Messi and Ronaldo on a microbus

What’re the odds of you getting into a public transport and finding someone wearing exactly the same clothes that you are? That too in a microbus of Kathmandu? Not much!

However, the chances increase during the World Cup.

And so it happened. Yours truly got in a microbus – a public transport vehicle that is just bigger than a car but can contain passengers as many as a bus, and found a seat –sometimes that’s a miracle in this city. The seat was next to a young man wearing a Brazil jersey, exactly what I had donned for the day.

Photo courtesy: Dinesh Gole
Photo courtesy: Dinesh Gole

Now there’s an unwritten code between sports fans that you appear elated seeing the people who support the same team, or the same player, whether or not you know each other. This is how sports unite people across cultures, countries and continents. Hence, I extended my grin to my fellow passenger. He reflected the same smile, a gesture warm enough to make me feel at home. Apparently, he had a bit more in his arsenal. Something that was enough to get me stumped.

“Brazil fan?” he asked.

For once, the question startled me. Why on earth would I wear a tee that’s bright yellow, almost hurting the eyes, in color, if I weren’t supporting that team? I had to gather all the modesty I could ever have to answer, “No! Once in a while I want to appear like Toriko phool (mustard flower).”

For a nanosecond, the man besides me appeared not to breathe. Then his grin grew wider and he started shaking. I wondered if he was laughing or the road conditions – potholes – got him into simple harmonic motion, a lá pendulum. Before I could decide the cause of his shake, suddenly, a female voice came from his other side, “But why do you want to look like a toriko phool?”

Stumped for the second time, within a few seconds! The question sucked air out of my lungs. How could I explain that? The fact was that I was trying to be humorous and not trying to look like a flower. I was forced to confess, “I’m actually a fan of Brazilian football. That’s why I wore this.”

The moment reminded me of my class teacher during the first grade, in front of whom we used to appear like innocent toddlers (children have amazing acting skills), no matter how much noise we created in her absence. All because she wielded the fiercest stick we could imagine at that age. This class teacher had no stick though!

The lady, probably in her early 20s, retorted, “See? I knew you were a Brazil fan right when I saw you. You’re wearing this jersey, no?” Brilliant! As if I was investigating the reason behind her genius. Yet the opportunity demanded that I remain polite. Politely, I asked, “Do you like football?”

“Of course. Who doesn’t?” the lady retorted (I doubt if my question was over by then). She added, “I like Messi, he’s so cute. I like Ronaldo too, and a lot of other players.”

The man, by then, was feeling ignored in the conversation that he had started. To mark his presence, he asked gruffly, “How can a football fan like both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the same time? How many times I’ve told you, you don’t understand football?” Apparently, he was nonplussed with a girl claiming to understand football.

The lady’s focus shifted. I no longer existed in her universe now. “See, you don’t understand. Messi is the hardworking kind of person. Has a pleasant face. The kind of a person you would like as a friend. But Ronaldo is hot. He’s what you want your boyfriend to look like.”

Suddenly I appeared in her panorama. “I told him so many times to have a haircut like Ronaldo. He doesn’t do that,” she explained the relationship between both of them. Fearing it could go too personal, I tried to change the topic somewhat. “Do you play football?”

Her answer was quick, “Nah, I don’t. I have a reason. Do you think I can wear the same outfit other 10 girls are wearing in public at the same time?”

Stumped for the third time, I was, during the microyatra

PS: This write-up appeared in the weekend edition of Republica, The Week, on 27 July, 2014.

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