Winner Karachi awaits reward
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Winner Karachi awaits reward

There must be something pretty compelling happening for a whole city ? melting pot of over 14 million people ? to change its behaviour pattern, reports Avirook Sen.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2004 12:29 IST
Avirook Sen
Avirook Sen

There must be something pretty compelling happening for a whole city — melting pot of over 14 million people — to change its behaviour pattern. But Karachi has held its (sometimes corrosive) passion firmly in a bladder in its underbelly for 48 hours now. They like all the harmless tripe about peace and brotherhood here, but it's clear what they like better: to watch a cricket match peacefully.

The last time India played in Karachi in 1997 the match was marred by stone-throwing as India chased. And Pakistan were close to forfeiting it before the crowd was brought under control. India won, but (only because this is a season of cliches) cricket didn't. Now, India has won again and it is well past midnight Saturday but the eating joints and hangouts at Port Basin are open. Without exception, every conversation goes: Indian? Mubarak Ho.

The cabbies tell you that and waiters who stick menus that horrify vegetarians tell you that. The thing is people who have no dollars to extract out of you tell you that as well.

But let's not be foolish. This has got to be temporary. A newly acquired friend says, "I doubt if the bladder would hold up over five days." Well, who knows, but for now Karachi is basking in the compliments it's getting. No less a person than Jagmohan Dalmiya promised a five-day Test match soon. It's also getting an arm-ache slapping its own back: Sind Governor Ishratul Ibad Khan said the crowd negated "the wrong perception being propagated about Karachi in the Western media".

Truth is, there are two Karachis. And only one — God knows how — was let into the National Stadium on Saturday. The other can be found in various places around town — even on Saturday, Karachi's 'good day'.

It's nearly two in the morning but there's a lot of noise at the beachfront. On Sea View, there are bunches of young men — only men — their bikes revving with no particular purpose. It's here down Karachi's smoothest roads that they race cars, and play games of 'chicken' (stupid dare games which could prove fatal). They do all this because there's nothing else to do.

The cineplex nearby can't help them. Bollywood is banned (though piracy is rife); Hollywood comes too late (the pirates land a few years earlier); and Lollywood (from Lahore), is, well, boring.

And what does that leave? Cricket of course. Saturday's game wasn't just about India and Pakistan. It was about Jinnah's city, relegated to the fringes of the cricketing map, trying to make a case for itself. Its arguments were restrained — and compelling.

First Published: Mar 15, 2004 01:03 IST