An aspect that strikes you after landing in Dhaka is the language. Bengali is spoken in almost every corner of the city, and even the number plates are in the local script.
English is the sole saving grace for those from outside. But a stroll around the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium before the India-Pakistan clash revealed a sea change.
Banners in Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu had made an appearance — that’s what an India-Pakistan clash brings forth, and the opportunity for people from different cultures to mingle. While there were a few jarring notes, they were outnumbered by those from both sides who were seen hugging and posing for selfies on the road leading to the stadium.
Leading the way was Sudhir, the Sachin Tendulkar fan who has become a common sight in all India games. Giving him company was ‘Chicago Chacha’, famous for supporting both India and Pakistan. MS Dhoni’s die-hard fan Ram Babu was there too. The trio attracted fans from both sides, and the teams were cheered in equal measure and without malaise.
Many had flown in from their respective countries. A group of friends had converged from Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. The pull of an India-Pakistan clash was just the motivation they needed.
The Rehmans, a middle-aged couple, had come down from Lahore, and their son from the US. They were meeting after a year. “Our son is too busy to come home. But cricket se humesha kaam apne aap bandh ho jaata hai (cricket puts a halt to all work),” said the mother.
There were also keen Bangladeshi fans who did not shy away from showing support to either India or Pakistan.
The face painters had a field day. A quick glance showed that Virat Kohli and Shahid Afridi were the crowd favourites.