My 58-year-old father, a state-level badminton champion in college, wakes up every morning at 5.30am so that he can be on the badminton court by 6am. He plays for a couple of hours daily come rain, hail or dust storm. This has been his routine for as long as I can remember.
I, however, can barely manage to keep a shuttle-cock afloat in the air.
During my school years, my father was obsessed with hockey, and I grew up on stories about Dhyan Chand and his wizardry—how the ball was always glued to his hockey stick; how, in Tokyo, they actually broke his stick to check for magnets; how once, when he was accused of using black magic, he threw his hockey stick, cut off a branch from a nearby tree and proceeded to score goal upon goal. That last story is not true, and it was former hockey player, Olympian and two-time gold medallist Cdr “Nandy” Singh who told me so. It was also at this 84-year-old retired naval officer’s house that I, for the first time in my life, saw someone dribbling a ball with a hockey stick LIVE.
The original men in blue: Will these hockey veterans be your inspiration? (Photo by: Madhu Kapparath / Mint)
Today, it makes me wonder why my father, who has always been keen on sports, never really encouraged me to take up any sport or, for that matter, took me to watch a match at a stadium. At school, too, I recollect having two physical education classes a week, and the most that happened during this 90-minute slot was that we took a round of the field, shot a few baskets or stood on either side of a sagging net in an attempt to play volleyball.
Perhaps, my father assumed I had no interest in sports—after all, I never really showed any inclination. When I was younger, he did try to teach me the rudiments of badminton, which I never could quite grasp. But what rankles most is that he, a sportsman, gave up on me. Come on Dad, where was your sporting spirit? With no encouragement to explore the world of sports either at home, school or college, I never developed a passion for any sporting activity. Instead, I stuck to books.
While it gladdens my heart that my four-year-old is already learning how to dribble a basketball at school and thinks that jogging will make her “big and strong”, it upsets me equally when she says that the boys in her class go for cricket sessions while the girls learn dance. Who decided only boys should learn to play cricket?
Questions like these and Shoba Narayan’s column, You can fund a swimmer’s airfare to Beijing (Page L6), set me thinking about the state of sports in India. Anyone who enjoys sports cannot help but feel miserable when India does not feature prominently in the medals tally, Olympics after Olympics. But we all know that it is our own lack of involvement with any sport except cricket, the lack of updated sporting infrastructure and the notion that most sports, except cricket, are not viable career options that have put us in that space. If we want our shooters, swimmers, boxers and wrestlers to come back with medals, we cannot be content to let them practise at an indoor range in their own backyard, as shooter Abhinav Bindra apparently does.
I know I am not saying anything new, but going by my experience, and what I hear from friends, I think children need to be encouraged and exposed to as many sporting activities as possible while they are young. That way, when they grow up, they can choose to continue with the sport they enjoy. I intend to take this up at the next PTA and make sure my daughter gets a chance to hold the bat and bowl a few overs.
As someone who had worked on infrastructure details for the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, “Nandy” says that the only way we can encourage sports such as hockey is if they are telecast regularly (like Union sports minister M.S. Gill, “Nandy”, too, was miffed that the Junior Asia Cup hockey tournament was not telecast). And while we wait for our chance in the sun, the International Hockey Federation has taken up cudgels on behalf of Indian hockey through its project “Promoting Indian Hockey”, and has announced that India will host the 2010 World Cup. Whether these developments will revive interest in the game remains to be seen, but we hope our story, Once we were kings (Page L18), of the five surviving members of the 1948 Olympics hockey team will inspire you to view our national game differently.
Like us, if you have no chance of making it to Beijing this August to imbibe the feel of the Mainland and the spirit of the Games, fret not. We have a handy TV and Internet guide (Catch it live, Page L13), plus some real easy tips to discover China in your city (China at your doorstep, Pages L8 to L11) and a first-hand account of how Beijing is coaching its residents to behave during the Games (Page L16).
Let the Games begin…
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