The way the Pakistani cricket team was escorted from the airport on its arrival was appalling. You would think India was a terrorist nation. You would think that thousands of Indians were waiting in the wings with the intent to do bodily harm. Looking at the heavy security you would believe sitting in Hong Kong or Houston that this wasn’t the World Cup, this was a preparation for a World war… and you would cancel your flight.
We are not like that. We might have some fringe elements who would dig up a pitch or run around in circles making silly protestations and wave a few banners but we do not wear suicide vests or place bombs or set off grenades. As a people we do not hurt other people. Those who wanted to make their adverse feelings known did so, but now that the team in green is here they are honoured guests. No Indian is going to hurt them.
We are good people, for the most part gentle people, who never would, ever could hurt a visitor.
This whole impression that we are some sort of beleaguered country in the centre of a crisis is ridiculous. There is no siege and our history, our traditions are so steeped in hospitality that we would opt to invite the Pakistani players home for dinner.
We have already shown our affection for talent by getting Shahid Afridi into trouble by showering him with affection. Inadvertent but so spontaneous.
We have that unique ability to separate the political hostility from the personal. None of us are going to harm these guys. Ergo, there is no need to go on a Defcon One alert status and send out the wrong signals. The world watching would wonder if this really is a safe nation to visit, and whether Indians are militant and this huge democracy is in fact turning into a banana republic?
And if we are and this kind of threat is for real, then that is even worse. Think for a moment if I am wearing rose tinted glasses and there are people out there who would hurt a sports team, then how did we get to this pass. Which chapters did we miss out or misread when benign India morphed into violent India?
I am watching the scenes on the TV and I am thinking, this is such a terrible image, we are not like this, we have never been like this, not even during the partition in 1947 when scores of Hindus and Muslims gave each comfort and harbour when those around them had gone mad. Not in 1984 when non Sikhs rushed to the rescue of their neighbours. Not in the clutch of adverse moments that have pockmarked our decades when individuals did the right thing when it would have been more convenient to do the wrong.
Can we just play cricket please and not make security into such a huge issue? It is not. Indians are on the global stage. Whatever our politics, whatever our allegiance or our suspicions and reservations we are not going to make fools of ourselves over a cricket tournament. We just do not have that mindset.
I truly do not want to see the venues looking like they were the frontline of a battle theatre. I don’t want to see fans hassled. I don’t want to see any team arriving or leaving as if they had a target painted on their backs. The more we show of bristling uniforms the more we send out inaccurate imagery.
Security is like underwear. It is indecent if it shows.
This is not cricket.
This is crazy.