Neither botox nor anti-ageing creams, nothing works as fine as nostalgia, especially when it is not tinged with sadness but drenched in exhilaration. Yesterday, I turned 18 again, and today, the grey feels less prominent, the lines seem to have faded and I carry a song in my heart. As we stood gulping falooda and singing ourselves hoarse at 1 am at the haji ali juice center this morning, it brought back memories of a different yet similar group of friends trooping to Icecapades, the only stylish ice-cream parlour in Kolkata in those days, to celebrate another momentous victory in 1993.
I was still a teenager in 1993, much more inflexible and daring than today, definitely a lot more of what Lennon celebrates in his famous anthem. We were a bunch of 6 who’d gone to watch the first day-nite match to be played at the hallowed grounds of Eden Gardens. That was 24 Nov, 1993 and we were playing S.Africa in the semi-finals of the Hero Cup. Srinath our top bowler had been hammered and SA required only 6 runs of the last over. Even if I try, I cannot express the atmosphere in the stadium. Deep inside we knew it would be Srinath who’d be bowling the last over and the game was over for us. No one’d anticipated that the little guy would take over and bowl the last over himself. I remember Siddharth, my cousin’s bf yelling ‘Is the guy out of his mind?’. The little guy was also part-time captain at the time since Azhar had previously been down with some injury. While no one doubted his batting, many eyebrows rose when he came in to bowl. He conceded only 3 runs, we went on to win the Hero Cup and yesterday we recreated history again. That was Sachin and 1993; this was 2011 and MSD. This time it was another captain – another silent guy whose faith was vindicated, who could slay the demons that often get the better of us, another fearless leader who gambled and was blessed by lady luck.
As the match ended yday, Bombay lit up like a giant birthday cake, crackers burst, people trooped out on the streets like mice from Hamlyn town, strangers exchanged hugs and if you looked really carefully, almost everyone had a wet tissue clutched in their hands.
One stark difference which I noticed from 2003 when we’d made it to the finals was the number of open-air screenings that caught the eye. Forget open-air screenings in places like Thane and Shivaji Park, every building society I know of had arranged for the match to be broadcast in their premises. At santa cruz, catholic women were distributing small cupcakes to passersby. When Saikat refused to stop the car, we threw a fit and forced the poor guy to since none of us could resist the lure of those cupcakes. Amidst quick hugs, easy tears and loud shouts, we devoured them and were on our way. It was a night like no other as all distinctions merged, all boundaries collapsed and all labels were washed away. The homeless and the rich, the ailing and the fittest, the old and the kids, the religious and the agnostic all danced outside Wankede.
I’d written earlier why winning the WC was important for us & nothing proved it better than yday. In that respect, I’d like to hope that there are some in SL and Pakistan who rejoiced with us yday for it was their victory too. Every year they face the same floods that ravage us, bear the yoke of the same corrupt politicians who abuse our trust, and survive amidst the same hopelessness that characterizes our lives. It is because of this and nothing more that they are our brothers. You may laugh at me but we are all members of nations whose luminaries neither win the Nobel, nor make their mark at the Olympics. We are a people who the world for all its pious self-congratulatory denunciations of ‘emerging’ has actually written off for ages. This is a victory for all those who are like us – a nation of dreamers.
The euphoria will end soon, the partying will stop and the booze will cease to flow, and we will be forced to go back to our lives – some happy, some sad, some who have known better days and want them back. It is then that you must remember this sweet smell, you must close your eyes and empty your mind of all doubts and sorrows, and try to recall that moment of untarnished bliss that has since made your life memorable.
I know I will be doing it. I am hopeful you will too.