Memories

The places where moments reside

Delhi dairies: Those 70 minutes of pure hockey



“ Bharat maata ki jai, jo bole so nihal”…………these are not war cries on the battlefield, but these were the shouts and prayers of 15000 people on a different battlefield altogether- the Astroturf….The war was all about a berth in the London Olympics, it was the chance for the national sport to redeem its past glory and the only chance, it was the final of the qualifiers.
Its always said that you give it your best when it’s a life or death situation..27 th feb, 2012 was one such day when I knew I needed to back up the 11 soldiers on the battlefield… Apart from F 1 , I don’t think I have ever kept my eyes and mind glued to the schedule of any tournament..when the pride and honour of hockey was at stake, could I be behind? Naah…..

I knew very well that the night before on the 26th I was attending a party by my seniors, being late I had to stop at a friends house and then in the morning had to rush back home. I reached home early in the morning and in a few hours made the announcement that I would be watching the match from the stadium. Family members thought that I had gone mad…roaming on the roads too frequently now. But I had my own fears, knowing about the sudden craze of delhites during CWG 2010. In one minute you can be the only one in the stadium and in the next you could be one of the thousands in the arena. With the cricket team getting thrashed at that time, I knew hockey might be the perfect receipe for that perfect Sunday dinner. I set off from home around 4 in the evening with just a cup of tea in a hurry to catch the match start at 8. With the ticket to be bought, I knew I had to do a lot in very few time. Thanks to google, I knew the price of the ticket and the location of the entrance where tickets would be sold.

All through the metro route, I rang up each and every possible delhi wallah , asking about the area closest to the stadium where I could get down and save valuable time. I just did not wanted another F 1 happening with me where I could not enjoy everything from the start. When I got down at the metro station, I just did not had to ask much as the CISF team posted there had an fairly good idea where everyone headed that night- National stadium. Even before I could speak National, the man pointed the way. On the way I saw what normally is not associated with hockey- people boarding autos in hordes, carrying drums, face paints, tricolours in huge counts and the roars of Bharat maata ki jai even on the roads. The nearer I got to the stadium, the broader my smile but…my jaw dropped the moment I saw the rush at the stadium. I never expected so many people, my eyes could easily see around 4000 people at that moment on the roads. A cricket crazy nation going the Chak de India way….well that was a first for me…with the clock ticking by and only 40 minutes left until the start and tickets to be bought , I felt panic rise underneath. But somewhere I knew that if I really cared about this game, I would really get what I wanted tonight. Easily forgetting my way in the crowd of people, I scanned the ticket counter and there I saw a huge rush with people claiming “sold out”… As with my fate and luck of buying tickets , I knew until I hear the sold out from the counter man himself, I wont bulge an inch. As fate would have it, I noticed a small line of around 5-6 people which until then had been unnoticed by others. Quite a few people had to bail out from the line ( they had 100/- bucks short with tickets being priced at 400 instead of the regular 300 on other days), this was the final, the big day…..if india made it through , It would be the money well spent till the last penny, I thought. Buying the ticket took less than 30 seconds. When I got the ticket in my hand, I pumped the air as if I had won a date with the most gorgeous woman on earth..Scanning around the line to the entrance I saw people of all age groups there- 3 month old babies to 70 year old senior people, friends, families, teenager gals, just like everybody was there…

Now just 20 mins were left and I had to get a entry. I noticed 3-4 gals busy talking among themselves and they had not noticed that the line had moved forward. I made full use of the opportunity and stood in the gap, they hardly noticed…I saw a gate to my left which was locked…I wished it to be open. Hardly had a minute passed, I noticed few people break off from the line and rush to the gate- it was opening….i made a dash for it…it took me 10 mins to get into the stadium gate and I made a dash from the main gate to the stadium entrance like my life depended on that stretch I ran. While running in the corridor, I knew I was about to witness something special…when I saw the entrance to the seating places, I just stood there in the doorway for a few seconds. The environment was electric, the air was all chill, the adrenaline just kicked off automatically and u got transported in a different world altogether. The feeling which I witnessed that day , I cannot explain that in words, even the F 1 experience cant match it…everywhere I looked, I saw people dancing, tricolours being waved and prayers for a victory being said.

That feeling was phenomenal. I quickly took my seat behind the goalpost. The ceremony started a avalanche of celebrations with people cheering every minute. When the team introductions ended and the national anthems started, I don’t think I have ever witnessed such atmosphere. French anthem started and ended, a loud cheer for that…when the Indian anthem came, there was a complete transformation. People stood up, tricolours began waving and each and every soul in the stadium prayed in such a way which would put even school children to shame. In full attention, right hand to the heart , everyone sang like feeling every moment of those 52 seconds. The loudest cheer I heard when it ended and the Indian team was welcomed on the field with a huge cry of “ jo bole so nihal”….it was our way of starting the battle against the French. Believe me, hockey looks better live. Tv cant capture the emotions everytime the ball either lands up in the opposite half or is dangerously close to own goalpost. Nobody was seated for the entire duration of 70 minutes. After 6 minutes , the French defence was breached and india scored…after that there was no turning back. Although the French scored once and there were some brilliant saves by the Indian goalie, there were a lot of anxious moments. All aggressive moves were cheered, all saves celebrated. The whole stadium was behind the 11 on the field. The only respite came in halftime when the score read 3-1 and the people finally settled n the seats. The best 35 minutes came in the second half when the French goalpost came directly in front of me…I witnessed the best attack, penalty corner and scorching drag flicks in those 35 minutes. The board was sounded 5 more times in that time.

Although it eliminated the competition in the match but it provided the speed in a game which cant be matched by cricket. It was fast, it was furious. It was something I never witnessed before. In that chilly feb. night , I had a bad throat but that didn’t deter me from shouting throughout 70 minutes…the end result….i could only talk in sign language for the next 2 days. I left the stadium at around 10 in the night after the closing ceremony and a London Olympic berth. I didn’t realize that I reached home at 1.30 in the night, all hungry, the single cup of tea finished in all that shouting…unfourtunately my cousin had to listen to my match story so late in the night. That ticket is still in preserve mode with me. 

That match was the chak de match for me…it made me realize that given a chance, the people of the country support other games also with the same vigour as cricket…you need support? Give them a call and they`ll be right behind you….like I was that night..in a battle which was fought with a ball and the magic sticks…for those 2 hours the world of 15000 people was confined to the space between the goalposts and it meant people from all walks of life. I heard one telling his friend,” this game is so fast and good that i`ll watch each and every match in delhi now”. Fathers bringing their children along to show them the magic of stick and ball. Saw one father making his 1 year old boy sit on his shoulders and dancing his way to an indian victory... he cheered every beat of the drum , every sound of the ball hitting the post....it was a heart rendering sight.

Major Dhyanchand must be smiling from the heavens that day….it was the day when the country was behind the sport which was once ruled by his magic…Hockey…

Wo 70 minute…..
Delhi dairies: Those 70 minutes of pure hockey Delhi dairies: Those 70 minutes of pure hockey Reviewed by Shwetabh on 2:45:00 AM Rating: 5

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