dawn's early light
regarded us with undisguised skepticism. It was 3:30 a.m.
-- not the usual hour for visitors to drop by, even in Manhattan.
"They're-expecting us," I told him firmly. "Buzz
upstairs and see."
and they were. But the grizzled guardian at the gates couldn't
suppress a shake of his head as he directed my friend Nikhil
and me to the elevators. Our hostess, Neera, greeted us at
her door and led us down a darkened hallway past a bedroom
where one of their sons slept under a blanket. "He has
an exam in the morning," she whispered. In the master
bedroom a television flickered. Our host, Sanjay, resplendent
in white cotton pajamas and sitting propped up in bed, waved
us to a sofa. "They won the toss," he announced
in tones of doom. "We're getting clobbered."
and I sat down heavily, after only three hours' sleep. "Maybe
we shouldn't have got up for this," I said as raucous
shouts arose from the TV. "Are you kidding?" Nikhil
replied. "Would you have missed this for anything?"
to admit I wouldn't. After years of being denied the most
sublime pleasure known to Subcontinental man -- watching an
international cricket match -- this was heaven. For fans like
me, New York has long been a citadel of barbarism, where the
world's greatest sport is neither played nor reported in the
papers. For decades we had to get our news of important matches
via shortwave radio. The Internet for the first time brought
live scores on demand -- manna from on high. But to actually
see a match? So what if it was taking place nearly a dozen
time zones away? Nothing could beat having a friend in Manhattan
with a satellite dish who was (a) a cricket fan and (b) willing
to let you into his home in the middle of the night to watch
the Indian team in action.
television has spawned a curious subculture in the city. On
days of crucial matches, shadowy brown figures flit through
the dark predawn streets, heading for the homes of the privileged
few who own satellite dishes. They whisper into cell phones
in an arcane code: Who's at silly mid-on? Has Irfan bowled
was that recent Sunday morning. Roused by the hoots and whistles
emanating from the TV, Neera and Sanjay's house-guest wandered
in, bleary-eyed from sleep. A while later their elder son
awoke; a recent recruit at a big-name Wall Street firm, he
had gotten home from work after midnight but was determined
to catch an hour or two of cricket before heading back to
the office at 7 a.m. The younger son, with his accounting
exam to take, joined us next. As the cricketers on screen
trooped off to their stadium lunch, Neera whipped up a breakfast
of eggs and bagels for the watchers. The match resumed, and
as the Manhattan morning advanced, friends who had been obliged
to keep more conventional hours began to drop in: a family
with young children, another from Connecticut, a young couple
who had eyes mainly for each other despite the magnetism of
sparkled in the combination of Hindi and English that Indians
know as Hinglish. A nephew of Sanjay's arrived with his baby;
when he heard the score he almost dropped the infant. Relatives
who couldn't make it called from assorted locations to ask
for news. Masala chai flowed. By noon it was over. India had
lost, half a world away. Nikhil and I headed back to reality.
"What's goin' on up there, anyways?" the doorman
asked. I opened my mouth to explain, then shut it again. "You're
American," I said with a sigh. "You wouldn't understand."
2004, Newsweek Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004