Although this is the most blogged about story these days, I couldn't help join the bandwagon in lamenting the poor show by the Indian contingent at Beijing. Every Olympics we hope against hope, give out our hearts to all the Indian participants, but they come back empty handed. Saina made me cry today. It was another matter that her dad cried on national television. She is the next Leander Paes in Indian sports, with a determination that we haven't seen in a long time. She won the first game after a long rally, lost the second one, and was leading the third one 11-3 when her nerves started to fail. She lost the third game to an Indonesian girl whose game is just about at par with Saina's, but whose nerves proved to be a lot stronger. The nation cried with her and there was this collective sigh, so near yet so far...
Take Anup Sridhar. He lost to Sochi Sato in the prequarters. Sochi Sato of Japan can pass off as a cold blooded drug peddler and has the meanest and most insular look amongst all the Japs you meet. The first thing you want to do when you see him is to tie him to a pole and arrest him on various charges. Anup, on the other hand, is the perfect gentleman vegetarian who has gone out there to play badminton. With Pullela Gopichand as his coach. Pullela Gopichand? He might have won the All England cup and might have been a world champion, but is he a hunter? Does he eat meat? Can he go out into a jungle and kill a wild boar and eat it? Does he have the instincts of a killer? If not, what is he doing as the national badminton coach? Why does his protege Anup, who is technically perfect, taller, and has a much better reach all over the court lose out to Sochi Sato, whom he has beaten in three out of five previous outings? Despite leading in each game?
Is it because he is an Indian? It is because he is from the Indian middle class. The middle class in India have limited dreams and they pass on their limited dreams to their children too. They are happy if their children manage to become computer engineers or manage a government job at the most. They are happy to excel at the national level (which is a pathetic level to say the least) and manage to get a nice job. Where is the winning spirit? Where is the scare of not being able to face a billion Indians if you go back empty handed? Sab chalta hai... after all who expects an Indian to win anything at the Olympics, boss, let me just have my share of fun and go home and start a coaching academy. Or join politics. Jyotirnmoyee Sikdar, after two golds at the last Asiad, is a member of the parliament now. Happy. What else does she want?
Who is fighting? Leander and Mahesh are. They are professionals, but they have to face Roger Federer's team in the quarters. They beat Federer and his other Swiss partner last time at the Olympics easily, so am hoping (and you all are hoping too) that it will be a breeze for them. But it is the Olympics, and we are Indians, so who knows after all? The nation knows we have this psychological disadvantage and there's nobody waiting with a stick back home. So why worry.
Take the archer Dola Banerjee and the shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu. World champions by their own right. The nation's hopes pinned on them. What do they do? They bow out in the first round. Dola was even seen smiling in an interview later. Go commit suicide, you loser, or go cry in the locker room. Don't come out smiling and give a silly press interview saying you enjoyed and gave in your best. Is this your best? You are a world champion, for god's sake. Is this ALL you can do?
Who sends them? Who chooses these guys? Who is this Kalmadi guy? Why is he there? Why don't you put him in jail for the next four years?
The pugilists are fighting. Sons of farmers and grade 3 government employees in Haryana, they are fighting. They are punching their way through each round. One guy, probably Arvind Kumar, even said he won't be satisfied with a silver or a bronze... only a gold. At least one guy has dreamed of it. May the force of a billion physically, culturally, emotionally, psychologically challenged Indians be with him. Or do you think he needs our support? He doesn't. He has reached where he has by himself. His dad is probably thinking of how to buy a tractor or how to repay his loans. He cannot afford a private coach for his son from Cuba. But Arvind Kumar has a dream. A lone ranger's dream. If he loses, he will go down fighting and for the handful of Indians who have seen him on TV, he will remain a fighter to reckon with.
Will someone else be able to give Abhinav Bindra some company up there? Anyone? Someone with even a little bit of pride for the country? With grit? With the instinct of a game hunter? Please say yes, please... we are waiting for you dear hero...