Our izzat is attached to a cricket bat

Published: March 7, 2011

There are two occasions when people can be politically incorrect: during a war and during a World Cup.

“Twenty-eight in two overs.”

“What the heck is wrong with the Bangladeshi bowlers?”

“Commentators are asking the same thing. Now, should we order pizza or Chairman Mao?”

“India will make 300 as usual and Bangladesh will only manage to get to 50, so let’s watch something else…”

“You guys, shut up! Yes, hello, one Manchurian, two chowmeins — IT’S AN OUT!”

This is how a typical conversation goes around world cup time. Some can be rather interesting though:

“Check out the Bangladeshi captain’s shades!”

“Poser, scene on.”

“I’m sorry, but Bangladeshis can’t pose. They’re just not cool enough. They’re not even ‘kewl’, ok?”

“Dude, you know what’s really funny? Indians acting cool. How can you possibly act cool with a name like Harbhajan?”

“Sri Lankan names beat them all, yaar. Wonder how they keep a straight face when talking to each other.”

“Hey, remember that bechara English guy? Sidebottom? LOL at that!”

If you’re stunned at the blatant racism, remind yourself that there are only two occasions when people can be politically incorrect and completely get away with it: during a war and during a World Cup.

People are betting on the victors and tallying run rates, skipping work (in our case tuitions) just to watch the highlights, but nobody seems to register exactly what they’re saying in the process.

Someone in the school corridor yells: “Did you guys notice that on average the Canadian team was like 10 times darker than the Pakistani team? Not a single gora!”

“Did you see the slow-motion shot they took? The Canadians were shouting Urdu gaaliyaan at our team. How pathetic.”

“Thank God our ‘boiiizz’ won. That’s what you desis get for migrating!”

What makes a World Cup so special? What makes people drag out stereotypes and stretch them to the maximum and beyond? “Well of course he couldn’t catch it, he’s an Indian! Stupid vegetarian, doesn’t have the energy to jump like us meat-eating Pakistanis.”

Cue: hysterical laughing and lots of ‘That’s why Partition happened’ jokes. What is going on here? Why are these not isolated comments but perfectly legitimate conversations that happen every four years — actually, no. That take place every time there’s a match between us and our immediate neighbors? It’s like we have this tragic need to justify ourselves, to preserve our pride. Perhaps we do treat our World Cup like war. Perhaps that’s why we go into a national state of mourning when we lose.

I probably didn’t care about it earlier — it’s a game, damnit, just hit the ball and run for your life. But it’s oh-so-easy to crack jokes about dark Indians and oddball Bangladeshis on a Saturday morning with your friends, to realise it wouldn’t kill us to stop worrying about our bayizzati all the time.

Meiryum Ali

Meiryum Ali

A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.