As he stared in the distance, the whole country stared with him. He kept looking at it till it disappeared above the horizon and then all hell broke loose. He didn't know what to do and neither did any of the others who were staring with him. The deed was done, the task accomplished...what next? How does one start believing that what had been elusive for so long is finally within reach, in the hands. His hands...hands of all others...hands of the chaiwallah chotu who had been given a day off that for once, he was not spending nursing his jagged palms. In fact, he was beating them together to join the cacophony all around him.
His eyes seemed dreamy and his smile was so unsure...quite a contrast with what was the situation a moment ago. Grit and concentration had given way to a sheepish grin. Even the teeth were showing through as his partner jumped on to him...elated, overjoyed, as incredulous with it all as he was...he didn't know how to react. The others were celebrating too, jumping on to each other, opening champagne bottles at some places, exchanging the few leftover drops off some soft drink bottle recovered from the trash at others. They were all united though, in their celebrations. He had won, his partner had won, his team and his nation had all achieved one of the biggest wins of their lives.
India...champions of World Cup Cricket 2011. Doesn't it sound surreal...even now? The celebrations are still going on, parties are giving way to other parties and blue tees, though replaced by formal striped shirts, have made sure that the color blue is retained at least in the stripes. Every new day brings with itself a new realization of what it means to be the world champions and not just for the people who made it happen, the 15 crorepati team members of the Indian cricket squad, but for millions of others who took it upon themselves to make sure the country won. They performed pujas, skipped offices, reduced their social lives to nothings, faced the brunt at home as they made others skip episode after episode of the popular soap opera...all to watch 11 people running after a small little ball.
The celebrations, though they still continue in one way or the other, were the loudest that night. Loudest and the most emphatic. The rich paraded the cities in their cars, moving downtown in bumper-to-bumper traffic, sticking their heads out of the sun roofs or just sticking out of the windows for the not-so-flashy-car-owning variety. They were carrying flags, playing loud music streaming out of the radio stations, all party songs...shouts of Indiaaaa Indiaaaaaaaaa were everywhere.
The others were shouting too. If not through the stylish cars that they could never dream to own, they had their own ways of feeling a part of the joy that had spread out to them too for once. They could not wave the tricolor (would rather afford clothes that they could wear to protect their modesty) but would still smile at all passers-by and encourage them to fly the flag high up in the air if they were just holding it in their hands. Their eyes were their means of celebration, eyes that were gleaming with pride...eyes that seemed to say that it was not eleven men on the field who had defeated some serious odds to emerge victorious...eyes that were claiming their own share of the spoils...eyes that were smiling, participating, goading on.
As I turned to sleep that night, the image that stood with me was not the one in which Dhoni stood imperiously, having hit the winning shot...not even the one where the master was lifted on to his team-mates' shoulders and paraded around the stadium with the tricolor...not the one in which the Boys in Blue lifted the big one...The World Cup. The image that I had in my eyes as they said a silent prayer to appreciate the joy this night had brought with it...was that of three kids standing in front of a road-side restaurant.
They had probably just finished their routine of serving customers, washing utensils, cooking rotis, etc...or perhaps they were still doing it and had taken a quick break to come out for a minute. They were standing there hand-in-hand, happiness written in capital letters across their faces. They couldn't have seen it on TV, there was none around but would definitely have heard it...on radio, from people who would be bothered enough to tell them the score. They knew for sure that India had done it...that they had done it. As they saw cars flash past, luxury celebrating amidst their misery, their faces were hopeful...hopeful that now that India has won the world cup, they stood a chance as well. Their misery can also end if India's wait for the world cup can end...what if it took 28 years...it will be faster now. The world moves faster now, their lives shall move even faster and they will win again...this time their own personal cups.