became a speck within the long snake of traffic, and ended up in the boots or hanging from the sides of strangers’ vehicles. They also implored us to jump with them on their own roofs.

Celebrations continued long into the night. We simply could not keep pace with the raw emotion and energy of the spectacle. We were back in the confines of our guest house at 2.30am, drained and concerned about Katie’s ankle, which had been driven over by a car. But it wasn’t our celebration. This was India’s night, and I am very grateful to have been accepted and seamlessly assimilated into this eruption of delight.

I’ve been in the subcontinent for over a month now. I’ve seen, heard, tasted, smelled and felt enough to last a lifetime. My adventures across this globe of ours are often defined by moments, and places often defined by experiences. But when I think of cricket in India from this day forward, one of the first and most powerful feelings that will race to the forefront of my thoughts will be the pleasure and excitement that I witnessed on this historic day.

India are World Champions, and I am delighted that I ripped up my plans to witness it in one of my favourite places in the world.

Love you all


1 comment:

  1. chittigah india!!! (can't remember exactly!) fantastic post. So glad to have been there to see all the magic with you and all. Viva Bindi bunch!
    Kat & Katie x