That night five of us huddled up before the TV screen. Half finished beer bottles, empty bags of Lays, and large pillows witnessed how grown ups can fight for a comfy place on the couch. We heard the firecrackers when the Knights hit sixes. Almost all of us in the room wanted to pee, but no one could move an inch from the couch. We screamed like mini dinosaurs whenever Gambhir hit sixes. We cried out like a wounded wolf on the top of a mountain (with the moon in the back that is) when we lost wickets. Uninhibited celebrations followed by curses moments after.
Cricket. It's our religion. We've grown up watching our fathers and grandfathers coming home early and cancelling all other plans before big matches. We have seen our sisters hiding posters of Rahul Dravid and Ajay Jadega under their text books. We have grown up playing cricket in our classrooms. Hand cricket was our only entertainment during boring classes. Hard cover copies became bats and old papers from our rough copies were transformed to balls. We have grown up carrying heavy bricks from one place to another to use as wickets. We stole chalks from our teachers' desks to draw wickets on brick walls and mark fours and sixes on window panes. The guy who had a rupee in his pocket for the toss was the richest kid in the team. The umpires were biased, parents had to stop our fights and neighbours never returned the balls that went through their windows. In Kolkata, every locality has a personal cricket stadium.
We prayed when Ganguly opened with Tendulkar in the Eden Gardens. We shed tears and skipped meals when our team lost a game. On the walls, there used to be posters of Sachin, Sourav and Dravid right beside the photographs of Ganesh, Durga, Kali, Vishnu and Lakshmi. Over the years our cricketers have inspired us to shave with Gillette razors, eat eggs daily, drink Boost, and Pepsi. When I look back at those old days I find that nothing else had the power to hypnotize almost every children in India and to make them strain their eyes right in front of final exams. Organize an India Pakistan match and millions will cancel their plans. Whoever wins, two countries gets a little closer.
When the game is over for us, we switch off the TVs and disperse silently. We accuse the players with heavy hearts, we analyse the catches we dropped, wickets we couldn't take and the easy balls we couldn't play. One bad game, the country is on fire. Media highlights who should be dropped and who should retire, experts comment on the batting orders and we promise never to watch matches again only to find ourselves glued in front of television sets in the next match.
India is like a concerned and loud mother. The kind that will cook your favourite dishes when you get a “very good” in exams, shed tears when they hear others scolding you, and bombard you with advice on your smallest failures. The kind that who could only scold and then cry from the deepest love and affection. We forget the dropped catches and lost matches very fast. We cherish the moments that made our heart stop beating. Kumble's 10 wickets, Sourav's out-of-the-stadium sixes, Yuvi's six sixes in an over, Sachin's ruthless batting in Sharjah.
In India, we are scared of changes. Kids will continue to break windows, our grandfathers will keep cancelling their plans before big matches, and fathers will patiently explain the Duckworth–Lewis method to their little Tendulkars. India has a population of around 1.237 billion. But when it comes to cricket, all the heartbeats merge and become one.