There is an apocryphal story about Bihar I’d like to kick this conversation off with. If you’re an Indian, you’ve probably heard it too. It goes something like this: A Japanese minister visiting in the 1990s, shocked at the decrepit buildings, the darkness at night (even in the centre of town) and the crumbling roads, declared that it was all solvable.
“Give me three years,” he told a state leader, “and I can turn Bihar into Japan.”
“That’s nothing,” shot back his nonchalant host. “Give me three days and I will turn Japan into Bihar.”
There’s a reason I bring the tale up now. A few days back, while going through the comments to this post, yeah, it’s true, I’m so totally jobless I spend my time reading your reactions, even to other people’s pieces, I came across a gentleman (I assume it was a male person, women on the net tend be a little more reflective) who brashly said, among other things, “If Lebron (James) was [were] born in Mumbai, he would still dominate NBA!” Such poppycock, I tell you … and so typical of the ‘New India.’ Fact is if Lebron were Indian, he’d never become a world class basketball player. Instead, he might well end up in Bollywood being mocked because he’s too tall or too black or whatever.
One of the most irritating things about young (mostly) Indians is we will gleefully resort to knee-jerk reactions in almost every walk of life. Thinking things through is entirely beside the point we’re so desperate to make. We’re not willing to put in the hard yards necessary to succeed at the highest level. We want what we want and we want it fast. Pretty much all the young generation seems to care about is somehow being noticed. This is why the Japanese, Lebron, and other world beaters will find it extremely difficult to perform at their best in India. World beaters work extremely hard to get to the top. The environment in India makes it virtually impossible to do so. This country is just not made for professionals.
Generally speaking, Indians look down on people who work their backsides off. They’d rather find a cunning way to get things done. Unfortunately, short cuts will only take you so far, which is not very. To be the best in the world, you have to be able to work harmoniously with others and pay attention to details; the latter is deceptively important and consistently downplayed in our country. The majority of folks in India are notoriously poor at the aforementioned aspects that are so necessary to get to be the best at what you do. This is one of the reasons millions of our countrymen choose to live in foreign lands, India wins so little in international sport, and most of our stellar achievements are individual. (Yes, please go ahead and do the research. Prove me wrong. Pepper me with your word-bombs. You can be sure I’ll be there to read and, at times, respond to the thoughtful ones.)
If it were possible to identify top performers based on race, Indians would have become world beaters in practically every walk of life by now. We do, after all, have one of the most diverse gene pools on the planet and are marvellously skilled at taking the easy way out. Attributing racial (not to mention, caste-specific) peculiarities to determine superiority in a particular walk of life is indeed the quick and dirty way to identify a potential source of distinction. Unfortunately for the intellectually deficient folks who resort to this form of short-listing to identify athletes, fast bowlers, and terrorists, racial profiling has no sound basis. If it did, Gabrielle Douglas couldn’t become the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around title in Gymnastics at the ongoing games. The Chinese would never throw up so many world beaters in an event (swimming) that was considered by ‘profilers’ to be the province of prosperous, white societies. And the Siddis would have bagged India a clutch of Olympic medals. Truth be told, racism gives failures a convenient reason to avoid putting in the effort to succeed.
It’s so much easier to say Indians don’t have any fast bowlers because our bodies are not designed for it than to admit we don’t work hard enough to stay fit and excel at this brutally demanding skill. The majority of Indians still insist North India is where we should go hunting for strong, broad shouldered, meat-eating men who can hurl the ball down at frightening pace. If that’s all it takes to bowl fast, Javagal Srinath must have been a ‘wily,’ south Indian spin bowler. If ‘Sardars’ were as daft as so many stupid Indians make them out to be, Bishan Singh Bedi had no business being one of the craftiest spin bowlers the world has ever seen. And if Bihar was really the cul-de-sac the rest of India routinely dismissed it as, Nitish Kumar would never have managed to engineer a turnaround in its fortunes by putting to good use the old fashioned tools of ‘governance, governance and governance.’
The Chinese haven’t succeeded because they pump their athletes with performance enhancing drugs or forcibly take children away from their parents to train them in oppressive condition or because they use draconian policies to govern their country. People who put it all down to the aforementioned factors are barking up the wrong tree. Truth be told, our neighbours on the other side of the Himalayas have an inhuman appetite for hard work, a cast-iron team ethic, and a burning desire to be proud Chinese. The bulk of Indians, on the other hand, are obsessed with cricket, making pots of money, and jejune item numbers. Happily for our countrymen, these obsessions are easily satisfied by hook or, more often than not, by crooks. Pity, not one of them is an Olympic sport.
Yes, India has, so far, won two precious medals at these Olympics. Predictably, both these wins have come in individual categories and are clearly exceptional achievements. In fact, this is the reason we celebrate these exceedingly rare wins so raucously. We know how bloody hard it is to scale even a fraction of these commanding heights, have opted not to make the back-breaking journey, and settled for something much easier … like cricket. But preferably batting, not fast bowling or great fielding.