At first they lived in an old house by the lake. Just four flats. Lots of places to explore, chasing cows bent on destroying the garden,and monkeys on trees, hissing at her with teeth bared. But, careening down the two-wheeler entry ramp to the building, wearing shorts, and a blue chaddar representing a superman cape, was then the supreme activity of choice.
There was a sloping entry into the lake close by, which was restricted by a bunch of bars, designed to stop cars , unwittingly left in neutral gear, from quietly sliding into the lake. When she was 4, she was convinced that the bars were actually her personal preserve , for doing tumbles and turns across the top horizontal bar. Folks out for a walk in the evening would stop by and have serious conversations with her, as she swung , feet up and head down; some would occasionally offer to give the quick short shove required to turn across the bar, applaud , and carry on.
Cycling was another trial. The road there , was reasonably clear of traffic, but had an alarming unpredictable bovine population that would emerge in dark lumbering glory , from the woods, on to the paved road. And so she learned to cycle , always at a hurried speed, with one shoulder raised, as a result of trying to look for emerging cows from the corner of her eye.
By and by, they shifted to a semi high rise ; well, semi by today's standards. 6 floors. When she was little, she would dash up the stairs to see if she could defeat her parents coming up in the elevator. Her school shared a wall with the building, and the admired thing was to enter the school by the wall, instead of the school gate.
She joined dance classes, and karate, and her folks delighted in seeing the karate class doing their fitness practice on the school grounds. Early morning table tennis classes introduced her to the concept of warm-ups. Her persistent cough , earlier attributed to imbibing secret quantities of tamarinds and ice creams , miraculously went away.
Then she joined swimming. Today, 13 years later, has remained with it. Lots of workouts, several competitions, moderate successes, moderate disappointments, but behind it all is the great enjoyment she gets out of the training of swimming.
Many times, it is a case of either or both parents being in that sport. In her case, although both her parents were in sports when young, it was never swimming, but more like racket and bat sports.
There are two ways people take interest in sports. Serious sports.
They simply love the sport.
Or its a cool calculated move a la BCCI , designed to optimize returns of more types than one.
Some parents have unlimited resources. Some have unlimited imagination. Some more, are highly resourceful in an unlimited way. Some parents have unlimited time. Some make , unlimited time for their child, when it is a question of training.
And so we have Bindra who had it all laid out for him, but he did his part 200%. Then there is Sania, who has reached great heights, with dedicated help from both her parents and assorted sponsorships. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi had fathers who pointed them into the path, and stayed to guide them through. Saina Nehwal, who showed a lot of spunk, and Anjali Bhagwat whose folks gave them so much support . Then there are the Bhiwani Boxers.
There are so many, whose parents had nothing to give but mental support. Difficult travel, unsatisfactory arrangements, irregular scheduling, lack of sponsorships, lack of a semblance of support from associations purporting to support their particular sport. An alarming amount of officials, who miraculously appear at international meets, and disappear into babudom later. Selection systems based on criteria that have nothing to do with the sport.
This cannot go on....
Our communities are not sensitized to sports. The Times of India on its sports page will desist from giving news about a local state level swimming meet, or a schools table-tennis tournament; but the pride of place will be given to the questionable exploits of the girlfriend of one of UK's professional footballers, complete with photos in missing clothes. It is there every single day .
Captains of industry, who open up their profit laden treasuries to support something like Mood Indigo, hesitate, when requested to consider sponsoring a sports meet at the same educational institute, for a fraction of the cost. They want visibility for their brand, but not while the hard work is in progress. Like all those who hanker after power, they want it easy......
And the strange thing is, as the aforementioned girl realized, that status and/or education really has nothing to do with people's attitudes. Towards sports, and the practice of it.
Late one summer evening, she is back from swimming practice, full of beans, trailing her paraphernalia, running ahead of her mother , to stop the elevator which is about to take off.
There is a couple inside . Both doctorates. Middle aged. 2 kids. With each child more academically brilliant than the other. They move and make place for the girl and her mother. Smile indulgently. (Some folks think "patronizingly" is the word that really fits). At the girl, who is busy fixing the sipper bottle that has just fallen out of her bag; swimming paraphernalia, speedos, and the like are very expensive, and this nice automatically-closing-sipper-bottle has been sent by an indulgent uncle from the land of Michael Phelps.
They look up at the girl's mother. And bring forth the question which they have been wanting to ask all along, ever since they started noticing this girl doing her swimming , since several years.
"Why do you send your daughter for swimming ? Ap ko nahi lagta ki wo kali ho jayegi? (Dont you realize that she will turn black/dark ?)"
Speechlessly, I rested my case then.
I helplessly, rest my case now.
And you really wanted to know why we have only ******one individual medal at the Olympics in the last so many years ?
****** Attaboy Vijendar, prove me wrong....(august 21, 12:50 pm)