Mohali: Jiye sportsmanship; blogs & facebook buzz; Salman Ahmad’s dedication to both teams & nations

Mohali, Chandigarh: Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi and Indian captain M S Dhoni smile ahead of the opening ceremony

Posted to my yahoogroup earlier:
I don’t usually post articles that haven’t been published yet, but will make an exception for what I’ve written ahead of the ‘mother of all matches’ in Chandigarh on March 30, 2011. If you are not Indian or Pakistani and don’t follow cricket, this may mean nothing to you. If you are, it doesn’t need explaining. My two short pieces to be published in The News on Mar 30th (Mohali: let it be an ‘aman ka chakka’ andSomething happening in Mohali today?” Salman Ahmad, rocking to a cross-border beat – ‘tension leney ka nahi’), below for the weekly Aman ki Asha page.

But before that, a news flash: Aman ki Asha’s Milne Do campaign against visa restrictions for Indians and Pakistanis wanting to visit each other’s countries won Best Campaign award at the APNS awards ceremony last night.

Back to Mohali: My uncle Zawwar Hasan, a retired sports journalist, predicts India will win. My aunt says that all his predictions so far have been wrong, so the odds in favour of Pakistan winning are high 🙂 heh Read his lively commentary at his blog

My favourite placard from the 2004 series: "NO nuclear test, NO missile test, just TEST CRICKET"

Some blogs I came across that reflect the spirit we’d like to see prevail:
Cricket – An Opportunity For Peace Between India & Pakistan (Loud Thinking)
Boom Boom Cricket! (Mullah, Military & Media, by )
May the Best Side Win! (Silsila-e-Mah-o-Saal, by Sabahat24)

These blogs are from Pakistan, but it was two Indian journalists (Shivam Vij & Dilip D’Souza) who courageously started a facebook ‘event’ called Indians who want Pakistan to win the Mohali semi-final and vice-versa-. Not a very popular position, but incredibly, it gained over 100 ‘likes’ in one day. More popular on facebook, with over a 1500 likes already is Together We Shall Win started by two Indians and two Pakistanis, mentioned in my article below:

SHORT PIECE – 1
Mohali: let it be an ‘aman ka chakka’

Many, including Aman ki Asha, will cheer both sides, be happy for the winner

By Beena Sarwar

When India beat Australia to reach the Cricket World Cup semi-finals, South Asia seemed to erupt in joy from Nepal and Sri Lanka, to Pakistan and Bangladesh and of course, India itself. Possibly for the first time ever, there were fireworks in Pakistan celebrating an Indian win.
This comment by Rahim S. Lalani, Aman ki Asha IT Committee member in Pakistan, summarised the spirit: “Congratulations Team India!! Just so wonderful to have both Pakistan and India celebrating victories together!!”

“May Allah and Ishwar inspire both our countries to play not only cricket but also humanity well” replied Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, Times of India.
Whoever wins or loses the semi-finals on March 30 between Pakistan and India – the winner is South Asia, as Daily Times op-ed editor Mehmal Sarfaraz put it.

That's the spirit!

“Bring the World Cup to South Asia in a spirit of peace, sportsmanship & friendship!” proclaimed a new facebook group that cropped up within hours: “Together We Shall Win!” Founded by two Indians and two Pakistanis who promised each other they would support each other’s team in the final if it wins the semi. “Whatever happens in the semi-final, this World Cup has to come to the Indian Subcontinent, and we will ALL cheer Together!… ~Long live cricket and cross border friendship!”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also sounded a positive note by inviting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani to watch the semi-finals at Mohali in Chandigarh. So did Prime Minister Gillani, by accepting the invitation within hours.

Even more significantly, the Indian government announced that they would grant visas to 5,000 Pakistanis. Shortly afterwards, came the announcement that an extra 1,500 visas would be granted, bringing the total to 6,500 (all to be granted within 24-hours).

The fact that the game is taking place just as peace talks resume, having been suspended since the Mumbai attacks of Nov 26, 2008, gives them an added edge. In the end though, cricket enthusiasts would do well remember that this is, after all, a game although in the context of India and Pakistan, can any sporting event really be “just” a game?

Of course there are those who insist on approaching the matter as if it’s some kind of `battle’, or `war’ or the `mother of all matches’ to use a few phrases being thrown around by the media. Some go so far as to insist that Aman ki Asha will be suspended on Wednesday. Umm, not quite.

Remember the standing ovation that Karachi gave the Indian team at the first game of the 2004 tour when India won by just five runs? And the standing ovation Lahore gave the winning Indian team? That evening, young men went around Lahore brandishing Indian and Pakistani flags together.

Thousands of Indians were granted visas to attend the series in Pakistan (as later Pakistanis were given visas to attend the series in India). There were no separate enclosures and it was “incredible to sit among the crowd as an Indian,” as Hindustan Times Sports Editor Pradeep Magazine recalled on Barkha Dutt’s `We the People’ show recently. “As Indians we were given an incredible reception.”
Many Indian visitors said that they had been greeted like long-lost brothers as taxi-drivers gave them free lifts, shopkeepers refused to charge, or gave huge discounts for purchases, and even hotels refused to charge them for rooms.

The warmth is reciprocated at the level of the ordinary people – even now, after all the tensions and suspension of post-Mumbai bilateral dialogue. Remember the huge cheer the Pakistan team got at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in New Delhi in 2010, second only to the cheer reserved for the home team? The only people who were surprised were those who take government-to-government relations as the benchmark of what the people of both countries want.

At Mohali today, it will be a tough, highly competitive match with no quarter asked or given. Regardless of personal biases, no matter who wins, Aman ki Asha will cheer both teams. We hope that the spirit of sportsmanship prevails, and that above all, it is `dosti’ that wins, as Indian cricket fan Rajiv Ramanujam put it.

Some worthy twitter posts:
@IndoPak_Peace: India-Pakistan is trending topic in India right now. Wish the countries live like this forever.
@Khan_Zubair: Being a Kashmiri, I support “Aman Ki Asha” more than anybody else. But not on 30th, Please!
@RR2303 (rajiv ramanujam): Am saying this well before the semis. above all I hope dosti wins
@Khan_Zubair: Tie & then 5 & half players from India & Pakistan each will play final will Goras 🙂
@pathan_ (kashmir) ultimately, Indo-Pak friendship should prevail, people to people at least 😀
@itwittthere4iam (lakshminarayanan): the best thing would be our two national anthems would be sung one after the other at the same venue!!!

SHORT PIECE – 2

"Chura liya hai tum nein jo dil ko" - Shahram and Salman improvise a duet

“Something happening in Mohali today?”

Rocking to a cross-border beat – ‘tension leney ka nahi’

There was prolonged applause in the hall, packed with Indian and Pakistani students, when Salman Ahmad dedicated the popular, catchy Junoon number ‘Yaro yahi dosti hai’ to “the Pakistan and India cricket teams and the people of both countries”.

The occasion was a fundraiser for the flood victims organised by students at Harvard University last Saturday, featuring Shahram Azhar of Laal, who is currently studying for his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, and Salman Ahmad of Junoon.

“Is something happening at Mohali in a few days?” joked the activist-singer, who is known for his pro-peace stand.

A keen cricket fan whose boyhood idol was the legendary Majid Khan (who happened to be in the audience that evening), Ahmad acknowledged the “deep feelings of aspiration and fear” that Indians and Pakistanis were feeling as the big day approached.
“Sunno, tension dene ka, leney ka nahin, okay?” he added, launching into an energetic rendition of ‘Yaro.., echoed by the audience.

A packed hall, good vibes

Indian and Pakistani students respond to Salman's music, and his message of peace

As the music gained momentum, Indians and Pakistanis in the audience – mostly from Delhi, Mumbai, Karachi and Lahore (with a couple of Bangalore students thrown in) – bonded over old Bollywood numbers like ‘Chura liya hai tum ne jo dil ko’ that Salman Ahmad sang along with Shahram Azhar.

Salman Ahmad punctuated his music with insights from his own experiences, including Junoon’s eye-opening first trip to India in the late 1990s, “when so many people warned us that we would be tortured, imprisoned or deported.” And yet, when the time came for them to leave for the airport, there were all the cousins and sisters seeing them off with autograph books – “not for us to sign, but for us to take to India and get signatures of Kajol and other Bollywood stars”

When they got there, and were in the dressing room after their performance, “a very tall security guard said some people were coming to see us – we thought now we’re going to be arrested or tortured,” laughed Salman Ahmad. But in walked Kajol, Juhi Chawla and Salman Khan. And before they could take out those autograph books and ask them to sign, the Indian stars held out autograph books that their nieces and nephews had given them to get Junoon to sign.

And that, he added, “sums up the strange mystical relationship of India and Pakistan, how we see each other only through our films, music, songs” – and sport, of course.

Salman Ahmad ended the evening with the lyrical ‘Ghoom taana’ that he originally sang with the powerful Shubha Mudgal for a music video starring Nandita Das – a moving cross-border team up of dedicated artists from both sides. “Whatever the outcome at Mohali, this song’s for you!”

— Beena Sarwar

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4 Responses

  1. […] Mohali: Jiye sportsmanship; blogs & facebook buzz; Salman Ahmad’s dedication to both teams &#… […]

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  2. ماشااللہ! امن کا چھکا لگا رے جگ میں!
    ( یاد رہے امن میرے ایک سال کے پوتے کا نام ہے!)

    Excellent dear! It brought tears to my eyes. Mujhe maa’an Faiz yaad aa gaey aur sochne laga, un se mahzrat ke saath:

    یہ داغ نفرت دھلینگے کتنے میچوں کے بعد؟

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  3. I look forward to the day an Indo-Pak match is a ho-hum just-another-event. Failing this there should be an element of fun and friendly sporting rivalry (like there possibly is with Eng-Oz in the Ashes?).

    I think it already is in many other sports; volleyball or basketball team from Pak had played and beaten us (not even sure which event since it was hardly a blip in the media). Its only cricket and to a lesser extent hockey which have this warlike frenzy.

    I have always wanted the better team to win but think its a little stupid wishing for the other country to win. I want India to be that better team on that day and if the other guys are doing better and we dont deserve to win I am happy for the other guys.

    I cheer good play by opposition teams even when they are taking the game away from us. Its embarrassing to have funeral silence in the stands when they are fighting to a win.

    If anybody from Pakistan wants to support the India team, welcome. But its perfectly okay to root for your side, as Beena said to Dilip in their conv.

    thanks,
    Jai

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  4. Excuse me, what did you expect from a team whose captain was a confirmed ball-biter? But this is our culture – ball-biting in matches, cheating in the examinations, election on fake degrees… I am sorry, but

    لوٹ جاتی ہے ادھر کو بھی نظر کیا کیجے
    اب بھی دلکش ہے تیرا حسن مگر کیا کیجے
    اور بھی دکھ ہیں زمانے میں کرکٹ کے سوا

    چیتھڑے اڑاتے ہوئے بیگناہ انسانوں کے
    اور جشن مناتے ہوئے قادری قتا لوں کے

    کئ صدیوں کے تاریک بہیمانہ طلسم
    آج پھر سے بنے ہیں وارث پاکی ازھانوں کے

    فیض احمد فیض سے مہذرت کے ساتھ )

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