My husband has two great passions in life and one of them is cricket. Ah cricket, I was a lover of the game until it looked me straight in the eye and unflinchingly challenged me to a duel, and in my naiveté, I took the challenge. I have since been beaten every time.
Come 1999 World Cup, I was in Miami and since we had no money, therefore, no expensive satellite hookups to watch the genteel game at home. Thus began our search for that special someone who would accommodate our cricketing needs ungrudgingly. A note here, game time in the US is almost always in the wee hours of the morning and inviting strangers into your home in darkness is never considered a good thing in any part of the world, let alone the US. Luckily, we found someone who happened to be an acquaintance of our halalmeat man. Desperate times, desperate measures, imagine what young immigrants have to endure in the name of love and cricket.
I found myself pre-dawn is a strange home, abandoned by my husband who was genuinely engrossed in the game and unaware of strange eyes everywhere. Until the evening before he was most perturbed bythe meat guy’s not so impertinent query: ‘will you be taking bhabi?’ Why was he so interested in the answer to that question? Maybe because he assumes all self-respecting Pakistani women love cricket.
Much to our misery Pakistan lost that match, but I gained some insight and wisdom, thanks to the lady of the house, into how to hold onto my marriage: ‘have children jaldi.’ Okay stranger, as you wish.
The game made us extend boundaries into the lives of people we would never have crossed paths with otherwise. Gracious, humble people who welcomed us into their home simply for the love of the game. They shared their family, food and joy, and willingly let us encroach into their intimate circle. I distinctly remember sitting on a chawki supporting my back with a gao takya, wondering if I would have opened my heart and entertained them into my tiny apartment had they been lacking the satellite hookup. I hope so.
Twelve years down the road, I find myself in a dissimilar situation and no dilemma, but the passion for the game remains the same. We have the advantage of watching the game at home on HD but my husband still prefers to watch it with a group of friends, which generally means a car drive in the wee hours of the morning which sometimes translates to non-HD viewing, but this time, not to a stranger’s house.
This time however, we hosted the quarter final between Pakistan and the West Indies. The first doorbell rang before 1:30am and by victory time, there was a band of brothers exchanging high-fives over parathas, fry andas, keema, aloo bhujia and karak chai. It was lovely to watch. Now the band of brothers plans to congregate on March 30. I will watch the match at home; I did pay heed to the strange lady’s advice, I need to watch my kids.
As Pakistan prepares to battle India in Mohali I can think of countless reasons why Pakistan needs to win the semi-finals, and one of them may just be that we are, in our minds, unprepared to lose. We, in Vegas, have already decided on a home for the ‘raatjaaga’ for the semi-finals, and I am trying to coax people into committing for the final, but apparently commitment is a jinx. Therefore, we will just have to wait for the last ball of the semi for our ‘Breakfast at Tiffany.’
There are ultimate optimists, like me, who have decided on hosting the victory celebrations, and many a pessimist who chant, ‘ho hi nahi sakta’, to which I say, ‘mark my words, this time we will sip from the Cup.’
I hosted a dinner party last night and the atmosphere was electric. All my friends were from the homeland, but one. As the black sheep entered hostile territory, all gave her a sheepish smile and goaded her. The sheep remained unperturbed, but hummed this popular Hindi song on several occasions, ‘aaaa dekhain zara, kis main kitna hai dum’. To which came, ‘boom boom, jab bhi miltay hain hum aur tum.’ It almost felt like a wedding. Who will take the bride? Your guess is as good as mine.
Afridi and his boys have worked a wonder, they have for the moment, brought us together. Admittedly the passion for the game has broken divides for years, but this time the elements are somewhat different. I feel like I am at a ‘sema’, the music is loud, the feeling tremendous, the circular dance motion euphoric – bring home the cup my boys. We will leave the light on for you!
Bisma Tirmizi is a writer based in Las Vegas
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