Blowing the trumpet of love this Fifa World Cup season

During the 2010 World Cup, the vuvuzela united football lovers across the world


Suresh Pattali

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Published: Thu 24 Nov 2022, 10:20 PM

“Oh no, not again!”

First thing in the morning a fortnight ago, a colleague’s wife who was leafing through the wknd. mag despised my column.

“This man has another instalment on love? He needs to grow up,” she said, thrusting the magazine back into her husband’s hand. She isn’t alone in a crusade against this state of mind called love. It ricochets every time within my kitchen walls: Why love?

So, I should ideally be starting with an apology and a warning to all of my readers that this episode too has a smattering of the topic on the icing due mainly to the truth that it makes or breaks the cake. But why this unabashed craze for the topic? Why love?

Because it’s there. Because it is the pivot point around which the world rotates. The juice that oozes out is the elixir to treat all the maladies of humankind.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I am here yet again to blow the trumpet of love this Fifa World Cup season.

Remember vuvuzela, the infamous South African horn, a symbol of the nation’s football craze, which simply means ‘to make a vu vu noise’? The two-foot-long cheap plastic horn, which buzzed the world into a tizzy like a zillion bees during the 2010 World Cup, united football lovers across the world. It trumpeted a sense of solidarity, a sense of camaraderie, however loud it was. What’s love, after all, if not camaraderie?

So, ladies and gentlemen, let me blow the trumpet of love here again, thanks to a female friend who went all the way to India to see the Kalpathi Ratholsavam or chariot festival. She sent me a random photo of the fair where a vendor had on display a pantheon of local versions of the vuvuzela in playful hues, just in time for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

“Want something?” she messaged.

The simple gesture took me back in time when we were all innocent humans — adult or kid — with no agendas. In the days after temple festivals or village fairs, we roamed around the countryside blowing the little vuvuzelas. High-decibel noise reverberated across the hearts and minds with no rogue notes. No notice of noise pollution was pasted on our conscience. No complaint of societal disturbance was filed. A mischievous Raman would blare the horn into the little ears of Abdullah who, in turn, would blare it into Yacoub’s and then into Rosemary’s. No one complained. The innocent cacophony of peace and harmony still echoes in my ears.

During offseason, laying one’s hand on a horn was like getting a ticket to the moon. We waited for a lorry or a coach — fitted with rubber horns — to roll into the village for some reason. We would request the driver for a chance to blow it for free or on a barter deal, which meant losing some pocket money to a stranger. A strong will and desire weren’t enough to sound a vehicle horn; it required a forceful squeeze on the rubber. It’s a big game for big boys.

It’s this package of bucolic innocence that my friend offered to bring home. Times when love isn’t always about romance and lust.

To sound a horn was also a grammatical puzzle for some of us. The phrase ‘Horn OK Please’ was one of the most ubiquitous signs on Indian trucks and buses back then. Even the best of our teachers were in the dark about its origin and what it actually meant. Some argued that it was a message for the vehicle in the back to sound horn in case its driver wanted to overtake. Vehicles in those days never had rear or side view mirrors. Another popular theory was that the sign was a shrewd marketing strategy by truck maker Tata who also owned the popular middle class soup brand called OK. Two birds with one stone.

My friend who bought me a vuvuzela in florescent yellow (requested via screengrab) played a messenger of love with that momentous gesture. No big-ticket gifts or sacks full of banana chips and Kozhikodan halva — usual giveaways on return from Indian holidaying — would offer such peace of mind.

I live in a community where silence is sacrosanct. I dread to sound the gift of horn for fear of breaking the law. I cannot take it to the Fifa World Cup or fan zones where the vuvuzela is a big no-no. I fancy playing it in the thick of dark that fills the neighbouring desert, but the fear that belly dance music rising from mushrooming tourist tents would corrupt my horn of peace holds me back.

I would rather bolt myself inside my heart’s cone of silence. As I lie in a luminous sarcophagus at the centre of a football pitch, my friend plays on the horn of love. Like an angel. Millions in the galleries erupt in a symphony that touches hearts across the oceans. Thousands of footballs vault into the skies filled with rainbows. The message is clear: There’s no loftier game than football that unites the world and connects every human mind.

The referee blows the whistle. The moment has finally arrived. Let the game of love begin.

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