The world cup of patriotism

The world cup of patriotism

right in the middle: It was in 2011, that I truly grasped the magnitude of this sporting event.

It is often said that there is not one India but little pieces of her scattered across every corner of the globe.

While our pride for the nation and respect for culture has played a big role in maintaining this connect with the homeland irrespective of geography, it is not our most unifying factor. That coveted place on the mantel is solely reserved for cricket, especially the world cup that comes once every four years.

It was in 2011, a watershed year for Indian cricket, that I truly grasped the magnitude of this sporting event and its connection to India. We had just touched down in Los Angeles International airport after a long flight from Bengaluru. The driver of our pre-booked taxi seemed like an affable fellow, helping my family with our luggage until he saw the three-month-old baby in my arms.

“Where is the baby’s car seat?” he asked us. On being informed that we didn’t have one, he refused to let us sit in his car citing strict vehicle norms. We tried reasoning with him that we had just gotten off the flight and would purchase a car seat at the nearest store on the way, but he refused to budge and spooked other taxi drivers into supporting his stance. As a result, no one agreed to take us in.

It had been two hours since we had come out of the airport and the baby had begun to get cranky in the biting early morning cold. We had just started to panic when a turban-clad, Indian-origin taxi driver pulled over and enquired about what had happened.

He listened impassively and then said that the other drivers were right. It was illegal and unsafe to take a child without a car seat. Our hopes sank as he turned on the ignition and left.

We were on a round of desperate calls, waking people we knew in the city to give us a ride at that unearthly time when the turban-clad driver returned. “Sit down,” his voice boomed in Hindi, from inside the taxi. When we got into the back seat, we were stunned to see a car seat.

“It’s borrowed from a friend,” he told us. Within moments, he had secured our son on the car seat and stowed our luggage inside the boot. His name was Satwinder Singh, he told us, a first generation immigrant from Punjab, whose children were well settled in the US.

An hour later when we reached our destination, my husband gratefully gave him a big tip but he refused. When my husband insisted, he folded his hands and shook his head.

“I had prayed to Wahe Guruji,” he said, with a big smile on his lips, “that if India beat Pakistan in the semi finals, I will not accept any fare from my fellow countrymen and will offer all my income from that day on to the gurudwara. And he has made it happen today.”

Caught up in the hustle and bustle of travel, we had completely forgotten about the world cup match that would have ended in the early hours of the morning, US pacific standard time.

We watched in awe as the man elicited a promise from us to purchase a car seat for the baby at the earliest and zoomed out of view. We never saw him again but his words and magnanimity will always stay with us.

We will be thinking of him when India takes on Pakistan on the 15th of February and we pray that India is victorious once again so that another family walks away deeply touched by the love an Indian has for his motherland, no matter which corner of the world he lives in.

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