North-East monsoon was verging. Swishing winds of winter rhymed through the eardrums. Indigenous chatters filled the gaps between symphonies. Conspicuous dissonance had sought tolerance for better part of that day. I was on a train journey towards my hometown.
In our country, cricket, an English sport finds solace within its acceptance at the grassroots level against all odds. We often talk about the degrading audience for the game. We condemn the change that has been taking away the precious class that cricket carries. And rightly so. Commerce revived the game and an attempt for sustenance maligned it. However, that evening I found a new ray of hope while I travelled through the terrains of a half-deserted land.
Traversing through the great plains of North India, my train fidgeted through the otherwise submerged plains of Kosi basin in Bihar. If you have ever travelled through Non-AC class in India, you must have acknowledged the emotions that an emergency window allows you, that one understands as freedom. For those who happen to satisfy their creative urges from time to time, there is no heaven as enchanting as being allowed to take your neck out of an emergency window, soaking the humidity, looking at approaching trees and houses and dreaming about unending solutions to life’s puzzle.
As I was fiddling with my thoughts, my eyes got stuck to an overwhelming scenario. Train was approaching a halt. It was creeping through a bridge. I was passing the infamous lands on the banks of Kosi river. This was the same region that remained under a heavy flood during monsoons every year, washing the lands and lives in thousands of numbers away during its course. There remained no life expectancy on that land for there was lack of common necessities for survival. Houses were submerged in a stroke. Death came easy for people. Villages nearby had migrated in search of jobs and foods. Those who hadn’t were fishermen whose livings depended on the river itself. Only few of them returned everytime a group went for fishing.
I witnessed a cricket match on the barren lands besides the flowing Kosi River. Young kids were playing the match in chilling winter without much of their clothes on. The playing area was surrounded by an audience of at least 300 people from three quarters. They were all farmers and their families. On the remaining end, a mini console was set with an old man commentating in the native language of the region. I belonged to that region, so I didn’t have any difficulty in understanding his words. I was amazed by his flow. It appeared as if he had been in practice for ages. There was a continuous loud cheer. Every shot was being appreciated. There were sailors in their boats engrossed while they were passing through the river flowing nearby. Songs were being played in between. It was a cricket carnival on a land that had refused to habitat humans. But no one seemed to care.
My fellow passengers were stirred in exclamation. Our train took almost 45 seconds to cross that area. But that was enough to put this cricket aficionado in a deep thought. I regretted not having my DSLR camera in my hands at that moment. There was no time to bring it out from my belongings. But I also felt fortunate that I had nothing to disturb.
I took a deep breath. I felt my eyes. They were moistened by the emotions. I was just sprung over by goose bumps. All my complaints from the game vanished away in that very moment. I could feel the re-emerging vibes taking my whole body by storm. I could feel what they call peace.
Our cricket lies in those details. For elitists, there are reasons for dissatisfactions. But from aficionados, cricket seeks acknowledgement. Evolving mechanisms may have changed our viewing experience. But enticing artistry of a cricket player does not seem to fade away in near future. Cricket has shown amazing adaptability. No other game can run for five days and end within three hours if needed. It possesses a thing for every kind of audience. It has made all its efforts to remain significant. Newer generation has taken to the shorter format. But the longer formats still hold its fort. On the bank of that river there is no medium for dissemination of information. No one has access to television. Neither anyone knows how to read a newspaper. For them Virat Kohli may very well be another guy from far lands. Their cricket is aloof of any such inspiration. For them the news of India’s World Cup win may have taken weeks or months to reach. And that may or may not have given them any joy.
But that winter evening, away from all their miseries, irrespective of the result, they were playing the game on that lone piece of land on the bank of Kosi, to seek solace in its beauty. That is what cricket has been, for us Indians. Every now and then, it gives us hope.
Few months later, that region would get submerged in the flood again. There would be no life there. There would be deaths and mourning. Families would be torn apart. There would be fight for survival.
Come another winter, there will be another game of cricket played over someone’s corpse hidden beneath that land. Players will fight against all their miseries. There will be victories. Not against another team. But against the demon that we call life.