Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Sunday in the Park

If it's Sunday afternoon and you're in Kolkata, there's really only one place to be. That's the Maidan, the big green expanse that stretches down from Eden Gardens to the Race Course, and across from the Hooghly river to the Chowringhee Road.

Eden Gardens is to Kolkata what Wrigley Field is to Chicago, or Wembley to London. It is where the battle lines are drawn in cricket: Kolkata's Coliseum. The north end of the Maidan is dominated by the four huge spotlights that light up the night sky during evening matches. To the south, the St Pauls-like dome of the Victoria Memorial looms through the haze.

Down on the ground, things are rather more mundane. The balls are tennis balls, the wickets makeshift and the creases whatever space is available. Little boys with bamboo sticks tend their goats along the way.

There is the occasional cheer as a wicket is hit, a particularly high ball goes up or a good catch is made. There are frequent stops: for snacks, to stretch out on the grass, talk on mobile phones or speak to passing Englishwomen.

"You like football?" asked one group, who were packing up as I walked past. Three of them wore Manchester United shirts.

"Match tonight at Old Trafford vs Liverpool. 8.25pm" said one of them authoritatively.

There is NO escape from the Premier League.

Words and Pictures © Louise Heal 2008

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