OPINION

In a Land of a Billion

August 12, 2008
Blokesablogin

My husband decided to celebrate my birthday in a most "un-Indian" fashion. The usual visit to the temple followed by an Indian restaurant high-calorie dinner was substituted by a crazy trip down the American River in a yellow raft! We went white water rafting for the first time! Response from family and friends ranged from incredulity to happiness. A few wanted to know what it was like.

This foray into an adventurous life broke new grounds (waters?) in our family traditions. I could well imagine the experience of Lewis and Clark as they went on an expedition to chart a way to reach the Pacific across the continental US.

I wondered what made the average Indian who comes to the US, adventurous as a student but who morphs into this staid, serious, married professional preferring to reduce the risk factors in life. This train of thought led me to the current status of few competitive Indians at the Olympics.

Sports, by definition, demands taking risks. Until the very end, we can never be too sure who will win. Of course, if the film Jannat is to be believed, cricket matches are mostly fixed and the underworld money speaks in above-the-board activities of the sport. Hence the huge financial support for that game in our country. Given the connection between Bollywood, cricket and moolah, it can well be believed.

For the most part, life in India is a matter of survival for many. Necessity forces skills onto her populace. These skills are not for excelling. They are meant for survival. Be it at the work place or school or leisure, skills are mainly honed more for what purpose they would serve for our survival rather than being "moved by passion" to excel in a certain field. Skills with innate talent is only half the way towards achievement.

Hand in hand with skills go strategy. Here is where we miss out on taking a shot at international contests such as the Olympics. As a nation and as an individual we fair very poorly in this. Be it working towards clearing the 10th grade exam to getting into a 'good" job, very few use strategy. Most slog it out. Strategy is where America leads the way. It is systemic and highly developed into an art form.

If you look at the way the athletes are trained in America, it is in strategy as much as in skill. The Chinese excel for the same reason. Strategy ensures that it is reproducible. We had a P T Usha who "almost" missed the bronze in the '84 Olympics. But we never systematically trained people to achieve and improve upon her performance. Of course the highly bureaucratic process of gaining government sponsorship makes up for all the "strategizing" on the athlete's part, leaving very little for the sport.

At a more subtle level, there is much we need to work with our self image. We are very good critics. We are poor "newsmakers". Some of the best opinion pieces and editorials are written in the Indian press. Very little original work comes out of it. In the US, the publishing industry thrives on original work. People care two hoots for "others' opinions". This deep rooted sense of self worth manifests in the sports arena.

The ultimate "winner" is one who knows his skill is matched with strategy. Gone are the days of the "innocent" Olympians who were amateurs. Professionals have entered the arena enforcing higher standards of strategic excellence. It is time to create a strategic plan to get our talent "showcased". The greatest edge India can have over the rest would be the dispassion as demonstrated by Abhinav Bhindra. That attitude coupled with the rest will ensure a gold mine of medals.

Blokes aka Meenakshi enjoys writing along with being a mom, a school teacher, a musician and an Art of Living teacher (of meditation and breathing)
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#1
shanky
August 13, 2008
02:09 AM

that was a professionally written article which i hope suresh kalmadi sees. but then he has seen this and more i guess. honi ko kaun taal sakthe hain?

#2
saraswati
August 24, 2008
12:18 AM

Interesting to see how you have not generated any outrage with this posting as compared to other posts on religion!! I guess we don't know anything about sports to be passionate enough about it!! Having been trained to some extent as a professional swimmer in India, I don't think it is just a case of strategy. I think we have enough of those. What we don't have are enough athletes who are passionate beyond reason about their sport and families that will support them beyond reason and sports officials who will do the same. It's tough. It requires a different mind set and parents would rather their child invest in "studies" than in sports. Mindset. It all starts there!

#3
kerty
August 24, 2008
02:05 AM

Indians pride themselves as a peace-loving country, but the only olympic medals India has won are for shooting and fighting and punching. If there was any medal for ak-47 shooting or bomb blasting, India would have won them too. If our Naxals, maoists and jehadis can't do even that much for world's attention, what good are they?

I think it is all fault of Olympic format which has decked so many sports that are not really sports - consider that USA has won over 25% of its total medal in swimming alone. I think India should create similar advantage and should press for inclusion of cricket in different formats, say - 10 over cricket, 20 over cricket, 30 over cricket, 50 over cricket, cricket with red ball, cricket with white ball, cricket played with left arm, cricket played with right arm, cricket with 5 players team, cricket with 11 players team, cricket played like tag team/relay team, cricket played in Baseball format etc - that would improve India's odds of winning quite a few medals in some of those criket categories before other olympic nations can catch up with cricket as a sport. In mean time, India's best hope for more medal rests with AK-47 shooting and grenade throwing. Pakistan can offer us a cut throat competition, but we have battle-tested Kashmiris on our side.

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