Right now, I am a helpless and mute spectator on a playing field. A gigantic enclosure draws a fool-proof barrier between me and the players.
Today’s game is between the home team and the international visitors. The stakes for the match are the lives of the spectators. The lives of the spectators depend on the home team. The home team is losing. They were playing fairly well at the start of the game and could have at least made a draw – which meant, at the end of it, each of the teams went their separate ways.
But the international players were smart, very smart. They had come with strategies well developed and honed over years of playing in different terrain. The reason my home team was losing was because they were playing badly but also because they were being taken for a ride by the visitors. The visitors had numerous strategies. They did not believe in a unilateral approach. They felt it was important to hit the home team from all directions.
So, first of all, they shook hands with the home team. They said to them ‘We really want you to win.” This reassured the home team. They were fed up with the brickbats constantly being thrown at them by the spectators. Making the spectators happy would have been a difficult process if the home players had to train regularly and work hard. Here was an easy way out to make the spectators happy, or so they thought. They didn’t realize that they wouldn’t be playing any more games anyway and would soon be joining the bunch of spectators themselves. They didn’t realize that there would be NO home team. The visitors would just revise the rules of the game which said simply “We win all the time. If anyone wants to join us, they are welcome.” The groups that were to join them were the ones who had invited the visitors in the first place.
As a spectator, I didn’t realize for a long time. However, I began to notice that whenever the home team performed badly, some of the spectators simply fell down. These were already a little weak – like women, children, ill people. These people were so much in the periphery that they weren’t even aware that a match was being played. A few of us who were standing closer to the match began mumbling and saying that something wasn’t quite right. However there were a group of people who were very close to the enclosure who kept reassuring us “Don’t worry’ they said ‘We are all experts here and we are keeping a very, very, very close watch on these international visitors.’ Some others of this expert group announced loudly on the microphone that the home players were playing very badly, and could we just replace all our home players with the visitors since the visitors themselves were very interested in playing on our home turf. This news was received with wild applause from some parts of the crowd, but not loud enough to be entirely convincing. Many of the spectators remained silent because they were busy checking out the stalls that the international visitors had put up – with an exciting array of foods, gadgets and other knick knacks. ‘Be one of us’ screamed one of the billboards ‘ Be us, buy us’, said another.
The match was half way through. The home team looked confused. On the one hand, the visitors were telling them that they could win, but the visitors were also very critical of the home team’s ability to play. This was compounded by the group of experts sitting at the fence. The experts made loud comments about the home team’s inability to perform. This was further demotivating the home team.
The coach himself was from the visiting team. His approach was blatantly unfair but the visiting team didn’t seem to mind and the home team didn’t seem to have a voice. I screamed in the thronging crowd. “This is a bizarre, unfair and unjust match’ I shouted. “You are right. We have already written about this to the Board” said a person near me. It struck me then that the board above the Board bore the name of the visitors. The visitors were financially supporting the Board too, and even worse, some of the people on the Board were actually players on the field.
I felt despondent. I was too close to the match to pretend I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t shout anymore.
My friend, who shared my fears, made a suggestion. “Let’s inform the spectators’ she said. But the look in her eyes said it all. Some of the spectators had been informed that there was a match being played that would also play a decisive role about their own destiny. Of these informed spectators, some turned out to be supporters of the international visitors, some couldn’t hear, some couldn’t see, some couldn’t understand, some couldn’t speak, and some were simply falling of the radar, dying because the home team was doing so badly.
So my friend and I, we thought together “What do we lose. Let us try one last battle cry’. We picked a dirty banner that had fallen on the ground. We scrambled around and managed to write in BIG BOLD words. “WE SUPPORT THE HOME TEAM. GO BACK INTERNATIONAL VISITORS. YOU DON’T PLAY FAIR’. We held this banner as high as we could and waited.
The international players didn’t notice us. Neither did the home team. One expert looked at us and frowned. She muttered to another expert beside her, who ignored us. My arms ached. My friend was already beginning to look disinterested but she held on anyway. We waited……………
Then in the distance I saw another banner come up. It said simply “We support you’. It was written in crazy English which I won’t reproduce here, but the meaning was the same. We waved back.
There were just three of us now, but across the distance, we connected.
A murmuring started in the crowd.
The expert who first looked at me was very annoyed. Another expert noticed the murmuring and began shouting even louder about how weak the home team was and how the international players were our only hope. But I noticed something strange…………. something really, really, really, really strange. I noticed a fear in the eyes of the expert. It suddenly occurred to me – they weren’t as strong as they professed. They were on MY TURF and messing with MY players and the murmuring around us was an indication that the spectators were beginning to realize that too. I felt enthused with fresh energy. I shouted and my friend shouted, again and again – what was written on the banner.
Before I even realized, the murmuring had grown. I could hear voices shouting, saying the same things that I was saying, sometimes even better. Some of their banners looked much more beautiful than ours did and some were miserable scrawls – but together, they painted a most beautiful rainbow across the piece of sky that was above my home. I didn’t even look at the international players, nor at their stooges from the home team. All I saw was this mass of spectators, who now could not be called spectators at all. They were a movement. They shouted and moved and called and screamed. The home team looked afraid. The home team realized that they belonged to the spectators and came from them. If they didn’t play well, then they themselves lost and the spectators lost too.
The International visitors had run to catch the first flight back. They hadn’t even bothered to pack their stalls and the stuff they had brought.
The stooges stood trembling in a corner.
A people’s court was held right there. The home players had lost badly. They had a long way to go before they could even learn to play a decent game, but they had to learn to play, and play a good game, even if it meant working 24 hours a day. The stooges were handed to the regulatory board that now comprised of the people.
The weak spectators were brought forward and the stronger ones moved back.
The home team now plays only to strengthen the weak spectators.
The stronger people are in the background, watching.