The city of Calcutta (a moniker I greatly prefer to Kolkata) recently went pink. We know that the present ruling dispensation’s favourite colour is blue. However, needs must. When a cricket crazy city like Calcutta decides to host the first ever day / night Test Match in India at the storied Eden Gardens, to be played with a pink cricket ball, the powers-that-be have little option but to go pink in the face. From what we could see on television, pretty much the entire city was gaily converted into a brilliant profusion of pink buntings, banners and floats. Doubtless the brainchild of some marketing guru’s fertile mind, the local administrators went to work in feverish haste to get the city all dolled up in garish pink before the first pink ball was bowled. Building facades, lampposts, streetlights, public transport – you name it, they had ‘pinked’ it.
As for the stadium at the Eden Gardens, no effort was spared to ensure that the arena metamorphosed into a sea of pink before the game commenced. Public response was brilliant for a Test Match, and the day night affair ensured a full house. People were face-painted and decked out in pink attire of every possible description, and the ‘festival of pink’ was truly joined. Sourav Ganguly, Calcutta’s favourite son, recently crowned supremo of the BCCI, and a former India captain of no mean provenance, basked in the pink afterglow. The gentlemen and ladies of Calcutta were in the pink of health and good cheer.
Rumours that the political bigwigs at the original Pink City, Jaipur were planning to take the state government of Bengal to court for wrongly appropriating its legally protected nom de plume, proved to be just that – a false rumour. Just some well-timed spice by social media mischief makers.
It is entirely incidental, almost trite, to report that India vanquished the brave, but ill-equipped Bangladesh team comprehensively by an innings, well inside three days. That the spectators at the Eden Gardens were deprived of a further two days of play in this Test match in no way dampened their spirits. In retrospect, perhaps the occasion warranted a stronger opposition – an Australia or an England, but we will let that pass. This particular game was more of an occasion, a celebration to inaugurate an exciting new innovation aimed at reviving public interest in Test cricket, and that objective was achieved in spades. That captain Kohli essayed another brilliant hundred and India decimated the opposition through a troika of fearsome fast bowlers was a novel and invigorating sight. Let us doff our hats to the city of Calcutta, its sports mad denizens and its administrators. When it comes to putting on a sporting show, few cities in India can match the passion and élan with which Calcutta trundles its wares.
There was much erudite discussion on television by self-appointed experts about how the pink ball would behave, the extra lacquer applied on it allowing the proud seam ‘to talk,’ that it will swing more after twilight – on and on went our commentators. Given half a chance the Sanjay Manjrekars and Harsha Bhogles can talk the hind legs off a donkey. To add spice, the two worthies crossed swords as well. Still and all, they had something new to talk about, and we must cut them some slack. After all, they are paid to do just that.
As I had suggested earlier, it was not just the cricket that was subject to this striking wave of pink. Elsewhere in the city, there was much brain picking on how the ‘pink fever’ can be taken advantage of to add to the frisson. I can only hazard an educated guess as to what might have happened in the City of Joy. I am speculating that the most popular drink in clubs, pubs and other watering holes of Calcutta would have been pink gin or pink champagne. The establishments would have announced a ‘one for one’ offer and Calcutta’s casual imbibers and serious topers would have been raising merry hell. Themed parties across the city would have exhorted guests to arrive in predominantly pink attire.
Baby girls born in the city during Test match week would have, without exception, been named Pinky. This would have greatly added to the already existing profusion of Pinky Bagchis, Pinky Bhattacharyas and Pinky Boses. The baby boys would have had to make do with sucking their thumbs and being called Pintu. The pious nuns at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity might have considered wearing pink saris during the week, which would have cheered the inmates up no end, though Mother T might have turned in her grave.
The once famous, but now closed discotheque in Calcutta, The Pink Elephant, would have reopened on the wave of an emotional upsurge over the pink Test Match. Giant screens featuring the game would have streamed continuously while the young men and women danced to golden oldies such as Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, Theme from the Pink Panther, Lily the Pink, Pink Moon and Pink Cadillac.
A specially curated film festival with a ‘Pink’ theme would have played for a week at the Nandan theatre. The following films select themselves – Pink, The Pink Panther (the entire Peter Sellers and Steve Martin franchises), Jonah and the Pink Whale, and Pink Floyd – The Wall. Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who starred in Pink and Pink Panther 2 respectively, would be the chief guests. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would have cut the ribbon, clad in a white sari with a pink border. A pink sari with a white border might have been striking, but the strong lady might have thrown a fit at the idea.
As a final coup de grace, a grand dinner, under the auspices of the BCCI with Sourav ‘Dada’ Ganguly as mine host, would be arranged at one of Calcutta’s swank hotels. The who’s who of the city would be invited. Again, pink being the primary dress code. The cricketers from India and Bangladesh would be the cynosures. Selfie seekers would be well advised to take Dada’s help in identifying the largely anonymous Bangladesh cricketers. All the dishes would be garnished with pink topping. This might be off-putting turning the guests a bilious pink, but the sensation will pass. Pink rosogollas and pink mishti doi will go down a treat.
The greeting protocol for the evening would be to cross or hook pinkies (little fingers), instead of the conventional handshake. So there you go. Calcutta, as is its wont, will leave no ingenious stone unturned to mark the inauguration of the pink game. As the party winds its weary way to an end, the band strikes up the well-known Indian nursery rhyme, Inky pinky ponky. Padma Shri Usha Uthup, decked up in a brilliant pink sari, her forehead adorned with a large pink bindi, with the Bengali letter ‘ক’stencilled in, leads the chorus and all the guests join in lustily. As the guests troop out of the hotel, Sourav Ganguly is overheard stage whispering to wife Dona, ‘If I don’t see the colour pink again, it will be perfectly all right with me. Boledilam!’*
*Boledilam! (Bengali) – Literally, ‘I’ve told you.’ Idiomatically, ‘Just watch it.’ Or in Rajinikanth’s immortal phrase, ‘Mind it.’