Friday, August 15, 2008

Bindra and all that.

As an Indian blogger, I can't possibly miss out on the Abhinav Bindra slice of the blogging pie.
Much has been said about how it's an individual achievement, about how India -- her govt and her people-- had little to contribute and yet dwell in his glory. A generous dose of sarcasm has been meted out to the officials accompanying the Olympic team, with passing comments on lack of sports infrastructure, and lack of money in sports except cricket. Much has also been said about the golden boy being born with a silver spoon -- his father being rich and being able to risk the head of a domestic-help and waste (invest?) money on his son's indulgence.

And yet, somewhere, maybe, we all miss the point. The onus is not on them. It's on us.


Very recently, I was at a friend's place. A single mother, she had a tough time controlling her little son who is hyperactive and showed textbook (wikipedia?) symptoms of ADHD. We sipped tea. On Tv, Olympic cyclists reached their destination of the badaling section of the great wall, after a grueling 5 odd hours of cycling. We spoke of their endurance. And A and I joked and bantered whether her son should be trained to be a fencer or a gymnast. The mother looked sternly at us, and said "You two can start a fund if you want, I am only paying for his education, and not for this". She stopped short of uttering the word "nonsense".

By the time the child is 14, he will be enduring marathon study sessions at his table. And before we know it, he would be sitting in front of the TV watching Olympics 2024, looking at the athletes with envy.

And yet, we crave that kind of glory that being on TV would bring us. We like to associate ourselves with glory. We all know "a cousin is a cricket player", "A friend who started his own business and made millions", "An uncle who won the Pulitzer prize", or the "colleague who ran the marathon". We didn't do it, someone else did. Then we spend hours evaluating whether s/he deserved it. If they are related to us, the glory somewhat rubs off on us, by law of association. If not, then we settle for dressing our envy with criticism -- how we are/were equally deserving and they cheated their way out of it, how we never had the opportunity. To give you a simple example, I love repeating that Anil Kumble was an alumnus of my engg. college. The sports teacher in college though, didn't have the nicest things to say about him.

For every one of them that succeeds, there are thousand others that fail. And naturally, we are not willing to take any such risks.

We don't aspire for glory, we aspire for mediocrity under the garb of security. So, the hypermobility is not a reason to take up swimming, it's just a cheap party trick. The big feet are just a shoe-shopping issue that mothers would complain about. And in the end, it's the marks that matter. And frankly, it's not anyone's fault. Without a social security system, the insecurity about bread and butter gets the better of us. Given that it's gonna be a while before this changes, our mindset changes, govt is better off spending their money on additional IITs.


manuscrypts said...

whoa, what coincidence!!! i wrote a post on almost exactly this thought, with a different perspective though :D will post it tomorrow :)
you are right, the war needs to be fought and won internally first - as individuals, and as a society... and its not just sports, its jobs, its even the silliest of things like clothes and movies... i think i shall write one more based on your post :)

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written - loved it seriously!

Shishir said...

I think the onus is not always on us. You need someone to guide you, motivate you and appraise your efforts in order to initiate a positive feedback loop. If only we look back and figure out how these things have shaped and helped us to be what we are today, that we would be able to appreciate the fact that not all things are under our own control.

How much you take from your environment and how much that relates to your own potential and abilities ought to be in sync for successfully achieving your goals. And this is something I believe what happens in a greater proportion with people who make it to the top.

Of course hard work and diligence have their own share in the success but we simply cannot put that to 100%.

Mo said...

@manuscrypts, Yes, it applies to everything. Waiting to read what you have to say.

@placid, thanks.

@shishir, I am not sure whether you are contradicting my point or not. What I was trying to say is that even if there is enough infrastructure, unless people want to go ahead, dream and take the risk -- with themselves or with their kids -- it is impossible to achieve anything.

Shishir said...

@mo no I wasn't contradicting's just that I felt the line 'The onus is not on them. It's on us.' was a bit too presumptuous.

Mo said...

@shishir, perhaps it depends on how you define "them" and "us"

Cynic in Wonderland said...

its the pressure of survival i suppose. there are so many people that one tends to chase the safer, academia which does not go away in a twinkle of the eye unlike the more fickle physical sports etc. academia IS the safest isnt it?

roop said...

wow ... brilliantly written and so pertinent.

garb of security hmm. so true. but is it not important too?

Ms Cris said...

Got here from Roop's blog. Neat work!

Mo said...

@roop, thanks. Security is important, but it shouldn't be an excuse.

@cris thanks.

Kartik said...

While onus does lie on the individual they are more influenced by the perception of sport in India as a whole. IMO sport is seen as a ROI than anything else. The thousands of cricket camps show that parents do spend money. Let there be an ICL, IPL , 'XML' for fencing and see how many potentials would pop up. While bindra did make a lot of money I believe there was a passion for the sport and more so in our wrestling team.