The Pakistan fantasy
Of cricket and Kashmiris’ Obsessive Compulsive Affinity
DATELINE SRINAGAR BY ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
We all know how weird Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) among humans could be. Obsessive Compulsive Affinity – not necessarily a disorder - is a term which doesn’t exist. But imagine if it were coined now, wouldn’t the masters of semantics describe Kashmiris’ obsessive affinity to the ‘rogue’, raw, yet superb, Pakistani cricket team like that?
I know this statement is going to raise eyebrows. But, tell me, what different side is the Kashmiri heart this Cricket World Cup?
As if rising from the ashes, as Lala (Afridi back home is so lovingly called that) and his ‘boys’ go on a winning spree, you observe a new triumphism overtaking Kashmiris again.
The past few years have been painful years of loss and dejection to Lala’s Kashmiri fans. The worst to them was perhaps the team’s almost-usual losses at Team India’s hands, which has unarguably matured to be the world’s No. 1 cricketing team, past Australia. Kashmiris, by and large, had shunned watching cricket clashes of these ‘titans’ since Misbah-ul-Haq gave away what Kashmiris to this day see as a catch which deserved plain hanging in the 2009 T-20 World Cup final with India.
It is debatable if Kashmiris’ affinity for that country – or the public display of that - is the same as before. Nevertheless something happened in the last twenty years which makes things look different. But even today wearing green uniforms in the village or town cricket tournaments are no passé in the valley. The daily news of death and destruction emanating from Pakistan do have people in Kashmir to receive with that I-told-you-so-always kind of thinking. But the kind of people who see that situation ‘an aberration’ in history are just everywhere. They seem unmindful of everything.
In our childhood we would commonly see even school going children – not brainwashed about any particular type of politics anywhere - making Pakistani flags and unfurling them on its independence day. At my own school we had boys trying to march like Pakistani soldiers, brandishing hockey type wooden sticks – masquerading as guns.
We have even heard of times when listening to Pakistan Radio on radio sets was banned by law in Kashmir. Those days the government would pay spies – probably known as khoftan faqirs – who would report which family tunes in to Pakistan radio. Today things are hardly different. All Pakistani satellite TV channels stand banned in Kashmir. People cannot make phone calls from here to that country. Although Internet does provide some glimpse of Pakistani life to some people, yet Pakistan remains as distant to a common man as before.
A lot for the worse has happened for Pakistan as a country and its cricket team in the last two decades or so. Today we have people like George Fulton who in his stunning article George ka khuda hafiz last week went to the extent of calling Pakistan being a state on a precipice. A wafer-thin sliver is all that stands between you and becoming a failed state, he wrote while narrating the circumstances of his ‘divorce’ to the country.
But Kashmir’s cricket fans seem oblivious to everything. You talk match fixing, they will close their ears. You talk temperamental sportsmanship, they will sound indifferent. There is a sudden rush of energy today that Lala’s team may at last break the team’s world cup jinx – not letting Team India beat them again – and even clinch the cup.
But with love comes the pain. This world cup has had its share of the usual nail chewing moments for the Kashmiri fans. Any crazy act by Afridi’s ‘boys’ invites instant ridicule and anger. Already two big sins have gone to the team’s credit – their unpardonable fielding in the match with Sri Lanka and dismal batting with minnows Canada.
And it is not only about the fans among the common people. We have heard stories of Kashmiri politicians having their loyalties to the south of the state and secretly skipping office to watch a Pakistani cricket match. We have heard of senior police officers taking leave from work to see Pakistanis play. We have heard of failing pretensions of loyalty in plenty when it came to an Indo-Pak match. Of uncontrolled jubilations and heart breaks.
When it comes to Team India’s fan following in Kashmir, it isn’t that bad. Its fan following has increased significantly in proportion over the years. But a public viewership of the thrilling India-England match a few days back in Srinagar could have been baffling. The prayers that went up for England to win were massive. These are the moments when our friends in India find such Kashmiri behavior illogical, bizarre, intolerable and even blasphemous.
But why are Kashmiri hearts on the side which most of our Indian friends see the wrong side?
A friend sometime back offered an explanation which is both debatable and contestable. He called this attitude a ‘revenge syndrome’ - for a sense of loss in politics, in the battlefield, in the street, in the hearts.
An unknown number of Kashmiris have died unsung for nursing this syndrome. An unknown number of cardiac arrests have gone unreported. People have died in shock for that loss. People have died of bullets, fired from bunkers whose custodians would not take Kashmiri chants of jubilation at a Pakistani win easy.
Today the world damns Lala’s boys as the most mercurial, immature and even suspect. And yet most Kashmiris’ affinity to them remains as ever before. That is what perhaps the first love is all about - damn crazy, blind and venomous.
And let me tell you even as people like Omar Abdullah are not so well known to wear their hearts on their sleeves, he tweeted on the evening of 26th February - Finished work just in time to watch the last few overs of the Pak- SL match.
It is as crazy as that.
The columnist can be emailed at Arjimand@greaterkashmir.com
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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