SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Channel surfing on my television a day after the great Garfield Sobers declared the World Cup open amidst a canvas of colour, I found that the customary prayers have begun in India. For an Indian victory in the finals of the World Cup.
In Hyderabad, a wrinkled old priest with vermillion marks on his forehead that could have stretched all the way to Bridgetown, Barbados, went: “Rahul Dravid naama deyasya… Saurav Ganguly naama deyasya… Sachin Tendulkar naama deyasya… Munaf Patel naama deyasya…,” into a microphone, as wild fans sporting bandannas and tilakas sat around a huge framed picture of goddess Durga with folded hands in a fervent plea to get Her to bat for India at the World Cup.
In a country where the cricket bat and ball have become symbols of a national obsession, the prayers under the aegis of the old priest looked tragically hilarious.
It bespoke a culture rooted in some ancient, almost prehistoric root, which seems to be clinging on to stupendously ridiculous oddities like having Sanskritised renditions of prayer in the name of a bunch of men whose profession—inherited from the colonial masters, no less—it is to play ball on a cricket field.
If god could help, India would keep the World Cup deep into the next millennium. Why? Because our country has more places of worship per square foot than any other place in the solar system; where even roadside trees and rocks assume divinity and mysticism in the eyes of the devout.
And, of course, because India has more fans of cricket than in any other part of the world.
A country where more time is spent in prayer than striving in the direction where the very same prayer could bear fruit; where god is all pervasive but yet there is so much squalor and suffering and poverty; where men routinely find themselves clueless both on and off a cricket field; where life is largely lived in some hope of victory, again on and off the cricket field.
Amidst the dank tunnel that alternates light and hope, darkness and desolation.
A strange country where a sense of fatalism is ingrained in the collective psyche; where the worth of sincere effort is not really paramount to the methods of men; where a large section of men and women feel that even cricket matches could be won by bombarding the almighty with rehearsed ritualism.
I’m sure if god were to be watching the games in the West Indies from his perch high up in the heavens, he wouldn’t be able to control a smile as the Indians take the field.
For, He would still be feeling deep down in his divine heart that Dravid and his men could be in a better position to win if they took their catches, bowled the right line and length, batted with gumption, and handled the pressure like seasoned men should.
And most importantly, showed the pluck, the courage, the die-hard gutsy ness, a single minded cohesion of thought and action, and wore the all-important sense of pride and honour and value of playing for the mother land.
A land whose ‘one billion’ inhabitants place so much hope in their abilities that even old Brahmin priests who have, for life, woken up at 4 am to the strains of Venkatesha Suprabhatam, don’t think twice before saying “Munaf Patel naama deyasya” while invoking the almighty!
For an Indian victory in the finals of World Cup 2007.
Related link: Why should India win all the time?