“Our JEE is finally done with—four years of sweat and agony and no TV and Counter Strike have finally come to an end,” said an exuberant Aditya Naik, who hopes to secure an AIR within 2000. “I immediately trooped down here with my friends to catch the cheerle—I mean, the match.”
It was indeed strange how events unfolded. IIT’s Joint Entrance Examination got over at 5 pm, and hordes of students hurriedly got out of their centres and made a beeline for the nearest public transport they could catch hold of. Many claimed to have booked their tickets days in advance.
Says Aman Shaikh, “As soon as the paper was handed in, I turned to the guy sitting next to me to discuss. But he quickly told me, “Not now. I have to rush for the match.” As soon as we realized we were both going to watch the IPL match, we made the tough journey here together. Then we looked for the cheerleaders; since they hadn’t arrived yet, we looked for our friends who were coming in from other exam centres.”
It was a challenge, many say, to find their friends in the crowd. But the challenge was taken only by those who arrived at the stadium before the cheerleaders. Gary D’Souza exclaimed, “This is my first IPL match. I’ve been studying like crazy during all the previous seasons. Here I come, girls!”
Sitting next to him and manically happy, Karan Patil explained between sips of Pepsi, “I’m loving the match! This samosa is just heavenly!” However, the match had not yet started. When asked how his exam went, Karan lamented his poor performance quite happily, “I knew I would screw it. My target always was AIEEE, but since my parents lived in the delusion that I was a JEE aspirant, they allowed me to come for the match. My mom called and said she was proud that I had toiled so hard for two years and now the exam was done.” And didn’t you tell her about your performance? “I told her I will get some rank between 1000 and 2000. She won’t remember this when the result comes out.”
Meanwhile, the more conservative attire of the Pune Warriors ‘Cheer Queens’—who have been making entries in saris and traditional outfits and performing Indian dances—refused to dampen the spirits of the youngsters. No, our youngsters made the best of the situation by choosing instead to fix their eyes on the flamboyant Kings XI Punjab cheergirls. This meant many boys were waving Pune flags and banners, but were ogling the cheerleaders of the opponents. If you can’t beat them, join them?
A thrilled Rajeev Bhide said, “A bit of the cheerleader magic has gone. But fortunately, only a couple teams have made this conversion. So if your team’s cheerleaders are not motivating you, the other team will almost always make up for this disparity! I’m obviously expecting to get into one of the better IITs—I hope I can make it to Bombay—but either way, it will mean very less girls. And the few that will be there won’t be, well, enough, and may be geeky, so…” he faltered, unable to express in words what his nether regions felt.
The students, most of them first-timers, enjoyed every nuance of the live-match scenario—every but one: the match itself.
Fifteen minutes into the match, one of the boys yelled out, “What the hell is the score?” It took some time to understand that he was being serious and not intending to mock any of the teams—nobody had been keeping track of the match or indeed, watching it at all. This chant converged into a crescendo, as almost the entire audience repeated it for a full minute. Then they fell silent all of a sudden as the Kings XI Punjab cheerleaders started to warm up to an interesting routine.
Not surprisingly, this issue was quickly pounced upon by the Shiv Sena. Bringing back warm memories of 2008, Uddhav Thackeray restated that bhangra would act as a better medium—as compared to cheerleaders—to encourage the players. For the uninitiated, Bal Thackeray had himself announced that he did not know whether people come to watch the match or the cheerleaders. He had also said that ‘good sports and music’ were the ‘secret’ to his ‘cheerfulness’. (Pun, anyone?)
It remains to be seen how the Shiv Sena will proceed. Until then, all future IITians can probably view this IPL season as their last ‘opportunity’ in a long, long time.