02 September 2019

Narendra Modi, Imran Khan and the search for new republics

‘Romesh Kaluwitharana ct Sachin Tendulkar, b Wasim Akram.’ Remember this? You probably would if you were an ardent cricket fan. You would, even if you were not, being an Indian and a Pakistani, old enough and interested enough (obviously) in shared subcontinental history.  

Who in the subcontinent hasn’t heard of Wasim Akram? Who hasn’t heard of Sachin Tendulkar? Both legends, one Indian and the other Pakistani. Two countries. Two different national flags, two different national anthems, one proud to be Indian and the other a proud Pakistani. 

But how on earth did they end up in the same team? Well, in a word, ‘solidarity’. Solidarity not with one another, apart from the obvious togetherness of being in the same team, but a celebration and support of, ironically, an opponent. Sri Lanka.

Here’s that history in a nutshell. 

India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka hosted the 1996 ‘Wills’ Cricket World Cup. Australia and the West Indies, drawn in Group A, along with Sri Lanka, refused to play in the island ‘due to security issues’. Cricket authorities in India and Pakistan, immediately decided to play a friendly match against Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka. Just to tell the world, ‘it is safe’. Australia and West Indies didn’t budge. They conceded walkovers. India would later beat Pakistan in a Quarterfinal and Sri Lanka would beat India in a Semifinal and go on to win the World Cup defeating Australia in the final.

The Indo-Pak vs SL match had no bearing on the World Cup real. It was a moment though. A moment when nationality was bested by solidarity, history was made irrelevant by humanity. Ironically, truly historic.  

Rivers flow across lines drawn on paper by men for reasons that have little to do with the earth. Winds blow across borders, sand shifts and birds fly back and forth, oblivious to such designs. People, who know now where they came from and are clueless about where they would go, live and die. Time passes. Continents shift. In the long history of the earth, nations, much like all of us, are both, go into decay and perish. These things are known. These things are forgotten.  

Twenty three years have passed since that day in February 1996 when an Indo-Pak team beat Sri Lanka in a friendly 40-over match, but all three countries were victorious. Today, solidarity is under fire from nationality. ‘History’ threatens humanity. That too could be historic, but for lamentable reasons.  

India. Pakistan. The biggest countries in South Asia. Sri Lanka is a tiny island. I am a Sri Lankan citizen, one of 21.44 million. If a butterfly can cause a hurricane, a speck of dust could, theoretically, turn the earth. Turn back time. Make borders irrelevant. 

Perhaps we should explore our true nationality. Perhaps we need to talk of different kinds of republics, not the ones that make for cartography with lines and colors, but those less tangible and far more sustainable. Republics of feeling. The kinds that do not impose visa requirements for music and laughter, where Shiv Kumar Sharma can gather the stories of a valley and coax the santoor to relate them all in languages that require no translation. 

There are skies from which death descend, there’s earth which breaks into weeping, there are winds that carry bad news and music has been replaced by war drums and war whoops. There are also skies that rain poetry, earth that yields benevolent harvests, winds that whisper lullabies and music that is, well, music. 

There comes moments, once every several centuries, when a child armed with a divine eraser and a potent pencil sits before a map of the world and diligently re-orders the earth in ways hitherto unimagined. Perhaps we have been adults too long and should strive to rediscover a childhood that life was allowed to take away from us.   

It is a journey, then. A journey that takes us from familiar to unfamiliar and at the end a state of being that is wholesome. It is about a place, a history and multiple narratives, laced with arrogance and ego, ‘national pride’ in a world where we have lost all sense of ‘nation’ but for all the wrong reasons. A place, that exists and yet does not; a place that is token and trope where people and humanity count only to the extent that they feed political rhetoric.

I shall not name it for it is a place that does not exist. Yet.  And that’s why we need to journey towards it and with it.   And right now, in this subcontinent that is home to us all, I cannot think of two better companions on this journey that Narendra Singh Modi and Imran Khan.  

It is about wandering into hearts. Our own and each other’s.  We are one, and as Rumi said, consequently there’s room for another. Room for the other.  For all of us. As we all found on the 13th day of February in the year 1996. As we could rediscover.

malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com



Unknown said...

Very fascinating and meaning full.
To preserve humanity. formost requirement is unity.