The winning of two “losing medals”, as British journalist Piers Morgan described them — a silver and a bronze– at the Rio Olympics sparked off a debate in the country. Morgan Tweeted that a “Country with 1.2 billion people wildly celebrates 2 losing medals. How embarrassing is that? ”
The August 24 Tweet brought forth a backlash from Indian Twitterati, including writer Chetan Bhagat. One of them called Morgan a “gross human being”. Another said a little country putting “great” before its name (Great Britain) was more embarassing.
The popular Internet social mediumTwitter also saw a war of words when hundreds of Tweets lambasted socialite writer Shobha Dey rediculed the Indian contingent to the Olympics as having gone there just for a fun trip to take selfies and come back empty handed.
Dey was trolled on Twitter for her insensitive quip. “The social butterfly writing titillating trash should change her name from Shobha Dey (day) to Shobha Rat (night, not the rodent),” said a WhatsApp post. In a hitting reply, articles were written about the rigours of training for the Olympics and how difficult it was to be eligible. Was all her writing trash as she did not win even a Booker prize?, she was asked.
There is no denying the fact that the Indian celebrations for Sakshi Mullik’s bronze in wrestling and P. V. Sindhu’s silver in badminton were disproportionate to the magnitude of their victories and certainly “wild” as the British journalist called it. The whole country went into a frenzy in giving them a rousing welcome and showering gifts and awards on them. No doubt their achievements were worth commending, but the hype at the celebrations smacked more of politics and one-up-manship than any encouragement to sports.
Politicians showered awards and gifts on both, at tax-payers’ expense and spent lakhs of rupees on organising public receptions at which politicians grabbed the spotlight more than the two girls who had to labour hard for years. The leaders wanted to share the attention the players were getting and pander to the vote-banks of the communities to which they belonged. Or they were racing with other politicians in bestowing largesse on them with public funds. Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media were abuzz with posts on the subject. One of them listed the bonanza bestowed on Sindhu.
1. AP Govt Rs. 3 crores
2. Telangana Govt 5 Crores.
3. Delhi Govt 2 Crores
4. MP Govt 50 Lakhs
5. All India Football Federation 5 Lakhs
6. Bharat Petroleum 75 Lakhs
7. Salman Khan 25 Lakhs
8. Jk Group 5 Lakhs
9. Badminton Association of India 50 Lakhs
10. Mukkattu Sebastian, An Indian Businessman 5 Million USD
11. Olympic Association of India 30 Lakhs
12. Haryana Govt 50 Lakhs
13. Railway Ministry 50 Lakhs
14. About 2000 Square Yards of Land in AP and Telangana.
15. Grade 1 Government Job in both Telangana and Andra Pradesh.
16. A BMW Beemer worth 2 Crores.
17. Mahindra’s top-in-line SUV from the company.
18. In AP 3 or 4 builders announced gifts of flats to Sindhu and her parents.
19. One of the country’s top jewellery chain’s brand ambassadorship — could be worth more than a crore. This comes to Rs.13.85 crores in hard cash, besides the cost of flats, plots, cars and endorsement money and promises of Class I jobs. Several such gifts were annunced for Sakshi too.
How many of these announcements would fructify and how soon is anyone’s guess, but no guess is needed as to how many of these very generous leaders lifted even a little finger to help her achieve the goal before she won the medal.
Some of the leaders speaking at the wild welcome shows did not even know the two girls’ names correctly. While the whole world was praising Pullella Gopichand for Sindhu’s achievement, Mehmood Ali, Deputy Chief Minister of Telangana publicly insulted him at the reception saying the government would provide a better coach for her future participation on world sports events.
Perhaps Ali had in mind that Gopichand, who had to mortgage his house to put up the academy which was given land by Chandra Babu Naidu governmen of Telugu Desam Party (alley of BJP and main rival of the Congress-backed Telangana Rajya Samiti). Gopichand had to go to court to scuttle the effort of the successor Congress government led by Y.S.R. Reddy to take back the land.
The grand Gacchibawli stadium where the reception was held was also the creation of the TDP regime which hosted the national games there. Naidu’s bid to use it for the Common Wealth Games was spurned in favour of Delhi – resulting in a major scandal.
Most of the pot-bellied politicians know nothing of sports and games and the only role they ‘played’ was to capture sports organisations for their influence and money. Those of them who did haved some playing experience, like AP’s Kiran Reddy who was a cricketer, S.M. Krishna of Karnataka who played tennis or Haryana’s Chouthala with his link to wrestling Akhadas, did little for sports or athletics when they were in power.
No doubt the two young women deserved all the gifts showered on them. But is that the way to ensure that in future world events and Olympics, India would put up a better show? What is needed is building up of world-class infrastructure and facilities and full encouragement to sports persons. Instead, we have politicians bringing groupism, nepostism and dirty politics into sports. Babus and netas pocket much of the money allotted, to enjoy foreign jaunts flying first class and putting up in star hotels, while sports persons are treated as menials and denied proper gear.
Another star who shone brightly at the Olympics, though she missed a medal by a whisker, was Deepa Karmakar of athletics who had to practice at a ramshackle gym and used improvised equipment she built herself from an old scooter. All three were raised to the sky after their return from Rio de Janeiro but left to fend for themselves earlier. Prime Minister Narenxdra Modi’s task force set up to raise the Indian standards for the next three Olympics, has a tough task ahead. A Pakistani cricketer who had declared that “all Muslims of the world” would be proud of his big achievement was criticised, but what about the claim of Sindhu being a ‘Telugu girl’ or the bid to call Sakshi a ‘Beti’ of Haryana – the main centre of India’s female foeticide?
That all the three are women is significant. The Haryana government promptly made Sakshi the face of its ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign. Something more concrete is nededed for Indian sports to grow out of sloganeering and half-hearted policies.
For the Indian girls at Rio… (can also go as a side box)
This most significant post among the many on WhatsApp is worth a read:
An Indian girl achieving in sports is like Alice of Wonderland running doubly fast even to stay where she was, as the odds are stacked AGAINST her.
They defeated the ultrasound that declared ‘it’ was a ‘she’.
They defeated the nurse declaring in a sombre tone ‘ladki hai’.
They defeated murderous parents or even worse those who keep them alive but kill their spirit every single day.
They defeated the odds against them …of parents “allowing” her to chase her dream.
They defeated the family pride that wants every Indian child to be a doctor or engineer.
They defeated the school teacher who said “it’s not a girl’s game”.
They defeated bad sports infrastructure and even lack of healthy food needed to fuel the fire.
They defeated a system where overweight foreign-travelling officials, who have only played Ludo as a sport, decide her fate.
They defeated the Dada-Nana who told her “good girls don’t wear short clothes”.
They defeated the Dadi-Nani who told her not to play in sun and become “kaali-kaluthi.”
They defeated friends who told her she needs to “control aggression and chill.”
They defeated the ‘pados waali Aunty ji’ who wondered “akele kahan-kahan ghumti hai aapki ladki.”
They defeated the million eyes staring at her legs and not noticing the brilliant game she played.
They defeated the Bua jee and Mausi jee who ask “tum shadi kab karogi.”
They defeated the journalist who asked her when she would “settle”.
They defeated the cynics who thought they were pouting and clicking selfies on a fully paid foreign trip.
So dare not take even a slice of her glory by calling her HUMARI BETI!
They have achieved what they have not because of us, but despite us!
If any parents can claim, it is only those who have only daughters or did not go on for more children hoping the next would be a son.