Bengalis take their cricket very ,very seriously. Try watching a match at Eden; a capacity crowd of 120,000, not counting those hanging from trees and atop all the tall buildings around Eden Gardens, for each and even when India is not playing**. (But perhaps I should not generalise like this for the 60 million Bengalis, in West Bengal). At least we do. And our ex-neighbour. We have invented all sorts of rules for ensuring an Indian victory. Never mind the fact that our success rate has been very bad. Nevertheless the set of rules continues to grow and grow.
I don't think I missed a single match at Eden Gardens between 1991 and 1996. And the few matches I missed, I had R tape it for me. For matches abroad, the match timings would take precedence over our lives. Ma would set the alarm to catch the 4am match between India and New Zealand! She'd get up a bit before, make tea and then settle down before the TV to watch Sachin beat the hell out of the kiwis in the first 15 overs. Yes. those certainly were the days.
I remember our neighbour dropping in early one morning to ask if she could watch the match on our TV.
'Of course. Any problem with your TV?' ma enquired politely.
'No, no. We are waiting for Bonu (their daughter) to come home and switch on the set. India always wins when she does', she said in all sincerity.
Ha. Ha. Imagine that. But lately I find that we have our sets of incredibly complicated rules as well.
The other day, as I was lighting an incense stick at the family puja altar, ma came bustling and replaced the match box, the incense stick and other stuff in a certain way.
'Ma, what are you doing?'
'India has a match today' came the all explanatory reply.
I immediately understood that these were Baba's rules. Earlier, he would wear his lucky lungi to watch the match and so ma had quite a job of ensuring that the same lungi was washed, dried and pressed for the next day's session.
Things have gotten a bit complicated since then. Most of the time, we are not allowed to watch the match. Baba sits like an ageing Royal Bengal tiger, remote in hand, in front of the set occasionally tuning in to check the score. And that's it.
'Baba, you cant be serious'. I shout in desperation.
'But I am. It works,' says Baba.
'Well if you have so much power, why don't you find out a way whereby you could get me a nice job by perhaps rearranging the furniture or something,' I say.
'Don't be ridiculous,' says Baba, in a very final tone .
This morning I was helping ma to change the bed linen in our room. The pillow cases and bed sheets done, we, we picked up a fresh bed cover when ma stopped and said
'Can't change the bed cover. Not before the next test series (India has lost the first one and how). Baba's instructions'.
And she put the old cover back and briskly moved leaving me standing jaw dropped. (Its easier to agree to Baba rather than discussing it).
Normally Baba is a very rational man not given to any sort of fanciful flights. In fact he is boringly practical except cricket. But then India's performance of late has been so dismal. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Perhaps it does work. Perhaps our rules for a win are getting cancelled by others non action or contra-actions.
Who knows? The truth after all is somewhere out 'there'. That could include a host of things...ETs, ESP, time travel, the truth about life and death and winning in cricket.
**(Except for that one shameful incidents in the 1996 World Cup against Sri Lanka);