Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cricket - Jaipur - CHAOS!!!








Fulfilling my dream of following England abroad at Mohali came nowhere near to quenching my thirst for “going on tour” and so it was that I told Thilo that I would be leaving him for a couple of days to catch the first ODI in Delhi - not so bad for him because my replacement would be a pretty German lass who came down from Delhi to see the Taj Mahal with him - that he is a romantic scoundrel one can have no doubt.

As it happens, Thilo's replacement was also a German lass, called Steffi (top picture). A lovely girl who to my total surprise decided to join me after a short conversation on a bus to Agra. Within an hour of arrival in that most bothersome of Indian cities she had packed her stuff and joined me on a train north. A very delayed journey that ended with us walking around the ghost-town that Delhi is in the middle of the night trying to find a place to stay.

The cricket did not disappoint. The only blight on an otherwise great day was that England threw the game away. For the majority of the match we had the luxury of watching a thoroughly good performance that relatively quietened the local crowd. I say relatively because a 45,000 plus bowl of incredibly excited Indians is not a quiet place. I found the whole experience enthralling and great fun despite a certain amount of English bashing banter from the eventually victorious home fans.

I was in the slightly strange position of sitting with 3 girls who had never been to a match before - not your normal company for such occasions it is true. There were also a group of English lads who we met up in Mohali and the aftermath of the match was spent downing our not so sorrowful sorrows in the closest thing we could find to an English pub in Delhi - Pegasus. Genuinely good beer to my shock!

The next morning I raced (not so fast as I had beer-drag) down to Jaipur, jumping on the first bus leaving at a reasonable hour (2pm). I then announced to Thilo that I was leaving him again to go to the second match at Faridabad about 36 hours later. Not the nicest thing to say it is true, but he is a big boy and I had addiction in my veins.

So it was that we saw the sights of Jaipur. The Amber Palace was particularly impressive with spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and the Great Wall of China’esque defensive walls winding along sharp ridges. The meteorological park was also impressive, but apart from that I did not find Jaipur a place that especially stood out. Maybe I have been spoiled but the place is just too crowded and over-touristy. The Rajastan Day celebrations were though amusing with the fleeting presence of Charles and Camilla, plenty of Hatis (elephants - we were like little wide-eyed boys staring at the truly huge wonderful creatures) and general chaos. The Maharajah’s antique car collection were not so impressive in the dark - Indian time management at its best.

Paul and Fanella (2 nice Brits met first time on a train from Varanasi and again randomly here) decided to lose their international cricketing wings and come along to Faridabad (wherever in the hell that was) and at the last moment Thilo too decided it was a damn good use of his penultimate day in India.

So back to Delhi, a bit of sleep and back south again to the not so worthwhile sights endowed or beautiful Faridabad. Really an industrial outer outer suburb of Delhi.

Compared to the relatively organised outing in Delhi what ensued was utter chaos. An occasion that despite the enjoyment it facilitated convinced me that the Delhi 2016 Olympic Dream will probably have to stay just that for a little while longer - a "dream". The phrase “piss-up in a brewery comes to mind”. Total chaos!!!

Let me try and some it up. After having to pay 500% of the price to get tickets, we were allowed past the huge ramshackle lines to enter an already over-full stadium to sit in the cheap-seats. That means walking in as the only foreigners in sight to jeer and cheer. The slightest wave or movement as we walk past and hundreds of fans react with gusto - I NEVER wish for celebrity.

The queues outside were never dealt with as somehow the tickets have been double sold ("somehow" I imagine involved a lot of people making a lot of money). This is just a small example of the madness and total lack of organisation. On a 40 degrees plus day no water was sold in the stadium and the only barely available source of liquid was a tiny amount of Pepsi attained mostly through dodgy police. When the break eventually came and thousands rushed to the gates to exit and fluid-up, they kept the gates closed and people literally fought there way out through a 40 cm gap in the locked door. People acted like caged animals, pushing, pinching fighting there way to the front. Fanella got touched to an extent that she was in tears and who could blame her. The only other Brits in our section had phones nicked and decided not to return to the dangerous chaos after the break. For those who have memories of the dark days of English football and related disasters this was no laughing matter.

I have to admit that you find yourself pushing past the chaos refusing for it to get in your way. You can do this because as a foreigner you get some privilege - something I would usually hate to take advantage of but here it is just the rational position to take. It is just different and unless you see these situations and madness I doubt you can understand the actions that people take - I certainly am only getting some idea at present. You learn so much about how others act as individuals and as crowds and about how you can, do and should react. Invaluable experiences.

As the game went on the people trying to get in became more frantic and kids climbed high up surrounding trees and attempted to leap across to the top tier of the ground and haul themselves in. Not an easy or remotely safe task in itself, but made even less so when chased by army and police hammering them with 8ft poles until they dropped. No surprise then with such actions and literal running riots where police on horses chased the crowds, whacking them with canes, that the national papers reported many injuries the next day.

I choose not to talk about the toilets - especially the ladies!

So yes it was utter mad chaos, but yes it was also a fantastic experience. Never have I seen so many people so excited about a sporting event. I do have issues with the way some locals support their side but that problem comes everywhere to some extent - you can not expect Lords. To be the only Brits surrounded on all sides by thousands of crazy supporters and to be able to stand up and vocally support your team is a real buzz and fun. So much great banter ensued and except for one very strange guy who seemed insistent on hitting on Paul and looking back to Fanella with a look of "he is mine now" (see photo) the people were generally great.

A nutty nutty, crazy crazy, mad experience. A sign that the people have many times the passion levels required to host top-level international events but possibly not the organisation at current. If something similar happened in England I believe it would be headline news all over the world. Here it is barely noticed.

Oh and England threw it away again..... in our hands despite having half our players injured and we just could not turn the screw. That though was less than half the story!
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