What is the one topic that can excite strong emotions, make tempers flare and elicit expert comments on the subject? It is none other than sports such as cricket or soccer.
The build-up to a World Cup starts months earlier with analysis and prediction followed by the final countdown. Research is done on which TV channel is going to offer the exciting fare and if one hasn't yet subscribed to the particular package, there is a stampede to acquire this.
There is of course the usual moaning and groaning with letters to the editor lambasting the "no show" from the sports channel one had subscribed to earlier which was on offer with tantalising programmes and coverage used as bait. Or the package will telecast your favourite sporting event but you have to upgrade your membership.
Thus, this obsession with sports is exploited to the maximum and even as we whine and whinge, we reluctantly take out our wallets as we realise that we have no choice in the matter. Unless, of course, one wants to be a martyr and stick to one's principles. Try taking that option and see how far your ethical stand takes you.
By the time the big event is round the corner you will have capitulated, unable to bear the thought of missing out on all the fun and excitement.
As the hype heats up, hopes rise and every discussion at home, the workplace or a social gathering centres around the imminent showdown. Plans are put in place to catch all the action live on TV - no taping of games one will miss simply because one doesn't foresee missing out on watching the sport in real time even if that means staying awake till the wee hours and going to work bleary-eyed.
The failure of the team one is rooting for can have a serious effect on the viewer - a cycle of depression, denial and endless discussion. Long after it is all over, every wrong move is dissected by the couch potato as he gives his opinion on what the sportsman should have done or avoided doing. The errors of judgment are replayed time and again until those listening to the tirade are convinced the wrong players were on the field. If only Mr know-all had been there, things would have been very different. There would be rejoicing now instead of doom and gloom.
After the defeat of France in the recent World Cup, a pair of nephews who spent their formative years in Paris were left shell-shocked.
There was complete silence and any discussion of the game was discouraged. A tentative move to invite analysis of what went wrong was met by a glacial stare. Such is the influence of sports on one's psyche.
Back home the passion that the game of cricket evokes is phenomenal. The one-day edition of the game is a crowd-puller and on the appointed day, the normally busy streets wear a deserted look. Everyone is at home, glued to the TV.
Before the era of the mobile phone, the strident sound of the landline was the most unwelcome sound one could hope to hear. It meant that someone had to get up and take the call. All the members of the family sat there, frozen in their seats, avoiding eye contact as each hoped the other would rise to the occasion.
As the intrusion persisted, there was the usual exchange of it must be for you, it couldn't possibly be for me. Eventually, a hard look from a parent would make one scuttle to the phone, pick it up, whisper (the parents shouldn't hear this) "Wrong number" and slam the instrument down in feigned annoyance. Then one returned to one's seat with a shrug of the shoulders as if to say I told you so.