At my school the identical writing we were all taught was a matter of deadly seriousness. The nuns could compromise on anything (though they didn’t on most things), but handwriting was a non-negotiable. As a result I spent whole summers neatly copying out page after page of idioms with perfectly loopy Ls and impeccably crossed out Ts to arrive at a handwriting indistinguishable from the rest of my peers’. Such diligent practice means I have never since been able to unlearn the clichés that are stored in my mental hard drive. A rolling stone gathers no moss, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, empty vessels make the most noise. This last one I always had a particularly uneasy relationship with. It’s moral like a personal admonition of my high-strung, chatty disposition. Over time though, I have begun to find out, ‘empty vessels make the most noise’ is less a rebuke to the gregarious and more a warning to the conceited.
And it never feels more relevant than during crucial Pakistani matches. In a powerless country with little to celebrate, cricket is the last bastion of Pakistani pride. A win assures us we aren’t the failed state the rest of the world is determined to make us out to be. For after all, here we are competing against India, taking them on blow for blow. On the cricket field. Apparently a lot of people are still sold on the idea that winning in cricket has a deeper significance than just a win in a sport. And while in 1986 it may have roused a feeling of patriotic fervour in me, today Afridi’s heroics seem nothing more than what they are, an exciting innings in a match on a given day. Pleasant enough but nothing that will change the fundamental state of my existence. My twitter timeline begs to differ. Apparently people’s entire weeks, even lifetimes have been impacted by this ‘historic’ win. The morning after the victory a bomb blast took 10 lives in Islamabad. Some hungover from the cricket still went on celebrating in a parallel universe, their wild merriment barely managing to mask the desperation in their desire to see something positive coming out of the state of Pakistan. And who but the worst curmudgeon could begrudge such a blighted people their small happinesses.
And nobody would if these celebrations didn’t all too quickly devolve into the kind of delusion and xenophobia that say much more about our defeated mindsets than a loss against India ever could. It isn’t the victory of the confident who can afford to be gracious once assured the upper hand, it is the win of the bully with insecurities writ large all over his desire to annihilate others. Not the happiness of your own win but a perverse pleasure in somebody else’s loss. How else can one describe the need to pass around and laugh over pictures of wailing women, or crowing over the protruding teeth of a young child supporting his team? In using rape and war analogies that reveal your nationalistic chauvinism rather than your patriotism? In no other way but in the emptiness (and the utter sense of defeat in the larger arena) of the vessels making all this noise.