I admit I used to get caught up in the India-Pak fervour when I was younger. As one of my Brit friends pointed out, it’s only right to hate your neighbours as they do the French. Later, though, I began to feel that if there were to be an ‘us vs. them’, Pakistan counts more as an ‘us’. After all as brown-skinned developing nations, we are all kind of in the same boat and it’s been my principle to support India first and our immediate neighbours next in cricket ever since.
Yes, even Pakistan. Considering that for most of us in this generation, Partition is a distant memory from another time, it seemed weird – and racially obsequious – to abhor Pakistan but not England, our erstwhile colonial master, and I would say instigator of the India-Pak rivalry in the first place. Overall, though, much of that happened decades ago and we should be over it. We can’t hate Pakistan for something that happened decades ago any more than we can blame England for all our economic woes (as we tend to do).
Moreover, I think governments and the policies of their secret service (if it is indeed true that the secret service is funding terrorist attacks in India) should be distinguished from regular people. For me, Pakistan is about regular people and when I have encountered these, they seem quite similar to myself, and don’t condone random acts of violence.
I know that 26/11 changed things. It hardened the stance of even moderate people like my own friends because it was so close to home. But I refuse to let it harden me, not because I live abroad (I have enough love for and stake in Mumbai to weep over its misfortunes) but because that is exactly what those who planned the whole horrible thing wanted. And I refuse to let them win. But also, I just don’t believe in my heart of hearts that the average Pakistani is sitting around thinking horrible thoughts about how Indians should all be dead. I just think that most people have better things to do. I do read that the fundamentalists are gaining ground in Pakistan but I wonder if we have reached the situation where we can call every single Pakitani a monster. Call me naïve.
If I hate anyone, it’s fundamentalists in any form. I am as unforgiving of the terrorists who held people hostage in Mumbai as those who went on a killing spree in Gujarat in 2002. I don’t group these people as Hindus, Muslims or whatever. I group them as the crazies, and us. Sometimes I wonder if it’s time for the moderate to take up arms, like the crazies. But then I realize we’ll just be the crazies ourselves.
Back to cricket though. While I agree that rivalry is fun and it’s even more fun to compete against one’s neighbours (like the English and the French do), because of the very real problems in neighbourliness facing India and Pakistan, it’s not all in good fun. It’s not just about cricket and people actually believe that Pakistanis are the enemy who need to be defeated in other areas too. And that’s why I, at the risk of being a spoilsport, think those of us who are sane should not be joining the chorus of those baying for Pakistani blood, on the cricket field or elsewhere.