It is 11:55 pm. I’m writing this blog (Though going to post it later) sitting at the passenger’s lounge beyond the security gates at the Chennai Airport, waiting for my flight out of the country. Right at this moment, the entire nation of 1.2 Billion (As per the latest census 2011 ) is in a jubilant mood. The scene is no different here at the airport – Strangers are wishing each other, the airport personnel are smiling ear to ear and are greeting passengers happily. What is the big occasion? – India has just won the cricket World Cup, after 28 long years.
The last two matches of the world cup have been electrifying – The semifinals between India and Pakistan; the finals between India and Sri Lanka. I’m not a cricket fanatic as most of my friends, in fact as most of the nation is. I just follow the game through the newspapers and websites. But even I was keenly following the last two matches, in fact the entire world cup to a certain extent. I was so hoping that the finals would end before I left home for this trip. But unfortunately, I had to leave when India needed 132 runs to win in 131 balls.
But all around the airport, the focus was only on the match. There were a couple of TV sets – one at the ground floor and other at the passenger’s lounge upstairs. The lady at the check-in counter kept checking the TV set some 100 meters away from her as if just the sight of the match progressing was enough to keep her going (Remember the Birbal story, where a man kept looking at a far away lamp and stood in a cold pond ??) Every now and then, the other ground staff kept updating the people at the counters, the latest scores. Every second person I saw was on a mobile asking their friends, the latest score updates.
The scene near the security check was even more electrifying. Dhoni and Yuvraj were guiding our team closer to victory. There was a palpable excitement among passengers and the personnel alike. I had placed my hand baggage on the scanner and passed through the metal detector. I stepped on the raised podium to be scanned security person and the entire hall erupted into loud cheers – Dhoni had struck the winning shot. All work stopped; People were hugging each other; the security person broke into a huge smile and congratulated me; Almost the entire crowd converged towards the small TV at the corner of the place. What a scene it was!!! A foreigner checking in at the gates seemed to have no clue of what was going on around him. Then the security person explained to him loudly with broad smiles – “We won! We won the world cup”. Seeing his enthusiasm, the foreigner also broke into a wide smile and congratulated him
No one seemed to care for the flights. Compared to the cheers, whistles and the applause, the public announcements about the flights sounded so feeble. I don’t know how many missed their flights today! People were calling their friends and relatives, reliving those moments and congratulating each other. The players received loud cheers whenever they appeared for interviews or collected their mementos. As expected, Tendulkar got the loudest cheers and followed, of course, by Dhoni and Yuvraj. The local star, Ashwin, also received loud cheers.
I have seen such an electrifying atmosphere inside the cricket stadiums (of course, on TV); People crowding around television sets in front of shop windows and cheering their teams; People staring at the big screens in Office cafeterias unmindful of project deadlines and customer deliveries; But seeing this in an airport lounge – that too Chennai airport – a place of perennial chaos, lost and frightened maamis eager to join their sons/daughters in US, tired workers, clueless workers travelling to Singapore or the middle east : This was one rare moment when these seeming restless souls forgot their worries and erupted into loudest possible cheers worshipping our de facto common religion - Cricket