A nation starved of recognition at the world’s prestigious sporting event is crying and screaming with elation at the achievements of our girls at Rio Olympics. I have added Dipa Karmakar’s name in the list in the title as her achievement is no less than that of a world champion as she was one among the two Finalists in her category to have done the most difficult vault called Produnova.
Losing the medal by just 0.15 points would be tougher than doing Produnova, and our girl Dipa Karmakar had to swallow that pain. True to her name (as I assume) she has stood as a Doer – a karma gyani who is not rattled by the wins or loses, when I read her say, coming fourth means fourth (place) and that she is happy with the vault she had performed. This kind of reaction is too odd to hear in the midst so much fuss about winning, winning and winning.
Winning is of course important, but the kind of temperament that one has to possess in facing wins and loses is even more important. I am reminded of a dialogue that comes often in Sundara Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana. It is – in any war winning or losing is not in one’s hands however capable one may be and one must be prepared for any of the two (winning or losing) in a war. It is the same in sporting events too. It is the same in life also – in how we face the events in life, both good and bad. One has to put up the best performance that one can, but when results come one must accept it with equanimity.
I found the same idea mouthed by the Great Sindhu after losing the Finals. She said that like in life, there will be ups and downs in sporting events too. She exhibited the finest form of that wisdom of equanimity in looking calm after losing the Gold and in lifting up Carolina Marin (winner) from the ground to congratulate her and in picking up the racquet of Marin (who left it on the ground) and leaving it in her place. It is a class performance of a champion which Marin didn’t display while playing and even after winning. It has become a habit for winners to scream and shout on winning. At the same moment one must think of the other at whose cost, that winning became possible. A true winner must immediately pat the loser in a gesture that all is not lost forever and that the loser had indeed did her/ his best. That is the best way a champion must conduct himself/herself.
The coaches are teaching them how to express their adrenalin-surge during the course of the game. But the players must be taught how to accept victory with elegance which cannot happen without an element of equanimity. This does not mean that we the people who have to cheer them must not exhibit our elation in all boisterous forms. Our support, cheers and applause are the energisers of our players, not the selfie comments.
The way our sports people are handling victory and defeat has a deep story behind. They have gone there with not much support in the making of their potential. They have gone there knowing very well their limitations. But we expect them to speak ‘I will win” etc, thinking that it is how a positive mindset has to be. Sakshi Malik has gone to play from a place that does not want to see a girl child born. Dipa Karmakar has gone from a practice session made of crash mats and discarded parts of second hand scooter. Only Sindhu seems to have had some backing in honing up her skills. But even that had a background of a Gopichand who was determined to make up for the inefficiencies that he often suffered.
So the problem why we have not produced world class talent is because we have not thought of giving importance to the sporting events that are making headlines for a fortnight now. Except cricket no other form of game is given importance or even known to common man. The reason is obvious. Media and publicity have kept up the cricket fever forever.
Another reason is that we as a young nation wishing to rise up quickly have our priorities elsewhere. We have to feed more than a billion people, pull them up from poverty and enable them to have access to basic needs. Only when a family fulfils its basic needs of means of decent living, can it think of encouraging their children to take up sports as a full time work. Our policy direction is also such that we want to produce only engineers and doctors. Or atleast this is the case in Tamilnadu where no other avocation has been set as a goal for our youth. We believe that education alone can uplift us and that is also true to a greater extent. We are still at this level of coming up to some status in life. Once this is fulfilled, people would start concentrating on sports.
Looking at the men and women taking part in many games in Olympics, it is obvious that they have a safe living back at home. They are not starved nor were the facilities lacking for them. By taking up a sport, they are not having an unstable career or lack the means of living. For a nation of huge population like ours such guarantees are not there. So far whoever had made it big, were driven by their passion for the game overriding all difficulties. Such a situation cannot produce sports talents in a larger scale.
In this situation private participation can bring out results in the immediate future. I think of the Indian Cricket board and the wealthy Film stars as best patrons to make this happen. The BCCI is like Trimala-Tirupathi Devasthanam in having good flow of funds. The Devasthanam is doing a lot by way of helping poorly kept temples to renovate and maintain pujas. Likewise, the rich BCCI can set up training academies for as many kinds of sporting events as possible and maintain them.
Attracting talent can happen region-wise. For example our best swimmers can be identified from the fishermen community. Genetically and locationally, the kids in the fishing hamlets can be seen to be adept in swimming, something I have noticed near Rameswaram. Swimming academies must be set up near such places to enable them to try and hone up their skills in swimming. Traditionally our country has had a variety of talents like this. As we can see in Sakshi, best wrestlers come from Haryana and Rajasthan – the location of Pushkar where Olympic like events were held during Mahabharata times.
Like BCCI, film stars are the richest in the country and they can take initiatives to provide facilities and attract talent to train them up. Salman Khan has taken the lead in this regard. Perhaps exposure to wrestling in his film Sultan had enabled him to appreciate the difficult practice sessions that the sports persons have to undergo. He had come forward to donate a lakh rupees to each one of the Indian contingent that had participated in Rio Olympics. Other film celebrities also must come forward to do something like him to encourage sportsmen and promote sports.
Today the focus is only on the winners. Imagine the rest of the Indian contingent, they too had dedicated a considerable part of their lives to training in their respective sports; but not lucky to clinch the titles. What is awaiting them back home? Would they concentrate on another bout of practice to get qualified for another event or look for venues to earn a living? As long as this dilemma is real, we cannot see more medallists in future events.