Cricket binds them all

The Pakistnais are making money out of selling Indian flags. The men selling Indian Flags for Rs 100 rubbish any suggestion of being unpatriotic. “It is okay to cater to the needs of the customer and it is not an unpatriotic activity.” The Indians can’t believe they get the tricolour so easily in Pakistan. Both sides are happy.

Hundreds of Indians were lining up outside the stadium, happy to be feeling at home, the refrain being that “Lahore is a great place to be in”. Not even the stifling security and the hours they took to get into the ground dampened their spirits. Forgotten also was the trauma people had gone through while crossing the Wagah border on Sunday afternoon, where the immigration staff was ill prepared to handle the rush. “It took them hours and hours to clear us and at one point, we were even thinking of going back,” said a few exasperated Delhiites after they reached Lahore.

But once in Lahore, the story was different and no one minded being fleeced by the hoteliers who have doubled and even trebled their tariffs. It is business time and like in 2004, it is time to raise a toast to Indo-Pak friendship and also, time to make some money. It does not hurt. “Open the borders and let Indians and Pakistanis mingle freely,” is what the people here say. And why not? What do wars result in? “Killings, mass murder in the name of patriotism and prices hit the roof.” Wise words but are the politicians listening?

Like in 2004, it was time for people to visit their ancestral homes, many with wet eyes and be surprised afresh that the Pakistanis had not changed the names of the Hindu localities. Kishan Nagar is still Kishan Nagar, so is Sant Nagar. And then you have Singh Pura, Dharam Pura, Ramgarh and many more names that are Hindu in origin. The famous Food Street, the Gawal Mandi, is next to Laxmi Chowk. Talk of cricket and the talk of friendship comes to an end. “Hindustan Jeete Ga” chants one side. “Pakistan Jeete Ga,” is the response. But this hostility is restricted only to slogans. There is a new generation on both sides of the border that is trying to forget the past and “forge a bond based on love and trust”. And the matches are getting them to meet. Long live cricket.

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Written by Kashif Aziz on February 16th, 2006 with no comments.
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