Rio Olympic Games, Narsingh Yadav Guilty or Innocent

Olympic games are over. Athletes are back home. Did our Olympic journey start on a wrong foot?  At a time when Indian athletes should be busy concentrating on preparation for upcoming games, our athletes were busy fighting court battles. Sushil Kumar, star wrestler and medal hope for India, took Narsingh Yadav, a wrestler who has qualified on merit, to court.  Court decided in Narsingh’s favor and let him travel to Rio. 

Then came a charge of  using banned performance enhancing substance against Narsingh. National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) gave a clean chit to Narsingh. The wrestler travelled to Rio. World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) then challenged Narsingh’s acquittal at the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). WADA pressed its charge at the fag end of Olympics. May be that was their procedure. Narsingh was not allowed to participate in his event bared 12 hours before start. Not only Narsingh was not allowed to participate in the games, he was evicted from the Olympic village and banned for four years. That means, Narsingh cannot participate in Tokyo olympic games, as well.

 Narsingh Yadav saga raises several questions:  
  • Was Narsingh Yadav given a clean chit by NADA under political pressure? 
  • If NADA had done a proper job, why did WADA appeal against  it, and CAS overturn NADA decision? 
  • Was Narsingh a victim of power politics? Is this a battle between Haryana lobby, Sushil Kumar comes from Haryana, and Maharasthra lobby, Narsingh Yadav’s state? A controversial politician associated with sports was in Rio. Gentleman was out on bail and travelled to Rio without informing court. What was his urgency to go to Rio? 
  • It is also emerging that junior officers at Sports Authority of India (SAI) and NADA had made written complaint, bypassing Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). Complaint was about use of banned substance by Narsingh Yadav. At whose behest, did these officers write? Why did they bypass  WFI? 
  • Did one rivalry between sports people lead to sabotage of Indian medal? No body knows. Only a proper enquiry may throw light on the issue. 
Question remains was Narsingh clean? Narsingh had qualified for the Olympics. Trials were held in the US. No banned substance was found in his body then. Why did he use dope less than a month before actual Olympic games? Was he very clever, or very stupid or a victim of sabotage? No body knows. It is important to note that CAS did not buy the theory of Narsingh’s food being spiked. If Narsingh is guilty he should be punished. Infact,  Narsingh is already paying for his sins, real or imaginary. If Narsingh is a victim of sabotage, then a probe should reveal it. History is replete with instances when one Indian has pulled down a fellow India. This will not be the last.

Rio Olympics Games, Unforgettable Lessons

Rio Olympic games is over. Final medal hope, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, has fallen. Indian medal tally at the end of Rio Olympic games remain one silver and one bronze. Two medals from a country of 1.2 billion people that  fielded 120 participants, is far too few. As Indians we are used to poor show in sports events, barring may be cricket. But hopes of  improving medal tally  post London Olympic games looked realistic. It was felt that while we may not do very well in track and field, aquatic and gymnastic events, we may earn a few medals in tennis, badminton, archery, shooting, wrestling and boxing. We got a silver in badminton, one bronze in wrestling. We did not leave a mark in other events, with the exception of Abhinav Bindra in shooting and Dipa Karmakar in gymnastics.  

Indian sports administrators have been blamed for poor show of Indian Olympic contingent in Rio games. May be rightly so. Most sports administrators lack vision and integrity. Many administrators join sports bodies for power and perks. Administrators lack vision and do little to create sports facilities and benefit sports persons. If anything, sports management in India fail to deliver sports people their legitimate due. In fact, the system forces sports men/women to beg for their right. But to be fair in sports where we had potential, right players were selected. Players had international exposure.  Players had international ranking. Several players were professionals. Yet we were not successful. Many players crumbled under pressure of expectation. May be mental toughness is a problem. As a nation we must train our sports people to withstand pressure.

Knowledgeable people believe that India is changing. More and more people are taking interest in sports. Young Indians want Indian athletes on podium. Success of Dipa Karmakar has aroused interest in gymnastics. I read in news paper a kid had dragged his mother to meet Dipa Karmakar in Nehru Stadium in Delhi. May be young boy will be enthused enough to take up gymnastics as a sports. May be this is an intangible benefit of Olympic success. May be this will sow the seed of success in future olympics for the country. May be this is harbinger of hope. 

It is often said that in India parents do not want to let their kids take up sports seriously. To be fair, in India a stable job after completing education remains major priority for most families. We hear  stories  how athletes participating in Olympics or other competitive sports lack job opportunity.  Some sell snacks by road side,  some are forced to take up odd jobs, some other sell their sports gear to support their families. Unless, parents see a viable career opportunity after doing sports, they are unlikely to encourage kids to take up sports. A prime example being Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI). Despite all ills plaguing BCCI, the organisation has managed to create a mechanism that creates and/or improves earning potential of cricketers. Parents of budding cricketers now see a career prospect for their kids.  I think similar approach is needed for other sports. 

Prize money is flowing in the direction of award winning athletes. It is said that P V Sindhu may get more than 10 crores in prize money. Similarly, prize money has flown in the direction of Sakshi Malik. Yet, coach Gopichand had to mortgage his house to raise fund to create an academy for badminton players. Experts believe there should be many more such academies all over the country. Rewarding medal earning player is good. It may entice the young people to take up sports. Could a portion of this money not been spent in creating facilities that creates more Sindhu and Sakshi? 

Rio Olympic Games, India’s Cup of Woe is Full

What is more disappointing? No medal in Rio or Indian sports minister getting a warning from organisers for bad behaviour? Minister was accused of throwing his weight around. Minister sahab forgot that he was on foreign shore. Minister sir forgot that outside Indian subcontinent, ministers are usually not taken that seriously. More so when your contingent fails to leave any mark on the games. 

To be fair, minister has claimed he did not get any communication from games managers. Given the tendency of flatly denying any allegation on TV by political class, it is doubtful how much credence we should pay to ministerial denial. It is possible ministerial staff behaved rudely at the the behest of minister, so that deniability can be maintained. Should a minister not be held responsible for bad behaviour of his staff? It is like father saying I do not accept any mischief my son does. It is so sad and so disappointing.

In the midst of general atmosphere of gloom, there is green shoot of hope. We must pray for Dipa Karmakar and Lalita Babar. Dipa has qualified for final of gymnastic vault in Rio. India does not have any history of competing in gymnastics, that too in Olympic Games. Dipa will perform Produnova vault. Produnova vault is a risky manoeuvre. A French gymnast has broken his ankle in Rio games trying to perform Produnova vault. Dipa will also have to compete against several Olympic champions in her group. Lalita Babar has qualified for final of 3000 meter steeplechase. Like gymnastics, track record of Indian athletes in world stage is not very bright. It is creditable that Lalita has reached finals of 3000 meter steeple chase, an event dominated by US, African and Caribbean athletes.  India should be proud if Dipa and Lalita can manage to come within first five in their respective categories. Even that scenario is highly unlikely. We shall hope and pray for miracles to happen.

Modern T3 Terminal, Poor Wheel Chair Assistance

Delhi has two airports. Old all purpose Palam airport has been redesigned and a new terminal building has come up next to old airport building. This new terminal is called Indira Gandhi Internation Airport (IGIA) terminal D. This terminal is meant for low cost airlines flying onto domestic destinations. A few kilometer away, a brand new airport, IGIA terminal 3 or T3, has been built. This terminal is the base of Air India. Mostly international travellers fly from T3. 

Recently, I was at the spanking terminal 3 of IGIA. I needed a wheel chair for a relative. Website of T3 indicated that ramp exists for travellers needing wheel chair assistance. Ramps are in lanes 1 and 2 where private vehicles are not allowed to enter. My phone enquiry to contact number provided on the website did not help much. I was bounced around from one phone number to another. Then, I wrote them an e-mail. My e-mail was acknowledged. An e-mail reply came two days after passenger had left. The e-mail response indicated that I have to seek permission at entrance of lane 2 indicating need of wheel chair for traveller. 

So I asked someone who had used wheel chair assistance before. I was told that in lane 3 of departure terminal there are pillars marked “wheel chair assistance”. There will be a phone there. One simply has to lift the receiver to get connected and avail wheel chair facility. I was very happy to find the pillar and phone. I picked the phone receiver. It reached a machine that asked  “Hindi or English”. This was followed by “INTERNATIONAL or DOMESTIC” travel. Last question was “AIR INDIA or OTHER AIRLINE”. After punching all right buttons, a human voice asked me to come to gate number 1. When I pleaded that my passenger needed assistance and I cannot leave the car unattended as it may be challaned, the line was disconnectd. 

I had to crossed two additional lanes meant for cab and VIPs, with my relative in tow, to reach gate one. Once there, we asked a security personnel about wheel chair facility. He pointed to a room nearby where there was airline offices. A bunch of men were huddled around wheel chairs. Two receptionists were dozing. I do not know if anyone of them had attended my call. I got wheel chair assistance we were looking for. I had to do the job the old fashioned way. Why then ask so many fancy questions when I picked the phone. I could have simply directed to report to gate 1. I shudder to think what would happen if my passenger who was totally immobile? 
T3 terminal is built with private fund. GMR is the main stake holder in the airport. T3, it is often said, is voted by travellers to be one of the best airports in the world. The airport has food court, shopping area, praying area and many other things that I do not know / care /need. My experience with wheel chair facility was not satisfactory. 

Airport or any facility, as modern as it may be, will always be measured by service it offers to passengers in dire situation. How people managing different functions in airport respond to distress call of travellers is an indicator how good an airport is. I think any Indian facility is designed for people who can help themselves. Moment a person is stuck in a jam, the whole system appears to conspire against him. In this matter, it does not matter if the facility is created and/or managed by government or a private operator.

Rio Olympic Games and Right to Criticise Performance

 I feel proud when Indian athletes win medals, stand on podium and national anthem is played.  Five days of Rio Olympic is over. India has not yet opened her account yet. 

Come to think of it, legendary swimmer Michael Phelps of the US, has 21 gold medals against his name. He is expected to win atleast a couple more in Rio Olympic Games. Number of medals Phelps has won between 2008 and 2016, is higher than number of Gold medals India has won since we started participating in Olympic games. In terms of actual number, Team India might have won a few more or few less. Yet stark comparison is for every one to see. 

Do we as Indian citizens have a right to feel angry, disappointed and disillusioned? Ms Shobhaa De faced a lot of flak when she expressed her disenchantment on performance and attitude of Indian team on Twitter. Many reminded her that it is not easy to qualify for Olympics. Some wanted her to run for sixty minutes on hockey field before commenting. Others reminded how much difficulty Indian sports people experience. It is their sheer dedication to their chosen sports that sees them through to Olympics. 

 I have some problem with these arguments. 

  • There is no denying that Indian players face a lot of difficulty. In spite of all these, we may still win a few medals in Rio Olympic Games. But given our contingent size and given our 1.2 billion population size, we win too few medals. 
  • Before we are reminded of  the degree of difficulty athletes face in qualifying for the games, I would like to point out that athletes from other countries came through the same qualification criteria. Why keep site only on qualification criteria alone? Why not set site above and beyond qualification criteria?
  • It is important to play games with right spirit. From childhood we are told participation is more important than winning. We must ask, are we in the games only to participate? Is winning not equally important for bolstering national pride? Participation in Olympic games certainly brings awareness for the game in the country. Still, instead of sending a huge contingent, is it not better to send players that are more likely to win? Should we not have attempted to double our medal tally from London games? There was a great possibility if we had planned well.
  • It is true Shobhaa De or for that matter many critics may not be able to hold a rifle and shoot. Neither can critics  run on Hockey field. Should bench mark for Indian players not be players from other competing and winning teams? 

 I am thrilled with performance  of India hockey team, irrespective of result on the score board. Many players have competed well, despite not winning any media  At the same time, many others have disappointed. Same may not be said for many others. At the end of the day, I think India may win a few medals this Olympic games. Badminton, boxing, and wrestling are yet to come. Still should we shut down Indians who express disappointment at performance of Indian team? I think not.

Worship Mother Goddess, Yet Violate Women

A society is judged by how it respects her women. In India, primordial energy in its female form is being worshipped since time immemorial. We worship goddess in different name and form,  that range from Durga, Kali, Annapurna, Kamakhya, Adyashakti, Katyayani and so on. Question comes with such exalted mothers, why sons are so worthless?

In this great land, that is India, female child is killed in the womb. A newly wed bride is burnt alive for no bringing enough dowry. To top everything, the final weapon in subjugating a woman is rape, and as if that is not enough we now have gang rape. Nirbhaya was gang raped in Delhi in a bus. She was left to die by the road side physically disembowelled. At the time, speaker of Indian parliament was a woman, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha was a woman, chief minister of Delhi was a woman, president of ruling Indian National Congress was woman, several states had chief ministers who were women. Yet Nirbhaya gang rape happened. 

Outraged nation passed stringent law against rape. Yet rapes kept happening unabated. Young children were also not spared. Recently, a mother and her daughter were gang raped in UP. Incidence happened infront of girl’s father. Assault happened close to highway. 

The whole affairs shows the poor law and order situation in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Police did not respond to emergency phone calls. Most likely police knew what was happening. More so because a similar incidence had happened a few days before in the same are. Police intentionally avoided the area of crime. Police in India knows which side of the bread to butter. They know which criminal is close to which politician. Criminals backed by ruling party are usually not touched by police. 

To add insult to injury, an important minister in state government alleged rape was a political conspiracy. Given the uproar after incident involving BJP vice president when he made abusive comment against BSP chief Mayawati, I am surprised at the muted response of visual media on the statement of influential ruling party minister. In addition, all serial visitors who flock to distant parts of India in support of poor and oppressed, none had visited the distraught family. Exception being BJP and now chief minister of UP. Where are Mr. Kejriwal, Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Yechury and the rest?

With the respect women in India enjoy in society, remember they constitute almost 50% of Indian population, India has no chance of ever becoming a global power. One simply has to see the status, opportunity and safe environment offered to women in developed countries as well as in many Latin American and South East Asian countries. Only when we start respecting women, our worship of mother goddess will make any sense.

Reality Music Shows Catering to Aspirations

Music and dance competitions on TV are so amazing at bringing out talents. Boys and girls, as young as 6 years, are coming from all over India to show case their talents. No longer families think studying hard and becoming engineer and doctor to be only career option. Many are taking different routes like music and dance as potential options.

Participants come from every corner of this vast country of ours. From Nalbari in Assam in the east to Barmer in Rajasthan in the west. From Amritsar in Punjab in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. One may come from a family of a farmer, a singer, a school teacher or a multinational executive. It does not matter, as long as one can sing in front of a crowd and a panel of judges without messing up tune and beat.   

There is so much aspiration. So much desire to do well and showcase talent to the world. Every participant has a story to tell. Every one has a dream. Some want to make their family proud. Many, specially girls, want fulfil their mothers apirations. Many want to boost their family income and socio-economic status. It feels so good when young contestants succeed. Some cry. Some break into impromptu dance. Parents in the background breath a sigh of relief and exude a sense of pride. True there is dramatisation. There is mock fighting among judges to win over a contestant. Still music scene in India is getting enriched with so much talent. 

Gone are the days when India was dominated by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar, not to forget Asha Bhonsle, Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh.  Singer pool has only increased with time. From Sonu Nigam to Mika Singh, from Arijit Singh to Amal Malik. Girls are not far behind. From Alka Yagnik to Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal, from Neeti Mohan, Monali Thakur to Palak Muchal, Kanika Kapoor, Shalmoli Kholgade and many others. What is apparent is that talent pool is increasing. Base of talent pyramid is getting wider every year. New talents are added every year. I think Indian music industry is up for good time. I hope similar talents come out in other areas too.