The Indian Premier League enters its 6th season and in those six years, I have nurtured a significant liking for Kolkata biriyani. Along the way, a question has also grown in significance in my mind - what is the connection between Kolkata Chowmein and IPL T20 cricket? (I will explain the chowmein/biriyani angle in a bit. Be patient.)
In the City of Joy, from Mamata Banerjee to me, everybody digs the chowmein; affectionately called 'noodles' in some other parts of the world. You choose whether you want only egg, only chicken, egg-chicken, mutton, paneer, or other vegetables, and then you choose whether you want the ketchup or the chili sauce, or both, and then, a salad dressing or not. Unfortunately, you cannot choose the oil in which the chowmein is fried in, and how much it is to be fried. And then when one full plate of chowmein is served to you, the aroma won't give you any oriental vibes whatsoever, and the supply shall outrun your demands.
But, the layered taste of a biriyani comes from the slow cooking and a wise selection of the appropriate spices, which cannot be expected from an Indianized Chinese fast food. As the logic goes, "contempt (in terms of cooking) breeds familiarity (in terms of taste)". It is very hard, even if not impossible, to achieve subtlety of taste in Indianized Chinese fast food.
In such times, when T20 is accepted as the most democratic form of the sport, because it levels the playing field of brains and brawns, I find it hard, almost impossible to write authoritative, reasonable, sensible and 'food for thought' essays, which would critically analyse the sport and it's modern traditions. I am no pundit, nor a cricket-writing virtuoso, but if you can make a career out of mishits and top edges, I am ready to give myself a few more chances. And I have decided to write about the business of cricket.
When the sport was making its way through the veins of this country, it used to be the business of CRICKET. Then, a certain Kerry Packer made it the BUSINESS of Cricket. And then came the Lalit Modis and the cement honchos, and it became the B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S of cricket. And oh yes, in all of this, cricket just lost the uppercase. Not that I personally loathe T20 cricket, I do occasionally enjoy Kolkata Chowmein.
By the end of the last season, one could clearly identify three phases of IPL Capitalism -
1. The Exponential Phase: The sudden surge of T20 cricket that made money for a lot of people. You walked down the busy College Street in Kolkata, and you could see Chowmein sold all day long to students who have freshly tasted the freedom of eating fast food daily.
2. The Mining Kings Phase: After a point of time, the big cats took over and pulled out all the stops to squeeze the last dripping bit of money out of everywhere. In the more populous streets, the small vendors are generally shown the long handle.
3. IPL T20 Season 6: Once all the cash cows have been milked, there remains no alternative but to sedate the poor animal and milk it harder than ever before.
Now my knowledge of fast food is dying out.
The noted sports psychologist Ljubodrag Simonovic wrote in one of his books that he has always considered capitalist sport as a means of distracting people from the social and political system of oppression and repression. I too believe the street's chowmein can often serve as a stress buster after a long day under the sun. As those deep fried pieces of chicken and noodles make their way into your digestive system, you feel better, lighter. And after a considerable period of time, you face the repercussions of trusting the chowmein. And then you complain for the next few days till you land up for another plate.