Questions from Pakistanis – and a prayer of my own

By Shilpa Raina, IANS,

Lahore : With much anticipation I landed in Lahore and my first encounter with the India-Pakistan match frenzy was at the immigration counter. Gul Ahmad, a guard, asked me, “Are you from India?” Very politely, I nodded. But he surprised me with his next query.

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“Why are you here? At a time, when we wish we were there (in India), you are here!”, he said and then added, “This is your bad luck, but nevertheless, you will get to see how crazy we are about cricket.”

I explained to him, I was here to cover the PFDC fashion week that started Tuesday, a day before that mother of all showdowns in Mohali.

I should have seen it coming. “Mubaraka, you have made it to the semifinals and now face us in Lahore” – the message had come from a dear journalist friend in Karachi when India beat Australia in the quarterfinals.

So when I reached Lahore Saturday, my imagination was working overtime and I was getting goosebumps.

The encounter at the immigration counter was just the beginning. With each passing day, Pakistanis had more questions to ask. How does it feel to be here at this time? What do you think, who will win? Which is a better team?

I didn’t want to be rude, so I tried to satiate their curiosity with polite replies like – whosoever plays the best, wins; we have a strong batting lineup and you have a strong bowling attack; and we have a bad record at Mohali and you people are playing as a team.

I was trying to be politically correct, but the Indian in me was desperately praying for the men in blue to win the match and walk with pride.

With just a day to go, the questions narrowed down to – where are you planning to watch the match? What are you doing tomorrow evening, come and join us! Don’t mind, there will be abusive language, but that happens in India too, na?

I just smiled back and turned down the invite saying, “I would love to join you, but I am a little busy.”

It’s not that I didn’t want to watch the match with people here, but the situation would be completely the opposite for me compared to the Pakistanis. Picture this: Sachin Tendulkar being bowled out, people here shouting in jubilation and me, sitting quietly in one corner, with tears in my eyes.

Oh no, I chose to stay away.