Live from Punjab

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July 29, 2007

PUNJAB, India -- The sun was just setting over the Indian province of Punjab. The dirt roads were empty, the marketplace was deserted and the denizens of the community had gathered in the center of the sand-shrouded city. Huddled around a television set -- a Western-inspired artifact -- they witnessed an unexpected conclusion to The Great Khali's World Heavyweight Championship celebration on SmackDown. The glow of the small screen illuminated the villagers' facial expressions, revealing a shared reaction in the champion's own hometown: Utter shock.

In awe of the tyrannical figure of their culture's mythos, the crowd was silent from the beginning. Their stillness told a tale of engrossing fear rather than celebration -- a fear first learned when The Great Khali walked among them. Among droves of Punjabi citizens that flocked to watch, none appeared in festive garb and, despite Ranjin Singh's claims, there was no grand merriment and no cheering; fireworks most certainly did not dance overhead in the fiery sky.

For many, it was the first time they'd actually seen the colossal tyrant whose legend bore an oppression that even the driest heat in the nearby Rohi Desert could not rival. A few of the elder, more reverent villagers looked on pensively as they witnessed what they believed might be the fulfillment of Punjabi prophecy in Khali's championship reign. Young children and adolescents would break the silence, whispering questions to their elders in an attempt to gain an understanding of the fabled giant.

Never before had this community seen the 7-foot-3 titan opposed, let alone physically confronted by any man who lived to tell of it. Minutes after Ranjin Singh told of the widespread exultation of Khali's countrymen, a resolute and valiant Batista curtailed the champion's lavish self-celebration and ultimately brought the goliath down.

Once The Animal speared Khali, the throng of viewers looked stunned, many of them gasping as the man who had allegedly been revered -- even worshipped -- by his fellow Indians was brought down by Batista. In a single moment, the lore associated with a monster who had "conquered every beast in the wild Punjab jungles" was suddenly contradicted. In response, the natives did not appear to be loathsome of Batista, but rather seemed more astonished to see their myth literally busted by an Animal.

None would comment on what they'd seen, though many stood with their mouths agape, the parched lips of some casting near-indiscernible smiles at the sight of the fallen giant. This reaction told of the indisputable impact made on a culture that had never before seen their 420-pound despotic idol challenged.

It also may have revealed somewhat of an inconsistency in Singh's claims that Khali is so greatly beloved in his nation.

The unanticipated events of Friday Night SmackDown may have ultimately proved to be a sign of liberation for the Punjabi populace from the oppressive hand of The Great Khali. More importantly, it might be a sign that Khali is the next mountain The Animal is focused to conquer, as Batista's mission to reclaim the World Heavyweight Championship appears far from over.

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