Last evening, My Darling persuaded (nay ordered) me to get dinner, homework etc sorted out early as we were going to 'the cricket'. Anyone who has been in India more than five minutes knows that Cricket is one of the most important parts (or 'time pass' if you are in Chennai - used in a sentence: "cricket is a good time pass for children"!) of daily life. In fact it is significantly more important than daily life as all activities come to a virtual standstill if India is playing... or worse still, with the advent of the IPL Twenty20, if the Chennai SuperKings team is playing.
I need to get something very straight here - my idea of a good time is definitely NOT being touched, pushed and shoved around in a crowd of the local people. I do not want to queue outside a stadium, only to find that the 'queue' never moves because of the number of people cutting in at the front. I do not want to raise my blood pressure or my hand because complete strangers feel it is their right to touch my daughter's face. I do not want to go somewhere in order to have a fight (hopefully only verbal), to get angry and to (God forbid) lose one or both of my children in the teeming crowds. Not my idea of a good time. No No No! I even hate going to the malls here for the same reasons. I go alone, or with My Darling on a weekday morning when we know that most of the rest of the city is at work, school or home. Much easier on everyone!
My idea of a good time is either to stay home, go to a friend's house, go to a restaurant or hotel where I know we will be treated well and in a clean and hygeinic environment and above all - the toilets are user friendly! So Madras Cricket Stadium does not make the list of my top million favourite things to do in Chennai, never mind the top ten in my Chennai Champion list!
I begged, cajoled, pleaded and demanded to be let off this one very, very onerous and odious excursion. To no avail. My Darling was determined to make sure that the kids and I got to at least one cricket match before we exit stage left. Eventually I gave in very ungracefully and got myself organised to go - hand sanitizer, wet wipes, tissues, phone, camera and some money in my pocket. Oh and another bottle of hand wash in case we used up the first one!
We had tickets on the Madras Cricket Club Terrace seats. These were the better seats and instead of the hard bleacher style seating, we had individual plastic chairs. We were seated about a dozen or so rows back from the pitch and I have to say that from the moment we got there, I was in awe. I was struck by sights, sounds, few smells and just every sense went on high alert and sensory overload. The crowd around us was well behaved, well mannered, seated (except when everyone jumped up - EVERYtime Chennai Superkings hit the ball!) and for the most part totally engrossed in the action on the field and only there to support the home side.
I was shocked at quite how many people were crammed into the stadium and spent the first five minutes trying to find our nearest fire-emergency exit and realised it was the one that absolutely everyone there would have to use (shock/horror) and ran through several gruesome scenarios in my mind to prepare myself for all eventualities! After that, I forgot about everything except the cricket, the crowd and the cricketeers (as the players are now being addressed!!).
The match was wonderful. Fast paced, full of fumbles, finger-cracking catches and phenomenal bowling. The crowd - well, how do you describe a humungous number of people, showing their love, adulation, admiration and loyalty for 22 men who have proved themselves on the cricket battlefield to be some of the best in the world. Sachin Tendulkar - god of the cricket players, Dhoni - the King, Hayden - the gentle giant, Harbhajan - the long legged bowler, Malinga - incredible! Just to be watching these guys strut their stuff was enough of a thrill. Once they got into the game and started hammering fours and sixes towards our seating area - the intensity and excitement just got bigger and louder! The people in the crowd, both Indian and non, were there for a common purpose - to see the teams in action in real life. They did not disappoint. These guys sweated their guts out - literally. Sachin had to retire for a spell to the dressing rooms to recover from over heating and cramps. He still came back out to support his team in their efforts and to try to finish the game. The Chennai Lions were just on fire, and won by 24 runs. Wahoooo!
My over-riding thought all evening was that if there was some way to harness the sheer energy emmitted by the crowd, the electric atmosphere and the noise of the roars of approval and encouragement, I am certain we could power the city for days on end! Move over solar and wind energy - here comes some wicket wattage!!