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It’s the Olympics or politics

Published Aug 05, 2012 12:15am


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MR Jeremiah and Ms Cassandra have long been publicly moaning that the difference between news and entertainment has either disappeared, or we are fast getting there.

Such lament comes from confusion. News is not synonymous with politics. It is simply new information about anything we are interested in. And the reasonable fact is that people are more interested in what makes them happy, from fashion to fiction, than the depressing snarls of politics.

But there is always a political story which bridges these compartments, since politics is intrinsically amusing. All you have to do is pause and think. Sometimes a very thin line separates scoop and satire.

Witness, for instance, the floated story that in Andhra Pradesh the Congress is making a serious effort to bring its latest bête noire, Jagan Reddy, son of the late Rajashekhar Reddy, back to the fold by promising to make him chief minister. Jagan Reddy, who has shifted the base from under the Congress’ feet, is, at the moment of writing, in jail, accused of every sort of financial crime the Central Bureau of Investigation could conjure up.

So what does the Congress tell Andhra voters if this story ever comes true? ‘Hey, guys! This is the chap we sent to jail because we knew that his dad made zillions of dollars-pounds-euros. How did we know that? Er ... because he made the lolly when he was one of us.... Now that prodigal Jagan is back in the Congress, we can assure you that all those accusations were total fiction!’

And what does the Congress tell the obstinate judge who, on the CBI’s insistence, denies Jagan his legitimate right to bail? ‘Sorry, your Lordship, all those raids on Jagan’s offices were a bit of a charade, just a mild bit of spanking that children need when they get to their difficult years. As for the lawyers who were barnstorming against Jagan in court, your Lordship knows what lawyers can become given something extra in an envelope! They took a brief from us and turned it into a full-length suit … ha ha ha ha!’

Alas, the joke is not that some politician whispered this into a journalist’s ear, but that it is being circulated without any questions. The first question is the most obvious: is such a deal politically tenable? Will the voter, who has heard vehement speeches from both sides, accept it? What does Jagan Reddy’s mother, who has a backbone of quiet steel, have to say about this after having watched her son being incarcerated and punished by the Congress?

Jagan Reddy wanted to be CM after his father’s tragic death at an early age. He was denied. He might have accepted such an offer when, instead of him, an unknown and palpably amateur Kiran Reddy was made CM. But the Congress high command destroyed its own options by using extreme methods to crush Jagan Reddy personally and politically. It failed miserably. In Andhra, the Congress has a past and Jagan Reddy has a future. Why would Jagan Reddy join the past?

The irony is that while Indian politics trends towards radical amusement, Indian sport, which should offer national uplift, is drenched in depression.

Nothing makes one cringe more than simulated celebrations over an Indian bronze at the Olympics, or the adulation for a rare silver. India’s sports poverty is perfectly understandable. The brain power of India is concentrated on upward mobility through the fiscal route, not through physical genius. Take money away from the one sport where we compete with fluctuating ability — cricket — and that bubble will burst as well.

Other sports have their rewards as well, but the price in terms of physical discomfort is high, and that thought is a bit discomfiting to our youth, brought up on mother’s cooking. If we have to move, we might as well dance, for fat boy can dance as well as thin boy. Girth is not a serious hindrance to classical dance, either. But it is going to be many an age before there are half a dozen Indians who can move with the sheer brilliance of Chinese gymnast Dong Dong on the trampoline, a golden performance that I watched while channel-surfing because rain had interrupted the South Africa-England Test match.

I love the thought of us winning medals as much as the next Indian. But I don’t really mind when we lose in badminton or archery. What churns the stomach is the gratuitous exultation each time destiny sends us a peanut. The Japanese star who got bronze in an unbelievably difficult and visually dazzling gymnastic art was in tears at having come third. If he were an Indian who had won bronze for hitting a sitting duck at five feet, corporations would have taken front-page advertisements to honour the arrival of a saviour. No one congratulates Indians more gushingly than Indians congratulate themselves. It is a disease.

One look at the Olympics and I search for politics. One glance at politics and I shift to the Olympics.

The writer is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi, India on Sunday, published from London and editorial director, India Today and Headlines Today.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (7) Closed

arpan Aug 05, 2012 03:49am
When you go our looking for deficiencies and defects you will more often than not find them. The key is to look for factors that make the system tick. It is true that system is not up to the mark but then are people any good or do they deserve any better?
Prabhakar Aug 05, 2012 12:13pm
At least, we have started to win medals in sports other than hockey, those days are gone whn we had only one medal in hockey. No Wonder, in the next 20 yrs. we will be in top 5 of medal list. Be positive. If u wouldnt hv backed by your parents in ur education. u wold hv not able read this article. so whtever it is, just celebrate & support our sportsman in whtever ways.
Sunny Aug 05, 2012 04:02am
This article also proves that Indian writers have a persistent disease -- intellectual narcissim. They cannot clearly express their point-of-view with clean language; they are afraid they might not be considered intellectual enough.
Sanjay Saksena Aug 05, 2012 05:28am
Brilliantly written and so true. Nowhere is mediocrity celebrated with greater fervour than in India. A pathetic performer like Leander Paes, whose best ranking in world tennis was 484, is heralded as a hero and very ordinary athletes who get a medal at the very ordinary commonwealth games ( no US, no China, no France, no Japan, no Italy, no Germany, no Korea) are given awards running into lacs of Rupees. Being an extremely low intelligence people, we delude ourselves into believing that our negligible accomplishments somehow contribute to our national stature. In fact, every Olympics serves to bring out the essentially mediocre nature of our athletes.
Dipesh Lall Aug 05, 2012 08:48am
M.J. Akbar is a national hero. Gold medal to him. Think about this datum: Michael Phelps alone has about the same number of medals as India has EVER won in ALL of Summer Olympics of the modern era. And then we say...Sara jahan se aacha Hindustan hamara. Hassan Nisar of Pakistan always despairs about the poor quality (on average and in aggregate) of human material in Pakistan. The same can be said of our glorious and blessed India. M.J Akbar hits the proverbial nail on the head. With all of our resources, with all our Gods and Goddesses, with all our billions of people (nay...human resources), with all the collective wisdom of the Sports Authority of India, and with all of our astrologers and god-men, we should expect better. Tragic, comical, and infuriating.
P.Sharma Aug 05, 2012 04:59pm
Leander pace won Bronze medal in Atlanta olympics - won junior US open in the past Stop writing lies
kris Aug 06, 2012 02:03am
Just don't blame our sports people. They are doing their best in the circumstances. How many of us would like to send our sons and daughter to professional sports. We only pull them back even if they have talents. Another factor is that, cricket is stealing all the money and glamor in India shadowing other sports. India unlike China is democratic and doesn't steal their childhood for the country's glory. Then there is politics. Just look at the fast Asian games how badly the organizers failed. So I really appreciate even 'bronze' a flower in the desert.