The need to develop a “Sports Culture” in India

India is a land of many talents, but sports isn’t really one of them.

The performance of our sportsmen in the last 6 months or so has been really astounding – the Nehru Cup in Football, the Asia Cup in Hockey, a good show by Sania Mirza in Tennis, the Twenty20 World Cup in Cricket and most recently, Vishwanathan Anand becoming the World Champion in Chess. This euphoria generated in the wake of such performances could provide a perfect ground for sowing seeds of a sports culture – a dimension sadly lacking in our national life.

As a nation we are proud of our ancient civilization. Our religious culture has produced great scholars and seekers of salvation, enlistment the world over look to India for advice in religious matters; matters related to the soul, the atma. But sadly, we have never had what could be called a sports culture. Not even in the Maharashtra days did we have a sports culture. Archery, boxing and wrestling were used as war weapons. But no contests were held even in these disciplines. And training in these was restricted to the elite, mostly the princes. An Eklavaya with immense potential was refused admission to the training classes of Guru Dronacharya.

The childhood activities of Lord Krishna were tending of cows, stealing butter, playing pranks and the flute, not active sports. Lord Rama did learn ‘Baan Vidya’ seriously but not as a sporting activity.

Sporting excellence was used to kill or subdue the enemy or the adversary and not for promoting the higher, the faster and the stronger concepts, the hallmarks of modern sports.

With stress on spiritual matters we paid more attention to the soul and the other world, neglecting the body and the material, physical world. We forgot that a noble soul should have a worthy, strong body as well.

With the advent of modern sports and the Olympic movement, Indians did put in serious effort in some sports. Dhyan Chand led the hockey crusade and India ruled the roost for three decades winning seven gold medals. Milkha Singh broke the world record in 400m at Rome in 1960 (but unfortunately three others did the same, ahead of him). P.T. Usha showed the world that Indian women are capable of competing with the best. Prakash Padukone beat the world single-handedly winning the All-England and the world title in badminton.

But all these are stray cases of excellence and none of them are products of sports culture. They are all self-made greats.

India can at the most claim to have a cricket culture. But the prevailing Cricket Culture is not Sports Culture and it is more a bane than a boon to Indian sports.

If we had a sports culture in place, Dingko Singh would continue to do well, Paramjit Singh would not vanish into thin air, Gopi Chand would have come on the scene much earlier and P.T. Usha’s records would have been long broken.

The world’s second most populous nation behind China ranks dead last worldwide in the number of Olympic medals won per capita. Paraguay, Nigeria and Iraq have done better. How bad is India’s sporting scene? When international officials stopped by recently to review New Delhi’s progress towards hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games, an Olympics-like sports competition for former British colonies, they noted that the infrastructure work was pretty much on track. But they suggested, not so subtly, that India might want to pay more attention to preparing its athletes, to ward off embarrassment. India, as proud and nationalistic a country as they are, can’t seem to get out of the starting blocks when it comes to the race for an Olympic Gold.

Why should that be, particularly with a potential talent pool of 1.1billion people? India does funnel a respectable amount of money toward its sports federations, bureaucratic structures set up to manage competition in each sport and train athletes. But unlike in China, Russia or Cuba, where state-run training programs focus on turning out finely tuned athletes, India’s sports centers spend much of their budget on salaries for bureaucrats, while athletes complain about lack of money for track improvements, coaches and better running shoes.Athletes’ feelings of being less than a priority were compounded recently when New Delhi officials announced plans to shut all of the city’s stadiums over the next few months to facilitate renovation in advance of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, leaving Olympic contenders scrambling to find other practice grounds.

It’s time the Sports Authority of India, the state associations and sports federations prove their credibility and worth and put a sports culture on firm footing.

Remembering Bhagat Singh

The Legendary Martyr of India - Bhagat Singh2007 is the birth centenary of the legendary Bhagat Singh. He is the symbol of heroism for the lively youth of India. Despite Bhagat Singh being in the hearts of the people, we do not have a proper memorial for the great martyr.

BHAGAT SINGH was one of the most prominent heroes of the Indian freedom struggle and was a revolutionary ahead of his times. Bhagat Singh was born in the village Banga in Layalpur district of Punjab (now in Pakistan) in a Sikh family on 27 September 1907 & was the third son of Sardar Kishan Singh and Vidyavati. Bhagat Singh’s family was actively involved in the freedom struggle. His uncle Ajit Singh and father Kishan Singh were members of the Ghadar Party founded in the US to oust British rule from India.

In 1916, the young Bhagat Singh came into contact with well known political leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Rash Bihari Bose. At that time, he used to study at the local DAV School, in Lahore. Those days, Punjab was very charged politically. When the Jaliawalan Bagh massacre took place in 1919, Bhagat Singh was only 12 years old and was deeply disturbed by it. The day after the massacre, Bhagat Singh went to Jaliawalan Bagh and collected the soil from the spot and kept it as a memento for the rest of his life. The cruel killings strengthened his resolve to drive out the British from India.

From 1923, to the time of his execution, in 1931, he devoted himself completely to the liberation of the motherland. He gave a new direction to revolutionary movement in India and formed the “Naujavan Bharat Sabha” to spread the message of revolution in Punjab. He formed the “Hindustan Samajwadi Prajatantra Sangha” along with the great Chandrasekhar Azad to establish a republic in India. Bhagat Singh killed police officer Saunders to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. He dropped two bombs in Central Legislative Assembly along with Batukeshwar Dutt. The bombs were thrown in such a way that they did not hurt anyone. After that, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt, deliberately courted arrest by refusing to run away from the scene.

Bhagat Singh when he was in jailMeanwhile, friends of Bhagat Singh who turned ‘approvers’ identified the killers of Saunders. During his trial, Bhagat Singh refused to employ any defence counsel. In jail, he went on hunger strike to protest the inhuman treatment of fellow political prisoners by jail authorities. On 7 October 1930, Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru were awarded death sentence by a special tribunal. Despite great popular pressure and numerous appeals by political leaders of India, Bhagat Singh and his associates were hanged on March 23 1931.

Bhagat Singh and his compatriots shook the British Empire and their views infused an aggressive spirit in the struggle for independence. The fear of Bhagat Singh among the British was such, that even after executing him along with Sukhdev and Rajguru, the jail authorities cut their bodies into pieces and stuffed them in jute bags. The bags were burnt on the banks of River Sutlej quietly to prevent outrage against the British government on seeing the bodies of martyrs.

Besides being a nationalist to his core, Bhagat Singh was a socialist and a republican. “Labour is the real sustainer of society. The sovereignty of the people is the ultimate destiny of workers. For these ideals and for this faith we shall welcome any suffering to which we may be condemned”. This brings out Bhagat Singh not as a terrorist, which his prosecutors laboured to prove him unsuccessfully. He was a socialist, and a democrat – all in one.

Bhagat Singh is dead; yet he lives on. He is idolised by youngsters who want to bring about change in society. Bhagat Singh still lives on in our hearts, thanks to films like ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ and ‘Rang De Basanti’. The latter revived the spirit of Bhagat Singh. Generation X awoke from its slumber and came together to demand justice for Priyadarshini Mattoo, Jessica Lal and against reservations. They learnt speaking for themselves. They also fought against unfavourable amendments in the Right to Information Act. It seems this generation has now awakened and it’s the beginning of a new era where the youth is breathing rebellion. I would like to conclude with a quote from Bhagat Singh’s jail notebook:

I also wish my friends to speak little or not at all about me, because idols are created when men are praised, and this is very bad for the future of the human race. Acts alone, no matter by whom committed, ought to be studied, praised or blamed. Let them be praised in order that they may be imitated when they seem to contribute to the common wealth. Let them be censured when they are regarded as injurious to the general well being, so that they may not be repeated.

I desire that on no occasion whether near or remote, nor for any reason whatsoever, shall demonstration of a political or religious character be made before my remains, as I consider the time devoted to the dead would be better employed in improving the conditions of the living most of whom stands in great need of this.

Let us pay our rich tributes to the martyrs and learn and follow the path of these great souls.

“Right to Emergency Care” – A flooding rumour

The following e-mail is visiting a lot of inboxes these days:

Right to Emergency Care:
Date Of Judgment: 23/02/2007.
Case No.: Appeal (civil) 919 of 2007.

The Supreme Court has ruled that all injured persons especially in the
case of road traffic accidents, assaults, etc., when brought to a
hospital / medical centre, have to be offered first aid, stabilized and
shifted to a higher centre / government centre if required. It is only
after this that the hospital can demand payment or complete police
formalities. In case you are a bystander and wish to help someone in an
accident, please go ahead and do so. Your responsibility ends as soon
as you leave the person at the hospital.

The hospital bears the responsibility of informing the police, first
aid, etc.

Please do inform your family and friends about these basic rights so
that we all know what to expect and what to do in the hour of need.
Please not only go ahead and forward, use it too!!!!

The message tells us that this is the Supreme Court judgement to Appeal(Civil) 919 of 2007. On searching the Judgement Information System it was clear that the case was in no manner related to the said message.

It was about a no-profit charitable hospital based in Ghanapur, Andhra Pradesh having claimed exemptions on imported medical equipments, based on Para 2 of Notification No. 64/88-Cus, which were granted. But since according to the classification of hospitals by the notification, it fell under Para 3, it also applied for exemption under the same, after the first exemption was granted.

On rejection of the second application, they filed the case in the AP High Court, which again didn’t go in their favour and hence this case was filed in Supreme Court.

For more details, on the case, check out the Judgement Information System.

Always verify any such crucial information related to the lives of people before you believe in it.

No Hindi Please!!!!

Hindi hamari pehchan hai September 14 is Hindi Divas.

Hindi is a direct descendant of Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha. It has been influenced and enriched by Dravidian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Portugese and English languages. It is a very expressive language. In poetry and songs, it can convey emotions using simple and gentle words. It can also be used for exact and rational reasoning.
More than 180 million people in India regard Hindi as their mother tongue. Another 300 million use it as second language. Outside of India, Hindi speakers number 100,000 in USA; 685,170 in Mauritius; 890,292 in South Africa; 232,760 in Yemen; 147,000 in Uganda; 5,000 in Singapore; 8 million in Nepal; 20,000 in New Zealand; 30,000 in Germany. Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, spoken by about 41 million in Pakistan and other countries, is essentially the same language. These are the facts concerning Hindi which is the third most-spoken language in the world. Our identity is Hindi but of late Hindi is getting step-motherly treatment from Indians themselves.

It is a paradox that is indicative of an emerging trend in Bollywood – the country’s pan-Indian film industry may make its movies in the national language but prefers to have its scripts written in a colonial one. In other words, no Hindi please, we prefer Angrezi.
“When VVS Laxman walked in to discuss the first day’s play with the media on Friday evening, there were audible groans — bowlers were the stars of the day, and the reporters were hoping to chat with Zaheer Khan. Minutes later, leaving Laxman mid-sentence — he was answering a question in Hindi — one by one, the British journalists walked up to the table, picked up their voice recorders and walked out.”

Now I narrate an incident which took place a few days back. I was commuting by a local train, when a woman asked me in English if I could make place for her. Why she could not have asked me in Hindi, I wondered. Was it necessary to use English? Wherever I go, people choose to speak English, though most of them are fluent in Hindi. Even the educational system has adopted English as the medium of instruction. Should not Hindi have been given priority?

I am surprised that politicians use English in Parliament and even in Republic Day and Independence Day speeches. I have seen youngsters who are proudly declare that they do not know their national language. The use of Hindi has been reduced to the use of slang. Parents feel inferior if their child is unable to converse in English. There are so many English-speaking classes conducted, but not a single Hindi-speaking class.

We are in the 60th year of our independence, but how independent are we? All industries, including the media, fashion and management communicate only in English. Pilots have been fired because they do not know English. I do not wish to insult English. But people should be bi-lingual and speak both Hindi and English fluently. English is the pair of spectacles, while Hindi is the eye. If people do not have eyes, of what use are the spectacles? I feel proud when Indians do not feel inferior while communicating with foreigners, but what if they are asked to speak Hindi? Do the Japanese or Chinese face similar problems? They have come a long way, but do they really need to depend on a foreign language like our youth do?

It is always good to know a foreign language and culture, but not at the cost of the local language. I would like to conclude by quoting Bapu, “There should be no use of foreign language between two people knowing the same language, the use of the other language then, should be punished.”

The world is changing and it is always sensible to change with the changing situation. But we cannot afford to forget Hindi and its rich culture because it is the pillar our country rests on. If this support were to weaken, it would lead to a catastrophe. It is high time we respected our mother tongue national language. The Hindi Divas should not be the only day when we remember our identity, i.e. Hindi.