IN THE world beyond a cricket ground, the line seldom belongs to the umpire. We knew it, without actually knowing it, from the kindergarten days.
School began by falling in line at the morning assembly. But the rhymes – Humpty Dumpty’s egghead, Little Jack Horner’s pie, Jack and Jill’s well, Black Sheep’s body crop presumably for a ball of wool – suggested circular was more fun.
And then we graduated to Piggy on the Railway Line.
We weren’t tutored by the umpires in saris and salwars to ask why piggy was on the railway line. Was he – feminists would agree porcine creatures, like God, deserve to be masculine – a fourth grade lineman on track inspection? Was he a debt-troubled farmer out to commit suicide for being on the wrong side of the upwardly mobile Tendulkar Line?
Or was he a terrorist, picking up stones to throw at those living in ivory towers or at those reluctant to toe his ideological line?
Inevitably, the engine knocked piggy down and left him with broken bones. Unfair, piggy oinked. But the engine driver just didn’t care. Why should he? The railway line is no stone quarry, even the sand miners of Noida will tell you that while keeping someone on an Akhileash.
We don’t know if the engine-piggy encounter happened at Godhra railway station – pardon the imposition, every script needs a NaMo item song these days – for snuffing out a potential assassin or preempting the creation of an Orwellian Napoleon.
You could perhaps underline the attitude; piggy’s victim posture, crying injustice while quarrying illegally and the locomotive driver’s you-had-it-coming stance while being on track. And the line belonged to neither.
Anyway, life advanced riding piggyback on domestic doles and hogging – not the limelight but at baap ka hotel. Soon enough, we learnt that the linear and the parallel of theory tended to fly off the tangent or wear an angle in practice, scorching sentiments made a straight literary line curved, and geography was more about McMahon Line and inter-state boundaries than latitudes and longitudes.
Somewhere down the line, as line lagaana got the better of line maarna, we realized democracy was struggling to get past the dictatorial Lakshmanrekha. And that the thin line between secularism and communalism was blurring.
Whatever your Montake is about the cut-off line, all the lines converged to keep us BPL morally and financially. Our efforts to be APL invariably meant signing on the dotted line to line somebody else’s pocket. Or worse, being in the line of fire or as Americans would say, parking our butts on the line.
Americans reminded us anything cheap – like using communication lines to talk – can bug us and Snowdent our confidence. But the battle lines were already drawn and there was no alternative to falling hook, line and sinker.
The bottom line was clear: Online or offline, the line doesn’t belong to the umpire who can at best use a tiny line – his index finger.