Thanks to Kaustubh for letting me know that 25 yr old Abhinav Bindra had won the first EVER individual Olympic Gold for India!! It came as a wonderfully unexpected bolt from the blue! I was ecstatic!
I wasn’t watching his event – didn’t even know it existed! Frankly, I didn’t think India had any medal hopes, was really pissed off at the Hockey team for failing to qualify and so was caught off-guard! But now let me say, CONGRATULATIONS ABHINAV – YOU DID US PROUD!!
I like this young man – all of 25, he impressed me with his calm and self-assurance. It was as if his victory had been a forgone conclusion and not the result of a hard, well fought battle! His rather stoic appearance, brightened only by the broad grin on the podium! His sister later said in an interview, that he had always been a dedicated, focused, reserved sort of child, not given to open displays of emotion but determined to do his country proud in his chosen area of expertise. Well he certainly did! Here’s to many more Days of Glory!
In true Bollywood style, the media was all over his house, his family, his friends, his hometown…interviewing all and sundry. As I watched Indians all over the country send in their Congratulations, I couldn’t help wondering how long it would last – this euphoria of an Olympic Gold. Would it really make any dent in India’s long-standing apathy toward a sport other than cricket? Truth be told – I don’t think so. I did a little research on Mr.Bindra and he is not representative of the average Indian. He comes from an affluent family with the luxury of a rifle range in his backyard! Unlike most talented sports persons in India, he was not at the mercy of the sports bureaucracy that I often feel exists, only to confer awards on sportsmen and women who triumph despite them rather than because of them!
I remember a time when Paes and Bhupati were doing well in tennis, when Rathore won silver at Athens or when Narayan Kartikeyan and Sania Mirza first erupted onto the scene, there was much hope then that these sportsmen and their successes would spur the development of non-cricket sports in India, but I haven’t seen that happen! Sadly, Hockey once a source of much pride and joy (still our national game for reasons unknown!) continues its abysmal decline in the face of much political scheming and in-fighting.
Why is it that in a country of 1.1 billion, only one sport is revered beyond every other, even when India is at best, mediocre at it? I guess – that is the million or shall I say billion dollar question! Why is it that India – once Olympic hockey champions are now unable even to qualify? Sport demands high levels of dedication and fitness from players but they also need modern infrastructure and sponsor support to train effectively and earn a living while doing so, since most athletes have short careers and are at a high risk of injury. I think China has shown the world, how it should be done over the last few decades and as a result been increasingly rewarded for their hard work and commitment to excellence in recent years.
While I hope that this latest Olympic Gold will indeed make a difference in the Indian sporting scene – my gut tells me that is unlikely. Public memory is fickle. This will most likely be another one of those ‘flash-in-the-pan’ events, much loved but soon forgotten and eventually relegated to dinner table chit-chat among sports enthusiasts.
This time, as before, I look forward to being wrong.
* Title inspired by Dr.U.N Gaitonde urf Mamaji!