It certainly is a new era in India. As my grandmother in Goa, India told me 20 minutes ago, “Indians are well rounded now….we used to look up to Europeans before, but they look to us, and we have the prettiest girls!” Poonam Pandey has vowed to strip if India won the world cup, and the world now awaits to see if she will follow through. Much better publicity stunt than Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” and something that is unusual in Indian pop culture.
The victory in Mumbai this night, ended by a bold 6 run shot (when a batter hits the ball over the boundary in the air, similar to a baseball homerun) by the Indian Captain Dhoni, who was instrumental in the victory. 5 years ago, I watched India beat Australia to win the 20/20 world cup with new friends in Hyderabad and today after India defeated Sri Lanka, I called them amid a billion-person party. Spirits were high, and it reminded the Hyderabadass of older, simpler days, when cricket was common bond I shared with a people I could barely communicate with.
Today, in Kentucky, I watched the game with my father and hundreds of college students, eager to celebrate Holi with squirt guns, colored paint, and immense amounts of energy since dawn. Crowded in a barn on U of L’s campus, the game was streamed from a laptop to a huge projector, with at least 20 young people wearing Indian jerseys, a Dhol drum playing bhangra beats, and 1 white young man who lead the dance party anytime a big play was made, with pelvic thrusts, fingers point in the air and off-timed shoulder rotations, exactly like my Hyderabadi friends 5 years ago.
I spoke with a professor yesterday who admitted he lost interest in cricket when he moved to the US 30 years ago. It was impossible to follow because of technology constraints – he would have to go to the library weeks later to find a times of india that gave a recap of the game. Worse, phone calls to India would exceed $4 a minute at the time, and you would have to call an operator to make the call, and sit home for hours for it to go through. After 6 minutes, the call would end and you would have to start over. Well, today there are hundreds of websites that streamed the game to probably at least a billion people around the world, and despite annoying ads, slowed bandwidths and glitches, it delivered a real-time experience that was truly global.
It will never be known what that young white man’s connection to India might be, but it was appreciated by all as morale held strong inside the barn for the first half of the Saturday. Food was catered for the event, and a student brought a plate for my father, in a wonderful sign of respect for the only person above 27 in the room. Beyond the electricity in the room from the game, I was amazed how well this group of students organized the event, coordinated the food, technology, and even the fun act of drenching each other in colors to celebrate afterwards. True community, and it was in celebration of a place thousands of miles away, that today is a symbol of pride unlike years past. Now, the world only awaits the stripping, Ms. Pandey!