There’s just something about an India-Pakistan showdown, especially in the finals of a major tournament. Something inexplicable. Captivating. Spell-Binding. For the entirety of the 2 innings, people who make it a regular chore to litter the road and dump their garbage outside their neighbour’s house, don on an Indian Jersey, park themselves in front of the television and bask in the glory of their illusory patriotism. Shouting, sledging, questionable dancing in the form of celebrations and sullen countenances at every wicket lost or any occurrence detrimental to team India are the components of a typical household for the large part of India during such an event.
My school proved to be no different in the build-up to the match, with news of the match-up providing the only solace during the much despised extra classes which took place on Saturdays. All chit-chat was replaced with talks regarding line-ups and the pitch, as if all of us had a night job as the team manager and were best pals with the players and were on a strict first name basis with them. Adoksh and I found ourselves in the company of Kabir, another one of our friends. His physical appearance, which one may think he had appropriated from someone a few years his junior, was in no way indicative of him, with the former being petite and adding to a somewhat docile appearance fashioned by his looks. Per contra, Kabir was known as the Gossip Girl of our grade. He would walk into any room, and by the time he fixed his oversized cotton jacket, pushed back his spectacles, folded his arms, he knew all the events that had taken place in the said room. A stickler for detail, he knew all the minute happenings, from the most embarrassing to the outright strange. He knew everything, yet only a very few of his friends could say that they truly knew him and Adoksh and I were among this minuscule group.
Being in his good books did have its distinct advantages, namely being well supplied with information about most events in our school through the most obscure connections that Kabir had formed, connections that even Varys from Game of Thrones would envy. On the flipside, his specialisation in extemporaneous decisions from which we would often have to rescue him did find itself to be a great disadvantage. Adoksh and I often discuss the fact Kabir is unaware of his physique, and that all his impulsive choices, the brunt of which we bear, are fueled by exaggerated beliefs regarding his, in the bluntest way, muscles or rather lack of them. He once picked a fight with 10 of our classmates simply because they sat where he generally sits, something that only Sheldon Cooper would condone and since we were not a part of a worldwide sit-com, Adoksh and I were forced to hold him back and profusely apologise to them on his behalf. Kabir, however, was unfazed and simply said,”Why did you both have to do that? I would have finally had the chance to show them the result of all my work in the gym.” We sighed, happy to avoid a fight and due to the lack of a better synonym, let our faces find their positions in our palms.
Coming back to the topic at hand, Kabir peered intensely at the walls, embroiled in deep thought. “India is definitely going to win. I feel we should put a bet on it with Deepak! It is a fool-proof idea!” He exclaimed. Adoksh and I immediately voiced our opinions against his idea, partly as we weren’t gambling men ourselves and partly due to the fact that we did not want any business with Deepak. Although Deepak was our classmate and was our age, he only involved himself in shady matters. He was a well-known ‘bookie’ in our school and often found himself dealing with goons and other such people. Misfortune came calling in the form of a teacher who summoned Adoksh and me, leaving Kabir to his own devices and tomfoolery in the classroom. Kabir was and is extremely obstinate and as soon as we left, he made his way to the dark corner of the classroom where Deepak sat, surrounded by more questionable characters of our class. “I want to place a bet.” Kabir made known to Deepak. “Oh really? I do not think a bet could be handled by the likes of you, you should leave all this sort of stuff to us”, was the reply. Words that hit the nail on its head. Now Kabir took it as a challenge. “I do not care. I want to place a bet for 10,000 Rupees on a team India win.” Deepak cheekily raised an eyebrow, further ensuring the certainty of the bet in the eyes of Kabir. “Ok done. But if you lose then you either have to pay the money or face the consequences.” “Certainly. If I don’t pay then even Akash and Adoksh will face your so-called consequences”, were the words uttered by Kabir as soon as the two of us walked back into class. And this time we were too late, the damage had been done; the deal had been struck. Hours of telling off Kabir ensued but his unwavering confidence in his deal added to our own confidence as Kabir may have been a lot of things but he was not stupid. Little did we know that the confidence was merely a facade meant to fool himself about the surety of the bet as he had metaphorically bet an amount larger than his pocket could accommodate and naturally could not tell him parents about the proceedings. We could not change what had happened and so we did the only thing we could, and that was to wait.
Sunday came and along with it brought gentle showers in Bangalore. The sweet smell of wet soil entered our nasal cavities and uplifted our anxious spirits. The Match-day was here. We had decided to watch the match unfold at Rahul’s house, another person who Kabir confided in. Now, the worst thing one can do when there are nervous people around is to annoy them as irritability and angst go hand in hand. This basic knowledge was unknown to Rahul and right after the coin toss, which India won and decided to bowl first in, a decision not coinciding with our thoughts, he began to bellow,” Saaare Jahan se acchaaa.” Although we are generally capable of enduring his jarring singing, impatience got the better of us that day. A long, piercing shush which Adoksh produced followed, reminiscent of an old librarian who has found themselves in the vicinity of ‘chatterboxes’. “Arre when I don’t sing India loses!” Rahul reasoned, “Please! Why would we want the start of the match to be marred by such a bad omen!” was the reply which followed suit. Rahul grumpily sunk back into his plush settee, giving out some grunts of disagreement. He was shortly interrupted by the commencement of the match, post which the silence in the room became quite deafening. To summarise the first innings of the match in which India bowled and Pakistan batted in a short, simple and rather colloquial sentence would be that India got hammered. Pakistan posted a mammoth score, aided by some superb batting and some faulty bowling. Before the match, we were quite confident. Now we were simply shocked. Disbelief ran in our veins to the extent of us regretting not letting Rahul sing and therefore causing some form of bad luck. Our morale was somewhat patched after seeing the batting line-up that India boasted and if anyone could chase a score of 338 in 50 overs, it was team India. Then the unthinkable happened, in the first over, we lost a wicket. Still, all hope was not lost. Then after 2 overs, the skipper, Kohli was caught after playing a sloppy shot. Adoksh and I bore a look of sheer horror and turned to Kabir, and in his eyes, for the first time, we witnessed pure fright…
P.S- Sorry for the delay in posting this article, I have been drowning in school work. The second part of this story will be up on Tuesday! Stick around to see what happened to Kabir, Adoksh and me!