Thursday, March 16, 2006

A bit of Barmy Army in Mohali





By pure coincidence England are touring India at the same time as I am travelling here. So what can one do except convince a German to spend 5 days of his 5 week holiday in Chandigar at the Second Test. All credit to the boy for giving it a go and we witnessed the most exciting and record-breaking game of cricket in history..... between South Africa and Australia.... on TV..... and we all went mad... I even danced a bit in the street and hugged quite a few Indians.

Back to the 5 day game...... I am not going to go into any detail about the cricket itself – for this see www.bbc.co.uk/cricket – beyond saying that there were good 50’s from Flintoff (2), Dravid, KP, Bell and Sehwag, and a total of some 31 wickets including Kumble’s 500th (an amazing achievement that the England fans seemed to recognise more than the Indians) – oh and the fact that England lost by 9 wickets – grrrgh!

Despite the minor annoyance of the negative result I have to say that it was a great 5 days. It was a true touring experience, for 2 of the days in a near empty stadium. While the English undertook the only true antidote to the rain (unbelievably similar to weather back home – cold, wet drizzle all day) and drank the night and day away. Many interesting conversations ensued especially at a place called Blue Ice with Mark and Mike. A Brummie and a Burnley boy (Blackburn) who were bloody good company with some cracking stories.

A little bit like the Chinese, in this case, when the Indians tried to do western style entertainment they somehow got it very wrong. The worst example was a bar called Down Under which can be summed up as a whole lot of slaughtered men (women are socially not allowed it seems) dancing at the table with their arms round each other to very bad 80’s heavy metal. I hold back before criticising elements of another culture that are alien to my own, but when they are attempting to duplicate mine I feel more comfortable in holding judgement – it was generally just wrong.

On the very Indian note of hugging, holding hands, and general touching between men, despite at times feeling slightly uncomfortable, I have no issue. On the contrary, I think the fact that we are so easily shocked by it shows up problems in our own culture. From my experience here, the one major exception was when a well-dressed guy went TOO far -following us on his bike insistent on showing us to his home and when I politely refused for the umpteenth time began to say things such as “come on baby”, “I worship you” and various other equivalents. After even stronger refusal he eventually grabbed my leg very forcefully at which I even more forcefully removed it, told him he was incredibly rude and moved on. I think he was bloody lucky I did not hit him, though here it seems to effect people more if you tell them they insult their family and their country. Even more reason to keep such comments as last reserves.

Oh yes, the cricket. When the match did get going we were witnesses and participants in an amazing contrast of support. The English on one hand, increasingly pissed, chanting in unison – occasionally a bit rudely but nearly always in amenable jest and normally with wit – and the Indians who acted a lot more like a rabble. It seemed pure noise was the order of the day, with “INDIA, INDIA” being about the most sophisticated of the chants. A man behind me made such a sqwaw that I could not help giving him several looks conveying – “I advise you see a doctor”. The Tendulkar touching his hat received a bigger cheer then Kumble’s 500th wicket (only the 4th man in history) just about says it all. Despite all this, when their fans got going they were great and produced a great atmosphere. To many of them cricket is everything and the passion they showed was quite phenomenal.

The Barmy Army can not go without a mention. Despite the usual couple of people who were slightly clichy about such things I thought they were great. I sung until my voice gave up and Jimmy is as cool as he looks on TV (first picture). Even as India scored the winning runs, you could hear the proud voices of the minority English through the madness.

God bless cricket – despite almost unfathomable differences between the two sets of people they share a love and passion for the game that brings us together.

P.s. for the syncs out there - the German loved it!
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