Edited to add: Link added at the bottom of the post.
Well, the simple answer to this one is that I was simply not interested. This one is for Kiran and Jammie and Monika and Abha and all the rest who think I’m a spoilsport. Actually, I’m just not into sports!
I played on the school basketball team and also did some sprinting, long and high jump. I enjoy the outdoors, walks, treks, holidays. So you’ll never catch me in front of a TV for 8 hours straight. Unless I’m watching Dexter of course in which case I’ll peel my eyelids back and hold them up with clothes pins.
When I started dating the OA, one of the things I subtly ascertained was that he wasn’t a cricket fan. Sporty, fit, active, he is more the football, squash and basketball enthusiast. And I’m good with that. The games last a couple of hours and I am more than capable of keeping myself entertained for that amount of time, or even, *shudder* following him to the game and cheering.
But it’s hard to sit by and watch other games get sidelined. As a journalist I’ve interviewed so many sportspersons who have no sponsorship. Who are put up at filthy hostels with rats and dirty loos everytime they go to play a game. It’s really hard to feel much enthusiasm for a bunch of pampered men who are raking it in. Those other Indians represent the country too. For far less money and fame. They get no endorsements, no free houses and bloody hell, most of the time, no proper training either.
This is nothing new. I’m not coming up with something the media hasn’t discussed before. But the very same media also tells you that Dhoni’s wife is fasting for him. Excuse me? Who gives a flying… er.. rat’s arse about her fasting? Not I for sure. And this is exactly how media frenzy builds up. Constantly talking about cricket, shoving it down our throats, on the TV, in the papers, everywhere. Some of us might not be interested.
How about the female boxer who comes from a far flung part of the country and leaves her family and friends and faces discrimination while no one bothers to watch her compete. During the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the stadia were empty during most of the events. No one, but no one, bothered to go watch the other events. Why? Where are all these sporty people who bring the city to a standstill during a cricket match. Did they bother with the golds we won in wrestling? Or in shooting? or hockey? How many of you can tell me who Rahi Sarnobat and Anisa Sayyed are without googling it? All I heard right through was bitching about how India was letting us down with the poor preparations and no one thought about how we were letting ourselves down by not bothering to show up at the stadia for events. The tickets were easily available (except for the opening and closing ceremonies) YET there was no junta. How about the fact that THIS was history in the making too?
As for the kind of money people spent on buying tickets in black? Here I’ll add that its your money to earn and spend as you please, so I’m not about to get preachy on how much charity you could do with it. But when I hear of the endorsements and the money the cricketers are raking in for games on which they only put in as much effort as the other sportspeople, I can’t help but wish Pepsi and Reebok and Boost and all the rest would put some more into their CSR and less on making TV commercials that convince my kids that if Dhoni drinks Pepsi it can’t be an awful waste of time on empty calories. It just makes me mad. For every win they bring India, it makes me sad that the role models our kids have keep convincing them to buy and consume such shit. So personally, I am no fan of these sports people.
Speaking of money and how they have become heroes, how about the real heroes of this country? The jawans, the police, the teeth-chattering at Kargil. Why not give them some of the crores that are flying around so freely. Rumour has it Dhoni has endoresements worth Rs 200 crores coming his way. I don’t care if Pepsi wants to print that on jackets, but please, send it to those who are really working on the Indo-Pak border. And what, what, what is with the SMS doing the rounds about Lanka Dahan and Ram smiting Rahim? Are they funny? Who makes them up? Who passes them around? Do these people have dayjobs? I also feel terrible about the way we treat Indo-Pak matches. I mean seriously, get over it. Anyone who imagines this is a way to build bonds is kidding. Who are we kidding. We’d have been devastated if we lost to Pakistan. Never mind how we fared against other countries. So really… what is this? An extension of the whole Indo-Pak issue? Then come out and say it. But don’t turn the game into a pseudo-war. It loses its dignity.
Finally, I hate the way we allow it to bring life to a standstill. I see people wearing the tees, putting up the flag, painting their faces and I’m wondering what the deal is. No offence intended to anyone who does it, so don’t go all troll-ish on me. I love a good competition myself, but it just seems like such a terrible waste of time which is why I am not part of it. We’ve won a world cup before. We’ve been playing sports for years. But I find that in every matter we are getting OTT. All our celebrations that are getting bigger and louder and crazier. Be it festivals, weddings or birthdays, our celebrations seem to be getting more wasteful and more annoying. More in your face. Drunk driving, wasteful expenditure, women being molested, bombs going off through the night disturbing the very young and very old (all of whom have an equal right to their lives and sleep). And that, dear friends is only when we win. If we lose, we’re unable to take that in our stride with a modicum of grace either. Accusations of match fixing, burning of effigies, destroying property, it is endless. Must we be so rabid either way?
We often talk about simplifying our lives, teaching our kids to be fair, just, balanced, sensible. I feel that in one fell sweep we wipe all that out with our cricket excesses. Pubs cash in on this madness with big screens and beer deals. Everywhere there are parties being held to watch the game together. Every festival, particularly in complexes such as mine ends up being a cash cow. Stalls are put up. Everyone comes down to shop, spend money, dress up, waste time, miss the point of the entire initiative/festival. Such completely vulgar displays of wealth that make the stomach turn.
Which is what makes me seem like a spoilsport. Go scream, shout, dress up in cricket gear, whatever, but if you call me for a party to watch the match, I’d much rather stay home and finish my murder mystery. I realise the OA would like company so on the day of the Indo-Pak match I made mutton biryani, called over some company and took myself off to finish up an urgent story I had to submit. And up to there, I am fine with it. But to expect me to waste a good Saturday evening glued to the screen, is maddening.
My FB status after the win said – “Everyone happy? Okay, great. Let’s get back to regular programming.” Because I was bored stiff with the minute by minute replays happening on every status update. It’s a social network. They put up what they want. I write what I want. Within minutes I got loads of boooo. And how unindian. And don’t be a spoilsport.
I agree to the spoilsport. But unIndian? Why? I’m happy that India won, in a rather detached way. Because it makes no major difference to my life. The road outside my house is still dug up. Gurgaon still gets barely 12 hours of electricity a day. Binayak Sen is still in jail. I could go on. But I won’t. I don’t mean to be a killjoy. The thing is, it’s hardly a sign of being very Indian or very British or very Pakistani to watch a match and celebrate a win. I want to see the people who think they are being very Indian, actually get up and do something more for India. You know, like pay their taxes honestly, pick up a gun to guard a border if required, do something about that 40% who live below the borderline, plant a tree or two. So what is this whole thing with putting up Indian flags, waving them as you race down the roads and what not. How many of these people went to help the rest of the country when the Tsunami hit?
Someone says cricket unites the country. Yes, it does. For about ten minutes of screaming hysteria and bhaichara. Give it 24 hours and let them lose that high and we’re back to hating the other community, demanding reservation for ‘our people’ and refusing entry into various institutions on the basis of caste and creed. We’re back to refusing to consider that boy/girl our child wants to marry, we’re back to raping and murdering to enforce positions of power and what not. So really, that sort of temporary, farcical unity makes me laugh.
The thing is, its not hard to get swept into a whirlwind. For the little while that I sat with the OA to watch the match, I was also on the edge of my seat. But then I took a step back and asked myself if I was on the edge of the seat because I actually gave a damn or because of the knife-cuttable(sorry!)-tension in the room. You know those parties you don’t want to go to but go along anyway and eventually end up enjoying yourself even if its not something you would have personally chosen to do. It was something of that sort. And I asked myself – Is this something I want? Believe in? Endorse? The level of hysteria, wasteful expenditure while around us the country goes to dogs? It’s all very well to say, look at football madness in XYZ country. That country in the West isn’t as poverty stricken is. The contrast not half as vulgar. Every time someone pays 1.5 lakhs to buy a match ticket in black, I cringe.
I can see exactly what a damp squib I sound like. But I hope you will all do me the courtesy of seeing it from my perspective just as I do from yours for one quick moment.
Tomorrow my kid might take up skating. Spend as many hours practicing as Sachin or Dhoni. I feel sad that he will never get the chance they are. I feel bad that his success will be lost in some random test match. I feel terrible that my kids are going to grow up to join in these excesses and think that a match is an excuse for people to get drunk and go screaming down the road bursting crackers.
To sum it up (because apparently I haven’t said enough on the matter) – I am happy for the cricketers, happy for their fasting devoted wives, happy for their sponsors, happy for the viewers, happy for the country. I just don’t want to be dragged into the whole forced mania and neither do I like it disrupting my life. All I want is some space for the disinterested. Amen.
Edited to add: Here’s a post someone led me to. Read it for another point of view.