Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday 31st of March 2011 – The day India held its breath

What a day and a night, yesterday India played Pakistan in the two countries main national sport – cricket, it was kinda like how we play the wallabies in test rugby but on a much more vocal and I guess fanatical level. My friends here all said it was really a notional war between two countries with a long history of border conflicts and disputes both political and secular. While the political spin doctors on both sides tried to make light of the situation and also slant it towards a sense of communal well-being and good spirit between the countries, the general populace here saw it purely as one thing – a chance to bloody Pakistan’s nose and rub it in that they are the better cricket players so to speak of – and they did by 29 runs.
So despite the fact that it was only the semi-final of the ICC World Cup, the match day took on an unreal air of expectation. Fans here in Bangalore I met said with a smile that the outcome was rigged right from the moment the two teams qualified for the semi. Their faith in fair play competition dashed by generations of match fixing and bribe taking scandals in the sport as a whole which is really part and parcel of life here on the sub-continent. But they all had faith that India would once again trounce its feisty neighbour on the sporting arena and national pride will prevail.
Our local odd job man sits waiting for shops to open so that he can earn some money but when they didn't he joined
others watching the game through a local shop window
kids at a local cricket cum sports ground

the outfield is a bit rough here
So they did what they usually do and took the day off, shops shut early, businesses didn’t even open for the day, schools had a half day and millions upon millions tuned in at 2.30pm to watch all the action.
Out on the bike scouting for pics
Unlike home where we just paint the town white or black depending on the sporting code and have a few beers after the event or stand transfixed for the one race that stops two nations in November – here the whole day is written off as a big party. People seek leave or simply don’t show up at work, companies that service the global call centre industry specially mount muted TV’s in the call centres just to keep them running, factories country-wide simply just close down for the day because the workers don’t show up and in a surreal episode the streets quieten down, almost devoid of traffic and the usual hustle and bustle noise of a major Indian city disappears for almost ten hours – that’s until India wins then all hell breaks loose.
please sir take my photo -ahhhhh

Mitesh in action
 I took the opportunity to spend the day with Mitesh, a bright and talented young shooter out of the Punjab in Northern India, who ‘s at NICC and has a dream to be both a Bollywood actor and a top fashion photographer, something I am sure he will achieve as he has it all planned out. We raced around the city on his motorbike looking for A: people playing cricket, B: people watching TV’s at home, C: people watching TVs from outside shops and D: the post-match action.
Initially it was hard to find anyone doing anything but as the day wore on we started to pick up the pictures here and there. Eventually finding people queuing outside a coffee shop window watching the match and then later a large crowd of workers outside a tyre puncher (that’s how they spell it here) repair place all crowded around an old black and white TV. 

 After the match the streets erupted around Frazer Town with fireworks and large crowds of drunken fans roaming the streets celebrating. Vino John took me into the main commercial centre Bangalore - Brigand Road and MG Road, where we watched the thousands of fans out on the streets partying up a storm. I spent a busy half hour filling a CF card shooting images of drunken fans while dodging their attempts to grab my camera, fireworks exploding right next to me and people hanging out of cars and motorbikes waving national flags as they roared through the crowds. Then a surprisingly quick trip back to Moore Road where I transmitted 14 images off to NZPA and AFP in the hope that I might get one or two picked up. I’ve just checked and seen NZPA has picked up five of the images so hopefully someone back home will use them. AFP already has heaps of pictures so maybe I got lucky, I don’t know.

fire works on Moore Road

fireworks on MG Road

Anyway today is a rest day, man I need it as I have been working so hard for so long without a break, but it will also be the day to plan my last three and a half weeks here, plan to shoot more creative exhibition images, plan to talk to more people about the future and have some more fun here.
Tomorrow I am told by Vino John, is on the road again - back up to Srirangapatna, an historical place we missed the other day, this time we are going just with the faculty of NICC  overnight before we head off to Chennai to meet and talk with photographers there – a busy week I think. Luckily the NICC Momentum show has been put back a week so I have more time to prepare for it but I have to get out and shoot today.

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