July 14, 2015 2 Comments
This was the year when I stopped hunting for jungle jalaybees. When the large garden we played in became too small, as the ball reached the window panes. When I gave away my Biggles books. This was the year when the magical taste of life changed into the spicy, reality taste, which exhilarates and then in a flash can burn also.
Somewhere in this life, early or late most of us come to some sort of awakening. It can be one large moment or a series of smaller awakenings leading to a flash of the light bulb moment.
I had spent a childhood thinking in terms of hours and days. Life was a series of random events revolving around myself and those immediately around me. In this serene environment, 1971 came as a crescendo. A series of small seminal events taught me that life is real, has a larger context and it is not just designed to fulfil my story.
1971 was the year when Pakistan cricket almost touched gold and then lost its grasp on it. This was in the month of July; at Leeds we lost. For a young sports fanatic kid, it was open and shut that we would get 231 in the fourth innings against England. I now cry for the confidence of a boy, who did not know better. That we ended up losing 6 wickets in quick order and missing the target marginally, was cataclysmic. It was the second sledge hammer blow in a couple of months. Earlier a young Liverpool team lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup final, when leading in extra time. It all hurt that the world did not follow in natural order, my desires and perceptions.
February of 1971 saw a major worldwide hit song by George Harrison “My Sweet Lord”. GH was singing solo; it dawned on me that the Beatles had disappeared and something permanent had gone from life. It brought a reality to the fore. Nothing is forever, no matter how good, and the transient nature of this life was grounded in my mind.
1971 was also the year when I figured out that school and freedom will not last forever. Life had existed on a daily basis and the maximum length of plans were while wondering how not to get bored in the summer holidays – there were very few international or local vacations in those days. So as I saw the previous years prefects and seniors disappear out of school, it finally drove home how things are supposed to be.
That summer saw the Summer of 42 being a big world wide hit and I could relate to teenage Hermie. A picture of love and tragedy formed and filters created in one evening in the Palace cinema, have formed an idyllic image of life’s tragic romance.
In October, I also realised that in this Allah’s world, optimism and hope are the final barrier to despondency and defeat. An ageing and bedraggled Pakistan hockey team, somehow miraculously struggled past India to win the inaugural Hockey World Cup. It created some fervour at a very crucial moment in our history, as you shall see next.
Simmering in the background since March was a political crisis, which vaguely created uneasiness in many of us. Stories coming out of the Eastern half of the country were not good and it seemed blood had flowed. Those were the days of no internet and a tight media code. So basically all accounts were anecdotal. As the year subsided, it was clear we were going to war with India. Only we did not know when. For a kid, it was very black and white. We were right and we will win the war. There was no second argument here.
My personal descent into adulthood started on Dec 11th, eight days into the war. Dennis Lillee produced a crazy spell for Australia at Perth of 8 for 29. The local papers celebrated that on the back page. I was enthused and pointed out the performance to my father. Only his reaction was very unusual. Teary eyed, his sharp reply was “Stop! Where are you? This country is being destroyed and you are talking of cricket”. In that moment, that whole year of self realisation fell into place. I withdrew into my corner and went into a deep dive within. The next ten days, I can tell you were the worse days of my life. Tears, prayers, self-reproach were the order of the day. It was not very different for many in this country, who in those few days came out of a stupor which had lasted a long time. I too came into my own. My personal graduation into adulthood, had commenced. I had been lucky till then, but my magic kingdom had disappeared in a flash. Life was never the same again. All the flavours had changed.
*picture is from dreamstime.com