Heartbreaking account of how India’s cricket stars disappointed the "red-eyed" Delhi girls.
[Reporting by Manika Dhama; pictures by Supriya Anand and Manika Dhama]
23rd March, 7:00 pm
It was going to be a perfect evening - 5 Girls, 1 Pub, 1 Big Screen and 11 Men in Blue.
The plan was simple. We had to contribute to the Cause - help the Indian Cricket Team win the qualifying match for the 2007 World Cup. This was the make-or-break encounter between India and Sri Lanka. Our Boys had already lost one to Bangladesh. If we miss again, we would be out of the competition. The stakes were high.
Of course we knew it wasn't going to be easy. The task demanded lots of loud cheers of support, silent prayers to our respective gods and exhortations like "His time has come" whenever the enemy (read a Sri Lankan batsman) started getting too comfortable at the crease.
But there were other obstacles too, unique to Delhi. Most pubs in Delhi shut by midnight because that is supposed to be the time for every "decent'" human being to be home. On this particular night that meant rushing home after the first innings to catch the rest of the match with fathers, brothers or any other blood relative.
It didn't matter that among the five of us (Aparna, Meenakshi, Pearl, Supriya and me), only one was crazy about cricket (Aparna), while the rest (under 'normal' circumstances) would rather watch Tennis or Formula 1 Racing. But, as I said, this cricket match was different. National Pride, Patriotism and our Birthright to Eat, Drink and be Merry (on weekends) were at stake.
We did what we had to do – organize a gang to cheer our boys. For variety we even tried to get a Lankan friend to support her team at the table. But she had other priorities and, as we regret to note, her team didn't perish without her support.
Somewhere around 10:00 pm, Location - Chicane Pub, Spice Mall, Noida
Damn! A Gang member gets a call. Her pregnant sister was on way to the hospital. The baby was coming! But surely the baby had that much sense! He or She couldn't be coming NOW!
First inning gets over. We had tried to stop the Sri Lankan batsmen at 200, then at 230. They finally made 254. Hasty good-byes exchanged, accompanied by “message me when you get home”. (Well, Delhi isn't the safest city!)
It was going to be a long night.
24th March, 1:30 am
The Gang stationed themselves in their respective homes, still trying to work their magic.
Meanwhile different thoughts were seesawing in my mind. Sleep? Watch? Sleep? Watch? Sleep? Watch…
And then the Indian wickets started falling one by one…like dominoes (a little exaggeration never killed anyone).
Time to take the most crucial decision of the night - Sleep or Watch?
Suddenly a blasphemous thought: “Win or Lose - Does it REALLY matter?”
No, there was no turning back. I’ll lie awake and pray for the boys. The die was cast.
SMS to a Gang member: "This can't be happening to us! I'm praying for a miracle and going to sleep."
Reply: "No miracle can save us. I am going to sleep too. See you at work tomorrow."
[Somewhere around 3:00am India lost the match. By then I was fast asleep.]
Message from the friend (the one with the pregnant sister) to fellow Gang members: "My sister blessed with a baby girl".
Message from God: "Sorry Ladies! You only get one miracle tonight."
9:00 am (The Mourning After)
Sun still rose! I expected to see the collective sorrow of the Nation spill out onto the clogged highways of Delhi. No such luck.
Lives moved on, oblivious of the HUMILIATION (as one newspaper put it.)
I was heart-broken. I knew we tried our best. I knew we could make it happen. But we could not!
However there is only so much 5 Girls in Delhi can do to help 11 Men win the War of Windies in faraway Caribbean.
Next time (2011!) we'll try harder. I promise.