The spirit of Mohali

Published: April 6, 2011

The writer is executive director of Ajoka Theatre and was awarded the President’s Pride of Performance Award in 2009.

I had gone to Mohali to cheer my team, which I did to the maximum capacity of my vocal chords, but I am bitterly disappointed at our captain’s lack of sportsmanship and grace. The small group of Pakistan supporters, who had managed to reach Mohali despite all hurdles, never for a moment, felt any hostility or animosity, other than the expected sporting rivalry.

In Mohali, the security was tight but courteous. When we passed by boisterous Indian fans outside the stadium, sporting our green shirts and waving Pakistani flags, there was some hooting and thumbs-down gestures, but there were also friendly handshakes. Inside the stadium, the green-flag bearers were a tiny island in a sea of tricolours. But as true Pakistanis, we compensated our miniscule numbers with spirited and full-throated slogans. India fans queued for photographs with the ubiquitious Chacha Cricket, in his Pakistan-flag kurta. He was accompanied by a Sikh cheerleader with white flowing beard and a tricoloured kurta. He was baptised as ‘Taya Cricket’ by the crowd.

There were more illustrations of this spirit. Whenever the official Punjabi band played the dhol, the Pakistani and India fans danced to the same beat. There was a similar response when Bollywood or Punjabi bhangra songs were played in the stadium. However, the organisers could have included a Rahat Fateh Ali Khan or Atif Aslam hit, instead of the saucy “Munni Badnaam Hui”. Pakistani fans were pleasantly surprised to hear the Indian crowd singing Allama Iqbal’s poetry “Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara”. When Aamir Khan arrived, there was loud and unanimous applause from the crowd. The good-humoured mood of the crowd was displayed in the handwritten posters such as the ones that said: “Good luck Pakistan for 2015, the 2011 World Cup is ours,” and with slogans like “Aapas ki baat hai, Umar Gul hamaray sath hai”. Outside, the residents of Mohali and Chandigarh were out in the streets celebrating, in true Punjabi style, their team’s victory amid bhangra and fireworks. The ‘spirit’ of Mohali was flowing freely till the wine stores ran out of supplies. The last impression of this spirit was an Indian police commando, with his face covered by a black scarf, who stopped our car with a stern gesture. Our driver had violated the one-way rule in order to bypass the people dancing on the roads. The commando grimly surveyed the vehicle, which was full of Pakistani flags and green-shirt passengers, giving menacing looks from his partly visible eyes. There was a dramatic pause and then, suddenly he started doing bhangra in front of our vehicle and signalled us to drive on. “This must have been the spirit of Mohali”, I thought. But sadly, one could not bring that spirit as a souvenir!

Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Bambbaayyaa
    Apr 6, 2011 - 11:28PM

    I am glad u did not do a Afridi on us ….Recommend

  • John
    Apr 7, 2011 - 12:02AM

    And Afridi spoiled it for all. Sad.Recommend

  • Cosmo
    Apr 7, 2011 - 2:01AM

    Well, you are contracdicting Sahid Afridi!! hmm who should we belive ?? !!Recommend

  • bhupinder
    Apr 7, 2011 - 8:17AM

    That was well written.Recommend

  • Parhakoo
    Apr 7, 2011 - 10:40AM

    I just ran the last episode i.e. the commando one in my mind-must be great to witness while being rib-ticking at the same moment though :-)Recommend

  • Manoj
    Apr 7, 2011 - 11:08AM

    “Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara”. “Mazhab Nahi sikhata aapas main bair rakhna” is just like second national anthum of India. Since, Childhood we have sung this song as the creation of great nationalist Shayar Ikbal. Never knew that our beloved Ikbal had shifted to Pakistan.

    It is only when I started visiting ET, then I came to know that Shayar Ikbal is regarded as founder of Pakistan.
    Any way I do not have any bitterness against the great soul. I still love him for his above poem.Recommend

  • Agonised Uncle
    Apr 7, 2011 - 11:10AM

    Great article. Glad to know that you were received well by the
    ‘treacherous’, ‘small-hearted’ Indians.
    (Don’t shoot me, I am only being sarcastic to the hardcores!)
    Congratulations to India, they played well,
    both on the field and off the field.
    This gives a thorough lie to Afridi’s on again – off again statements.
    And I am glad that the author has stated his experience, in such candid terms.
    We need more honest reporters.
    Sirf Aapka,
    Agonised Uncle. Recommend

  • G.K
    Apr 7, 2011 - 12:21PM

    U r right.But to entertain a mass, Rahat or Atif’s songs are not fit.’Munni’ fills that madness among the mass.I think u know south-asian mentality.

    “Pakistani fans were pleasantly surprised to hear the Indian crowd singing Allama Iqbal’s poetry “Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara”. “——-Nothing to be surprised in it.We sing songs,don’t see religion in it and don’t forget that the language u speak ‘Urdu’ ,is our origin.HRD minister has given a proposal to include ‘URDU’ as third laguage.

    I would request Mr.Saheed to come to Indian metros and see the muslim guys and ladies are doing a lot for the country.But I can’t give u the gurantee if a meet an uneducated-biased man and asks for his opinion.Recommend

  • Pravin
    Apr 7, 2011 - 1:30PM

    Thanks Shahid Nadeem sir for your kind words!
    It’s nice to know that you were treated well in our country. People differentiated the ‘sporting rivalry’ and hostility and thanks to you for noticing it.

    May you come India again and again and go through nice experiences.Recommend

  • Apr 7, 2011 - 3:04PM

    We are suckers for praise. So what if Iqbal wrote that song – he praised India. Tomorrow, if you were to write a eulogy for Sachin Tendulkar, we will play that in the IPL. Absolute suckers for some good words. If only Shahid Afridi knew that!Recommend

  • G. Din
    Apr 7, 2011 - 5:38PM

    “Saare Jahan se Achha, Hindostan hamaara; hum bulbulein hein uski, woh gulsitan hamaara”
    was written much before the Pakistan fever gripped Muslims. It was an obligatory song sung at the start of the day in every school in the North. The author should not have been surprised!Recommend

  • sl
    Apr 7, 2011 - 6:04PM

    Thank you. mosic is another medium binding usRecommend

  • AD
    Apr 7, 2011 - 9:44PM

    Allama Iqbal was great Indian poet who migrated to Pak so they do not feel neglected. Recommend

  • Kanishka
    Apr 8, 2011 - 7:39PM

    India has more poor than Africa combined, Instead of sharing our wealth with Pakistanis by inviting them to bollywood movies/music shows and IPL , we should make sure that our poor get the benefit of our progress first…
    Shame on Indians who are more obsessd with Pakistan than the poor in their own country… Recommend

  • R S JOHAR
    Apr 8, 2011 - 8:05PM

    Nadeem saab, thank you very much for writing a balanced article on S/F match in Mohali and ET for publishing the same. The flip-flop of Afridi and a letter by a lady on ET made us feel quite bad but your line ‘Never for a moment felt any hostility or animosity other than expected sport rivalry’ says it all and your description of the lighter side of the events in otherwise a fiercely contested match makes a wonderful reading. ‘Sare Jahan se Achha Hindustan Hamara’ by ‘Iqbal’ was a song for undivided India which many Pakistanis now regret, not being part of this ‘Great Secular Nation’. Recommend

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