When it's an India-Pakistan cricket match day, an old tale that never gets old; may the best team win, and may all you cricket fans have a lovely evening!
When my paternal grandfather was alive he used to tell us stories of how we came from that part of India, which is now Pakistan. He'd talk of how he and granny tied up their belongings in a cloth bundle and left home. As a kid, I was fascinated by this adventurous journey. But during my growing up years I began to question him on the oxymoron: the Indian Pakistan!? He gave me reasonable explanations supported by historical pieces of evidence, painful narratives and political calculations but by then, I had begun to develop an opinion of my own, and wouldn't believe him. Yet, tales of Lahore: the sweet and spicy preparations of their land; dotted many conversations. He was an interesting storyteller with many tales to share.
Today, decades later, as I sit in a cab in my new home, Dubai, I observe the cab driver, a Pakistani, hear the highlights of the match that his country, Pakistan, lost against mine, India. I am reminded of my grandfather, of how he heard the commentary on his transistor, cheering for Team India. The cabbie and I, are both away from our homes. The RJ on the Indian radio station is singing praises of Kohli, Dhawan, Raina and Yadav, interspersing it with songs: "Chak De! India" and "India Waale". He cannot resist a jibe, at this point; after all, it's in yet another World Cup match that India has defeated Pakistan. The jokes are mundane, not really funny but they're good enough to get the point across. Usually, the Pakistani (a huge percentage) cabbies in Dubai talk to you, all through the journey, especially if they learn that you understand either Hindi or Punjabi (their Punjabi is pretty close to how we speak it). But today, he has decided to stay quiet. Should I nudge him to switch the channel or turn it off, I think, feeling uncomfortable? My phone is beeping continuously. Jokes, tweets and images: all making the same point: We're better off than them.
At this point, I begin to wonder, if there is still a need to prove it so: on the cricket grounds, at the guarded borders, in a cab. Perhaps, not. But, we can't resist the need to celebrate, this victory: the India vs. Pakistan cricket match: a game that ain't ugly, yet needs to be won by our boys in blue. It calls for a celebration. As the cabbie makes a sharp U-turn and I mutter a prayer to reach safely at my destination, almost regretting why I didn't take the unmanned Metro, I am reminded of my uncle, who never shied away from celebrating this victory. A vegetarian by choice, he would invite us kids to join him at a local coffee shop, to eat an omelette, each single time India defeated Pakistan on the cricket field. Sitting there, gleaming in victory, he would savour each bite of the masala (spicy) omelette with a grin on his face. "Why an omelette?" I would ask him each time. "Because, this is a special day, occasion," he would say. A few of his friends, colleagues and cousins were happy wearing the same lucky shirt or chanting a hymn, each time the game happened, but for him, it was important to go that extra mile: to consume an egg. Because it is not just a match, I can hear his words, being repeated by one and all, to date, today. Just then, my phone rings.
An Indian friend who had called in sick at work is on the line, he wants to celebrate the victory. His excited voice reaches me loud and clear, he is clearly not sick, I smile to myself. "We WON!" he exclaims, his voice loud enough to reach the cabbie's ears. "Yes," I reply back, balancing the tone and volume of my voice to not disappoint both the cabbie and him."Let's catch up for a celebratory meal," he adds. Me, "Sure. Where?" He laughs, not a sweet, delicate laugh, but a loud and unpolished cackle, "Karachi Darbar, where else?" adding, "I will be wearing my India World Cup jersey. "My palms are wet. "We need to make a detour, to Karachi Darbar please," I tell the cabbie. With the sound of shrieking brakes, he turns on the left indicator. I hand over the cab fare and smile at him. He smiles back, a faint smile." Try the Peshawari Mutton Kadai," he says. I nod. We both are suddenly equal: We can't resist the temptation to jibe.