It was on the 11th January 2009 at around 6pm when we had embarked on a tour of Gujarat. We had seen a few places like Lothal, Somnath temple, Gir forest, Junagadh, Porbandar etc. We liked the beauty and history of all the places we had visited thus far. The countryside was great and the weather was awesome. I had never seen such vast expanse of lush green fields wherever I had travelled in India.
We were on our way from Porbandar to Dwarka and all of a sudden, I exclaimed “Wow”. What do I see? ……… “INFINITY”!!!
Towards our right – Lush green fields with no end in sight!!!
Towards our left – The Arabian Sea with no end in sight!!!
In front of us – The endless road and the beach running parallel to each other towards Infinity!!!
On top – Clear blue sky which seemed to meet with the sea at one end and with the green fields at the other end!!!
There was not a soul on the beach. It was for the lucky six of us. We were at the right place at the right time. We feasted on this rare glimpse of nature for a few minutes until it was dark and carried on with our journey.
I will never forget this day – the day I saw “INFINITY”
“India was the king in hockey when no one else knew hockey” – My class teacher, Mr. Devidas uttered these words when I was still in high school. India had failed to win an Olympic medal in hockey that year. These words echo in my ears whenever I see a Kabaddi match. We have been winning gold in Asian games ever since it was introduced and every other tournament where Kabaddi is introduced. A few other countries are catching up with this game and can one day assert supremacy over it. I would not like to hear someone say – “India was the king in Kabaddi when no one else knew Kabaddi!!”
India did perform well in Asian games and Commonwealth games, but on a global scale, the achievements are minimalistic. India’s performance in the Olympics – lesser said the better. We have participated in 22 Olympic Games and we have won only 20 medals in all. That’s way too less for a country with population exceeding a billion people. On a population to medals ratio, India is first from the bottom.
Let’s take a look at all the sports where India made a mark in a truly global scene. Horse Polo, Hockey, Billiards, Shooting, Tennis, Golf, Wrestling, Badminton, Boxing, Air race, Cricket … are some of the events.
Take a look at the above list. We will find it rather strange that a lot of sporting accolades India has received belong to rich man’s sport. India’s GDP and per capita income today is far ahead of what it was at the time of her independence. But the performances of the India’s rich man’s sporting glory dates back to independence or even pre-independence days when India was really poor.
Horse Polo – Indian team or the team from Jaipur is credited with winning every tournament which existed between 1930 and 1938. That’s 9 consecutive world titles – which is more than India’s gold medals in Hockey at the Olympics.
Billiards – This is another rich man’s game which produced Independent India’s first World Champion. Wilson Jones won it in the year 1958. India has since produced a lot of great players who went on to become world champions in Billiards.
Shooting – India has produced several world champions and an Olympic champion.
Tennis – India did come to winning Davis cup a couple of times. India has been able to win Grand Slams only in the doubles event and an Olympic singles bronze medal.
Golf – In the recent past, this rich man’s game has witnessed keen interest among all classes. Jeev Milkha Singh won 4 tournaments in a year in 2008. This was the best show by an Indian in this sport. This could just be the beginning.
Air Race – Vijaypat Singhania, Chairman of the Raymond group became the world’s first International Round the World Air Race champion in 1994.
F1 – Not many gave India any chance in this sport. India haven’t yet produced a champion but have produced a driver who raced in F1 a few other drivers who are waiting in the wings. F1 is the second most viewed sporting event in India after cricket.
How did India begin is bonhomie with these rich sports? A lot of it has to do with British. How is it that India took Cricket so seriously and left out Rugby and Soccer? One word answer to that question would be ‘Fitness’!!! One look at the list and we can see that apart from Tennis and to some extend F1, none of the above sports demand astute physical fitness. Apart from Tennis, the other sports are played in a handful of countries. In other words, India has done well where there is less competition and requires less physical fitness. India is nowhere near the world’s most popular sports – Soccer, Athletics, Aquatics, Hockey, Basketball, Rugby, Volleyball, etc. Cricket is the only popular sport where we win matches regularly. It is followed and played by a lot of people but very few countries actively play the game.
India dwindled in hockey once a lot of countries became active in that sport. It will not surprise me if India begins to stumble in Kabaddi once a lot of other countries take interest in it. But the rich man’s sports continue to bloom. A lot of youngsters are taking keen interest in horse riding, golf, tennis, gokarting, shooting, snooker & billiards etc. If these sports become Olympic events, then we may see a few more medals but there is a flipside to it. If they indeed become Olympic events then a lot of other countries will take interest. In that case, will India’s hegemony in these sports be questioned?
Travelling in an ordinary 3-tier sleeper class can be fun. Raveesh boarded Udyan Express on a 3-tier sleeper coach, simply because he was not able to get tickets for any of the AC coaches. He wanted to see his grandmother whom he hadn’t seen in a long time. It was a 12 hour journey from Bangalore to Gulbarga.
He had his dinner and had a comfortable sleep and he was happy to note that the train was on track to reach Gulbarga on time the next morning. Everything was quiet and he began to listen to a few songs through his I-pod. All of a sudden he heard loud noises, a lot of commotion inside and outside the train. The train stopped at ‘Shahabad’. Shahabad is a small town in Gulbarga and it is common for people to travel to and from Shahabad to Gulbarga every day for work and studies, which is about half hour journey.
A lot of students entered his coach and they started occupying all the vacant seats and berths. Raveesh was indeed happy to witness all the commotion after a lot of peace in the train. He was observing the college crowd. A couple of them started playing songs on their mobile so loud that it simply awoke all the people in the coach. Raveesh had to switch off his I-pod as he could barely hear the songs through it. The two guys were trying to outshine each other through their mobile. It was sheer chaos for all the 5 minutes they played simultaneously. Thankfully one of them got a call – he was speaking in broken English interlaced with kannada. He was telling the person on the other line that he indeed called him at the right time as he was free at that time and that he is able to hear properly this time as the new mobile which his cousin got for him from US is so good. Raveesh wondered if the phone call was staged!!!
Amidst all this, a couple of college kids were going up and down between upper and lower berth atleast a couple of times. Well, they wanted to show-off their new, branded or semi-branded shoes. They sat in one place only after someone commented on the “great” shoes. Raveesh gazed around and saw the each and every one had their own unique style statement. If a couple of them wore embroidered jeans, another few would show off their huge designer bracelets. If any one had those monster belts, they better show it off by tucking in their shirts. Goggles were cool to one of them even in a crowded train compartment. Gold chains are meant to be seen by others – Raveesh learnt from the Shahabad College crowd that the best way to show it off is to unbotton the top two buttons of your shirt. A few were combing their hair every five minutes but a few others dare not even touch their hair. They have to show their ‘Ronaldo’ and ‘Bekham’ hair styles to the eves of the college. T-shirts, jackets and caps had all kinds of pictures and statements – pop and rock stars, basketball and baseball teams’ logos and players, etc. Raveesh wondered if they even knew which sport do ‘Chicago Bulls’ and ‘NY Yankees’ represent.
These college kids were the first to get out of the coach upon the arrival of Gulbarga station. Raveesh was wondering as to why not a single person behaved normally. He wondered if this is the case with all the college freshers in small towns. Do they feel like kings when they don’t have to wear uniforms, carry mobiles and don’t have to carry too many books to their classes? Raveesh pondered to check if he was like that. Nah – he was never like that. He came to a conclusion that these kids either had inferiority complex or superiority complex. If they are normal then Raveesh felt, he is definitely abnormal.