'I wanted to see the final, but...'
Vaihayasi Pande Daniel checks out the mood in south Mumbai on the eve of the World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka.
Pradeep Kaunajia is on a holy pilgrimage. He arrived in Mumbai all the way from Varanasi, where he runs a weighing scale business, a few days ago to watch India play, tickets or no tickets! The day before the final he stands wistfully outside the gates of Wankhede Stadium in south Mumbai, looking in with reverence.
"I wanted to see the match and I even asked my nephew if he could locate some tickets. But it could not be arranged. But I would still like to see the final in Mumbai, even if it is on the television."
Kaunajia plans to watch the match at his sister's house. They live in Goregaon where she and her husband run a dispensary.
Will India win?
"Surely," he says with quiet confidence. "They have been winning up till now."
Image: Pradeep Kaunajia (white shirt)
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel
'Can one see the match from the terrace?'
Youngsters Vipul and Rahul catch a fragment of the conversation with Sachin. These lads, one hails from Surat and the other Vadodara and are super desperate to see the match.
"Can one see the match from the terrace?" they ask hopefully Disappointment. Dashed hopes.
The duo say they have tried every avenue to get two tickets but they have not had any luck and are hoping to somehow still be able to see the match from some vantage point. They have been standing in front of Wankhede since 4.30 pm trying absorb some of the advance adrenaline.
"We have been coming here every day for the last three four days, ever since we arrived in Mumbai."
Both play cricket back home on local teams and hope to make cricket a career some day.
Same is the case with Sachin, who works in an office, probably as a delivery boy, at Krishna building. The building is smack next to Wankhede stadium. But he will not be able to watch the match from Krishna.
"The terrace is locked. And people with flats facing the stadium have to keep their windows shut. As do people with flats facing Marine Drive. Even they cannot see the match. For security reasons."
Image: Youngsters Vipul and Rahul wait in hope of getting a ticket
Crowd, cameras, action!
There are oodles of pre-match adrenaline floating around the approach lanes to Wankhede. White cars with red lights swoosh in and out every few minutes. Traffic whistles blow at short intervals ushering in some VIP car or another. Cricket devotees, of all sizes and ages, some women too, stand around anticipating some action.
"Kaun hai andar (Who is inside the stadium)? Maybe that was Harsha Bhogle going by?"
Three dozen television camera men and lensmen float about trying to shoot the perfect WC hype pic. One television reporter gets the crowd to give a cheer for India for the camera. It comes out lustily and strong and brings harried, nervous cops running with their dandas to ease the crowd back.
Image: VIP cars outside the Wankhede
For flag and country
A dude covered in plastic Indian flags quietly arrives in front of the gates and sets up shop near an armored police van. Out come a pair of sunglasses and a special Bachchan style pose.
The cameramen swoop to get a clip followed by enraged cops who hustle him off -- all in the space of a minute.
Image: A fan outside the Wankhede stadium
'Sorry cannot speak. ICC pitch consultant'
Andy Atkinson from Britain stands cheerfully in front of the stadium gates.
"Yes, go ahead take a picture."
He mumbles good-humouredly that it won't be that pretty.
"Sorry cannot speak. ICC pitch consultant."
Image: Andy Atkinson
Entire neighbourhood shut
There's plenty of WC mood happening in the lanes behind the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel near the Gateway of India too. Both teams Sri Lanka and India are staying at the hotel.
The whole area has been sealed tight by the police; a frequent, tiresome occurrence for this neighbourhood.
Not even a skinny stray dog can get through. Hordes of disappointed tourists, both foreign and domestic, hang around trying to get a shot of one-eighth of the Gateway from afar, over the heads of a posse of policeman and through the barricades.
The entire neighbourhood has been shut already for three days and will remain shut for another three days. "Elephanta nahin ja sakte? Bus se jaye?"
Image: The road opposite the Taj
'Kal Bombay bandh hoga'
Says Sameer Sheikh, a photographer whose beat is the tourists at the Gateway of India, "I have just managed to take three or four pictures here and there ever since the Gateway shut."
Cricket charcha (chit chat) swirls in the air too.
"Kal Bombay bandh hoga. Who knows how we will get here?"
"The final is Mumbai because India has given the most money "
"Final kal hai. T-shirt half price!"
Image: Tourists try to take a picture of the Gateway of India from afar
'Not many Sri Lankans here to see the match'
Sri Lankan selectors Ranjit Fernando, Amal Silva and Shabbir Asgerally emerge from the long, tree-lined Taj driveway hunting for their vehicle.
- 'SL not underdogs; we're pretty good'
"We had some meetings at the Taj. The arrangements have been very good. The people have been very courteous. Security is always of course necessary.
"No, there are not many Sri Lankans here to see the match. Tickets were difficult to get. But that was expected with a stadium of 33,000 capacity (in a city the size of Mumbai)."
Image: Sri Lankan selectors Ranjit Fernando, Amal Silva and Shabbir Asgerally