No longer stumpedKnowingly or unknowingly, I always find myself giving justifications when I share my interest in cricket
I grew up watching cricket. When Lance Klusener failed to reach the target set by Australia for South Africa in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup, I cried. I was merely 12 years old when that happened and since then, over the years, I have keenly followed most of the matches played by South Africa. At times, I have even bunked my classes to watch games. These days, if I am at work when the Proteas are playing, I make sure that one of the tabs on my computer screen is of a cricket website. So I have seen South Africa lose many crucial matches in World Cups and win just as many difficult games. When the Proteas were chasing 434 against Australia in 2006, I was glued to the TV screen and almost had a heart attack when they saved a Test match against Australia in 2012. When Dale Steyn bowled the last over in the 2014 T20 World Cup against New Zealand I could not stop myself from jumping with joy. I have stood outside shops in India and watched many matches with complete strangers. So technically, the South African cricket team and I go a long way. In fact, cricket and I go a very long way.
The wrong reason
Knowingly or unknowingly, I find myself providing justifications whenver I share this interest of mine with the people I meet. “I grew up in a neighbourhood where there were many boys and they used to play cricket and I used to fetch the ball whenever it would go to our neighbours’ houses” or “I went to India for my undergrads and you cannot imagine the craze of cricket there…you just succumb to that craziness.” These are some of the reasons I give to people when they ask me how I came to be so interested in cricket. I feel I am always defending myself for liking something that should not be my cup of tea or am trying to fit into an arena that does not belong to me. Till date, I do not think I have ever told anyone that I just enjoy watching cricket and that is why I watch the game.
As I have always been vocal against the patriarchal beliefs that grips our society and have resulted in an inequitable system, culture, and laws, I thought that I was immune. But, I was wrong. As much as I fight against the system, I am also a product of it, which perpetuates these hierarchies and inequalities.
Recently, I decided to go through a few textbooks from our primary schools to examine the kind of messages they impart to young children. I was surprised to find an extremely gendered division of roles, duties, sports, and occupations in the books. Women were shown to be cooking, bathing children, and working in the fields or as nurses and teachers whereas men were portrayed as doctors, pilots, and managers. Girls in the books were either skipping or playing with dolls. Boys, on the other hand, were playing cricket and football. Furthermore, while men drove, ran, or cycled, women were shown to be busy stitching and sewing.
By no means am I trying to demean any of the works that were projected as the work that women do in the textbooks. I genuinely believe that as much as it is necessary to venture outside and earn a livelihood, it is also necessary to work inside one’s house and provide love and care for family members. My only problem is the creation of such distinct segregation at such a young age fuels the sentiment that you can only do or desire to engage in certain separate activities as men and women.
If the content of textbooks these days are so gendered, I cannot even imagine what kind of course books I must have read and passed my exams with when I was in primary school some 20 years ago. I am certain I saw, read, and even used examples of boys playing cricket to do well in my exams. As a girl who grew up with a sport that was clearly projected to be part of the male domain, I must have always felt that I was enjoying something that was not meant for me.
I had to enroll as a student of Gender Studies to understand how wrong I was and how much I had succumbed to the constructions and practices of society. In her seminal book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir writes, “One is not born but rather, becomes a woman”. Indeed, we are outcomes of the culture and norms that we abide by in our society. Different discussions in classrooms, programmes and books on gender issues, and gender segregation have helped me to realise that by no any means was I enjoying something that was not meant for me.
Sports belong to me as much as they belongs to my brother. The 2015 World Cup is currently ongoing, but power cuts are also at their peak in Kathmandu. So, these days, I go to a restaurant all by myself, order a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer and enjoy the game as much as the bunch of boys sitting next to me.
Acharya is pursuing a Masters in Gender Studies