I sport Indian support

Congratulations Abhinav. Awesome show. The media tells me that you have given hope, single-handedly, to a billion people aching for Indian sporting glory. Well, at least the 400 million, TV-watching, newspaper-scanning part of that billion. All news channels are currently busy analyzing why India cannot produce more Abhinavs.

What makes your (and Leander’s, Rajyavardhan’s and Malleswari’s) achievement even more remarkable is that you are all sportspeople in a fundamentally unsporting nation. As a country, we are not really into sports. Of course, we do excel in certain disciplines, which unfortunately are not recognized by the Olympic committee, such as

Buck passing

Horse Trading

and ofcourse, the Great Indian Media Circus

So honestly, I don’t think India will get better at international sports (the ones the Olympic committee recognizes, i.e.) because Abhinav won gold in Beijing. Yeah, perhaps, a few more, well-to-do, highly focussed, hard working individuals might go on to become shooting champions, but nothing more. And that’s because the last time I asked a 10 year old what P.T. meant, he replied Physics Training (after school hours, for JEE). And most schools in Chennai (and other places as well) have more or less eliminated play grounds to erect more buildings that churn out exam-cracking zombies. Very few schools in Indian Urbia(?) have open spaces larger than a badminton court. My own Alma Mater, Vidya Mandir, used to have 2 spectacularly spacious playgrounds, both of which have now been replaced with concrete monstrosities to accommodate more students.

You see, Getting better at international sports looks something like this.

This is not to say that India cannot lay claim to a similar graph with respect to the Olympics. Of course, we can. In fact, we have a very similar looking graph as well:

So there.

It requires more than a dandanaka media circus around Abhinav’s achievement to bring about change in Indian sports. Commentators often like to say that Indian sports is in “disarray”, but for something to be in a state of disarray, it had to have originally been in some sort of array. And when was that? Let’s face it. India is not into sports in any meaningful way. Our schools do not support sports. They also don’t sport support. School sports requires a healthy, competitive atmosphere to thrive like those in the US or Europe, where inter-school matches are cheered by large crowds of students from both schools, and the official school team for any sport is a brand name in itself. When inter-school matches happen in India, the “crowd” is busy learning the finer points of cracking the board-exam.

In the 80s, when schools still had 3 PT periods in a week, India had no technology whatsoever, because one had to sell one’s soul to get an import license to even buy a treadmill. And now, when India is shining, IT is exploding and all that, our schools have “extra classes” to train our children in the advanced art of vomitting in exams. And playgrounds have all but disappeared from Indian cities. India spends $280 million USD on sports annually, out of which more than half goes towards “administrative” expenses. The few athletes that manage to trickle out of our billion are exceptions, and given the general social status of the non-cricketing sportsperson in India, what little they manage to do is exceptional.

Cricket is not a sport like Football or Volleyball. It’s an expensive (next only to Golf) pastime which, till rather recently, was mostly dominated by physically unfit Brahmins, a community that traditionally took to this sport with glee since it involved little or no physical contact with opponents, or for that matter, team mates (the huddle would not have worked in 1954). To say that many millions play cricket in India is actually a lie. A real cricket ball costs upward of Rs 400, and book cricket, cosco tennis ball cricket, french cricket and gilli danda are not really cricket.

So let’s stop deluding ourselves that we need to produce more Abhinavs. He is a self-made sportsman who has been training for the last decade using his own resources. Large scale national success in sports does not come from individuals like Abhinav excelling despite being outside the system. It will come from bringing back 3 PT periods a week in schools. And playing something other than cricket.

77 Comments

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  1. When you referred to PT the first time, I thought you were referring to PT Usha..:-)(may be you were!). But totally agree with your analysis. In some ways, I feel embarrassed to say in public that India has got one gold…We have a long way to go and probably an entire generation to wake up, before we can climb up that medal podium more often..
    -Ganpy-

  2. 1 gold in 1 billion (wait, 1 billion was wayy back in 2002-03) – and that too despite the system! Too sad, but no use complaining. Even if schools had playgrounds and PT periods, I don’t think parents have any incentive encouraging their kids to get into sports. They rather push them to do, say MBA from IIPM but not sports.

    And the graph – that was awesome! I love statistics 🙂 It’s time we turn over some of sports activities to private orgs like the BCCI for cricket (ya, ya…BCCI is private for all practical purposes – govt body my foot!)

  3. Completely agree with the post. Indians’ obsession with cricket and lethargy for everything else destroys all other sports and games. A great example of schools eliminating what little play space they have is the school right next to your parents’ home – St. John’s.

    The ‘passing the buck’ image was hilarious!

  4. I don’t think we can complain about schools putting buildings instead of playgrounds. There are strong economic reasons to do so..both for the people and the economy as well.
    How many good shooters can you really promise a lot of economic benefit to?
    Let us say you are in the US, and you are a shooter who won a gold. Do you think you would get any endorsements? any financial advantage..maybe a little bit but trivial.
    So unless there is so much money that all the people can get paid well, why would anyone opt for that?

  5. I agree totally. You should see the Phelps mania here. My husband sings the Univ of MI song everyday. And all these kids watch gymnastics and talk about scores I do not understand!

  6. Absolutely right…! we are probably one of the worst performing Olympic nations ever. You talked about schools churning out exam-zombies, but what about the parents? Unless your parents can afford to buy you expensive imported equipment, you have nothing but your books to practice with. Sports is necessary only as long as it gets you into a college through the sports quota…!! Arrrgh… a pity 😦

  7. You said it right.
    “Our schools do not support sports. They also don’t sport support”
    Very true statement. They just mindlessly grow students like farm animals and make them practice mugging and exam writing.
    Nethi adi Post!

  8. A very thoughtful post, with a message, that is the need of the hour. Leave the system alone, we can’t do anything when the fundamentals are screwed up. It may sound cliched, this sporting attitude must begin from the ‘grass root’ level i.e in schools – you diagonised the problem right.
    Next, comes system, which, is maverick in the other sporting events you showed in graphics!
    Third, money – corporates and politicians who are doling out millions, instead can actually do this before hand..
    Read this post, on the same context, way back in 2001 http://www.rediff.com/sports/2001/may/21rohit.htm

    The team’s Hungarian coach Laszlo Szucsak, it is said, has gone to coach Japan because India couldn’t afford to pay him US$500 or whatever more a month. But they can spend Rs 50 crore on hospitality for foreign athletes at the Afro-Asian Games!!!!

  9. Playing something other than cricket? The cricket obsession is so much part of our identity, it will take a long time to change that in a billion+ people!

    Parental pressure to perform academically coupled with a lack of infrastructure did it for a few friends of mine (junior national badminton team member and junior national tennis player).

    Sucks.

  10. See: “dominated by physically unfit Brahmins, a community that …or for that matter, team mates ”
    Too much…you really cant brain storm on anything else is it. Yes I know ur blog is kinda tambram-commenting centric….but many times when i read the sarcasam in ur writing i think u are just one pessimist. It will be great if u can stop writing ur so-called-intelligent community based statements…I kno u own the blog, but its for us to read. I like ur articles, I have read most of them multiple times. Cant stand the TAMBRM thing…so STOPPPPPPPPP
    Ashok: I’m not brainstorming 🙂 And these aren’t entirely my opinions. It was something I read in an article by some sociologist, and yes, I know nobody likes to hear bad things being said about their community, but unless we stop identifying so strongly with it, it won’t go away 🙂

  11. Yup.. I remember the PT periods and how I thoroughly enjoyed it while all my girlfriends were not into it. Sometimes, I even wonder.. on the “what might have been”s.

    Like your blog including the tambram comments.

  12. actually, while i did see the humor in the post ( 🙂 ), some facts may not be accurate. if you were to claim (chennai) metro schools cannot produce sportspersons of international stature for the reasons u suggested, i agree with you. (although ppl like chetan baboor, sharath kamal, some squash players etc.. are exceptions)

    however to say that we as a country do not play/produce quality players is simply not true. there is a very vibrant sporting culture in villages and towns. i am speaking from experience. (eg. chennai frequently gets drubbed by madurai and other places in inter-district events) only, there is little encouragement to pursue it as a profession and the training and facilities as you improve your game simply do not match up.

    there are other problems, but no point going into them. anyway, i somehow don’t really think so much of rathore or abhinav’s medal. i’m more like hoping some boxers can bring it in. there was a lot of fuss about them in the media and i expected they would be the typical overhyped losers, but turns out they are extremely good.

  13. Indians basically want to lead a income guaranteed life & are averse to risk .Sports , arts la ellam income guarantee illa..mostly parents wont let their children suffer in future .. adhunala encourage panna maatta.. demand illana schools epdi encourage pannum.. as I see it , its very difficult in the forseeable future. I believe it is our Indian attitude & everyone has a bit of it.honestly answer KA, will you encourage your kid to pursue just sports ( if he /she was interested)and miss out on education ?

  14. didn’t know you were from Vidya Mandir…my alma mater too… in fact both of them – adyar & Mylapore. I was very sad too seeing buildings on our original soccer/ volleyball/ cricket/ run&catch/ march past practice/ prayer hall/ part swimming pool (seasonal) area.
    time to bring back P.T and actually encourage it. I think we still should be having those APSC tournaments (intra-school), etc. Have not kept up with what happened to those!

  15. Thanks for penning this very nice article. A friend of mine at work (in Singapore) commented yesterday that Singapore cannot produce many Olympic athletes simply because the middle class is too big. Took me a while to think about this and I realized he was right. Even in India, we face the same thing. The middle class is too big and with this, comes parents’ ambition of breeding their kids for what perceive is a better life – study hard , get a job at Infosys (for example), buy a house, a nice car, make US trips and make the $$$ etc. In reality they are breeding them for mediocrity – to work 10-7 days doings some kind of software support, working hard towards someone else’s dreams. Heck, I have been doing this all my working life too, ain’t I? . But it is not our parents’ fault because they are under too much peer pressure.
    It is our generation that can make a difference. And the way I see it, so many young Indians now have 2 letter codes for their hometown, that I can only imagine; they would be doing this not for themselves but for their children. There is always change for the better, but I don’t expect this to apply to the sports in the country where Governments are just looking at the 5 years in office and making the best of their media time. Yes, India will always produce these shining stars like Abhinav, and yes, I was thrilled to watch him take Gold on TV. But proud for him, not for the country. Now the whole country may be taking credit for his Gold but make no mistake, he has done it on his own terms. And he knows it…

  16. Fantastic post Ashok. In my school in Ramanathapuram, we use to have 2 PT periods in a week(1990). We use to play volleyball, basketball, football and baseball too. But when I have been to my native last time (2006), I noticed most of the ground where covered with new buildings. Now nobody knows what is a baseball game. Even parents also not allowing kids to play.

    One of my sister is doing her 10th class, finished C and C++ in CSC training center. Now she is doing Java. She don’t have time to think about games. Most of our youth are lack of physical fitness, because they missed their PT periods in school. If we find special talents in sports, we have encourage them.

  17. Speaking as somebody who would cheerfully bunk PT and games periods to sit in the library and read novels .. you’re spot on. We need more such “free periods” so that we can get on with our lives .. with our girlfriends in a quiet corner, with novels in another quiet corner .. and to hell with sports 🙂

  18. While the sportpersons train out here in their own soil, there is nothing but a huge scramble for the officials berth in the contingent. They are more in number than the representing sportspersons…that is a very a sad state.
    But looking at it positively, the school my kids go to, has some of the best playgrounds in the city…and a lot of PT periods…3 every week….and yes!! the encouragement stops at that level, when they pass out from school

  19. With the flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals.

    Rudyard Kipling, “The Islanders”

    quoted well out of context but see the entire poem .. quite relevant to your rant i think (substitute sports for war and see)

    The Islanders
    1902

    NO DOUBT but ye are the People-your throne is above the King’s.
    Whoso speaks in your presence must say acceptable things:
    Bowing the head in worship, bending the knee in fear-
    Bringing the word well smoothen-such as a King should hear.

    Fenced by your careful fathers, ringed by your leaden seas,
    Long did ye wake in quiet and long lie down at ease;
    Till Ye said of Strife, “What is it?” of the Sword, “It is far from our ken”;
    Till ye made a sport of your shrunken hosts and a toy of your armed men.
    Ye stopped your ears to the warning-ye would neither look nor heed-
    Ye set your leisure before their toil and your lusts above their need.
    Because of your witless learning and your beasts of warren and chase,
    Ye grudged your sons to their service and your fields for their camping-place.
    Ye forced them glean in the highways the straw for the bricks they brought;
    Ye forced them follow in byways the craft that ye never taught.
    Ye hampered and hindered and crippled; ye thrust out of sight and away
    Those that would serve you for honour and those that served you for pay.
    Then were the judgments loosened; then was your shame revealed,
    At the hands of a little people, few but apt in the field.
    Yet ye were saved by a remnant (and your land’s long-suffering star),
    When your strong men cheered in their millions while your
    striplings went to the war.
    Sons of the sheltered city-unmade, unhandled, unmeet-
    Ye pushed them raw to the battle as ye picked them raw from the street.
    And what did ye look they should compass? Warcraft learned in a breath,
    Knowledge unto occasion at the first far view of Death?
    So? And ye train your horses and the dogs ye feed and prize?
    How are the beasts more worthy than the souls, your sacrifice?
    But ye said, “Their valour shall show them”; but ye said, “The end is close.”
    And ye sent them comfits and pictures to help them harry your foes:
    And ye vaunted your fathomless power, and ye flaunted your iron pride,
    Ere ye fawned on the Younger Nations for the men who could shoot and ride!
    Then ye returned to your trinkets; then ye contented your souls
    With the flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals.
    Given to strong delusion, wholly believing a lie,
    Ye saw that the land lay fenceless, and ye let the months go by
    Waiting some easy wonder, hoping some saving sign-
    Idle -openly idle-in the lee of the forespent Line.
    Idle -except for your boasting-and what is your boasting worth
    If ye grudge a year of service to the lordliest life on earth?
    Ancient, effortless, ordered, cycle on cycle set,
    Life so long untroubled, that ye who inherit forget
    It was not made with the mountains, it is not one with the deep.
    Men, not gods, devised it. Men, not gods, must keep.
    Men, not children, servants, or kinsfolk called from afar,
    But each man born in the Island broke to the matter of war.
    Soberly and by custom taken and trained for the same,
    Each man born in the Island entered at youth to the game-
    As it were almost cricket, not to be mastered in haste,
    But after trial and labour, by temperance, living chaste.
    As it were almost cricket-as it were even your play,
    Weighed and pondered and worshipped, and practised day and day.
    So ye shall bide sure-guarded when the restless lightnings wake
    In the womb of the blotting war-cloud, and the pallid nations quake.
    So, at the haggard trumpets, instant your soul shall leap
    Forthright, accoutred, accepting-alert from the wells of sleep.
    So, at the threat ye shall summon-so at the need ye shall send
    Men, not children or servants, tempered and taught to the end;
    Cleansed of servile panic, slow to dread or despise,
    Humble because of knowledge, mighty by sacrifice. . . .
    But ye say, “It will mar our comfort.” Ye say, “It will minish our trade.”
    Do ye wait for the spattered shrapnel ere ye learn how a gun is laid?
    For the low, red glare to southward when the raided coast- towns burn?
    (Light ye shall have on that lesson, but little time to learn.)
    Will ye pitch some white pavilion, and lustily even the odds,
    With nets and hoops and mallets, with rackets and bats and rods
    Will the rabbit war with your foemen-the red deer horn them for hire?
    Your kept cock-pheasant keep you?-he is master of many a shire,
    Arid, aloof, incurious, unthinking, unthanking, gelt,
    Will ye loose your schools to flout them till their brow-beat columns melt?
    Will ye pray them or preach them, or print them, or ballot them back from your shore?
    Will your workmen issue a mandate to bid them strike no more?
    Will ye rise and dethrone your rulers? (Because ye were idle both?
    Pride by Insolence chastened? Indolence purged by Sloth?)
    No doubt but ye are the People; who shall make you afraid?
    Also your gods are many; no doubt but your gods shall aid.
    Idols of greasy altars built for the body’s ease;
    Proud little brazen Baals and talking fetishes;
    Teraphs of sept and party and wise wood-pavement gods-
    These shall come down to the battle and snatch you from under the rods?
    From the gusty, flickering gun-roll with viewless salvoes rent,
    And the pitted hail of the bullets that tell not whence they were sent.
    When ye are ringed as with iron, when ye are scourged as with whips,
    When the meat is yet in your belly, and the boast is yet on your lips;
    When ye go forth at morning and the noon beholds you broke,
    Ere ye lie down at even, your remnant, under the yoke?

    No doubt but ye are the People-absolute, strong, and wise;
    Whatever your heart has desired ye have not withheld from your eyes.
    On your own heads, in your own hands, the sin and the caving lies!

  20. Amen to your post! I agree (fully or to a large extent) with most of the stuff

    Side note: look at TOI’s description today (14/8/08) of Saina’s loss in badminton – “Saina Nehwal chokes in quarters” … why couldnt they have written “Saina Nehwal goes down fighting” … and man did she fight! My point is we also need to take losses well – esp those where our athletes have fought tooth and nail.
    Look at TOI’s sports page and you will invariably see a bikini clad “ex”girlfriend of some “former” football player/manager. What does it have anything to do with sports?! They suck and program their readers to think, and therefore suck, similarly

  21. kalakittezh pongo…ungala maadiri aatkal naala dan cricket ku madippe koranjiduchu 😛 Sachin Tendulkar ku endorsment 4 kodi la irundhu 3.9 kodi aakital aame!!! kodumaya paathela :'(…useless abhinav bindra afterall oru olympic gold medal ku 10 latcham kudukura…namma saurav ganguly 100 run adichirukaru avarukku verum 15 latcham dan salarya :O
    Jokes apart…we will all remember the names of ppl who won(Rathore…malleshwari…etc) else the chick has to be really hot(sania mirza) or a future figure(saina) to be even mentioned in the newspapers…there were two boxers who entered the last 16 as well…our football team won the Nehru cup after god knows how many years by defeating kazhakstan(screw the spellos) 4-1!! but we dont have a system for football/hockey(national joke)/chess(it started with vishy and in all probability end with him)/fencing(whatever happened to kattabommanisque fighting skills? or are they limited to the dialogues)/swimming(100m freestyle national record but came 46th in olympic heats!)/anyway….in a country where half the sports bodies are “held” by politicos can we expect anything more?

  22. Man, you nailed it!

    Karthik, I agree and that’s why I switched to Hindu a year ago. Life has been peaceful ever since

  23. Absoulte truth!
    How many people know about Kabaddy, Co-Co (hope i spelled it rite)? We Indians invented them. Where are these sports today?
    I have one more additional pt to make here. Even if the government tries to improve, will the parents support their children? I doubt it!
    Also, all these sports-persons are supposed to get a gouvernment service job e.g. Police, Railways etc. But there too there is reservation system! Hence, Krish, I guess you missed out on the “reservation” sport to mention…

  24. “book cricket, cosco tennis ball cricket, french cricket and gilli danda are not really cricket”..Loved this..

    ana Sir,Book cricket nammalaoda National sport illaya ??

  25. Being in pune for most of my life so far, and commonwealth games host pannardha irundha kuda – we don’t have proper infrastructure in the city – even the roads which lead to balewadi stadium – am sure before the games begun – it will be newly laid roads – just like how its done for any visiting politician !

  26. All true…on the other hand, there is a land :
    where the government has a special program aiming just to select and train children at a very young age from all walks and classes of life, to become athletes of the highest calibre,
    where the parents also push these selected children to excel and reach the highest pinnacle in athleticism,
    where the patriotic spirit is inculcated at a tender age to think, talk and accomplish for the glory of the country,
    where regimental discipline is taught to be the athlete’s way of life,
    where any thought of self is to be annihilated while being in training to become an athlete for one’s nation,
    And this land is called China.

    The Government, Parents and Teachers come together to create products of high excellence.
    Are all the above possible in our country..maybe..

  27. One guy who has been kicking butt for years at a very global level is Vishwanathan Anand. He just decimated a great prodigy, Magnus Carlsen, at the Rapid Chess World Championships at Mainz, Germany. He too is completely self made.

    The post was superb as usual.

  28. I somehow have this feeling that art of any kind faces a major hurdle in India because of an unreceptive audience. We do not appreciate art – we appreciate entertainment; to put it more generously we appreciate the art of entertaining. Now, be it cricket (or any other sport), music, theater or even movies – the lack of creativity is a direct result of an un-demanding audience!

    And, in my accordance there is another major hurdle – parents. I can understand the insecurity they have specially given the general acceptability of artists of any kind. But, the supposedly educated, middle class and higher strata – these are the ones who have to invest heavily; not just by means of money but in spirit and flesh. Abhinav (remove the ‘h’ and our names spell the same!) Bindra is one such product.

    I frankly did not read his blog or listened to any of his interviews, but I am damn sure he wouldn’t have thanked the government for anything. In fact, he shouldn’t. The Rs. 10 lakh gift that the various state govt. are supposedly bestowing on him – I want him to straight away refuse those stating publicly that they use that for building sports infrastructure. Build an entire sports city for crying out loud!

    India isn’t shining… it is just the age old rust that is being removed – I guess.

  29. In India people have to work to provide roti/kapada/makkan for their family – they don’t have time to play sports. Watching sports played by others, once in a while is ok.

    The priorities are different compared to the West.

    Today’s menu: Vendakai sambar, carrot+beans poriyal, pappadam & curd rice+lime pickle.

  30. @mmsblog – There is another side to the whole story. I read an article a few days ago in The Hindu (if I remember right) about a Chinese athlete who has nowhere to go. He has been playing for his nation for the past 2 Olympics or so. He is 24 years old – but no education, no skill, no professional training – except sport. Now he is injured, he can’t run. China has left him nowhere. They gave him some x amount of money – but with that he cannot possibly sustain life. His parents, who were so encouraging now have to work at old age. This dude discontinued schooling on govt. advice.

    So, you see there is always an other side. I think – if we are indeed looking to replicate a sports infrastructure model – we should be looking ‘Down Under’.

  31. There you go…your post had an excellent start…decent midsection..but the climax was kind of a let down…when u put the blame on lack of Physical Training periods in schools these days and lack of play grounds are you not passing the buck on to the school authorities? If one has a look at Abhinav Bindra’s profile even he has been to school, college etc etc doing everything that a normal individual wud have done! I am not stating that I support the Indian government for not promoting sports other than Cricket properly. I am just stating that your post in itself is contradictory to an extent! 😛
    Ashok: Agree. Afterall, in keeping with tradition, I am good at the sport of buck passing 🙂 but seriously, demanding 3 PT periods does not mean that I’m blaming only the schools. A school is run by parents, as much as it is by administrators. Bringing back more physical training is not a decision that can be taken just by schools. It is a collective thing

  32. Krish!!
    Very well written. They were quite a few segments I really identified with. Current Urbanomania includes more buildings one’s school has, more the prestige. After I read your article, I bumped into this one, which had me all cracked up. Its always after the event no?

  33. Great post!
    Since the Indian contingent has been gradually going one up with each olympics in terms of the medal. First it was Bronze, then came silver and now Gold..I think we will withdraw from next olympics as we have nothing to achieve!!

    Suresh Kalmadi is going to do Karmadhi for Indian sports!!

  34. Rightly said !! It takes ‘Chinese’ like willingness and motivation to seek sporting glory…Forget about the sporting infrastructure and govt support, we Indians(majority) prefer to watch television or play video games rather than venture out and do any physical activity.

  35. I totally forgot what PT stood for 😀 ! But even if we get through 3 PT periods a week, what happens to the sportsperson once they get to college. I had a pal who was a national level swimmer ,she didnt have enough “sponsors” ,so she had to quit.. Those guys who are spending big moolah on indian cricket clubs.. (Not the govt), can afford to spread a little on the other sports too… happy Independance day btw

  36. I really don’t think Krish meant the 3 PT periods a week too literally. It would certainly be a good first step. There is this one statement that Suresh makes – which I think would make a huge difference – there aren’t enough free periods for children to form and hence pursuit their interests.

    @Sambar Rice – I am sure China, Nigeria, Kenya have extra-human abilities to survive without the proverbial roti, kapda aur makan! When will we ever identify the root cause than trying to ‘pass the buck’ – so to speak!

  37. can you also stereotype football, hockey etc? You can do it , just try. Hint, hint:
    Football – feni-drinking(or kallu-kudiching) arabian sea side meenavangal
    Hockey – lassi-gulping, turbanned punjabis. (brain thevai illai indha sportku nu kooda oru line add pannikkalam – stereotype dhaane!)

  38. wanted to add to raj…..In my childhood I always thought Hockey Stick is a better weapon than a sports gear….I remember seeing real Hockey game on TV long after I became accustomed to see Hockey sticks as Weapons by the leather coat clad Rowdies of the movie in the late 80s…

  39. ooh, You is a VMite! aha. There IS one ground in the high school block still intact, although the primary side has been aa pottufied by the new kindergarden building (which by the way has a huge pullaiyar mosaic thingumajig on it I think).

    After 7 years of playing table tennis, it occured to me that sports in India seems to be exclusively for the purpose of getting in through college on sports quota.

    Although we were allowed to play during PT period till about 9th standard, by the time we reached 10th standard…the other girls in class never wanted to play. (Not that they’d study either. Everyone would lounge over to the canteen). And in 11th standard, teachers thought they had a claim over any “free” period that we might have during the week. PT, Work Experience (SUPW) and General Studies were neatly pangu-pottufied in staff-rooms.

    In anycase, sports in India doesn’t pay. Especially for women. Unless you are really REALLY passionate about the game.

    I don’t know if the inability to commit oneself to anything (other than centum in egjams) is an inherent Indian thing or what.

    Agh, I’m polambifying. Point being, as a (former) sports person, I totally get what you’re getting at.

  40. Vevvagaaramaana area. But yenyways, ippo school-la sports na pasanga math olympiad, science olympiadnnu pesaraanga. Fitness is no longer a concern, for both parents and teachers. All they seem to care about is IIT and whether pakathaathu maadhu got more marks than their own dear offspring. Haiyyo, when countries like Oz, with populations lesser than Tamil Nadu get gold medals like vengaayams, romba valikardhu.
    Besh besh, super post.

  41. PT periods remind me of how some science/math teachers would occupy the once a week PT period to scribble notes on the board. When asked why/how/what..answer we got was…oh I’ve already spoken to your PT sir! Wonder what they spoke about!

  42. Here is some food for thought.

    Suppose a school has the choice of creating another building that can educate 100 more students, or leave it open as a playground, what should it do? If the government has some land that it can use to provide low cost housing or build a community playground, what should it do?

    I don’t see how it is the job of a democratic government to create advanced sports infrastructure when so many other compelling problems exist in our society. Before you jump saying this is the same argument as advanced education vs literacy efforts, let me remind you it is not. Government should invest in areas that can benefit the country in the short/long terms. I simply can’t see how art or sport promotion is economically beneficial to society… at best it is inspirational. I know this is very very important, but it is simply not the government’s job. These things must be left to philanthropists and private organizations. I suspect this is how it works in most democracies. The days of the state promoting art and sport are over, and deserve to be.

    I think these things, as usual, come when people climb up Maslow’s pyramid. If your basic needs start getting met, you will worry about art and sport. Until then, it is irrelevant. I will defend middle class parents who insist on education at the expense of sport. Their attitude reflects the economic reality of life, and the huge odds against success in art or sport.

    This post has become an incoherent rant. But I hope it kindles some thought that justifies the system today.
    Ashok: I think the problem arises with your fundamental assumption that art and sport are somehow a “luxury” and rightfully have no place in middle class priorities. I disagree. There are countries with far greater economic problems that do better at sport, simply because it is an ingrained part of their culture. Similarly, art is a fundamental need. It is a very integral part of social identity. Blues and Jazz arose from black slaves in the US. Similarly, Gaana paattu comes from the bottom of the economic pyramid. So I don’t see why the middle class, which is clearly better off, should lead such an improverished life. And my post does not demand that the State build better sporting infrastructure. It only suggests that sporting excellence comes from a widespread adoption of a sporting culture, starting from school.

  43. The post is humorous. yes. It invokes that smile in us seeing the plight of our sports. But I do not completely think it is right to blame the country. It is not unfortunate that we represent India or embarrassed to say about its achievements but its India that should be ashamed to be represented by us. Even with all these problems of poverty, corruption, red tapism you still find people raring to go to Olympics to achieve something. Even if they get a bronze we have to encourage them for the mere fact that they made it all by themselves.

    You say 1 billion. 50 % of them cannot even find daily food. 30 % of the remaining 50% try hard to make ends meet. Remaining people are not sure if the government will help them during crisis. This social security is what is there in countries like US and UK and all. So you cant expect parents to be as free as their other country counterparts are.

    Nevertheless a very thought provoking topic. Kudos. Keep up the work

  44. A Hari – Come on!

    You shouldn’t be looking at this as an independent govt. activity. Sure an entire ecosystem has to be built around this – playgrounds, stadiums, schools, competitions, coaching, etc.

    And how this is going to help us economically – ask Monaco how the Grand Prix held once a year helps it. One event – just one event of an international scale could change the face of a city/ town. And that – would just be the beginning.

    I am in total agreement that we are hard-pressed for other basic necessities like food, water and suicide committing farmers – but not building a sports infrastructure is not helping the cause anyway. The ‘democratic’ govt. could accomplish a sports ecosystem in ways more than one.

    1. Encourage corporates to host events – making it a low-tax/ tax-exempt expense
    2. Make sports a mandate in the school curriculum

    Start thinking and be open to these ideas. The mind block is the only hurdle.

  45. Isn’t the root cause of all this that the people don’t like watching and hence spending money on any sport except cricket? I think it isn’t the government’s job to make people want to watch the triple jump or the 400 m relay. We need some creative businessmen to build leagues a la the ICL to try and market other sports and make a buck out of it, and make celebrities in the process. Even if there is a remote chance of making crores out of talent, students and schools will automatically notice. Just look at how many people nurse delusions of joining the Indian cricket team or becoming a famous movie star even today.

  46. Ashok,
    Your explanation @ Hari.A is wise.

    “…but unless we stop identifying so strongly with it, it won’t go away :)”

    how true. even the so called youngsters with modern outlook tend to support their community irrationally.
    but you continue to be critical of any one.
    keep it up.

  47. @ all readers of this blog.

    How many can truly swear that they have made a conscious effort to be a part of a sporting culture and encourage children to play and act in teams

    modern parents are just killing children with Xboxes and Cokes.

    I believe that citizens should request corporation grounds and parents should stop sending children to schools that only have ranks in their claim to fame. Even College level the students must have access to grounds.

    Growing up in cities I know the number of window panes, Car bumpers and Full Length glasses that I have damaged. We need grounds in Cities.

  48. fantastic perspective on this blog note ashok. when i was in school since i was physically challenged i never used to attend PT periods so i used to sit in class. its surprising to find all of my class mates crib how lucky i was to be disabled and how i relish the free time. i used to play badminton before my arthritis put an end to it. its not just the school system, its also the mentality towards sports that needs a change…

  49. saar, abhinav bindra is a azhukku panakkaara fellow.. did u see ahil kumar’s win over the boxing world champion? his disciplined fighting technique won hm that bout..

  50. But why should we, as Indians care about doing good / great at sports at all??? I am a big believer of Free Markets Theory and think that if anything has a comparatively better risk / reward ratio, then resources will automatically get allocated to that. In sports, even if we do allocate a lot of resources and win 40 golds, the reward is only to those 40 people. Remember the pride of 1 billion people cannot be monetized! Instead, if the same money is spent on building “exam cramming” centres, the reward is much higher and more widely dispersed. So, let the Free Markets decide and as of now sports doesnt have as good a risk / reward than IT !!

  51. 1 gold in a billion ppl1
    while people from countries with population the size of chennai won more and more!
    and i do not know wat happened
    once u win a gold the rest of the troupe lose it all!
    is it some kind of a bad evil curse spread among Indian sports people!
    Coz it evens in all sports India plays
    one will do well rest will fail
    or else everybody will fail
    and dont ask abt schools!
    indian schools are only for academic purposes!
    they dont acommodate u in school coz u r a sports person
    all they need is marks marks and more marks!
    whereas i agree wid the reducing ground for playgrounds
    even my alma mater CV has build up new blogs reducing the play area and i was so frustrated abt it!
    now u say all schools are doing it!
    this is certainly some food for thought!!
    gud blog!
    🙂

  52. i some what agree with you. but you know when i was in school, my parents always tend to say “படிச்சாதான் சோறு” and never involved me into sport. that i some how play cricket, football, badminton. but i loved to play more of long tennis, basket ball etc. there is none to encourage sports.

    just by blaming schools wont work out. our parents should also think, which can be brought by teachers and schools by promoting more of sports.

    what should schools should do is that they should treat sports and education as equal and impose them on to students minds.
    why because not many can become great sportsperson. and not many can become great scientists…

    pupil who can study can study well. pupil who can play can play well. not every one can be king in everything. of course there are pupil who are intelligent in both sports and education unlike me who is dumb in both…..

    first of all we should remove affiliations given by state government to schools without playing grounds and then try to impose 3 or 4 PT period and make it compulsory in theory and practical for one to pass that year. then, i think people will excel…

  53. Agree on Abhinav making it big on his own accord. Its obvious that the country’s resources did nothing to get him the medal.
    I guess same goes for the earlier medal winners too.
    And putting back 3 PTs will not be enough.. the people in this country need to understand that there are other sports and cricket is not the end of the world. There should be an encouragement to other games, and athletes.. Only then the younger generation will take to it instead of spending the little time in Cricket camps…

  54. “I will defend middle class parents who insist on education at the expense of sport. Their attitude reflects the economic reality of life, and the huge odds against success in art or sport.”

    In that case the first step for the parents should be to prevent their kids to watch all these so called MegaSoaps on the Tamil, Hindi and other channels. And stop them from playing in corporation ground. They should just force the kids to study study study and vomit! Which I guess is the case anyway!

  55. Kalmadi didn’t even manage to get Abhinav Bindra’s name right. What a hue and cry about just one medal! That too for an “independent” athelete whose parents supported him in his obsession with the sport.

    F*** cricket.

  56. Hell with bringing back PT … whatever happened to bunking classes for a few competitive hours of basketball or soccer (ok ok football)?

    What we really need to do is outsource our sports program to China. Have them get us on a coherent plan like Project 119 and in 8 years, WE might actually have a fair shot of doubling our medal count in the last 88 years in one go!

  57. Valid point, India lacks the sporting spirit. Won’t you agree that ,most of the Indians completely focus on winning. Cricket became popular or rather say super popular when BCCI team won the world cup in 83. Tennis became popular when Paes-Bhupati won few grand slams in doubles. Shooting is again made popular when Jaspal Rana won few golds in Asian games, back in 1994.
    For others who put their hardwork and life in sports, there is no recognition. May be, we are all too inclined for Hero worship. Competing or playing, simply is useless. Does only winning matters.
    Or may be, it again gives hope that Abhinav, Paes, Malleshwari, Vijendar, Sushil kumar will at least inspire millions more to come in the sports arena, as its possible to win and get accolade (and hopefully some money).

  58. Moreover, I am extremely peeved at BCCI’s attitude towards ICL. It was because of ICL that they started IPL and the hope that one of the teams, at some point in the future, will actually bring in a functional system that will actually show some results.And now they are in the middle of their muscle flexing convincing other boards to ban ICL. And what worries me the most is that, being the richest cricketing board in the world, our team is nowhere on the top. yes..they do show some exceptional performances now and then.What do we have to show for it? And to top it off, they are blocking anyone else from actually doing anything to improve it.Does no one else see that this is a monopolistic tendency that must not be encouraged!

  59. Nice post. It is so very true that our people are obsessed about education when they are young and money, immediately after. They hope that leading such a life would give them happiness. And they go to any extent to defend themselves, including declaring false claim about their happiness levels (First to others and then to themselves). Talk about the levels to which illusion can get! It is our attitude, more than anything else (Incl the Govt) which is preventing us from sporting achievements.

    Destination Infinity

  60. http://sportal.nic.in/showarnews.asp?maincatid=68&id=113

    Fact: Sports infrastructure in Cuba is close to non-existent. Money, sponsors? What’s that?

    But, pray explain, 65 gold, 53 silver and 52 bronze medals?

    Another pov. Being an extremely wealthy investor, I have 2 biz propositions. One, an average sized mall complete with multi-screen movie theatres. Two, state of the art sports facility for public access – from amateurs to the pros. What would I bet my money on?
    Our lifestyles are too intellectual / entertainment / career centric. With a 9-5 job (that never ends at the mentioned 5pm) can I catch up on some 5-aside football with friends before getting back home to catch up with the family?
    Physical activities are a drain on us. We already are burnt out enough. The next generation is always exposed to this lifestyle, and so it continues.

    One of the Cubans mentioned in the article above made this remark when he was taken around the spanking new hockey training facility in Coorg: “Give me 2-3 such facilities and I’ll promise you double the number of Cuban golds at the Olympics”.
    Infrastructure, my friends, is rotting away while the system worries about the number of officials to the next Olympic games. There is no magic formula. As the Cubans reiterated everywhere they visited: “Its only hard work. Loads of it. Buckets and buckets of sweat and blood. And, of course, passion for sport – be it the sportsperson, the coach or the lowly maali who does the track lines. Everybody must be given a chance, anybody with skill must be recognized”.

  61. very gr8 blog. u put cricket in its place. But better examples than Abvhinav , would be MAlleshwari and wrestler Sushil Kumar. ur critique of cricket is even more applicable to boring , non-physical non-events like shooting and archery , which have nothing to do with the Olympic ideal of faster, higher, stronger. they are relics of a medieval and ancient gladiatorial mindset.
    The Indian sports media behaves like a highly paid agent of the cricket lobby. It cunningly suppresses the fact that there is an international sport in which India has continuously been, and still is, in the top 10 , right from the beginning of the Olympic movement — Wrestling. The medal count and rankings are deceptive.
    Olympic medals in sports like boxing , where professionals are excluded , are also very misleading.

  62. @China-Cuba admireres Its a million times better to be where we are now, than to try to copy the brutal child-exploitation-for-Olympic-gold in China . For every gold medallist , there are a 100 pre-maturely broken and bruised bodies.
    Indians kids in the 60’s (i’m one of them ) would play soccer, hockey, and cricket in rotation. ( how i hated it when my pals voted to play cricket, usually during a test series ).
    It is absurd for a cricket-obsessed nation to even think about Sports glory, Olympic or otherwise. We need to Stop all this useless talk , until and unless at least 50% of Indians have a favourite game other than cricket.
    My young colleauges are ignotant about Dhyan Chand, or about India’s 8 hockey golds. Hell with it — we cant change ppl’s tastes. But ppl with such tastes , who dont know the difference between a 50m sprint and a marathon, shud not suddenly wake up once in 4 yrs and say ” 1 billion ppl, only 1 or 0 gold ” . And to such ppl i say , dont u dare comment on the Indian soccer, hockey, or athletic teams. Because they are thinly dispersed in the population,they need to commute almost 10km to meet enough ppl to practice with. They have reached their current level in an isolated world, with no applause, bcoz all their fellow-countrymen are watching cricket. THEY ARE SUPERHEROS. they have made an unpolular choice.

  63. I found your article while surfing the net. I’m writing from the United States, where sports are excessive and create an obsession that obscures much more important things. Here, sports are treated in such an obsessive and over-the-top manner that academics and intellectual pursuits are often ignored. In fact, being smart is often the subject or ridicule. I dont think its such a great thing for a country, such as India, which is so academic-minded, to change itself into a sports-crazy nation. I wish the United States would change itself to being more intellect-minded.

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