Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Games of a different type वेगळी माणसें वेगळा खेळ ......

One of my most abiding memories from my childhood, is coming home from school, flinging the school bag, having a cup of milk with some simple snack, and then rushing out to play with my friends. I still remember some of the hiding places we had when we played a very involved game of hide and seek. Twice a week, our school had compulsory evening games for everyone. We thrived on netball, badminton, volleyball, and no one was a whiz or champion.

Parents then, frowned on bookish types rushing off to attend , say algebra classes, when they should be going to playgrounds, or similar exciting places. By and by, some of us took up some kind of formal coaching, like in badminton and table tennis. The emphasis was never on outfits and smart looks; just some decent no-nonsense practicing.

Weekends meant you got up even earlier, and went hill climbing. The icing on the whole thing was carrying fresh mom-made sabudana khichadi in a dabba and having it with your friends after you reached there.Once we even carried paper, paints, and brushes , (in addition to idlis and limbu sherbet), climbed the hill at sunrise, and sat and painted , what I still think, were amazing masterpieces, featuring the sun, the rise, and a minute spot of sabudana khichadi, in the corner. Regulars on the hill stopped by to admire our output, patted our backs and went on.

I never imagined the day would come when someone would come home from school and/or work, and sit down to play tennis on a PC Yes, there is this game called Tennis Elbow, where you can tell how many people are playing (singles/doubles), are they warming up, playing a match, what the strong strokes of each player will be, who is going to be the guy with big volleys and so on and so forth, all this followed by statistics at the end of the game telling you who made how many unforced errors, who served aces etc etc.

There is also Cricket, Billiards and Snooker. All on a machine. And so many people play Chess against machines, and possibly get angry with winning machines.

Today, thanks to television, sponsorships have become more important than a game. The more you watch, the more they sponsor the telecast, and vice versa. Cricket is being viewed by scores of parents , as time well spent, in terms of lifetime monetary returns; whether a child has a specific aptitude or not, cricket is King. Badminton, table tennis , and squash come a distant second. Squash occasionally rises a bit higher, because US universities value sports proficiencies while deciding on admissions.

Amazingly , however, Dahi handi , is now being treated as a special event sport. Folks wear t-shirts with team logos, their practice is documented and publicized in great detail, insurance companies rush to insure the climbing youth, who might just possibly involuntarily descend later. Opportunistic politicians offer 5 figure cash prizes to those taking maximum physical risk. (Thanks to the IPL extravaganza, reports indicate that ,
somewhere in North Mumbai, some politicians had recently organized a dahi handi with cheerleaders from east european countries doing their cheerleader acrobatics and "display" on a special stage, in minimal outfits, watched by goggle-eyed types, while somewhere nearby, the young and nimble footed Govindaas, tried to complete their pyramids and break the handi ). The publicity value , traffic disturbance , and chaos is tremendous.

While Dahi handi is NOT in danger of becoming an Olympic sport, it has occurred to folks that whenever there has been a political interference in sport, that sport has suffered, and the politicians have prospered. (With the sole exception of cricket, where everyone has prospered, or possibly the politicians have stopped being political. Maybe).

Whether its hockey, struggling like a fish with non functional and faulty Gills; track and field, boxing,wrestling, where parents move mountains to provide their children with nutrition, time and education; shooting, where the powers that be cannot find funds and proper lead times for ordering ammunition for practice, and even swimming, where this year there seems to be no Arjuna award for the sport, despite two guys swimming their hearts out in the face of zero encouragement to their sport; the politicians have appropriated it all

In the old days, one never saw so many young people "hanging around" on the periphery of "politics". Till it became a game.

Actually, in India , the biggest sport is politics.

Observe the rush of people vying to be a part of it. It needs hardly any physical expertise, other than the ability to bend ,blend, and appropriately exercise the wrist flexors, extensors, pronators and supinators muscles , in an effort to blindlessly applaud. Never mind who.You need an ability to walk vague distances, shouting something or the other. Occasionally exercise your unpuffed triceps to fling stuff at some one's house or police.

As you advance further in the sport, you learn to distribute much more than plagiarized speeches, and blatant lies. You actually start dealing in what really matters. The medal of a good politician : money . Ability to flaunt this gets you power. Make roads where some actually exist. Buy machines you don't need. Including buses and cars. An ability to bring religion into everything is an added plus. Appropriate public "exercises" help. And never mind that someone you helped won something. The picture on the hoarding , MUST be yours. The aspiring winner.

Cut to Olympics 2028 .

Doordarshan types , droning on, India having just won 5 gold medals in Synchronised Bending and Flitting,Laryngeal Calisthenics, Hide,Hide and Seek, Parade Wandering and the like....

Oh my ! Sir Abhinav Bindra, Olympic Chairman is walking up to award the medals, and ....who is that guy with white hair and paunch, getting the gold? ....

Beta, pass me my glasses, will you ? Now that I am 80, it gets a bit difficult to get up as well as see..... And i keep forgetting . But didn't I see that guy in Parliament a few years ago ?


  1. I loved this blend of nostalgia, caustic criticism and straight-out satire on the state of games in our hapless state. As usual, you have hit the nail right on the head when you say that in sports today the focus has shifted from the sportsman and the sports itself, to the sidelines (i.e, spectator, sponsor, cheerleader, et al)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I loved this blend of nostalgia, caustic criticism and straight-out satire on the state of games in our hapless state. As usual, you have hit the nail right on the head when you say that in sports today the focus has shifted from the sportsman and the sports itself, to the sidelines (i.e, spectator, sponsor, cheerleader, et al)

  4. I had similar childhood memories of playing games, climbing oak trees, taking tennis lessons and learning how to ice skate. Then to see the computer games and how it animates life, but it leaves out the... hmm,... experience, the JOY of those events. Computers and technology ~ has it gone too far and left life outside?

    And ~ Thank you kindly for your words on my blog.