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It?s the turn of the fans to exchange notes on friendship

You finally got to see some Indian fans at the Arbab Niaz stadium. The nice part of all this was that the Indian fans were clearly having a ball.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2004 12:27 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali

You finally got to see some Indian fans at the Arbab Niaz stadium on Friday. They were there, resplendent in shiny saffron turbans, clearly visible amidst the sea of green-bedecked Pathans. The nice part of all this was that the Indian fans were clearly having a ball, laughing and chatting with their Pakistani counterparts in green patkis.

If the people of Pakistan, through their actions these past 10 days here, have shown that they're ready for a new beginning, it was clear that the Indians didn't want to be thought laggardly. At the official hotel on match eve too, there were young men with their faces painted with saffron, white and green, exchanging notes with equally exuberant young men painted in shades of green. Each player who made an appearance in the lobby, Indian or Pakistani, was mobbed and the spirit was infectious.

Sarfaraz, the sweet, elderly concierge who called everyone around (irrespective of gender) "my son", was roaming around asking all Indians to sign a bat. When told by some gently that they weren't players, he laughed and said, "It doesn't matter, we are all friends." Everyone obliged.

Even the ladies had turned up in full strength to fill the family enclosure at the Niaz stadium. This in fact, was the first time you got to really see Peshawari women in all colours, some even with bare heads. "They must be from the Cantt area," remarked someone, when you remarked as much.

The Army wives and daughters, all over Pakistan, are thought of variously as "modern", "liberal" or "loose", depending on who you're talking to. Interestingly, even the hotel here closed down its beauty parlour (only a barber shop here now) as customers wouldn't come in. "There's one in Sadar," says the telephone operator helpfully. "The Army women go there."

Most women here, whether Afghanis or locals, retain the traditional head to toe covering. Some buy their stuff from an interesting shop called the Women Prisoner's Welfare Shop! "Yes, even we have women criminals," laughs Alam Baz, a local cop. "Though not so many. Our women are well protected. It was different in between, but with an influx of foreigners and others after the Russians came to Afghanistan and the movement of the Mujahideen, it was felt it was better for our women to cover up."

The stadium itself was overflowing, with people even standing up at the back rows of the general enclosures. Many had come in early to savour the atmosphere, walking patiently past the Bachcha Chowk (this is what locals call the Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan Chowk here), which had been closed off for the team buses to get by.

As with the other stadiums, there were banners for peace all around, with many saying things like "the land of Pathans welcomes the Indian team" and "thank you for coming to Peshawar".

Sachin Tendulkar must be getting used to the rapturous welcome he gets anywhere in Pakistan. Though the cries were, not surprisingly, even more ecstatic when he was out for a duck, they called his name again when he later got Inzamam out. The 100 mark, laboriously reached by the standard of this series, was loudly applauded, as were the fireworks from Ganguly and later, Yuvraj and Balaji.

There were periods of silence during these fireworks too, There was one minor spot of bother when someone threw a piece of wire near where Ramesh Powar was standing but all in all, it was a generally gracious display from what was thought a potentially troublesome area. While Irfan Pathan would have been pleased to be greeted by the "Irfan Pathan zindabad" during his cameo of 16, the maximum cheers were of course reserved for local boy Yasir Hameed.

That though, was only fair.

First Published: Mar 20, 2004 00:05 IST