May 2010, Mumbai, India
”CRICKET FOR PEACE”
Every year for the past 14 years, the Mumbai Police, in association with the Mohalla Movement Trust and Janvi Charitable Trust, have worked together to organize a massive cricket tournament that connects all 91 police stations and communities across Mumbai. The idea is to have a team consisting of one police officer team up with children below the age of 21, of different religions, covering all the minorities such as Muslim, Hindu and Christian, to create a sense of communal harmony among the many religions that make up the melting pot of Mumbai. The idea for the tournament came after the huge clash in the early 90′s between the Muslim and Hindu communities that killed and injured hundreds.
Over the past couple of months, I have met members of the Mohalla Movement Trust, and was invited on several occasions to come to the tournament.
I arrived at the cricket ground early in the morning to find Ashley and his team preparing for their opening match. As they took to the field I began to take photographs. Under a large tent sat high-ranking Police Officials and VIP’s who came to watch the tournament. As both teams prepared to start the match, the announcer let everyone on the cricket grounds know that Mr. Kane of Canada was here and would be taking photos of all the action?! The action on the field stopped, and soon hundreds of people were smiling and waving at me. Then the announcer called to me over the microphone and summoned me to the tent. I was introduced to several of Mumbai’s highest ranking Police Officers, and offered a seat at their table so I would have a good spot to take photos.
As I sat with the police officers, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these high-ranking officers were honest policemen. Corruption in Mumbai’s police force is rampant and in the news every day. Millions (crores) of rupees are channeled through the police force in the form of bribes and theft and the general public has a very bad opinion of the police force. It would be naive to think that the money being extorted from Mumbai’s poorest inhabitants does not make it into the hands of some of these men. Being a police officer in Mumbai, the world’s second largest city, would not be an enviable or an easy job, and I hoped that I was sitting with honourable men.
Janvi’s team won their first two matches and had a place in the final which would take place after lunch. After the final match was played, I was asked to take group photographs of the teams and of the award ceremonies. The police also graced me with a small award and a certificate, acknowledging my participation in the tournament and I was invited to attend the Grand Final.
On the day of the Grand Final, huge tents had been erected and hundreds of people were milling about waiting for the match to begin. Both the Mumbai Police and the Mohalla Movement Trust had spared little expense and had big plans for the day’s events. A colourful commentator announced the day’s VIP’s and honoured guests. The list was long and quite prestigious and included the top Police Commisioner and Chief of Mumbai, two former Commisioners, an Indian cricket star, two beautiful Bollywood actresses, and a noted Bollywood director to round out the list. Once all the VIP’s were seated, the match began. It was a hard fought contest, with the home ground team winning in a nail biter. Cricket is not a sport that I’m a huge fan of, but watching Indians play, and watch, with such passion, is well worth the spectacle. Cricket is the common bond that reaches across all castes, classes, races and religions, and is usually a part of most conversations in India. On this day, it was all about the police and the children playing together in a game they all love. I was allowed to sit in the VIP section, behind all the stars, to capture the event from behind the lens of my camera.
The award ceremony seemed to be the focus of the entire day and was complete with an energized, well-acted play about the 2008′s terrorist attacks on Mumbai, singing, and more speeches.
The idea behind this cricket tournament is a great one. With so many different religions and beliefs in India, nothing is more important than harmonizing the communities. Approximately 18 million people live in Mumbai with very little personal space. Acknowledging that there are differences in religion is a must to be able to to live together in this over-crowded, muggy, hot, polluted city.
Just another interesting day in “Incredible India”….