It was my greatest fear that the stadium lights would go out – plunging the ground into darkness and basically broadcasting this (power) failure to the entire world. I can now safely say that this did not happen. Unfortunately, everything else did.
Among the many bombs that had been casually tossed around the South-East basement offices, the first that exploded was the one where a last minute ‘request’ was made to provide baggage handlers to carry the players’ luggage. Seeing the stretch on manpower, my tomboyish, feminist colleague immediately offered to lend a hand. I, failing to come up with a quick excuse, found myself accompanying her in stumbling around under the weight of the heavy kit bags – the sizes of which were comparable only to the size of the heads of their owners. Now I am not one to shy away from attention, but the sudden deluge of comments and flashes from cameras disconcerted even me. I looked out from under the bag to see shocked faces all around me. Some of these faces offered to take the bags from me, while others were content with recording the evidence and passing judgmental remarks. Both parties however, were in unison over the fact that females handling luggage was unheard of – but once in the pool, we refused to get out, insisting on finishing the task we had undertaken. We did however; manage to start the match-day with quite a splash.
I truly believe that some processes are genetically harder for otherwise very intelligent Indians to comprehend. For a population that believes that the world is a universal loo; that it is their birthright to dry their laundry on the road outside their home; that all occasions must be celebrated in a way that most obstructs their fellow citizen’s daily life – for these people to be suddenly told where to go and how to park their cars – it is a shock that the ego cannot sustain. And so it was that when the gates opened on the 8th of April for the 1st match at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, the pathways were blocked with cars proudly boasting VIP stickers and generators that claimed they could not be moved, because the supply of cable in the world was, after all finite. Well no matter, the Indian public is nothing, if not innovative. They carved their path through the scenic garden and garbage dump alike, making their way to their respective stands.
The security at the stands had been deployed by using the policy a bird uses to scatter seeds – at random. Once inside the turnstile, the spectators wandered through the unmanned interconnecting gates from stand to stand, so that the price differences between the various stands were rendered useless. To remedy this, we locked these interconnecting gates, effectively locking in everyone, including the staff that needed to move freely, into each stand.
But praise must be given where praise is due. The security procedures that the stadium had in place ensured that (almost – more on that later) no one could enter that stadium without an accreditation or a ticket, once the gates were locked. The tiny problem remained of the 1000 odd unaccreditated ‘staff’ who were already in the venue before the gates were locked – who were never cleared out by the police.
The west stand had its own share of issues where entry was concerned. It seemed to me quite a coincidence that 5000 spectators of the stand turned up at the very same time – and each of them was convinced that the other 4999 were trying to steal their seat. The resultant chaos caused the barricades to be thrown aside, the metal detectors were ripped apart, the wiring hence damaged plunging the stand into darkness. There were 3 people trying to cram into a turnstile for 1, thereby jamming the system and promptly complaining that the system was jammed. I stood there helplessly, trying every now and again to urge the distrusting crowd to use the 2nd entrance gate which was further down the road.
Meanwhile, the media centre had no internet service – in spite of repeated efforts ranging from cajoling the modem to kicking the wires, the engineers could not get the net up and running. One of the stands had run out of stock of drinking water, almost causing a riot until a solution was found.
And I had been assigned just one duty on match day – I had to escort Mr.S of the Maharashtra Cricket Association to the ground for the Post-match Presentation ceremony. I effectively had to lead a man for about 50 m. I am still amazed to report that one is able to mess up even such a simple task, when challenged to do so. After having been at the stadium for 2 months – I positioned myself outside the wrong door waiting for the guest. My dreamy reverie was rudely interrupted by a jarring radio message about my incompetence. I sprinted to the correct room just in time to see Mr.S emerge. We made our way towards the ground – only to be hindered by gates that seem to have sprung up overnight. In my defense they had been erected overnight, but that did not make the experience of requesting the ‘honourable dignitary’ to kindly jump over the aisle and duck under the barricade because the live telecast was awaiting his arrival.
As I stood there waiting for the presentation to end, I saw Dada congratulating his team for their victory. I wondered if he would ever know about the kind of games that were played off the field.