It's very interesting to note our public reactions when some of our sports people do well, on the international stage – whether it is the Olympics, the World Cup or anything else. We win a few matches. The whole nation is over the moon. And then comes the agony. Our sports people can rarely clinch the gold, and they have to settle for a bronze. Of course, bronze is also good. The fact that we competed internationally is good enough. Still, there is collective disappointment on the social media and our mainstream media. The politicians offer cash, gifts etc. The game goes on.
The whole nation wants us to do well in sports. But if we look at what the parents tell the children, it's always about studying and not wasting time on sports or games, as they would call it. This seems to be a hangover from the pre-independence and the immediate post-independence days. Then a college degree ensured you got a clerical job with the government so that you had some security.
Later on, engineering and medicine were the aspirational fields with accountancy and law coming a close second. The world has changed. There are a variety of options, which may not include much of academics. I agree that basic education is necessary. There's no dearth of talent. We can nurture both sports and brilliance in academics.
Once we build up this culture of sports, only then Indians will do internationally. Twenty years ago I used to joke that a mother will get her child who is interested in sports to me and I will ask ‘Beta, what do you play?’, and he will, with a huge grin on his face, say, ‘Computer games’. It was a joke then but sadly a reality now. I am not decrying computer games, but we can learn valuable life lessons from sports - the value of teamwork, the value of leadership, the value of communication, mind over matter, etc. These life lessons will stand us in good stead in a corporate career and even in our spiritual growth.
(The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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