And finally…India wins the cricket World Cup! Having been an ardent cricket follower ever since I can remember, it was sweet joy to sit in a pub in Chengdu, well past midnight and watch Indian cricket’s finest hour in more than two decades.
Saturday afternoon presented itself and having decided well in advance that we were not going to rely on the Internet connection here to watch the match, we went to the Leg & Whistle Pub. Getting there was quite the task. I knew that Bus 77 would take us almost all the way to the Pub. But in a state of fugue, I decided that Bus 5 would take us close as well. I was wrong. Bus 5 started fairly empty, but it soon became jam-packed. Both Birdy and I gallantly gave our seats to an old couple. It’s just the done thing here. There are no women-only seats as you may find in buses back in Bangalore. They do have a few senior-citizen seats though. There have been many occasions when I have seen the Chinese willingly give up their seats for someone older. And when in China, do as the Chinese do. Come to think of it, I would give up my seat for an old person in India too, but on certain conditions. If the bus is really crowded with most of the men pushing their way to the front, then I wouldn’t give up my seat. I think not. Who wants to be jostling in a BMTC bus with several lecherous groping men for company? Ugh. Here, I have no such thoughts. I have no such worries. When will we grow up as a nation? How is it that even in a second-tier city like Chengdu, I see that most of the Chinese observe most of the traffic rules? I say most rules because they too break some rules many times. Many of them drive on the sidewalks – even cars. It’s a different matter that the sidewalks here are big enough for a bus. And they don’t really cave in and expose you to Mother Earth. But my point is they do break the rules…but not so mindlessly as we do. If you have to cross the road, 99% of the time I have seen the Chinese here in Chengdu wait at the signal. Or take the pedestrian walkways. Taxis drive crazily – but there is some sort of lane discipline. And oh, sweet music! No honking! Buses don’t stop miles away from the bus stop. They drive in their lanes 90% of the time, and stop at the bus stop. And it’s easy not to pay your fare, as I did a couple of times. Yet, most of the Chinese always get in at the front, pay their fare…somehow, no matter how crowded the bus is.
So…why us? Why do we drive like crazed beasts? Why do we honk incessantly? At a red light? Why do we all cross the road anywhere? Why do pedestrian walkways turn into beggar haunts? Why are we as a nation so uncouth?
Yet, for that Saturday I had to love my country. If there is one thing that defines India, it is maybe cricket. This borrowed game of the British. After realizing that we were on the wrong bus, we got off, surveyed the map, and took a taxi to Leg & Whistle. The pub is situated near Sichuan Daxue – amidst a row of pubs, restaurants and shops. The match had already started when we reached and Fu Julie and her husband were also arriving soon. Neither of them know much about cricket, but they were keen to watch a sport that fascinates the entire Asian sub-continent. Hanif, an Indian from Mumbai was also there along with Tashi, a Bhutanese guy. Hanif is in his 40s – a bald man who always wears a baseball cap. He has been in China for 4 years, he tells us. Despite that he is in a level below us. “I can speak a little, but I don’t know speaking and writing,” he says. He is also on a career break. He works for a company called Gap Adventures…and wonder of wonders, he is a tour guide. I think to myself just how a tour guide can manage in China when he doesn’t know Chinese. I don’t ask him that since I am not used to long conversations with people I don’t like. 🙂
It was a fitting match for a final, and Rayce, Fu Julie’s husband, displayed an astonishing grasp of the game. There were some terms though that were just hard to explain to an American. How do you tell someone that “wickets” stand for the three stumps on the “wicket” but that “fall of wickets” means the loss of a batsman and not necessarily the fall of the three stumps on the pitch? No wonder the English invented the game! It’s just as confounding as the language!
By the time the celebrations were done with it was almost 2AM. Fu Julie and her husband left immediately after the match so it was a very drunk Hanif and a fairly sober Tashi who accompanied us back in a taxi. I couldn’t sleep till 2 hours later…secure in the knowledge that after almost 24 years of watching cricket, now finally there is a team you could really be proud of. But proud of the rest of my countrymen, I am not. I could come back feeling utterly safe at 2AM. I can’t even imagine trying to do so in relative peace even at 10PM back in Bangalore. And as for Delhi…shudder shudder.