Samir Chopra November 22, 2010

The Night of the Living Refund-Seekers

As I staggered home, on a commuter train that Sunday night, I resembled most of all, those zombie-like creatures that had lined up just a few days previously, demanding their precious US $10, denied, cruelly, what would have been for them, the most

In 1987, I had just moved to the United States and was dealing with the sad loss of cricketing access as best as I could. When the World Cup rolled around, my sense of deprivation grew even worse. Was there no end to this cruelty, I thought? I cursed myself for ever having succumbed to the "onwards to the US for graduate studies" bug. What price US F-1, indeed, if it meant denial of cricketing pleasures? I, who had been so eager to bid my park cricket friends farewell on the night of my departure flight, now bitterly regretted ever having left. There was no Internet, no Cricinfo, no rec.sport.cricket (newsgroups existed, of course, but I hadn't discovered them; heck, I hadn't worked out how to send email to non-Bitnet addresses).

And then, miraculously, as the Cup progressed, it seemed I would be delivered; perhaps a telecast of the World Cup final was possible via satellite hook-up. An enterprising Indian graduate student had figured out the technical details, and was now set to organise what could be quite a festive night: the final of the World Cup, telecast live on a Saturday night, onto two large projection screens in lecture theatres.

As the final approached, an India-Pakistan encounter looked likely: both teams had made it to the semi-finals. The US $10 tickets that the graduate student association had put on sale went like the proverbial hot cakes, as scores of hopeful subcontinentals lined up at the ticket desk I manned in the student centre. A sell-out was a foregone conclusion.

Disaster struck as Pakistan lost in the first semi-final to Australia. The next day, the lines of the refund-seekers formed early, only to be rewarded with our persistent, "Sorry, no refunds possible". I suspect a few Indians snickered inwardly at the sight of the disconsolate Pakistani lads. The Cup was ours; or so they thought. Could India really be denied at Eden Gardens?

Alas, a semi-final still had to be played, and in it, India were "swept" aside by the English. And the refund-seeking now had an Indian flavour to it. My persistent cry of "Sorry, no refunds" still rang out, but it was tinged with the same disappointment writ large on the faces of those who had seen their hopes dashed by the Anglo-Australian usurping of the final. The lines were longer; the disenchantment even more pronounced.

I didn't need a refund because I didn't buy a ticket; I was employed as a ticket checker and food vendor for the final. Which meant the final was a bit of work, and a bit of pleasure. It also meant I faced an exhausting, sleepless weekend: I had to work from 10am to 6pm on Saturday, (baking pizza in the school cafeteria), then from 11pm to 7am on Saturday night, and then again from 10am to 6pm on Sunday (yes, more pizza). On the night of the final, we still had a full house; no one was going to stay away from a World Cup final, after all, but that largely Indian and Pakistani crowd couldn't quite summon up the same enthusiasm for an England-Australia final, knowing especially that it was built on the backs of their greatest disappointment.

By Sunday evening, I was delirious with sleeplessness and almost catatonic thanks to all the bad coffee and junk food I had consumed over the weekend. And as I staggered home, on a commuter train that Sunday night, I resembled most of all, those zombie-like creatures that had lined up just a few days previously, demanding their precious US $10, denied, cruelly, what would have been for them, the most riveting cricketing encounter of all: an India-Pakistan world cup final.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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