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Lucky to live the day India lifted Cricket Worldcup 2011 and when India Gate remained elusive

It was an end of en era, a historical moment when Mahendra Singh Dhoni lifted that cricket world cup on 2nd April 2011, 28 years after Kapil Dev first lifted it in 1983.

I am lucky to have lived this day, lucky to be a part of this euphoria, and also lucky to have lived the experience of watching it with people who didn’t judge you when you yelled at the top of your lung, jumped on the bed, broke a bottle and made stupid cynical comments. Yes I did all of that on this fateful night.

Let’s go back to the start.

After going through several broken plans of watching the finals with close friends, distant friends, crazy friends, calm friends, strangers, many strangers, few strangers, watching it on small screen, medium screen, big screen, I finally started to watch the match with the usual suspects, dad, sis and mom.

Sigh, it just didn’t feel right.

I mean there I was all excited even before they could toss the coin. And there was my sis, too tired after holding her weekly early morning lectures, to even watch it with any enthusiasm. You see she is the type of person who takes rest when she is tired, unlike me.  Dad is never too excited for anything, specially if being excited means a lot of yelling and jumping. Mom is a non believer, she doesn’t quite believe Sachin is God. Unable to find any company for outdoor activities before it could turn evening, I had no choice but to stay at home.

The match started and by the end of first over I realized, I couldn’t do this to myself. I couldn’t watch this match with people who didn’t go yelling ‘Aamir!!!’ every time they panned camera  on him, who didn’t go jumping every time camera panned on team India, who didn’t hurl socially accepted abuses every time team Sri Lanka managed to hit a boundary.

I decided to go out to find crazy people for company. It was quite a plan considering, moments before leaving I had tweeted this to the world:

Ok am no Poonam Pandey but if India wins, am gonna kiss a random stranger tonight.

Oh I was very serious about the promise. And don’t tell me this was crazy, you don’t know what my friend promised. She pledged her daughter’s wedding to Dhoni’s son. Beat that.

Once outside, I called a friend to tell him that I was coming over to his place. 3 seconds later I called another to find out what was he doing and whether he had space for one more person in his party. He said he did, and I ditched the first friend. Hey don’t ask me why I did that, India won the world cup. The friend ditched by me eventually joined us by evening.

I don’t understand Cricket. At 6th over when Sachin walked out, I declared, “its over. Lets go home the game is just over, we are doomed.” My friends got pissed, they were optimistic, and said I was a bad company to watch the game with. I went silent. Friends thought I was hurt because of their comment, but it was actually because I thought I had lost the opportunity to do the RDB Salute at India Gate.

Ever since Aamir did it, that famous Rang De Basanti salute with his feet controlling the car steering taking rounds of India Gate, our dear India Gate has become even more glorified. As shallow as it may sound, before RDB, India Gate didn’t have this mass appeal or this euphoric aura. So no prizes for guessing where were the Delhites going tonight. Wherever people watched the game, all roads in Delhi led to India Gate even before Dhoni had hit that final sixer.

Ours did too. After the presentation ceremony five of us started for India Gate from Saket. All roads were already jammed. There were already over thousands of people and hundreds of cars at the crossing of Katwaria Sarai and Qutab Institutional Area. Traffic congestion started from there but no body cared. Random strangers yelled and shouted ‘India India’ or ‘Sachin Sachin’ at each other every time their eyes met. Some even walked to each others car and hugged or shook hands. Some got off the car and started to dance.

There were not just all kinds of cars and bikes on the road but trucks, tempo travelers, three wheelers, people got into pretty much any kind of vehicle they found and started towards India Gate.

Traffic got worse and the euphoria got massive at Lodi Road. From there onwards the more the traffic was the crazier were the celebrations. Almost all of us had stranded  our cars on the middle of the road and walked out to join the semi naked dancers with crazy head gears and body paints. Amidst all of that celebrations suddenly one bare chested guy ran about yelling, “Oye b&#%^ saddi gaddi kitthe gayi?” (Oh F*&^ where my car is?) A while later he ran past my car and I asked him,

“gaddi mil gayi?”

He said with a wide smile, No.

And I yelled, “Oye koi baat nahi, India jeet gayi yaar India jeet gayi, (Never mind dude, we won we won).” He happily agreed shook hands and went about his search.

At Prithviraj Road a khakee wearing cop with an incredible blush on his face shook his head and told me that there is no further movement of the cars towards India Gate, “Madam, subah tak nahi pahanch paaoge India Gate gaadi mein. Agar jaana hai to park karke paidal jaao.” He politely said knowing how much he broke our heart by saying that.

We then parked the car on the entry towards Khan Market and joined the sea of human all rejoicing and celebrating. None of us had ever seen something like this before. Never seen so many people celebrating together. Men, women, young, old – we had fanatics in all shapes and sizes chanting ‘Sachin Sachin, India India’ continuously. Many cars played the Official ICC Cricket WC 2011 anthem by Shankar Ehsaan Loy (SEL), “De Ghumake.” Some of the other popular songs that were blaring out of the cars were, ‘apni toh paathshala’ from Rang De Basanti for obvious reasons; ‘Sunoh gaur se duniya walo’ also by SEL;

But mostly we didn’t need a song. People grooved to the heady-mesmerizing-nirvana-attaining chants of Sachin and India.

Sales men by the traffic light had gathered all of sudden selling all kinds of props. We bought an  amazing piece of innovation which made the noise of both a whistle and a dholak. It was the craziest thing I’ve seen and the guy was selling each for 50. During day time, before the match began, he must have sold it at 10 or 20. We finally bought 3 for 50.

After a long walk at 3.30 am we reached the India Gate circle.

Alas, it doesn’t work that way in real life. The car circling around India Gate, your chest full of pride and head held high in respect for the nation, your one hand is in salute, a bottle of beer in another, feet controlling the steering, happens only in movies.

In real life we live in too much of state control. In real life that’s 2 chalaans for you, one for that drunken driving, another for that rash driving. And you could be booked for trespassing as well.

Turns out, the traffic movement at India Gate were closed by 10.30 pm. The cars reaching India Gate circle weren’t allowed to enter Raj path and were asked to take  reverse. But no body wanted to move so they stopped wherever they were and started the celebration. This added to the jam. Not just cars, people weren’t even allowed to walk up to the gate. I thought that was really unfair. I can understand if you put a restrictions on cars and vehicles but why not allow us to walk. I was really really disappointed.

Good thing though that we had lived enough of the euphoria by now. It was time to return, back to our lives, back to the future that we were holding as 2nd time Cricket champions of the world. A future in which at least for the next 4 years we wouldn’t lose at any other cricket match, even if technically we lost. We are and will remain the champions.

Poonam Pandey was a fake, I am not. I did keep my promise. I kissed a 5 year old boy off the street.

I was still disappointed that I couldn’t do my RDB Salute, I wanted to do something crazy. I saw an empty beer bottle on the pavement on our way back to the car. I nicely picked it up and smashed it on the road making a loud noise, startling my quietly walking friends. The celebrations were thus over for me.

This night is now permanently etched in my memory along with the people I spent it with.

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