Fahad, Prasanth, Arya and I were at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, Kochi. India was hosting Pakistan in a T20 match. Three of us were in blue, rooting for the home team. Fahad was not. Did I tell you about Fahad? His family is from Karachi, Pakistan. His dad works at the Pak embassy in India. Unsurprisingly, he cheered his home team. He had planned on wearing a Pak jersey, but we had convinced him not to.
Coming back to the match, India was chasing a daunting target of two hundred and nineteen, and it had now boiled down to requiring seventeen runs from the very last over with three wickets in hand. Rohith Sharma was facing Umar Gul. The first two deliveries were converted into whopping sixes. The spectators roared. Five needed off four. Cakewalk. No run was made out of the beautiful yorker that came in next. Five off three. Rohit hooked the next ball effortlessly. The air-borne ball was stopped by Shahid Afridi before it could clear the ropes. Our hero had fallen. Grave silence prevailed. Fahad had a smug smile on his face. The tail enders could manage only two singles from the last two deliveries. Pakistan defeated India by two runs.
We were dejected and agitated. Fahad’s smirk was getting unbearable. ‘Let’s put that smile off his face’, thought me and gave him a tight slap. Following cue, Arya tore the pocket off from his shirt, and Prasanth abused Fahad as well as Pakistan in Tamil. Sadly, neither Fahad nor Arya nor I knew Tamil, so only Prasanth could make out what he said.
I logged in Facebook to divert my mind. Facebook asked me what was on my mind. ‘Win or lose, bleed blue. Unity in diversity. Proud Indian.’ I updated my status. ‘Feeling patriotic’.
Prasanth, Arya and I hired an auto-rickshaw that would take us to the Ernakulam Railway Station. The vehicle moved at snail’s pace thanks to the mind-numbing traffic. On top of that, one of those political parties had taken their activists to road and was protesting against Tamil Nadu government’s reluctance in constructing a new dam at Mullaperiyar. The existing dam was unsafe, they said. It could collapse any minute, and mainland Keralam would drown in its waters, they said.
Did I tell you about Prasanth? He is from Villupuram, Tamil Nadu. You might have guessed it when he abused Fahad in Tamil. When it comes to profanities, people instinctively resort to their mother tongues.
‘Your politicians are causing unwarranted panic. Our government had carried out safety checks at the dam. Experts say there is no danger.’ said Prasanth.
‘Don’t try to sell us that bullshit. Your government fears that if a new dam is built, a new contract would have to be drafted and your state may lose hold of the dam. Already you guys are stealing our water, and now do you want us killed?’
‘Stealing your water – come on! Kerala lives on our vegetables and provisions, and yet you can’t give us water to grow those. Incredible!’
That was the limit. How dare he insult us when he was breathing Kerala air and drinking Kerala water? We asked our driver to halt the already crawling rickshaw and politely asked Prasanth to get off. Arya and I reached the railway station some twenty minutes later.
Did I tell you about Arya and me? We had been dating each other for a while now and decided it was time to take things a level forward. Both of us informed our kin of our interest in each other. After some persuasion, my folks agreed to visit Arya’s family for the ‘meet-the-prospective-bride’ ritual. You know, right according to tradition.
After almost four hours of rather tiring journey from our home at Thrissur, we reached Kottayam by noon. Arya’s parents and siblings greeted us warmly. After exchanging pleasantries, they invited us for lunch. My mom began an animated conversation with Arya’s younger brother, Abhinav.
‘I guess he does not talk much, does he? He just smiles no matter what I asked him.’ Said my mother.
‘Please do not get him wrong, ma’am. It is just that he finds your “Thrissur” accent a bit funny.’ Replied my prospective mother-in-law.
‘At least our slang is not as rude as the “Kottayam” version’.
Shots were fired.
I elbowed my mother, requesting her not to pick up a fight. She asked me why I was teaming up with them. As if I had options. I did not have options. How could I elbow Arya’s mom? Wouldn’t that be inappropriate?
Luckily, there was no follow up from either side. We proceeded to lunch. They had prepared the conventional ‘sadya’ with fried fish thrown in as an add-on to the vegetarian meal. My father started on his favorite dish, avial. The grimace on his face was proof for his displeasure.
‘Why do you southerners put garlic in avial? Now it tastes like a non-vegetarian dish.’ Commented my father. By southerners, he meant people from the southern side of the southernmost state of India.
‘What’s wrong with garlic, uncle? Don’t you know garlic is effective against cholesterol?’ To my surprise, it was Arya who had stood up to protect the southerners’ honor.
That was when I decided to join the bandwagon. I did like her, but that did not mean I would sit and watch her opposing my parents. Some more words were exchanged. Not pleasantries this time.
Did I tell you about Arya and me? We are no longer dating each other.
So I was browsing through the news feed when Facebook pinged me with memories of what happened on this very day, three years ago. Memories are always nice, right? I wanted to check it out. There was this status that I had apparently made in a state of emotional instability. Pathetic language and miserable content.
’I was such a doofus back then!’ thought I.