Middle class citizens of the sub-continental factions of the British Empire get to specially engage with each other in mutual hate in the run up, during and in the follow-up of a cricket match that involves any two of the sighted male cricket teams of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
War is the only other thing that evokes such female support in cheering for a male spectacle where females are explicitly disallowed as participants in the “serious” form of the game. I used to think that riots were another such category. I know better now.
And of late, female participation in combat roles of oppressive armies that primarily kill, torture, and maim their own citizens has become the touchstone of female emancipation in the sub-continent. This is probably not what Emma Goldman or Rokeya Sakhawat, Gita Mukhopadhyay (Mukherjee), or Manikuntala Sen had in might when they thought about rights and freedom, especially those of women.
To evoke war as a metaphor has been a way to evoke abhorrence. But in the present atmosphere, it might have an unintended celebratory reception.
We are living in dangerous times
Those who might celebrate cricket and war as the same, one might want to think, are out there. Far out. Celebrating the worst in us, a combination of all the axes of hate.
But if we look closely, within us, we will see each of those axes, in their long and short forms, in alive and quiescent forms, explicit and subtle forms -- the difference between the far out and the rest being a matter of degree and the depth of the context when the demons are evoked. We are living in ferocious times.
We live in schizophrenic times. Like some West Bengalis I know. Whose loyalties blur when there are 11 Bengalis on the field. They blur even more when they are called fish-and-rice eaters by Hindustan. And then some Hindu Bengali crosses the border from East to West. One snaps out of the blur. It’s our men in blue again. Against them.
Those who might celebrate cricket and war as the same, one might want to think, are out there. Far out. Celebrating the worst in us, a combination of all the axes of hate
The historical other, the most intimate other from an ancestral land with no right to return. A permanent Nakba. Of lasting damage and counting. 22.05%, 18.5%, 13.5%, 12.13%, 10.51%, 9.20%, 8.96%, and counting.
And then someone else tries to cross the border. Another Bengali. Felani Khatun. Unlamented in West Bengal, because I was busy counting -- 22.05%, 18.5%, 13.5%, 12.13%, 10.51%, 9.20%, 8.96%, and counting. We are living in dehumanising times.
When latent hate surfaces
In the semi-final, when Malaysian Axiata sponsored Bangladesh batsman “Hindu” Soumya Sarkar got out for a duck against Chinese Oppo sponsored India, there were those, many of those, who insinuated or expressed clearly that the bad performance was deliberate.
Because of Soumya Sarkar being Soumya Sarkar. A Malaun. A Hindu. And hence, only a Hindu. With Hindu wrists that served his team so well so many times. With a Hindu head, a Hindu foreskin, a Hindu heart. A Hindu heart, that is, an Indian heart. An enemy heart. An enemy within. Like a snake. Never fully trustable. To be always watched and kept in check. To be always looked upon with suspicion and in moments such as these, with hatred.
The beast of the day
I have heard this before. I know this beast. I have grown up with it for I did grow in an Indian setting. Just like Mohammed Azharuddin used to be looked upon. A captain, a player par excellence may be. But a miah too. The circumcised one.
A Muslim. Not a Bangladeshi -- that doesn’t fire up the right kind of hate in the Hindi-Hindu imaginary. Hence, a Pakistani.
A chameleon with an Indian logo on his jersey but a deep hue of green on his skin under the Indian logo. A leftover that 1947 was supposed to cleanse. An unfinished job. And there are unfinished projects.
For the project of the majority always leaves the minority with either no choice but to show loyalty every moment so that no doubt is left about the presence of an idle moment where there is a possibility that there may be an Indian in the guise of Pakistani, a Bengali in the guise of an Indian, a Pakistani in the guise of an Indian, an Indian in the guise of a Bangladeshi, a Pakistani in the guise of a Bangladeshi, a Bangladeshi in the guise of an Indian. But it is never enough, for they do exist.
There is no way to put CCTVs on the flags of the heart. Thus, collective branding. Because you never know. Because it is true that an Indian in the guise of a Pakistani, a Bengali in the guise of an Indian, a Pakistani in the guise of an Indian, an Indian in the guise of a Bangladeshi, a Pakistani in the guise of a Bangladeshi, a Bangladeshi in the guise of an Indian will exist. They do exist.
They will exist for the majority needs them to exist, for the majority rules in the name but without the consent of the minority and sometimes, in more shameless moments, not even in the name of the minority.
Cricket here is a comparison of the phallus size of the “national” religious majority male. Even erstwhile underdogs learn this game fast. Yesterday’s underdog, today’s beast.
Garga Chatterjee is a political and cultural commentator. He can be followed on twitter @gargac.