The opening India Pakistan match on Sunday in the World Cup was billed as the clash of the titans; for days there was a relentless drum roll of bhangra and machismo played out on the national media. TV advertisements and analysts were of the firm belief that Pakistan had won the match even before the first ball had been bowled.

On social media, armchair activists let go of their cynicism for a day, painting their faces green and white, donning Pakistan jerseys, pumping the air with gusto and trending hashtags like #GoGreen and #PakvsInd. Television screens were taken over by high pitched, giggling, arch anchors interviewing excited spectators predicting with certainty that Pakistan would pulverize India.

Not to be left behind, Sahir Lodhi on Samaa strode around in a white kurta with the Pakistan crescent emblazoned on his manly chest and bulging biceps, urging the teenage audience to constantly scream yes to the question “will we defeat India?”

On Geo, the anchor appeared twirling a bat on a cricket pitch while another interviewed a dhol wielding man, asking him what tune would he play if there was a four, a six and, best of all, when Shahid Afridi walked out on the pitch. A smirking Shahrukh Khan look alike made an appearance supporting Pakistan and a holy man was filmed proclaiming victory because he was convinced of the outcome; tasbeehs were dusted off and prayer mats laid out in preparation for divine intervention. Notwithstanding the fact that statistics did not back the Pakistan team- since when has analysis come in the way of conviction anyway- high hopes were laid at the door of players not known for recent great performances. In fact, it seemed as if almost everyone had become a cricket analyst.

For days the lanky Irfan Khan was being touted as the bowler who would strike fear in the hearts of puny Indian batsmen but as the match commenced he was hit all over the pitch, leading a cricket enthusiast to state bluntly: “Jis ki itni tarreef suni thi, us nay tau khaak kiya.” (The one who was praised so much, he did nothing.) Undeterred, drums were beaten and one was subjected to bhangras by oversized men in Lahore as a couple of fours by the opening Pakistani batsmen were unleashed.

While Indians hung on to catches like a drowning man clutching a straw, our butter-finger fielding, lack of line and length and shaky batting soon enough showed the direction in which the match was headed but the truth was hard to swallow for people who practically wallow in denial. So an upbeat anchor on Geo blabbered about a possible century from Misbah, at five wickets down, while Mohammad Yousuf and Azhar Mehmood glowered on screen and Sikander Bakht rubbed his eyes thinking, “F… it man, I stayed up for this?!”

The writing was on the wall with poor trusty Misbah the last man standing as wickets fell like ninepins. Cricket fans started tuning out, unable to stomach the scenes of revelry displayed by elaborately tricolor painted, ebullient Indian fans in Adelaide screeching victory slogans into cameras. The match which started with a bang ended with a whimper for Pakistan. 

Today it is as if the match never took place, with people displaying ostrich like symptoms.

Why does a defeat by India hurt so much?   

It can be argued that the overweening expectations and hype were but to be expected considering it was arch rival India that Pakistan was facing. The nemesis, the bane, the enemy, the pebble in the shoe that can’t be shaken off, the sibling rivalry that has gone on for time immemorial, the neighbor we love to hate, the wars, the soldiers’ blood spilled on the snowy slopes of Siachen. How can the blood not quicken, the fist not clench and the heart not thud when it is India facing us in the ring?

But if there is so much vitriol towards the enemy, how is that when lawn manufacturers like Firdaus Lawn and Crescent Lawn opt for Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, Sushmita Sen and Karishma Kapoor to model their creations, their sales double and profits quadruple? How come Khadijah Shah of Elan needs Nargis Fakhri to sell her creations? Why does Kareena Kapoor licking a Magnum cone make us rush out to sample the Noir cone? Why does Q mobile need Aditya Roy Kapoor to hawk their mobiles? Will designer Fahad Hussayn’s outfits not be popular without Priyanka Chopra?

Despite the fact that having an Indian actor in an ad as opposed to a Pakistani actor will cost almost double, companies are willing to invest for long term profits because they know that Pakistanis are obsessed with India. At mehndis, we wear Bollywood saris and blouses and sexy ghagras a la Deepika and dance to catchy Indian songs whose steps even kids can prance about on without batting an eyelid. Their saas bahu dramas keep us riveted to glittering tears, heaving bosoms, pancaked faces and Kusum bangles while the film award shows see a big percentage of Pakistani viewers keen to see Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai in their living room, away from the arc lights of the studio.       

Indian movies are lusted after, with record breaking collections at the box office; shows of Happy New Year were sold out a few days after the school massacre in Peshawar. Ironically, Indian films are credited with bringing about the revival of Pakistani cinemas. It is worth noting that while Indian films are being shown in Pakistan, the move has not been reciprocated in India.

India is the neighbor we love to hate. After all, aren’t love and hate two sides of the same coin?