Monday, December 8, 2014

When you sat among tulips:

Smooth you sit, and roll your languid eyes
the kohl in them carry a purpose of night
Amidst flowers you bloom
this smile when you let

You caught some fancy
while looking left
it is me who is rolling
the wind in the tree.

Undisturbed by the delight
your face gives me
I slowly settle
in these solemn lips.

The wind carries me.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Beyond a Boundary- 25th March 1992

We settled early that day in front of our burly Bush TV set. A bevy of cousins had landed in our house. In Tony Greig’s words ‘it doesn’t get bigger than this’. An entire nation gasped its breathe, Kashmir of ’92- where almond bloom was sparsely visible, and thaw of spring carried blood stains from another wounded winter. Such were those times in our forsaken part of the world. For now though, only one thing mattered. Only one prayer played on our lips: from Makhdhoom sahib to Dastgeer sahib shrine, the early morning Khatem-e-shariefs reverberated with a green swing. 

A huddle was created in our living room- in a house 200 years old, on the banks of what was once a beautiful watercourse: Nallamar. Cricket had caught the imagination and fascination of youngsters like me in Kashmir that damp spring. It was March 25th, and Pakistan was playing England in the World Cup final. 

After winning the toss, Imran, once again making a statement at the toss, in what is now a famous cornered tiger crew neck shirt, chose to bat first. In the team meeting prior to starting the game, he told his players that Gooch looked nervous.  

When Pakistani openers began their innings under a sun swathed Melbourne Cricket Ground; first few boundaries resonated with Narrey Takbeers in our part of the home. It was our burrow today. We were allowed to do any thing. The joy though was short lived, and Pakistan was reduced to 24/2: Sohail and Raja both cooling their heels in the pavilion. It was left to the old war horses to once again resurrect the ship. Javed and Imran built up an ideal partnership, to give a platform for a young dynamite Inzamam- fresh from a match winning knock in the semi-final, to launch yet another heavy-duty attack. He tore the English bowlers apart, receiving a roarous applause from Melbourne to Malkha, all the way. Wasim joined the party too with his little blitzkrieg; 249 on a big ground, with a handful bowling attack seemed enough. Grandfather disagreed. England bat low down, he argued. Perhaps, it was the old evil eye he wanted to deflate. Superstitiousness runs deep when it came to Pakistan, I knew all too well. 

When Wasim got Botham; caught behind the stumps, of what Beefy till this day maintains he never edged, the revelry knew no bounds. Botham was dangerous and nasty, in equal measure. His insulting remark on touring Pakistan few years back, was given a good reply by Aamir Sohail, who nudged past him while he [Beefy] unwillingly carried himself from the crease. The taunt was carried into the following summer, when Pakistan toured England. Skipper Gooch, pleasingly clean shaven that day, fell to a brilliant catch by Aaqib Javed in the deep. Unusual to use such words for Pakistani fields men. This seemed to be their day, got another assurance. ‘That for a world cup final, is a great great catch’, quipped the suave David Gower in commentary box. Graeme Hick- the prodigal adopted English son, widely tipped as the next batting sensation, fell to a Mushtaq googly. Englishmen failed in reading it from the hand, Warne assured us in many next Ashes contests. Lamb and Neil Fairbrother threatened to take the game away from Pakistan, when Imran- he could not possibly get a trick wrong, threw the ball to Fairbrother’s Lancashire team mate Wasim. In two brilliant in-swing dippers, Wasim sealed the game, castling Lamb and Chris Lewis. Gooch many years later conceded that one could possibly only admire such skills. From then on it was just the matter of time, though the oddly built Derek Pringle did give us few jitters, with some lusty blows, allowing Grandfather once again to remind us, ‘Angrezan chhu kahim ti batsman’. But this was Pakistan’s day. Imran, perhaps justifiably too, got the last man. ’It’s up in the air, Rameez Raja coming under it. Pakistan win the World Cup’. The line played day in and out in my mind. It still does. Pure magic. Pakistan were the world champions. 

Looking back at events, and events such as this, prompts one to think that they probably define the whole decree of a generation. Mine for one was totally under its duress. Inzamam was a house hold hero, prompting one of my friend in school to write Haq (Inzamam’s green jersey in WC had Haq written over it) on the back of his crisp white school uniform shirt. This was baptism by fire. And there was no hiding from it. That summer and in many other summers and seasons, we played those scenes over and again. We all wanted to bowl fast like Wasim, bat like Inzamam, somewhere wished to catch like Aaqib in the deep, and run all over the ground in mad hysteria, throwing the ball finally in air, and clamp arms over a team mate. For a people in grips of an ugly war, 25th March 1992 remains forever a mirage in desolate memories.