I grew up with stories of the World Cup. I have read magazines, watched reruns on Ten Sports, listened to Madan Lal speak for one hour, but I have never been able to fully grasp what it feels like when India wins the World Cup.
In 2003, it was different. I was doing my first job in a travel agency and PCO booth. There was a small black and white television that someone from the basti behind the agency would willingly donate to us. There would be 20 people huddled up there. Rickshaw pullers, guys who would disconnect calls on their mobile phones to make a call from the PCO, little children who seemed to have vowed not to bathe till India won the finals, and Shankia aka Shankar Ganjadiya.
Shankia lived in the basti behind us. He was always doped. During day, noon and night, he could be found crushing herbs in his hand, and stuffing them in his chillum, and blowing gyaan on people’s faces. He did nothing all day, but he had 5-6 pani puri carts that some kids ran for him, and so he was among the wealthier people in the basti. He would sit and the door, blow away smoke in the air and predict who would win the match. He was no Paul the Octopus, but his predictions (which were flexible and changed according to the situation of the match) made the experience of watching the match even more fun. He would look into the screen, close his eyes (like a warrior in Mahabharat), and then say, “Chauka jiba” (It’ll be a four).
On the day of the final, Shankia did not come to watch the match. I assume he had had a fight with someone and so he was pissed. When I went to his hut to call him to watch the match, he replied,
“Banda match dekhiba, maghiya. Jao ethu!”, which roughly translates to
“(random body part) match you’ll watch, mo-fos! Get out of here”
The mood in the final was somber right from the beginning. Ganguly won the toss and chose to field, and Zaheer Khan chose to sledge at Gilchrist. Both these decisions led to a score of 359 and Indian buckled under pressure. We used to sell cool drinks in the shop, and I remember opening a bottle of Pepsi and gulping it down like a 90s hero when he sees the heroine dance with the villain, whenever a wicket fell. The match was over in 40 overs, the next day was a Monday and I had to go back to school to learn Business Studies and Accountancy. It was tragic.
This time though, there was a difference.
Now, after two days, it has finally sunk in. Till Monday, I was expecting some London newspaper to break the news that the Pakistan match was fixed. Thankfully, the Interior Minister has some clout there.
This time, everyone was ready for the moment. Cameras were brought out when there were 30 runs remaining and poor Facebook was flooded with oily faces shouting out in joy. The screaming in joy, hugging, dancing on the streets and running away when the PCR van arrives have been done with. Now when I sit and write this do I realise that the feeling has truly sunk in. We are the Champions of the World.
So if I ever have a son, before driving him out of the house after his matriculation exams, I’ll have something to tell him. I shall tell him that I lived in the times of a certain Sachin Tendulkar, who had every feather in his cap except this one. Of how he was carried on the shoulders of Yusuf Pathan, which was surprising because the burden of the middle order batting never seemed to fit on them. Of how there was a particular captain who turned everything he touched into gold. How two fast bowlers called Nehra and Shreesanth took turns to become the most hated persons of the country. Of how Sehwag got out for a duck and a million dreams were crushed. Of Gambhir and the innings of his life. I’ll also talk about Yuvraj and Zaheer and throw in a little bit of gyaan about consistency and persistence.
I’ll also tell him that I was a total stud back then and I had six hot chicks writhing next to me when Dhoni hit the last shot, and I told them to get away from me as I ran out to the roads to celebrate. I know he wont believe the last bit, but what the heck!
We are the World Champions. I can say whatever I want !!