Pak-India semi-final: Life, liberty and the pursuit of sadness
The reactions that the defeat of the Pakistan cricket team has elicited are annoyingly painful.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
T S Eliot
The Wasteland, 1922
Desire and hope can be painful, especially when hope is thwarted. Yet in sports defeat for either one of the sides is inevitable; I believe it can even lead to good things in life later on, like land turned fertile after a volcanic eruption. But I’d still want my side to win.
In the wake of the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan, what I am finding particularly, annoyingly, unendingly painful is the reactions that the defeat of the Pakistan cricket team has elicited. It seems that politicians and talk show hosts, friends and ‘foes’, are all hell-bent on making us feel anything but normal.
There are those who are in denial. Random text messages received that night stated ‘Who cares about cricket anyway, after all it’s hockey that is our national game!’
Then, the morning talk show hosts who had been recommending Quranic ayats to her viewers to ensure the victory of ‘truth’ over ‘falsehood’ just a day before, turned up the morning after to announce thatm, after all, it was only a sport and that we should feel happy that both the finalists were Asian teams. In short we should completely suppress our sadness and try to deny it out of its very existence.
Others chose to channel their emotions it to an abnormally noble direction. Psychologists call it sublimation. Consider a text message, also received that night: “We still love our team and we forgive them.” What was there to forgive? More importantly, why must we express love and forgiveness at this precise moment – why can’t we have just one night of complete, blissful sadness, unadulterated by philosophizing, pseudo-intellectual rationalization and of course, conspiracy theories?
Our prime minister himself came up with a most unnatural claim that India’s victory was in fact Pakistan’s victory. We can only hope this isn’t his new style of statesmanship that he will now apply to all issues pertaining to India!
Of course anger is most people’s behaviour of choice when dealing with disappointment. We want to find someone to put the blame on. Another text message urged recipients in lyrical Urdu prose to stop giving prayers and start hurling abuses at the team, as the match must have been fixed, nay, it was fixed for sure!
Another text said it was the evil lady sitting next to you in the match audience, reading everyone’s palms, who brought this misfortune upon us through her sinful deeds.
Why can’t we just accept that our team lost to another in a very important match?
A newspaper headline: “The Pak-India semi-final helps Indians and Pakistanis Bond.” And why this bonding now, after such a tooth and claw struggle to defeat each other? Maybe the Indians were harbouring a secret grudge against us and now they can finally put that behind them?
Or perhaps Pakistanis suffer en masse from self-defeating personality disorder, suddenly feeling pleasantly inclined towards a nation whose team dashed our hopes of having a festive national moment?
I have Indian friends. Heck, I even made phone calls to congratulate them, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we are closer now than we were before.
And then there is rationalization. So what did my friend from across the border have to say after tasting sweet victory? “When people have an identity crisis they lean towards nationalism and make too much out of such events for a day or two.” Perhaps the motive behind this statement was to make me feel not-so-bad about my team losing. Of course it was my friendly duty to give the winning side permission to enjoy the moment and not over-intellectualize the joy out of it.
It is also my friendly request to my fellow Pakistanis to feel the sadness and let it go. Blaming the team, going in denial and pretending to be ‘above’ normal emotions will just complicate the simple equation: Victory lifts the collective spirits, and defeat pulls us down.
But only for a while, for tomorrow is another day.
Published in The Express Tribune.