Football matches at the Park Circus Maidaan are a common sight. The ground has six pitches, most of them occupied during summer evenings by local teams made up of college-going players. Passers-by tend to linger a while, expressing support for one team or another. Those keen to follow a full game squat on the grass around the periphery of the pitch, inching into the playing area as the game progresses. They are so close to the action that they are almost a part of it. It’s like watching a play where your seat is adjacent to and on the same level as the stage. However, unlike a theatre, you have to be alert at all times, lest a ball hit you.
That evening was no different. The Anglo Indian Park Union team was playing in red jerseys and the Desh Bandhoos in blue. All attention seemed to be riveted on them. Other teams, playing without proper uniforms, came across as ragged outfits in comparison. Most of the spectators being Bengali-speaking, were Desh Bandhoo supporters. This cheered the team no end. An unusual sight that evening was the presence of a sizeable number of enthusiastic Anglo-Indian girls among the spectators.
Dada and the Anglo-Indian – the first contact
Dilip dada (elder brother), as he was called, was captaining the Desh Bandhoos. Eighteen-year old Dilip was a big brother indeed. A hooligan and a bully, everyone feared him. As the whistle blew, he took control of the ball. Playing centre-forward with nimble footwork, he dribbled well. Moving skillfully through his opponents, he was in possession of the ball for almost a minute before passing it to his left-in, who managed to take control after some hic-ups. The left-in was a fast runner; he took charge and move towards the D. The opponents offered good resistance as they seemed to be a better team. Dilip was desperately waiting for a pass but it was almost a lost cause by the time he got one. It took a huge effort from him to dive to a header to score that goal. The crowd erupted into cries of ‘dada, dada.’
An Anglo-Indian lady gave Dilip a beaming smile. ‘What a beauty!’ thought Dilip, as their eyes met before a youthful girl whispered something in her ear. He recalled the presumably young girl standing near their goal post with her friends, while the Desh Bandhoo players were changing for the match. Being a make-shift football pitch, there were no changing rooms on the ground. The players hadn’t taken kindly to this intrusion and Dilip- whom the girls were scrutinising – had done something drastic. As if by accident, he had pulled down his football shorts to reveal something that had them scandalised. They had shot off immediately, much to the amusement of Dilip’s team mates who had had a hearty laugh, ‘dada, kichomotkaar.’
A sudden turn of events
However, the tables turned on Desh Bandhoo as the game progressed. Park Union were now able to exercise their defence and score without much effort. The Anglo-Indian girls were proving to be a great distraction in their miniskirts, playing cheer leaders every time Park Union scored a goal. With the leg show and the lusty cries of the spectators, Dilip and his mates could hardly concentrate on their game. It almost appeared to be a losing cause.
What happened next was not in the spirit of the game. A major dispute broke out as the referee wrongly called an offside. Supporters from either side invaded the pitch and beat up the referee before attacking the players. As a result, the game degenerated into a fight between the two sides and their supporters. Given the sheer number of supporters, Desh Bandhoos held the upper hand. The situation was indeed grave for the Anglo-Indian women; their safety was in question. Sensing the danger, Dilip headed in the direction of the Anglo-Indian lady who had smiled at him, placed her on his broad shoulders and ran to the safety of a building across the road. The wail of police sirens drowned out her screams.
Getting out of control
Dilip rushed to a balcony on the first floor of the building. He put the lady down, but held on to her hand in a firm grip. The lady landed a tight slap across his left cheek. This shook him up. He was about to retaliate when the lady screamed, ‘you want to rape me, you scoundrel.’ ‘Why have you brought me here?’ she screamed again. Dilip did not know what to say, he just tried to calm her down but she wriggled out of his grip. Her looks mesmerised him and he started to move towards her. ‘Stay away from me,’ she screamed and he stopped dead. She is a strong woman, he thought. ‘I am sorry’ he said. Composing herself, she looked down at the scene below and exclaimed, ‘oh my God!’
An unexpected misunderstanding
By now the police had assumed control and were busy rounding up the rioters and the girls. Dilip saw her concern. He wanted to calm her down, but equally, he was aching to take her in his arms. ‘Don’t you dare touch me,’ she exploded like a lioness, ‘I am old enough to be your mother.’ He was aghast in disbelief. He noticed her looking at the girls. The police were handcuffing them before leading them to the police van. She looked at Dilip sternly and again looked at the scene below in helplessness. ‘I am their teacher and look what I have done,’ she said and broke down. Dilip was shaken up. He was dying to make amends and struggling to think of a way to help her out of this mess. ‘It’s not wise for me to go down now, they will arrest me too. How will that help?’ she said. ‘I will do, whatever you…you…’ Dilip started to stammer, his desire to be in her arms grew ten-fold. Dilip saw her look of disgust as she told him ‘you have such a dirty mind, you deliberately undressed me in front of my students.’
‘I am sorry, I didn’t mean to, it was just a reflex action in the heat of the moment. I will do whatever you say now,’ said Dilip. ‘Let’s go to the police station to bail them out’ she commanded. Dilip sprang into action. He ran down and she after him. He hailed a rickshaw and they quickly headed towards the police station.
Cindy’s and Dada’s minds were racing as the rickshaw sped to the police station. The vehicle had its destination cut out; the passengers were unsure of their own.
It was a classic clash of the perceptions of two opposing cultures. What seemed right to Dilip Dada was unacceptable to Cindy and vice versa. Each acted based on their own upbringing and thinking, not realising that their actions would be misconstrued as offensive by the other. What is one supposed to do in such situations? Stay calm and do nothing? That wasn’t possible either. The situation was getting out of hand and some remedial action was necessary. According to you, how could the situation have been handled better?