Holiday, please! - Adiah Afraz - Sunday, March 27, 2011

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Do you know what Pakistan is doing this coming Wednesday?

Well, I do.

On Wednesday, Pakistan is pretending to be sick, is taking a day off from work, is sitting at home in front of the TV, and is collectively palpitating over what can rightly be termed as the curious case of Kamran Akmal.

In fact, all everybody seems to be palpitating over in Pakistan since the last few days is not Raymond Davis, not President Zardari, not media and judiciary, but India, Pakistan and Kamran Akmal.

While there might not be anything new about either one of these, when the three of them are put together in a cricket field – especially when the cricket fever in Pakistan has finally reached a frantic pitch, and more especially so when somebody behind the wicket with his two left hands isn’t really helping any – then all thought of things more serious in life evaporate like mist and grown men are reduced to frantic toddlers, screaming for a ball that somebody has dropped or not.

And Wednesday seems to be the culmination of this all. It is the day of Pakistan-India Cricket World Cup semi-finals, and I don’t think there are words more significant than these six, in the whole lexis of the South Asian region. This is the day of loud cheers, louder curses and a ritualistic airing of our long lost nationalism. A kind of day that comes a few times in a lifetime, and deserves special mention in history every time it is written for a new generation of cricket fans.

Speaking of the new generation of cricket fans, my students at the university want me to cancel all classes on Wednesday, and for once I empathise with this demand. Who would want to sit tight for two hours straight, sweating over verbs and clauses and proofreading for unity and coherence when they could be watching Shahid Afridi locking horns with Yuvraj Singh with an Indo-Pak crowd cheering both of them on?

There is a question of life and death being decided in the cricket field on Wednesday, and everybody I know has been bowled over with anticipation.

My handyman says he cannot meet the work deadline I have set for him, simply because he is suddenly, mysteriously busy on Wednesday. A friend’s cell phone has a blinking things-to-do reminder that says “fake accident on Tuesday, leave on Wednesday.” Many have planned on acquiring complicated diseases starting on Monday and lasting till Thursday. There are semi-final parties being hosted with attractions like big screens and mini muffins, and cinema halls are being booked for live screening of the match.

My car radio (yes, I still call it a radio) spews nothing but patriotic songs full of promises of victory these days, and there is repeated mention of “watan ki mitti” in one context or another. Pictures of cricketers have popped up on every Facebook profile, and there are heated discussions on everybody’s and their aunts’ walls about the merits of India’s bowling attack, Yuvraj Singh’s winning streak, Shoaib Akhtar’s fitness issues, Pakistan’s indispensability and, above all, aspirations of taking India down on its own soil. Special wazeefas are being circulated via sms to facilitate victory, heartfelt pleas are being made to acquire “just one” ticket for the semi-finals in Mohali, and tips are being shared for quick visa-to-India arrangements and last-minute reservations in three-star hotels.

The bottom line is that finally we have something genuinely exciting to look forward to, and something worthwhile to hope for in a dismal and drab social scenario, and that makes the coming Wednesday festive, loaded with anticipation, and full of holiday swing.

So do you blame me, my dear friends, if on popular demand of friends, colleagues, family, students, and a friend on Facebook (who actually made this suggestion), I propose that the coming Wednesday should be declared a national holiday?

In my defence, nobody is working on Wednesday anyway. And if anyone believes otherwise, then he or she seriously needs to wake up and look around. See, even the president and the prime minister might not be working that day. Haven’t they been invited to India to watch the match live? Now, if they don’t go to see the match due to whatever issues that keep presidents and prime ministers from going to India to watch an exciting cricket match, then the least they can do to reciprocate this friendly gesture made by India is to declare Wednesday a holiday.

India might not benefit from this, but Pakistan most definitely will!

Please don’t think that I am going a bit overboard in (mis)understanding the cricket diplomacy. My point is that, logical or illogical, the demand is popular. We do everything on unpopular demand all the time, why not try the popular demand this week and see where it takes us.

Aren’t we one of those few nations in the world that works six days a week without really doing any good to itself? If we haven’t achieved much in the last 63 years working six days a week, what greatness could we possibly be losing out on by working one less day this week?

And if somebody has a feeling that you never know we might achieve that particular greatness this Wednesday, then let’s make a deal. Although I still think that this kind of thing would be highly unnecessary, just to appease the laziness-bashers we can offer to work on Sunday instead!

It has never been done before, I know, but what’s the harm in trying? As the anonymous saying goes, “Do it because it’s never been done before.” So, give us a holiday. Because we are worth it.

The writer is an academic. Email: adiah

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