Bouquets and Brickbats, sans individual vilification, are part of the game
The last 10 days in the Indian newspapers and social media saw columnist Shobhaa De get hammered and trolled. This followed a caustic tweet from her on India’s performance at the Olympics.
Now that India has finally managed to open its account in Rio (through Sakshi Mallik’s bronze in women’s wrestling), it is time to look back in anger or amusement at how politically incorrect statements, born out of innocuous frustration, are dealt with in the country by keyboard junkies.
One clever chap, Viren Rasquinha, former captain of the Indian hockey team, wanted columnist Shobhaa De to run on the hockey pitch for 60 minutes and hold a rifle like 2008 gold medallist Abhinav Bindra before any adrenalin rush can make her tweet some criticism.
That ingenious comment got hastily retweeted by many sportspersons and celebrities, including former world chess champion Viswanathan Anand.
From Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan to former cricketer Virender Sehwag many celebrities took it upon themselves to slam Shobhaa De.
What about singing the glory of Team India if they get to savour some accidental wins, Mr Rasquinha? Should commentators still have to do a wrestling bout before they can offer bouquets for the good performance?
Bouquets and brickbats are part of the game, Mr Rasquinha. As long as there is no individual character assassination, criticism must be taken in your stride.
Also, does your logic that playing is “harder than you think” apply only when losers are commented upon? What about the winners, including those from impoverished countries, who also play within the same parameters and achieve better results?
How about dissecting PMs and Presidents?
Going by your reasoning, if critics have to dissect the performance of prime ministers and presidents they must have held those positions earlier or been in the running for that. Sounds interesting, Mr Rasquinha!
Do you think only champions and players have the right to present commentaries on team performances? Then there will be no one else to present their points of view, Mr Rasquinha. How dangerous a stand in a world that values free thinking!
Shobhaa De Could have been Softer
Shobhaa De may have been too harsh with her statement but the essence of what she said holds true. The investments made on preparing Indian sportsmen for the Olympics will be a waste of money if there are no tangible benefits from it.
The athletes will keep floundering despite all the overseas exposure they get and ministers as well as sports officials will go on a jamboree in Rio or anywhere else, but critics will have to pay the price for any expression of frustration!
Everyone understands the need for encouraging words in the face of failures, irrespective of the constancy of that scenario, but going overboard when a politically incorrect statement hits the Twitter stream does not seem right for me.
Bhindra Not bothered by what Old People Say!
Abhinav Bhindra, who won India’s only individual Olympic gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, reacted thus: “Shobhaa De comes from a generation when sport was not given much of an importance and that’s why he’s not bothered by what a ‘few old people’ have to say.”
India is a country full of prejudices, including ageism. Abhinav’s comment only serves to highlight that.
Since 1900, India has so far only won 26 medals, nine of them gold. Eight of the gold medals came from hockey, the last one being in 1980. Bhindra is the only individual gold medal winner ever.
Prakash Padukhone with daughter and Bollywood star Deepika – image taken off the Web
Remember Prakash Padukhone, Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj?
Isn’t it clear that it was only during the old generation that India got most of its medals? That old generation also produced a few world champions with little governmental support. They include former badminton star Prakash Padukhone, who was the first Indian to win the All-England title, Michael Fereira and Satish Mohan in billiards (the latter were world champions).
Ramanathan Krishnan reached the semi-finals of the Wimbledon championship twice. His son Ramesh and Vijay Amritraj reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals once (or maybe twice). Amirthraj, Borg and Connors were even referred to as the ABC of tennis then.
Vijay Amritraj during his heydays – image taken off the Web
No other player has achieved that kind of singles success in tennis since then. All we have are those who participate only in doubles events shunned by all of the top singles players. Glory in doubles is hardly something the nation can be proud about. Leander won singles bronze at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
How is it, Mr Bhindra, that those from that old generation have brought greater success to India than the present crop? Their events were not in the Olympics then, otherwise, we could have had some gold medals even then.
Current Generation Loves Handheld Games
But then today’s generation loves to go crazy with handheld games such as Pokemon Go.
Moreover, the new-generation sportspersons spend most of their time overseas, either training or participating in international tournaments. With all the support they receive, India still manages to only put up a dismal performance in any sporting event.
Also remember, a single individual, Michael Phelps, has achieved more medals from four Olympic Games than India has won in more than a 100 years.
Let the nation celebrate their failures as that is what populists want to see! Come 2020, India will still be staring at big blanks on the medal boards before someone breaks the drought towards the end with an isolated bronze or silver or gold!
G Joslin Vethakumar