Fifty-five thousand people are a helluva lot to squeeze into one stadium --- by any standards. Unless, of course, it's Eden.
The crowds headed for the stronghold of Motera began lining up just after 8 am, over six hours before the start of the first ever day-night game here and well before the gates opened. The sand and the temperature (it was into the mid-thirties) didn't help matters, and by noon, you could well say, "Welcome to chaos". The lines stretched over five kilometers and there were jams all the way down Motera Road.
Amidst all the jostling, the policemen were liberally brandishing their lathis and at the main entrance to the stadium a virtual stampede around half past noon was being dealt with by a quick lathi charge.
Former Gujarat Deputy CM and current president of the Gujarat Cricket Association, Narhari Amin, was personally supervising the proceedings at the first point of entry. Interestingly, Amin, who was watching the cops beat back a line of young boys, changed tack just as the bus ferrying media people came into view. He immediately rushed at a policeman and stopped the arm with the raised lathi.
Checking the shifting, shoving mass for tickets was never going to be easy and the main entrance was obviously not the place where the cops --- numbering over 1,500 --- were doing any checking for security either.
A couple of young women had no problem bringing in some bottles and bags, though whether they were made to discard it later is anyone's guess.
While the drama was happening at the front, further back down the serpentine queue, it was carnival time. The residents of Motera gaun were taking full advantage of the lines and immobile cars.
There were "scooter parking" signs up all over in Gujarati and the panwaadis (this is seemingly a state of tobacco chewers) and the cold drinks stalls were doing roaring business.
Everything from water packets of dubious origin ( Rs. 5) and glasses of chaas (Rs 15) to tricolour hats (Rs50) and T-shirts ( Rs. 150-200), was on sale. Children were roaming around holding three katoris filled with saffron, white and green colour, and were painting faces at the bargain price of Rs. 10.
"We might as well do this," said one of a group of young boys from Usmanpura, who said they had been standing three hours. "We can't take anything in, not even banners, so we have to do something to show our support."