An Indian Civilizational Perspective

CommonWealth Games: Future of India Depends on our Gaze!

Gopichand.jpgThe Commonwealth Games are over. Despite all the distraction before the Games, the Indian athletes have done us proud. Even the Hockey team, which is usually hit badly by the press and the people, did us proud despite their final loss of 0-8 at the hands of those darn good Aussies!

Ultimately, we came second in the overall tally with a fight to the finish as Saina won the Badminton Gold.

Australia (AUS): 74 Gold; 55 Silver; 48 Bronze; Total 177
India (IND) – 38 Gold; 27 Silver; 36 Bronze; Total 101
England (ENG) – 37 Gold; 59 Silver; 46 Bronze; Total 142

This also might be the first time that a team of erstwhile non-White subjects has defeated the British in the Games of their own CommonWealth! How things change in just half a century.

This is the time for euphoria and celebrations. We should be proud and those who have won handsomely – the Archers, the Shooters, the Weightlifters, the Wrestlers, the Athletes, the Badminton players, the Tennis players, the Hockey team etc., should find time to celebrate. Hopefully there will be enough Corporate Sponsors looking into these new faces and thinking of promoting them as opposed to the stale faces of the cricketers. Despite their excellent wins against Australia, it is time, that India moved on from just being a Cricket-centric nation!

Until now, we never had any great stories from other sports. Now we have. This CWG medal tally speaks to so many stories that should be heard by every one and be used to shape the future that is beckoning in the shape of these medals.

For one, it is a story of India’s youth. As opposed to Cricket wins, which were architected by the Old Guard of Indian Cricket; the CWG success was scripted by India’s NEXT Generation. That is an important distinction that sponsors and our media should get. Cricket wins point to what India was. CWG medals point to where India is going. Hitching onto the just Cricket will mean missing an entire generation completely.

If this NextGen could do so well without the support from the Corporates – Saina hardly gets the sponsorships that Sania used to get .. Go figure! – then it is anybody’s guess as to what they could do WITH the right help!

Reaching here has taken a lot of sacrifice from lot of people. For example, we all saw Saina Nehwal win that last Gold. We cheered her, we cried with her, and we were proud to be in the same country as she is from. But we totally missed the effort of Pullela Gopichand, who trained her in the Academy that he set up to give India badminton players who were young and world class!

On his way home from winning the biggest tournament of his life, Pullela Gopichand felt strangely sad.

“He kept saying, ‘Mama, it shouldn’t have taken so long,'” recalls Subbaravamma Bose, of her conversations with her son after the All England Open Badminton Championships in 2001. “He was already 27 years old, had serious injuries, and knew he didn’t have many years left to play.”

Mr. Gopichand resolved then to dedicate his life to making sure future generations of badminton players in India got world-class training at a younger age—so they weren’t too old by badminton standards, and too injury prone–when they reached international level.

In 2008, Mr. Gopichand opened a $2.5 million badminton training academy, with eight courts, a swimming pool, weight training room, cafeteria and rooms to sleep 60.

His Academy needs help. But his Academy doesn’t have the “Sex Factor” of Sania Mirza or the popularity of Sachin Tendulkar to bank upon. It is just in the game of making better sports players.

Like this there will be many other sacrifices that we would have missed. The tears and the sweat behind the cheer on the podium!

One would have hoped that Indian media would have looked into these areas and brought out the sacrifices and the places which need injection of money and effort. But, sadly, even the Gopichand story was done by Wall Street Journal!

I know many Indians wanted to show their patriotism by cheering for the CWG, despite the fact that they were looted by India’s Ruling class! That was stupidity cloaked as patriotism.

Now, again, the Indian “patriots” will find their expression in cheering for Saina and then going on to buy products endorsed by Sachin or Yuvraj.

Our patriotism should find expression in trying to find people, players, sportsmen and women who need help and who could do with some popularity. Hold rallies in their support! Start Facebook pages in their names! Follow them on Twitter and Social Media as if they are celebrities.

Money speaks. And Corporate money speaks were Public Gaze is focused. So, if the money has to be directed to the CWG athletes, then we need to move our gaze a bit to them. That’s ALL that is required.

Move your Gaze.

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