NEW DELHI -- At half past noon on Thursday, the Vivekananda flyover in Kolkata collapsed, instantly killing an unknowable number of people (21 so far) and injuring more than 85.
It terrified a city and plunged the country into gloom, as it became clear that little could be done to save the people who could be seen alive, and gasping for breath and water.
As the day progressed, rescue work gathered steam and cranes started moving heavy concrete girders to attempt rescue of anyone still alive under the rubble.
At 7pm in the evening at the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai, the semifinal match between India and West Indies in the World Cup T20 tournament started. It was a moment when Kolkata had been deeply wounded. Millions of Indians who were watching the tragedy unfold in Kolkata on the news channels switched to the sports channels to catch the Kohli versus Gayle contest.
The most watched match of the tournament--the India-Pakistan clash--was played at Kolkata's Eden Gardens. The finals will also be played at that storied venue. The city is also home to the Shahrukh Khan-owned Kolkata Knight Riders, a pillar of the Indian Premier League, the most successful T20 league in the world.
And there really is no other moment where the nation comes together more than when Indian cricketers step out on to the cricket pitch.
Given all of this, would it not have been a nice gesture for the International Cricket Council, the tournament organizer, to have the teams observe a one-minute silence as a mark of solidarity and grief to the victims in Kolkata?
For several hours before the match got underway in the evening, we had watched the horror unfold in the congested locality near Girish Park. Live coverage showed the expanse of the mangled wreckage, people using their bare hands to remove rubble, and shell shocked family members wailing before news cameras. Some of them moved around with printouts of their parents, asking policemen whether they have been spotted.
We all our expressed outrage at how quickly the Kolkata tragedy deteriorated into a political blame game. We could also blame the International Cricket Council (ICC), which manages the T20 tournament, for not organizing a moment of silence, or take responsibility for this thoughtless omission.
We should have taken care to tell the people of Kolkata that we were thinking of them when they most needed to hear it.
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