Friday, April 22, 2011

Not Cricket to Picket

It can be nothing but a height of overconfidence that the initial name of this post was "Why we HAD to win". I wanted to write BEFORE the semi final (then it was "why we need to win") but was so nervous that I thought I'll get to it after we get into the finals. I'm writing post world cup now but, you know. India. Four years. This is exactly why I'm not into planning, MOM! Oh well. *Sigh*.

I have been asking around, trying to recall if it was always like this and asking parents for the times I can’t recall. Those green T shirts selling like hot jalebis (totally beats hot cakes I swear), a demand supply deficit of multimedia ensembles, totally unrecognisable faces under the green and white paint, social networking sites totally drowned in green and minute by minute reports (guilty as charged :P), people with flags and busted vocal cords on the roads, in markets and at restaurants. The biggest surprise was the preparations and celebrations of those outside the country. No one's challenging patriotism here but yes, parading streets of Toronto, London and New York with life size flags at timings as insane as 5 and 2 A.M means there was seriously something else going on this time.

We wanted this badly! We wanted this SO bad that it was almost funny. Funnier was the fact that we all totally believed that we'd get it this time even after the match-fixing trio got busted and surrounding teams were flexing muscles at our faces. Hope. We live on it. I remember saying that this was easily the ONLY thing left for us Pakistanis to look forward to since Uncle Zardari is going to be here a while, no one can stop the constant siphoning of the State's funds, the target killers are doing what they do best, America pawns us down with our own law and flies Raymond ******* ******* ****** (i permit you to use your imagination!) away and all other horrors Hamid Mir talks about. It’s funny how we are part of one tree but are totally 'branched' when it comes to beliefs, religions, modernism and of course Eid-ul-fitr. Cricket I salute you man. It’s like one of the moments in movies when the male and female leads realise they finally have something in common.

So yeah, for the past many weeks cricket became the ultimate “binder”. It was never like this before, not even when we actually WON the thing. If we’d actually won the world would have exploded, seriously. I also thought, if we LOSE the world would explode too. Imagine my pleasant disappointment. Everyone was so, I dunno….forgiving. Using text messages to ask Afridi to take back his apology, being totally content with having a “good” game and welcoming the team back with open arms. Is it me or are we severely bipolar? Don’t kill me all but I for one don’t think across those optimistic lines. I need answers. Maybe it’s because I’m not one the last minute cricket fans. Cricket has been there all along thanks to friends who used to call in sick on school days to watch matches and cousins with whom we had proper tournaments, every kid chose a “cricketer” second name and every family residence was named after a famous cricket stadium. Ours was the “Old Trafford” by the way.

I’m really not hard to please but there are some things I don’t get and I will criticise. And you know why, so it doesn’t happen again. So we all know Misbah just stood there rooted to the ground and Younis Khan’s usually spot-on fielding sucked. But I personally thing Afridi could have been more responsible than just doing one of his usual slog routines, messing up power play and giving the ball to Umar Gul when he was a clear flop that day. Don’t get me wrong, Afridi did great. He brought the whole “jazba” concept to life. He united us in a way we never imagined. The team was pretty awesome against the biggest names in cricket but it was the match of the decade that messed it all up. Let me just say, it was SO in the bag. We totally had it but we let it slip through our fingers. When THAT happens you don’t just suffice with the fact that “oh well we got to the semis. We are SO proud!”. You think “where did we go wrong, let’s find out and FIX it!”.

The thing is we are one emotional nation. And sometimes (read every time) we let our emotions get the best of us. Yes, I say best because this will be yet another compromise. This time it was OUR time. I don’t know about you guys but four years is an awful lot of time. My family knows I say “Oh I’ll be ANCIENT next World Cup” and every time the time comes I realise I’m not that ancient after all. But really next time, I’ll BE ancient. Let me say it this time around too. I have no idea how 27 year olds enjoy cricket and scream their vocal cords off. I will find out in about 4 years I guess.

Anyway, as Talha pointed out in his cricket post, let’s not just reserve the unified version of us for Cricket alone. We are in deep you-know-what and if we had hearts the size of radioactive cotton candy for bat ball (that’s what we used to call it 15 years ago) then we should not deflate just now. Why do I end up saying such stuff, this was about sports for God’s sake! I need to get meself a political following. Anyway, I just realized I’m wearing totally Indian colours and writing about Pakistan. I think I’ll go drown myself in the exotic swimming pool up front.

Until next time, IF I manage to stay afloat, (which I’m very capable off fyi),
Sara (currently emotional) Q

P.S : The post title upstairs is actually a real song title :P

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Come clarity

The international baggage claim area, photogra...Image via Wikipedia

It is those from the nation of the unbelievers that ask God for signs. God, I'm not saying I want a sign, but a little clarity would help. These days I spend a lot of time being troubled by my own mind. Given the profession, time to reflect on what has happened, what is happening and what remains to be seen is very short, if there at all. But, God provides and a little time for reflection was at hand. Introspection, how I love thee.

My uncle was to arrive from Lahore to catch another flight to take him to Kabul. In between, there was plenty of time to meet up and have a little fun. Little did we know that PIA had plans of its own. The flight got delayed three times. We found ourselves at the airport at 1:00 in the morning. At this point going home was useless so I managed to convince my parents that they nap in the car and I'll stand guard, ready to wake them at the appropriate hour. You see, my uncle didn't know we were going to meet him and we had to catch him before he checked into international departures.

So, here I was. In the front seat of a Toyota Corolla, in the Islamabad International Airport parking area (I refuse to call it Benazir Bhutto International Airport), my parents asleep, and me staring out the windscreen. That cursed big blue sign bearing the incorrect name of the airport staring back at me. It was while I was playing tug of war with my eye lids that I realized, I was having fun. Just sitting there, watching people go by, almost as if I was invisible. They were all there, the concerned grandmother, the excited child, that guy who has literally the whole family there to see him off and completing the line up were the villagers who were confused with the whole airport experience.

What did I do with this time? What did I think of? Nothing at all. The only thing running through my mind was the calming track "From The Heart" by X-Ray dog (link). For a time, after a very long time, I felt content. I just needed the time alone. However, slowly, stray flashes converged to form thoughts in my mind. It was all that I had been through for the past two years. I find it strange that through it all I only remember the good things, never the bad. They are after all important. I only remember the important things. Always the important things. For once in two years I wasn't thinking about the future, I wasn't worrying myself to death. It was all just about where I was and who was here with me. Only the important ones. You know who you are.

Finally, my uncle arrived and we changed the venue from from the airport parking lot to the Front Page Cafe at the Rawalpindi PC. It was the only thing close enough at the time (@Sara: Exam Hall! :P). There we were, talking over sandwiches and coffee at 4:00 in the morning. What do you eat at time like that? Muhammad Asad writes of an Arabic saying about coffee in his book "The Road To Mecca" (Highly recommended read). The saying goes "Good coffee is bitter like death, and hot like love". Now I can't say much about the death part, but if love is anywhere as hot as this coffee, sign me up. It was that good, but at 4:00 AM, I guess everything is. There I sat, staring out the glass panelling of the hotel lobby, watching the deep ink blue of the night sky give way to the light azure of the morning. The first sunrise I had seen in a long time. The caffeine worked its magic and finally I made the transition from nocturnal to insomniac. This time, it was "Love Washes Over (Airwave remix) by Art Of Trance (link) that echoed in the cavern that is my skull. I imagine if I ever got high, this is what it would feel like (@Sara: calm down, I'm not going to get high. Ever.)

Now, I was thinking of everything. Clarity. I thought of the future. This time no worrying. It could just be the lack of sleep, but I seemed to have that optimism that I lost long ago. This optimism however had lost its taint of naivety. I thought of the reality I had seen in the past two years and how I had dealt with it. What I had to do, what lay ahead was clear. This time there was no confusion. There was nothing to be confused about. It's all up to me what I choose to do ahead. I even thought of the blog and the forum attached to it. As far as the blog goes, I know that the reason I make random posts is because that is the zone where I feel comfortable. I prefer to deal with the abstract, Sara does a better job at the concrete. I'm the dreamer, she's the thinker. I'm the idealist, she's the realist. I'm allegro, and she is vivace. Posts about nothing, yet kind of about something are my niche. I know that now.

As me and my mother stepped outside to give the brothers some time to talk, my thoughts switched to the forum. The pale light of dawn greeted us accompanied by the cold morning air. I was still playing in the recesses of my own mind as my mother and I talked. To someone else I may have appeared distant and uninterested, but my mother knew what I was up to, how could she not, and she knew not to disturb me when I'm like that. So, we walked, keeping the conversation going, me intermittently counting off the gun shots I heard in the distance and my mind thinking of the forum. I wanted to make a community, but I was wrong to think that it would just grow itself. It's going to take effort on my part. Anam, Sidra, Abbas and Osama, thanks for taking the time to comment on the forum. Omair, thank you for taking the time to actually read the entire blog and comment as well. I promise you I'll be participating actively in the forum myself from now on.

The whole experience ended with an emotional brotherly hug in front of the international departure lounge of the Islamabad International Airport (NOT the Benazir Bhutto International Airport) and with me writing this post at 7:00 in the morning. At this point I don't know if this was all a dream or not, but I guess I'll find out when I see the blog after I wake up.

Talha A. B.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cricket, we (try to) love you

Given the recent events, there is no way that we could not make a post about cricket. I'm not going get into stats and in depth analysis. We're a cricket loving nation and we're packed from border to border with overzealous fans. Toss a cricket ball and chances are you'll end up hitting an "expert". I'm not that guy. I'm the guy who will duck just in time to dodge that ball. To summarize, at the risk of re-awakening horrible memories, Pakistan lost to India in the semis. Yes it's true. It wasn't a bad dream.

It was an interesting tournament to say the least. Not many held high hopes for team Pakistan. Understandable, given their performance since 2003. Still, if the fire didn't burn too brightly, there were still those lingering embers that just never get extinguished. The men in green defied expectations and gave a performance that fanned the sparks to bright flame once again.

For a month, everything seemed to be alright. There was no terrorism, no rotting politics, no economy going to hell. Everyone was happy, content and green with patriotism. For a month, we were all a nation. Everyones interest peaked. Thats the conundrum I suppose. When we expect nothing from our team, they'll go out and do something impossible. When we're all cheering them on, they don't do so well. Maybe next time we don't watch the tournament and just celebrate when the boys bring the cup home?

One thing that I did notice, people didn't get angry this time. Sure, there was the usual post-match depression the next day, but there was no display of rage. The reason being, that the team didn't really do anything wrong this time. After a long time, they seem to be back on track. A team that everyone wrote off in the qualifiers made it to the semis. No one can say that this time they lost due to lack of trying. There was no ugly controversy this time and no coach fatalities. It was all about cricket.

We could have all used a win. Like a pain killer, it would have numbed the effects of everything going on around us. Perhaps this is a positive result of the defeat. It will be easier to get back to dealing with the problems at home. All our battles lie not on a cricket pitch and Jazba does not just belong in Mohali.

Talha A. B.