Cricket: The day I walked all over Lahore with Indian flag wrapped around

Notes which I had scribbled over emails and scratch pads after an unforgettable three day trip to Pakistan.

A trip sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank with 40+ strong contingent to watch Pakistan vs India on Feb 13th, 2006 at Lahore. I forever thank my bosses then, S V Narayan and Anuja Verma, to nominate me for this trip.

14 February 2006 at 13:03

– Pattu zinda hai!

– During entry into Pakistan at Wagah border there was a huge problem and we thought we would never make it. Almost every television channel was covering the massive crwods climbing over walls in desperation to go into Pakistan to watch the match.

– The Indian customs took 8 hours for a process which takes 2 hrs (they were possibly looking for underhand deals).

– Surprisingly, the Pakistan customs looked more organized and were clearing in much lesser time. The flip argument could be maybe they were lackadaisical in their checks.

– There some of us, including me, came on Headlines today & Aaj Tak channels when we spoke to their reporters and cheered live on camera at 8:30 am. In a fit of excitement when asked what we expect to lookout at Pakistan, I blurted “Kebab, Shabaab and India ka karara Jawab”.

– In the evening we admired the Wagah Border ceremony and proceeded to Lahore.

– Same day had a celebrity dinner with Waqar Younis and Siva Ramakrishnan & spoke at length with both.

– Later we went to the food street and ate there till night 2 am with kebabs, phirnis, etc.

– Lahore is busier a city than Mumbai, it never sleeps.

– Next day 13 Feb – Matchday – was all about cheering.

– The day started with us visiting a Lahore fort early morning. Later we got ready for visiting the stadium.

– A chill ran down the spine as our contingent walked towards the Gaddafi stadium stands when a section of the crowd stood up and clapped our entry and indicated a warm welcome. Some of them even shook hands and hugged too.

– I had a 3ft X 2ft India flag wrapped around me the entire day (pictured above).

– Lots of competition for “slogan baazi” – our best one which peeved them was – “Yeh andar ki baat hai, Inzi hamare saath hai”!!!

– Watching Yuvraj, Kaif, Raina and Agarkar field was a treat to the eyes. The first three with their electricity and the Agarkar with his quick, flat throws from the deep.

– Just before lunch time, an NDTV journalist asked four of us (including Prashant Nair & Manohar Chadalavada), possibly more active cheering guys, to meet him during the interval.

– During the break, we went live with both NDTV news channels (Hindi & English) where we again cheered and spoke live.

– Before the cameras were turned on, the reporter was sweet enough to lend us his mobile and we called our respective homes asking them to switch to NDTV.

– Lahore stadium and facilities (bathrooms, seats) are much better than the ones in India.

– When Sachin cracked 95, a banner said loud “Mr Moin Khan you are too small to comment on Sachin”.

– Ladies at Lahore are just of out the world – features, skin, per sq feet density wise Lahore is much ahead of Delhi!

– The match went down to the wire and India pulled off a sensational win. The last 90 odd runs scored by ODI cricket’s two greatest players ever – Yuvraj Singh and M S Dhoni.

– That night we went shopping for two more hours and yet again people all around kept greeting us warmly and helping us with directions. Note, the match ended around 10 pm and yet we were shopping till close to midnight – which meant, the shops were open.

– Although Dhoni and Yuvraj had won us the tense chase, I still had the Indian flag wrapped around me the entire evening when we were shopping – this was the day when I felt proudest as an Indian!

– Next day, there was a major strike at Lahore – we saw our picture in the Pakistan newspaper ‘DAWN’ at the hotel but could not buy one.

– While travelling morning through the bus, towards Wagah border, while crossing remote villages, we had four instances where 30-40 people ran towards our bus with stones, sticks, swords and burnt tyres.

– But every time they heard guests from India, they left us saying “hamare bhai hai, hamare mehmaan hai, inko jaane do”. In parallel, they also shouted anti-Musharraf slogans. I must say on one instance when few of the rioters boarded our bus, we were nervous to the point of legs shivering. Hope was our only friend then, as we felt trapped in unknown lands.

– Later we came to know there was a riot like situation in the main city – two people killed, fifteen injured, assembly burnt and the army taking control of the city by afternoon. But we had safely crossed over. On a strike day at Kolkata, you can never go beyond 2 km radius of your house.

– 15 Feb Wednesday, when I reached the office, my colleagues gave me a surprise, they showed me my picture cheering in the previous day’ s MID-DAY newspaper.

– Later we dug into a copy of Hindustan Times and sighted our picture there too.

– This would remain etched in memory as an unforgettable experience. An experience with a myriad of mixed emotions which have left an ever lasting mark in my life.

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