A man arrived at the cricket ground on horseback. A man called Lobo sold pieces of cloth — turbans — for 20 pounds each, and people just lapped them up. A child called Mustafa Ahmed from Birmingham, a lover and supporter of Pakistan, had a Virat Kohli mask on.
A freak show. That’s what an India-Pakistan match at the global stage often is, especially in Britain. Reason is suspended, weirdness is the day’s normal. The crowd often seems edgy, there’s much banter and some sledging, but there’s a lot that’s heart-warming and pleasing.
Very good friends
Ahmed and Dhall. That sounds like a good old business firm, but it’s clear that’s their association is more personal than business. Ahmed is a man and Dhall a woman — the former in a Pakistani shirt, the latter in an Indian one. In a highly polarised and charged atmosphere at the Old Trafford, groups of fans are raisings shouts of “Jeevey Pakistan” and “India Jeetega”. But Ahmed and Dhall make their way quietly through the crowd, letting their shirts proclaim their allegiances. They evoke curiosity — so I ask them if they are “together”, for they seem to be “together”. They look diffident and give each other coy smiles, and confirm they’re together. OK, but are they a pair? They exchange looks — they seem to be asking each other if the time’s good for a personal revelation to a stranger — and reluctantly say that well, they’re just “very good friends”, and have been so for several years. Just very good friends? Right!
Business trumps jingoism
Adrian Lobo, originally from Goa, is selling merchandise — mostly it’s Indian stuff he’s got, including turbans that he’s selling at what seems to be an exorbitant rate. “I’ve got Pakistani flags too,” he says to a prospective Pakistani customer. Indian and Pakistani flags are in his cart, together. They don’t instantly burst into flames on contact. Sellers of wares are truly internationalist and secular.