No Sports Please….We are Indians!

Let’s begin with a local proverb from my motherland, Bihar: “Padhoge-likhoge to banoge nawab, kheloge-kudoge to banoge kharab”….. (Study and become the respected best, but play if you want to waste).

The reason why I chose this as my opening line for this blog was to argue that we, the Indians, are generally apathetic towards sports. Any average Indian would struggle to name ten international sports’ names, let alone the names of sportspersons. Our International sporting identity hinges only on cricket, a sport only a handful nations play and which was until last week an unrecognized sports by the IOC (International Olympic Committee). So, technically speaking, cricket and “Chor-Sipahi” (thief and the police running game), were of the same league in IOC’s reckoning! Bottom-line, we are ignorant of the term called International sports. So much so, that the Vancouver Winter Olympics, which is happening right now, finds no place in newspapers.

The question is how and where this ignorance set in and then hardened into a total apathy towards sports? The answer, to my belief, lies not in our years’ of lackluster display on the field but in our education system.

I did my schooling from a respected institute run by the Jesuit missionaries of charity. It had a huge library, a great computer facility, big colonial styled class rooms and two huge playing fields. It also had a leased facility in another sports ground just a stone throw away. We had all the different balls (no pun intended) like the football, volleyball, basket ball, the cricket ball (of course) and also we had a big swimming pool. So, technically speaking, the school was well equipped to nurture sporting ambitions.

However, I could never understand, that despite all the facilities and equipments why we had just one 40 minute “period” of sports in the entire week’s schedule. Mind you there were 5 days of schooling, each day divided in 8 periods of 40 minutes each. There was a games teacher, who was all too interested in queuing up kids and teaching some mindless calisthenics and yoga. And during the rainy seasons, it would inevitably rain the day we had the sports period. Seemed like the heavens were also against our sports period.

Finally, by the time I went to high school (Standard 9 and 10) it was decreed that we had too much knowledge to acquire for the upcoming board examinations and it would be in the best interest of the students to sacrifice the sports period. That was the end of sports for many of my friends.

Yes, there was the legendary “Sports Day” when suddenly four houses would spring back to life after almost a year’s hibernation and compete in some 20 odd disciplines with one house emerging the victor. But then by that time, the unsuspecting hapless kids, who had no reason to doubt the education system, were made to believe that all that the sports may get you is a medal and nothing else. I think the only better way this message could have been hammered home would have been: if our principal would have thundered in the daily assembly everyday that “Sports is injurious to career building” and had this profound wisdom goldplated and kept at a prominent place so that all can see it and assimilate it.

After school, came college where an even stiffer climb to engineering/medical/accounting/management was awaiting and at that time indulging in sports suddenly seemed like a sin. Every minute was to be spent in the pursuit of the career. We were comprehensively browbeaten to believe about the negative impact of Sports in our prospective career. Sports would not figure in the top ten of the list of priorities. One evening of after exam cricket was the only dosage of sports available.

Then I entered the work-life and all of sudden sports were permanently out of life. I do not blame the employers for the lack of sporting interest and the overall miserable fitness level of young Indians let alone the pathetic showing of team spirit and sportsmanship, so rampant in the workplaces. I blame it on our education system which believes the Hindi proverb at the beginning of this write up.

Our educations system considers each individual as an island. You plant books, you grow marks. You reap degrees, you get jobs. There is no place for sports. Since the formative childhood days never receive a dosage of sports, we happily ignore them as if they never existed and pursue the career with great zeal. However, does this make us great professionals?

At workplaces, I see people with no concept of team spirit, a pivotal quality required to produce great results. Every office is awash with scenarios elucidating utter lack of sportsmanship in conflict scenarios. Then again, you can add the un-sportsmanlike behavior of politicizing the workplace and all the dark arts of gaming wizardry which we despise, yet carry out and even encourage. And lastly, add the misplaced concept of weighing competition ahead of co-operation.

Could this be prevented? I like to believe, it can be.

You don’t need to have a Harvard MBA to understand that a game of football is won by the team with best on field skill and team spirit. The objective of sports is to rely on your partners and help them so that all of you reach the common goal of victory. Team first, is a must have quality should you need to win. High performance teams co-operate more than compete within its own boundaries. Weaving sports tightly in the fabric of education imparts this valuable lesson which people badly need to carve out a meaningful and happy work life with colleagues.

Sports teach a great concept of being fair. Not many instances are available where prolonged sporting success is achieved compromising the fairness. Later on, this helps a great deal in respecting others’ qualities at workplace and also by recognizing solicitations of unfair nature and swiftly dousing them.

Sports are a great teacher of pursuit of excellence. A singles tennis player or a boxer has to train extremely hard to get to a level of repute. The road to progress is solitary but requires a lot of focus and determination let alone the dedication.

Lastly, sports teach the most important lesson of respecting others. All sportspersons reach a pinnacle and then the inevitable physical decay makes way for a new champion. You learn the most important art of losing yet not losing it all. As a sportsman, you take to this transition with grace and not like a greedy politician who tries to stick to the power by indulging in unfair means. Extrapolate it to workplace and you will respect your juniors and would credit them and believe them and let them grow.

If, we the Indians, had more sports in our curriculum and they were pursued with a little more earnestness or with as much as seriousness as trigonometry was pursued with, I would put my money in seeing a better generation of workers and professionals. The places to work would probably be a tad fairer and of course I would not see so many unfit, obese and physically weak individuals in their twenties and thirties.

So, tomorrow I am off riding my mountain bike for my daily 40 km ride and hope I see a change in the attitude of my in-laws who are almost sure that I have lost my mind, for no real reason exists which explains to them why would their son in law wants to cycle the whole Himalayas when one can as well drive. However, one small problem persists, my in laws are Indians and we do not believe in sports as a way of life. No sports please, we are Indians!

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7 Responses to “No Sports Please….We are Indians!”

  1. Indrasish Says:

    Excellent blog. I think we(Indians) should not only read this blog but also we should try to implement this. Specially who are interfacing with current generation needs to follow this.

  2. Sandeep Says:

    Well said. We need to inculcate this belief in the generation to come. It’s a rat race out there for degress, jobs with little or not time for sports. No one remembers the old saying “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy”.

  3. Vinay Says:

    Two observations – both in jest. a) I’m sure your in-laws ain’t reading this; and b) you’re doing a 40 km daily ride??

    Anyways – great blog. Though I do believe that the present education system through the new age schooling (which still is unfortunately restricted to the elite) is trying to deviate from the traditional methods. Will this result in a sporting revolution? Unlikely in the near future, since even with newer generations coming to the fore, there are varying mindsets.

  4. Ravs Says:

    Very aptly and brialliantly brought in here…Excellent write up … I recall a classic debate for Indians … differentiate Sports from Games and you got your point validated.

    PS – I am a cricketer, but still an ardent beleiver in saying “”All work and no play makes jack a dull boy”.

    Cheers & good luck for your upcoming expedition

  5. Abhishek Thakur Says:

    “…so many unfit, obese and physically weak individuals in their twenties and thirties”

    I think this is one of the reasons indians are getting beaten and bullied in Australia!

  6. krishna Says:

    I am sorry but i feel you are the kind of person who would take contsructive criticism .I enjoyed your other blogs and they are hilarious.But when you say “International Olympic Committee” vancouver .It is located at Canada which then again is a “Country of fair skinned people”.I am not a cricket fan.Frankly i dont follow that game unless it is the world cup.But you seem to say that whatever “International Olympic Committee” considers as sport is the only sport.Do you know there is a sport called kabadi in Tamil Nadu.It is an interesting game but then again it is still a sport.You seem to be having the same mentality as the people u citique.

  7. Rahul Reddy Girreddy Says:

    Well Said….What you have mentioned in your BLOG is 100% right, sports should be inculcated not because we have a Paucity of Players or lack of medals in Olympics, because sports teaches something no education or MBA would teach otherwise.
    1. Humility……once you start playing sport you accept that they are players who may be faster, quicker than you and you can only beat them by using all of your talents to best and to stop fretting about the lack of Abilities.
    2. Gives holistic view of life, the life is beyond 9-5 in the office and gives a very positive outlook in life.
    3. Sports teaches us Outlook, strategy, Co-ordination.
    4. Sports help in Mental Re jeveunation, in sports due to intense actives blood flows goes to all parts of the brain.

    Above all, it teaches that each one is unique in their own way.

    My OWN EXAMPLE.

    I, used to play football in ground with players of all different shapes and sizes, and quite often I used to wonder how the Heavy Weights (Players who were bit overweight) would be able to play and be able to run in game. After few games, I realised that instead of being worried about their weight and their running , they were using their weight on their opponents, who could not withstand such huge pressure and quite often would avoid Confrontation with them.

    Then they were players, who were short, I used to think how can they
    be able to get past big players and instead of feeling an imferiority complex they were using whatever height they had to the fullest extent. The short players would have low centre of gravity and were able to make very quick turns and very agile and would be able to navigate through small nooks and corners.

    In the end I had realised that every one is unique in their own way and if we start using whatever abilities we have to fullest, then we can excel in any field

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