After living in Barcelona for the past decade and feeling the power of football (that’s soccer for some of you) and seeing first-hand the amazing displays of pride by the FC Barcelona fans who are famous for taking to the streets in the hundreds of thousands to celebrate a victory… I really thought I had seen it all when it comes to sports fever. But once again Bangalore has shown me a new side of life that I never knew existed. Well, a new side of the sporting life anyway. And it turns out that our beloved Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and the action packed IPL are not just about cricket!
IPL fever is on like Donkey Kong! RCB is trained up and raring to go and the city itself is primed and ready. But the KSCA preparing for the matches is only the tip of the IPL iceberg for us here in Bangalore.
From where I’m standing so far, the ‘P’ in IPL stands for Party…and the Indian Party League season is here!
Parties seem to be divided into two general themes. The first are events to draw in a crowd to venues with big screen TVs during RCB away games or when other teams are playing. The second is the infamous after-parties that take place at the 5 star hotels and hot spots after a home game.
I had my first taste of an IPL match party on Day 2 of the league. Geoffrey’s at Hotel Royal Orchid threw their first big cricket party of the season and my mates and I didn’t want to miss it. Geoffrey’s played host to a few of our favourite local cricketers (who will go unnamed since they came on their own and not under an official capacity), but who joined the party and hung out for about an hour. The ambiance was fantastic, happily pumped up by my sweet friend DJ Whosane! who was asked to fly down from Mumbai to play the party.
The rains in Kolkata delayed the game but the party was in full swing and no one seemed to mind. There was a guest list and the party was being promoted by one of the leading event management companies in town, Plugg Fashion. My friends and I sipped cocktails, nibbled on food, watched the game on the big screen, mingled with a few cricketers … all to the groovy sounds of one of India’s top DJs. And when Bangalore’s hot local DJs like Ivan and Yon show up to the party, you know it’s ‘cuz it’s rockin’. Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night if you ask me!
Well, this scene repeats itself in some form all over town, from cool sports bars like Dugout in Koramangala to the big screens at swank venues like Skyye. They even attract a really healthy number of girls, which is a welcome treat from the typical Indian sausage fest that most bars breed. Every game night of IPL is treated like a special event – especially the away games – and the non-stop parties are an expected part of the hoopla here in Bangalore. I’ve really never seen anything like it. Sure, back in Barcelona friends gathered to watch the hot games at bars but the parties were never promoted like they are here. Major brands didn’t have tie-ups with the venues to openly showcase their products. Bars didn’t splash out cash to professional event companies like Hydrooo and Plugg Fashion just to promote their IPL-themed parties night after night to attract fans to their big screens. And there certainly weren’t cover charges ranging from Rs. 500 – 1,500 to enter a bar or club during sporting events.
But this is Bangalore and things work a bit differently here. From my point of view, it’s not that cricket fans are more passionate or less passionate than football fans but bars and clubs play by different rules here and cricket parties are an expected, inherent and widely anticipated part of the game. At least with the group of friends I have and the circles that I run in.
Now with that said, I know from researching the topic that millions of fans watch the matches at home with their families, away from the alcohol and nightlife scene but my core group of friends are simply not like that so as always my main source of information on the topic is coming from my driver Shiva. When a good match is on he and his family will all watch it together in the comfort of their living room and he and his wife allow their children to stay up long past their bedtime to watch. One thing I find interesting is that they don’t prepare a special spread of food and drinks, which is massively popular back in the US and the excuse for lots of indulgence and for many a BBQ! Later, once the match is over, Shiva will go outside and congregate with the other men in the neighbourhood and discuss the game (the ladies stay indoors), often times with one of the neighbours setting off crackers to celebrate a victory.
Well, to be totally honest, what I’m really looking forward to with any luck is attending an ‘old school’ IPL after-party this season. Not the standard “let’s all meet up party” but one of the authentic sponsored parties that I’ve heard so much about. These infamous after-parties take place in cities all around India after the games but today they don’t seem to exist on the same level as they did in the past. To date, my only experience with a post-game after-party was during the 2011 Champions League and I definitely had a blast, hanging out with the players from the South Australian Redbacks and England’s Somerset Sabres.
When they first started up, the ‘let loose’ ambiance and the decadence of the official IPL after-parties drew in massive amounts of celebrities from not only the sports world but also the various film industries, along with the who’s-who of each city, the major big wigs of India and of course the sexy – predominantly white – cheerleaders. But over time the parties reportedly became wilder and wilder and that had to end so now they seem to only exist as a tamer version of their former, more glorious, predecessors.
In India, cricket is not just a game…it’s a war! We are only in the first week of IPL and excitement levels are already brewing. With eight away games for Royal Challengers Bangalore and eight home games, we all have ample opportunity to watch the matches live at M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, at home with family or at one of the dozens of hoppin’ parties around town, which is where you will find me and my friends. I’ll report back periodically with updates on the experiences of this white girls first IPL season in Bangalore … from the vibe in the stadium to the funny antics that occur watching the game on the big screens, I’m sure there will be lots to share!
© Angela Carson