Once the Indian batting attack was contained with the fall of 4 wickets, the tension eased
Given the frenzy that was drummed up for the semi-final encounter between India and Pakistan in the World Cup in Mohali on Wednesday, this was never a day for the faint-hearted. And, it became even more so with the frequent swings in the fortunes of the two teams.
Every time Mohali erupted in a roar of elation over a boundary or a wicket taken by India, an eerie silence would descend on the streets and homes here. And, the reverse would happen whenever Mohali fell silent as India lost a wicket or a Pakistani player went after the Indian bowlers.
According to one old-timer from Rawalpindi, the federal capital's twin city resembled the war days of 1965 and 1971 in the early overs of the match when India's opening pair were going great guns. Such was the silence.
But once the Indian batting attack was contained with the fall of four wickets, the tension eased and youngsters got their motorcycles and cars out to zip across town and into Islamabad where the usually firm traffic police was indulgent; allowing boys to triple-ride their two-wheelers without helmets and move around the fortified city on car-tops.
While the government had declared a half-day holiday, most private offices followed suit knowing fully well that it was pointless to keep their staff at work with their minds totally preoccupied with cricket.
Hoping to cash in on the crowds that had gathered at marketplaces where giant screens were put up to telecast the match, shopkeepers sought to brave the mood; but even their attention was clearly diverted.
Colour of the day
Green and white was the colour of the day as youngsters either donned the team's shirts or painted their faces with the nation's flag colours in anticipation of good tidings.
Some attributed the early celebrations to the fact that Pakistan has had so little to rejoice about in recent years, that they felt it was best to enjoy the thrill of the close encounter with India as long as it lasted.
So much so that as India came closer to bringing the curtains down on Pakistan's run in this World Cup, even singles and doubles were cheered with whistles in an attempt to keep the flagging spirits up. But the writing on the wall was picked up quietly.
The more faint-hearted beat an early retreat from cricket parties, giant screens went blank, and a deathly silence descended on the blighted nation as gloom returned to edge out the joy and excitement that had taken residence over the past week.