On Thursday I re-re-subscribed to Willow.TV. It was only $10 a month, which I think is five dollars cheaper than it used to be. I’m not sure why it’s less expensive, as nothing in this world ever gets cheaper, but I will take it.
The subscription to Willow came with a free subscription to Gaana, which is the Indian version of Spotify. Western bands like Radiohead and The National and Sigur Ros are only available to subscribers in India, but I am able to listen to the latest in Bollywood and Punjabi pop music.
I must say, I don’t quite get it. It is so vastly different than the music I usually listen to (see above) and honestly vastly different than pop music here in the states or in Europe. Which, I don’t know, I kind of like. I might not like the music, but I do like that it’s different. India is such a huge and interesting place, and so widely variant from western culture. Sure, it’s a small world, but it’s also a very, very big world, and I take heart in knowing that we aren’t all the same, that we are in fact very different.
There’s a beer that you can only buy Wisconsin called Spotted Cow. Everyone that loves beer loves Spotted Cow. And whenever you drive through Wisconsin, you make a point to stop at a liquor store and pick some up. The owners think that’s how it should be. That beer should taste different in Colorado and Wisconsin and Florida. That everything shouldn’t taste the same, and that you shouldn’t be be able to buy everything everywhere. That you should be constantly reminded of just how big America is. I’ve always rather liked that. But I digress.
India might be very different than western nations, but at the same time the fact that they love the same bat and ball sport that western nations do goes to show the power of the game, as well as the power of Imperialism. Sports really do bridge cultures, and cricket more so than any other sport — even soccer — as the cultures that it attracts are just so different. Of course, I realize that when it was first introduced to India and the Caribbean it was an instrument of empire building, but in the decades since it has become very much an uniquely Indian pastime. Yeah, you could say that parts of the game have been Americanized, but also I think the influence of Indian culture has had a profound impact on the game, which further cements its stance as a bridge between east and west.
And that’s also a part of enjoying global sports that you don’t get when you just watch baseball or basketball: you get exposed to not just a new game, but a new culture. Its music, its fashion, its food, its people. I have traveled domestically rather extensively — been to 40+ states and most major American cities — and I have to say that the differences between, say, New York and Seattle are pretty minor. I was just in Boston this past week and was struck by how much Cambridge reminded me of San Francisco, of how much Beacon Hill reminded me of Cincinnati. But the gap between Mumbai and Minneapolis is vast and wide, and I love that I am exposed not just to a slight variation on my own culture, like I would be if I was an avid NFL fan, but to cultures so different that it reminds us just how big and wonderful this dumb old world is.
And that’s a real gift, I think. Most people in America know India is a place and that a lot of people live there, but honestly that’s really about it. I like that I — and my fellow cricket following Americans — understand it just a bit more than the rest.
I probably won’t stream Gaana very often, but I will now again, to recall that there’s seven billion people on this rock, and each and everyone of us is a completely different person, with different interests, values, knowledge, passions. The fact that it takes cricket to teach me that some might say is evidence of a flawed educational system, emblematic of how insular America is. And yeah they are probably right. But I will also say that I don’t care what makes you a global citizen, as long as you get there in the end. Music, sport, literature, travel, film: whatever it takes to know that the world doesn’t end once you step off American soil.
You’d be surprised at how many Americans believe that.
Then again, maybe you wouldn’t be.