The big moment from Sunday's Grand Prix of India
As the strains of Jana Gana Mana reverberated, there was, says Raja Sen, a shared moment of immense, overwhelming pride at the Buddh International Circuit.
It first hit me about ten days ago. Three days after the Korean Grand Prix, I'd strolled on over to the official formula1.com website to check timings for the next race and I discovered, for the first time ever, that clicking on the "convert to my local time" button did nothing whatsoever to the "race local time" schedule.
I'd been on the track itself already, sure, but as several onetime Metallica fans would testify, there's many a slip between, well, the planned and the manned. This online confirmation that we shared the local timezone with the next race was what floored me.
The cheerleader inside me got up from a bench in my guts and waited for the starting whistle, pompoms in hand.
Fans throng venue with cameras' in tow
On Friday we saw the practice sessions, where dirt was kicked up by cars and the session, making for mostly tiresome doggystyle gags. On Saturday we had qualifying, with the stands half-full at best.
Formula One fathers had dragged their sons to the track, lil tykes made to awkwardly fidget with cameras and snap pictures while Dads posed grinning, peak cap and Ferrari tee in place, with the track and cars in the background, most of them doubtless wishing their wives cared about the sport as well.
Or at least about the magnitude of the visibly massive event itself, the minutiae of which is frequently lost on any casual observer. The ladies would show up for the race, of course.
Magnitude of the moment didn't quite sink in
It was all tremendously, rousingly thrilling, of course, the arrival of the weekend, the breathlessness of the media, and nonsensical news channel tickers for once talking about something that mattered (and even occasionally merited exclamation marks).
And yet, despite the headiness of it all, the sheer momentousness of the occasion didn't quite sink in.
Not even at watching the increasingly magnificent Sebastian Vettel storm his way to pole or applaud at Hamilton being penalised for reckless showboating, or even marvel at the luck of picking grandstand tickets right across from Seb's pit-lane box.
Spectators too remember Wheldon, Simoncelli
The moment came at exactly 14:46 on Sunday afternoon. For a minute before that, the entire circuit observed a minute's silence to commemorate the two tragic fatalities motorsport suffered from over the last two weeks, the deaths of Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli, and, thanks to the announcer reminding us at frequent intervals before the somber minute that silence was to be observed, we obediently and respectfully shushed up. It's awesomely striking, really, for the deafening hubbub of a ground filled with over a hundred thousand people -- including team personnel and drivers -- to die down abruptly and absolutely.
Flags fluttered in a cool, appropriately unwhooshy breeze as spectators stopped mid-step and waited.
Some bowed their heads. More than 99% of the audience in the stands hadn't the remotest idea who Wheldon and Simoncelli were, but the en masse gravitas had an effect on us all. With our wordlessness, we saluted the fallen heroes.
National anthem did give goosebumps to spectators
And then -- despite the announcer introducing it as the National Anthem of Malaysia -- we sang Jana Gana Mana.
The Buddh International Circuit reverberated with a chorus louder than any I'd ever heard before, and that feeling, of that anthem being belted out by that many, brought about a shared moment of immense, overwhelming pride, pride both incredulous and awestruck.
Cynicism took the minute off as chests swelled up, eyes welled up and even our goosebumps shared rare synchronicity.
Then came the roar, those all-powerful F1 engines drowning us in a guttural symphony of truly industrial heavy metal.
Some wore earplugs; the rest, like me, preferred eardrum-death as, when the warm-up lap ended and Vettel zoomed in from the right across the chequered line, it felt like he was gunning it through a cochlear wind tunnel, with his friends in tow.
The sound, shaking the floorboards and thudding repeatedly through the ear -- nearly two dozen sonic bullets shooting from left to right as fast as they can -- rocks you hard.
And it may well be one of the single most arousive sensations in the world.