Not my Cup

Most Indians are driven by obsession over intellect. Now don’t mistake obsession for passion. Being driven by passion at times is not bad. But being driven by obsessive passion or passion beyond reasoning is harmful – both for the individual and the society at large. India recently won the Cricket World Cup. I was happy for it. To be honest, the feeling was a mixture of happiness and a sense of national pride. Now does this feeling call for a party? Yes, it does. Every reason for celebration should lead to a celebration. Now imagine a person celebrating the happiest moment of his life; dancing on the roof of his car right in front of India Gate. Is it justified? Debatable. But surely if you happened to be at India Gate watching someone do that, you would classify him as mad. And you may not be wrong. I recently heard on the radio that obsessive behaviour is a psychological problem and is often a result of extremely low self-esteem. The moment India won the world cup, thousands gathered at India Gate (and other locations all over India), and many danced on the roof of their cars in a similar manner. Apparently, somewhere down the layers of their decision making was an attempt to make themselves more noticeable to the public and compensate the low self-esteem. And then there was this extremely acute case in which a fan committed suicide because Sachin did not score a well in the final.

On similar lines many Indians have the obsession for recognition. And in this quest they go far beyond personal achievements. Any remarkable achievement by a person of Indian origin, and Indians would be more than happy to share the credit. To a great extent the Indian media is to be blamed for such a behaviour. Even the remotest of connection to India, and the media will be the first to advertise the news highlighting the fact that the achiever was a person of Indian origin. Remember Sunita Williams? Now (obviously) this world cup victory is also a victim of such an obsession. And I feel this problem is very well explained by this tweet. Reality check is important. It is not our cup. It is their cup. It is a cup won by a few individuals representing India. It is ok to say that the cup belongs to India, but saying that it is my cup or our cup is far fetched. The ONLY way I contributed to this victory was by NOT playing for India. Nothing more.

Now why are these obsessions bad for the society at large? Well for a start, the cricket-biased reactions exhibited by the crowd, pushes back the other sports. I can think of plenty of other reasons but I’ll highlight the one that has provoked me to write this post. It is bad, because we are a democracy and our current generation is not being led by the right politicians. In an ideal situation, a politician would work to the best interest of the country. In reality they work to appease people and get re-elected. They align their efforts to take advantage of the sentiments of people and they decide to honour the heroes (i.e. the cricketers). Unfortunately, as I realised sometime back, Indians make the mistake of confusing money with respect (I did tweet this the very next day after the finals.). They announced cash awards without realising that they paid no respect. They paid money. Money is not respect.

One of the insane reason to give away cash award to cricketers might be that it will motivate them to do better. Another insane reason might be that young cricketers would get motivated to play better and improve the overall standard of sports. But does it work that way? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe it misleads people towards wrong goals. The goal of a cricketer is to improve his skills, do well in the sport and aim to win the games. But now when you announce an award after they win, you are slowly trying to replace the real goal with money. I am not entirely against giving money. Almost all sports competition do have a prize money associated with the event. The players know that the money is an associated prize if they win that contest. But if you declare a cash award after the event, you sow a hope for the years to come. Every sportsman would start expecting a “surprise” cash award on their performance. God forbid, if ever the country is not in a financial position to give such awards to the players, it will leave them dejected. Because by then a “surprise” cash award would be as important as the cup. And look at the amount of each cash award. The cricketers in the National Team are already so wealthy that an award in lakhs doesn’t seem to be a respectable amount. Most states/institutions gave 1 crore per player (Another reality check – Most Indians make lesser than that working their entire life).

Another question to be answered – It it fair to the other sports? There are so many sports persons in India who do not earn a decent living. One of the well known case is of the Indian Women’s Hockey Team. I distinctly remember reading a newspaper report (most likely, TOI) couple of years back while travelling by the morning Shatabdi Express to Chandigarh. This report featured on the first page of the newspaper covered the financial situation of the players in the Indian Women’s Hockey Team. Most of the players were the sole earners in their entire family. Their monthly income would not even place them in the middle class strata. Often they have considered quitting owing to extreme financial crunch. Pay such sports persons; lack of money is definitely affecting their performance. I am not too attached to hockey. Hockey is just an example as I have little information about the condition of other sports persons in India. But my guts say that the sports persons who play less popular sports are negotiating even worse financial crisis. So even if cash awards given to the cricketers were taken from sports budget, I’d say it is a bad investment.

A quick search on google yielded these links: Karnataka Government award for Cricket World Cup and Karnataka Government award for Hockey. If you are not convinced here is one of the millions of pages on the internet highlighting the plight of Indian Women’s Hockey Team.

If not money then what? Honour them. Have a look at this: Gujarat Government award for Cricket World Cup. This is how you pay respect.

While there are some voices being raised against these cash awards, it is being largely ignored by the cricket obsessed Indians. I personally feel it is nothing less than a corruption scam. It is a scam against me, cause even though these actions make me unwilling to pay my taxes, I’ll have to oblige.

And finally the cherry on the top (the sad way). It is really disappointing that this tweet comes from one of few journalists in India whose work I like.