Indians and Pakistanis unite to skip work
Work across India and Pakistan slowed to a grinding halt on Wednesday as bureaucrats, factory workers, farmers and millions of other cricket fans gathered to watch the World Cup semi-final.
The clash between the two rival nations in Mohali, northwest India, was set to take precedence over almost all business.
Telephones rung unanswered in government ministries, share trading was expected dry up during the game, and roads were eerily empty of traffic.
People calling in sick may have struggled to convince their employers -- who perhaps did not expect a full day's work anyway.
"I will fall ill, the weather is just not right for my health," joked 24-year-old Manish Saxena, who works at a private Mumbai diamond export firm, ahead of the match.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani -- who himself travelled to India to watch -- announced a national half-day holiday.
No such blanket holiday applied in India, but many firms bowed to the inevitable and opted to give their workers the afternoon off.
Travel guide company Wcities, which is based in San Francisco, was one business that closed its Indian offices at midday ahead of the first ball being bowled at 2:30 pm (0900 GMT).
"We have been given a half-day, but only on the condition that we make up for the work next week," staffer Melwyn D'Silva told AFP.
Santosh Mangaonkar, who owns an advertising firm in Mumbai, also awarded his staff a half-holiday.
"This is a rare event. They have worked hard for some months -- it is time to make an exception," Mangaonkar told AFP.
Global consultancy firm KPMG also closed all its offices in India for the afternoon.
India's banks and financial institutions worked as normal -- in theory at least -- as the event fell just before the end of the country's financial year on March 31, but many employees were glued to televisions all day.
"One can expect share trading volumes to fall once the match starts," said Alok Churiwala, director with Mumbai brokerage Churiwala Securities. "It will be like what we had in school, a non-work day."
Indian author Chetan Bhagat suggested that a nationwide work boycott was in order.
"Tomorrow is the country's biggest mass bunk ever. Are you joining?" he asked on his Twitter page Tuesday.
In Pakistan, where cricket is a welcome distraction from violence and political instability, the whole country was ready to cheer on their national heroes.
Thousands of devout Muslim Pakistanis in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta took part in mass prayer sessions, asking God to guide their team to victory.
The main cricket stadium in Lahore will broadcast the game live on huge screen to fans who will be allowed in for free.
Even big business meetings in Mumbai, India's financial capital, have struggled to stay on topic.
"The mood has changed. From discussing targets and strategy, the boardroom chat has been whether Sachin Tendulkar will make his 100th international hundred," a banker at a state-run institution said on condition of anonymity.
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