Offside at Park-Circus Maidaan, Calcutta

Football matches at the Park Circus maidan are a common sight. The ground has six pitches, most of them occupied during summer evenings by local teams made up of college-going players. Passers-by tend to linger a while, expressing support for one team or another. Those keen to follow a full game squat on the grass around the periphery of the pitch, inching into the playing area as the game progresses. They are so close to the action that they are almost a part of it. It’s like watching a play where your seat is adjacent to and on the same level as the stage. However, unlike a theatre, you have to be alert at all times, lest a ball hit you.

That evening was no different. The Anglo Indian Park Union team was playing in red jerseys and the Desh Bandhoos in blue. All attention seemed to be riveted on them. Other teams, playing without proper uniforms, came across as ragged outfits in comparison. Most of the spectators being Bengali-speaking, were Desh Bandhoo supporters. This cheered the team no end. An unusual sight that evening was the presence of a sizeable number of enthusiastic Anglo-Indian girls among the spectators Driveway bollards.

Desh Bandhoo were being ably led by Dilip dada (elder brother), as he was called. Eighteen-year old Dilip was a big brother indeed. A hooligan and a bully, everyone feared him. As the whistle blew, he took control of the ball. Playing centre-forward with nimble footwork, he dribbled well. Moving skillfully through his opponents, he was in possession of the ball for almost a minute before passing it to his left-in, who managed to take control after some hic-ups. The left-in was a fast runner; he took charge and move towards the D. The opponents offered good resistance as they seemed to be a better team. Dilip was desperately waiting for a pass but it was almost a lost cause by the time he got one. It took a huge effort from him to dive to a header to score that goal. The crowd erupted into cries of ‘dada, dada.’

An Anglo-Indian lady gave Dilip a beaming smile. ‘What a beauty!’ thought Dilip, as their eyes met before a youngish-looking girl whispered something in her ears. He recalled the youngish-looking girl standing near their goal post with her friends, while the Desh Bandhoo players were changing for the match. Being a make-shift football pitch, there were no changing rooms on the ground. The players hadn’t taken kindly to this intrusion and Dilip, who was being scrutinised by the girls, had done something drastic. As if by accident, he had pulled down his football shorts to reveal something that had them scandalised. They had shot off immediately, much to the amusement of Dilip’s team mates who had had a hearty laugh, ‘dada, ki chomotkaar.’

The tables turned on Desh Bandhoo as the game progressed. Park Union were now able to penetrate their defense and score without much effort. The Anglo-Indian girls were proving to be a great distraction in their miniskirts, playing cheer leaders every time Park Union scored a goal. The leg show and the lusty cries of the spectators ensured that Dilip and his mates could hardly concentrate on their game. It appeared to be a losing cause.

What happened next was not in the spirit of the game. A major dispute broke out as the referee wrongly called an offside. Supporters from either side invaded the pitch and beat up the referee before attacking the players. The game had degenerated into a fight between the two sides and their supporters. Given the sheer number of supporters, Desh Bandhoos held the upper hand. The situation was indeed grave for the Anglo-Indian women; their safety was in question. Sensing the danger, Dilip headed in the direction of the Anglo-Indian lady who had smiled at him, placed her on his broad shoulders and ran to the safety of a building across the road. The wail of police sirens drowned out her screams.

Dilip rushed to a balcony on the first floor of the building. He put the lady down, but held on to her hand in a firm grip, only to be stung by a tight slap across his left cheek. This shook him up. He was about to retaliate when the lady screamed, ‘you want to rape me, you scoundrel.’ ‘Why have you brought me here?’ she screamed again. Dilip did not know what to say, he just tried to calm her down but she wriggled out of his grip. He was mesmerised by her looks and started to move towards her. ‘Stay away from me,’ she screamed and he stopped dead. She is a strong woman, he thought. ‘I am sorry’ he said. Composing herself, she looked down at the scene below and exclaimed, ‘oh my God!’