Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sultans of Swing? Pak-Ind Cricket

The Pakistan-India cricket game is the greatest sporting event in all of South Asia. Last week I glimpsed something similar to what I would experience back home, here in EC. The T20 World Cup is underway these days in Sri Lanka and the Aggie Intercultural club here in EC is screening the games at the Student Centre. It is always interesting to watch your country’s team on the big screen but what makes it even more special is the presence of your opposing team’s fans in the same room. This screening event's inception came about through the South Asian Student Association almost two years ago and has been popular ever since amongst the desi community here in EC. It was no different than last year, except there were more fans present to cheer on their teams (due to larger number of incoming freshmen). The students painted their faces green and white if they supported Pakistan and blue if they were to cheer on India. They also brought along huge sized flags, which they tied around themselves whenever a boundary (4 runs) was scored. After tying the flag around themselves, a group of fans would pick them up and move the person around the room-imitating superman. You must be wondering what was so special about this event. First, it is very rare to see an Indian and Pakistani audience in the same room, watching the same game. This kind of interaction does take place in the cricket stadium but developing that kind of atmosphere here in Doha, is an idea unheard of. The element of rarity comes in when we consider the long history of war and violence between the two countries. Over the course of history, India and Pakistan just have not gotten along. This might be a consequence of globalization that a culture that is localised to South Asia has transcended and found its way into a Middle Eastern country. The increasing communications technology access is in turn affecting societies in different ways and this could be an evidence of that. This phenomenon, however, cannot be the direct offshoot of only globalization. There are many more processes at work. People moving to new place and taking their culture with them has been a dominant theme in diaspora
studies Haenfler, however, mentions the emergence of neo-tribes. He defines them as a very fluid group sharing a set of values. This is a wide definition and should not be applied just for the sake of application. A sub-cultural theme does develop in the practices of these fans of cricket. It is not resistant or deviant in any way but based on common interests of the participants, and the uniqueness lies in them following cricket away from home just as if they were at home. Second, it was interesting to note not only the confluence of the cultures and various political standpoints but the mixed gender environment. Pakistan is a conservative country by many standards and one of them is religion. One would not witness this kind of an interaction or even a kind of space (except the cricket stadium of course, where there are separate stands for 'Family' and others for 'Men') in Pakistan where cricket fans of both genders are present and cheering for the team. But there is not all positivity in this scenario. Just like people bringing their culture with them they also take with them their moral and ethical values. Haifa Jawad points out just that by commenting on the Diasporic communities unable to provide gender segregated activities for women who wish to involve themselves in. This is a paradox of it own kind. At the same time forces of liberation and modernity are being brought forward clashing with the ideas of tradition and modesty. These are deeper issues than they seem and cannot be addressed in a blog post in their entirety. The Pakistan versus India game, in any case, is special. They bring about so many different talking points besides the game that one will only exhaust oneself talking about them.

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