National Games, here among us!!!
I have to admit that I am strictly a sports aficionado who refuses to stir from the sofa. Tennis was my first spectator sport. But once the likes of Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini left the court, I too lost interest. I have stuck to (of course, only watching) cricket for the rest of my life.
The fact remains that I have yet to see a live cricket match. The closest I have got to a live one is when I called one of my relatives who had got the tickets to a match in Kochi ( he didn't even breathe a word to me till he was well-ensconced in the stadium!) and I called him while the match was going on hoping to absorb at least the crowd noise live through the phone. Of course I always held that "It's better to watch a match on TV - you get a better view and none of the hassles". No, please, don't say a word about the round green/dark purple fruit that grows aplenty in bunches on vines!!!
With all of this, DH did have to persuade me a LOT to go to the newly inaugurated (and yet unfinished) Greenfield Stadium that has risen in our neck of the woods to see the Opening Ceremony of the National Games 2015. He tried his best to get passes, but couldn't find any. But then the government announced that all those who made it to the stadium before seats were filled would be allowed to get in from 2pm onwards on the 31st of Jan.
So we swallowed a hasty lunch and left home at 1pm on DH's antiquarian motorbike. We adjured the kids and MIL to keep their eyes glued to the TV once the program started at 5pm. The old and trusted bike took us right up to the venue (so easy to park!!!). I was expecting long queues in the hot sun and was not sure of the refreshment opportunities. So in a tote I was carrying: 2 bottles of water = 4 liters, 1 kids' lunchbox full of masala peanuts (DH's speciality) and two caps. The lady policewoman at the checking area opened the peanut box and grinned up at me before waving us in!
There is DH in front of the stadium. To our delight, we were shown in to the lower bowl of the stadium itself. I went back to the security guy to check and make sure that we were not being shown into any of the reservation seats. After his repeated assurances, we chose our seats for the day and settled down. I loved the bright primary colors all around me...
The stands were mostly empty at the time since there was more than 3 hours to go before the scheduled program, but we didn't feel bored at all! There was a lot to see. We especially had these fellas to look at - they were in place even before we took our seats..
We took turns to explore the stadium. In the meanwhile as the stadium slowly filled, there appeared a guy right behind us, who was all prepared to get on national television. We caught him doing this:
Besides balancing skills, he also had a poster with him which he waved madly from time to time, but suffice to say, it was just not his day! Poor guy!
But soon enough, dusk fell fast, the lights of the stadium blinked on and the program started!!!Just take a look at those stands now??!!!
We were too far away to capture the salient events of the evening on film. But once Sachin, the brand ambassador of this edition of the Games appeared on the giant screens, we heartily joined the crowd in cheering him. The navy band played popular tunes in the time it took to get the formal programs going. Soon it was time for the Games torch to take a run around the stadium. As the giant lamp was ignited, a deafening roar went up from the crowd - and I belatedly realized that I was on my feet roaring as lustily as anybody else!
As the teams march past came to an end, there was a slight lull as the evening switched gears into what they called "the arts protocol". A fantastic traditional solo percussion performance got the beat going followed by all the traditional orchestra performance of Kerala: the Thayambaka, the Panchavadyam etc. - I am not proficient enough to distinguish each. But I can tell you that it was completely mesmerizing.
After percussion, came a theme play "War Cry" with the story of the triumph of Kunjali Marakkar over the Portuguese colonial force with the narration by Mohanlal on the big screens and the dance parts performed on the centre stage held the crowd's attention. But we didn't know that it was more a filler in preparation for something else as we were absorbed in the play.
When the stadium was lighted up again after the play, we were amazed to find the arena lined with torches and ceremonial umbrellas and a huge array of performing artistes representing almost all the known traditional performing art forms in Kerala...
That was the moment I really wished we had brought the kids along so that I could point out the art forms to them. I sincerely hoped they were watching it on TV. In the midst of all this, we were treated to several bouts of fireworks that had us all going ooh and aah as the colors exploded above our heads and thundered in our hearts...
In all the hullaballoo, I found some quiet time of my own to try and capture the wonderful, shimmering haze that the crisscrossing beams of light were creating in the dark sky above us ...
I guess it's as near to the Northern Lights that I can get at this time! :)
Soon it was the turn of Mohanlal to make his mark on the night with the debut of his band Lalisom. But by then it was more than 9 hours since we had been in the stadium. So after tapping our heels to the third song that was an old favorite, "Meri Sapnon Ki Rani", DH and I called it a night, found our bike parked at the perimeter wall of the stadium and made it back home, bone tired, but thoroughly happy.
So how was my first live stadium experience? In spite of the noise-induced headache, in spite of all the grit that scratched my face while I tried to wipe the sweat off, in spite of a throat excoriated by all the cheering and in spite of arms that ached for hours afterwards because of all that clapping ... I LOVED IT!!! So here's my recommendation to my readers: do not try to put off whoever invites you to a live program in a huge stadium. Go for it!!!