‘Twas that time once again. The time that cometh but once every four years. The uniquely Indian festival. The time of celebration, of joy, of revelry. Almost sacred time. Marked out on calendars much in advance. Being prepared for over several years.
It seems like the revelry of the previous event had not even finished when the latest edition was upon us. Time flies when you are having fun, isn’t it?
You guessed it right. I am talking about the period immediately after the conclusion of the sporting extravaganza called the Olympics.
It is the period when many Indians, especially middle-class urban, become experts on the miserable performance of the Indian contingent. For committed participants, of which ilk there are millions, as are of any ilk in India, preparations begin well in advance.
Like creating (based on anecdotal evidence only; FBI and CBI are still trying to trace the creators) and circulating WhatsApp messages ignoring performance data and commending the preparation of the contingent and putting pressure on them by asking them repeatedly to bring in a rich haul of medals beyond their capability.
Like indulging in harmless banter on Facebook by ridiculing the rich haul of other teams and lauding the commendable, mostly medal-free, performance of the Indian contingents in past Olympics.
Like not lampooning (before the Games) folks like writer Shobaa De, who, swimming against the tide of data and trends available on FB and Twitter, and only relying on actual historical data and her own gut, had the temerity to say that the Olympic contingent will disappoint.
And, of course, during the Games, rapidly moving from channel to channel to collect data on poor performance. And expertly navigating away from the performance of athletes putting up a fight and extending the inevitable and preventing a viewing of a larger cross-section of events.
The seat at this table does not come cheap. Participants need to possess sterling qualifications for this task and spend years preparing.
Most of them have spent a good part of their adult life only trying to become rich.
They are committed to the cause of a healthy, physically active lifestyle. Whether it is mowing the lawn, hammering a nail in the wall, or fetching a glass of water, they steadfastly refuse to do anything physical.
Their commitment to a physically active lifestyle regularly keeps them engaged in stressful and physically challenging sporting activities like going for a morning stroll in the car, crossing the street on foot, or spitting out far onto public property. Most of all, they routinely exercise their vocal chords by shouting out for minions for completing any activity that remotely looks physical.
They have a close association with the wild outdoors and are avid travellers. When they go somewhere, they go to see. They go to a mountain to see the mountain and click pictures. Never to climb or hike. They go to a river to see the river and click pictures. Never to row. Why row when you can hire a boat with a 60-year old to row it. They go to the ocean to see and click pictures. Never to swim.
They have so much motivation to play that they are never able to organise themselves in order that they can play. The logic is sound. Why take the trouble when you can buy tickets for, and watch performances of sports leagues created by business houses designed to make them richer.
When called upon to participate, sometimes by family members interested in their well-being, or on account of work related requirements, they demonstrate their supreme ability to put the good of others before self by showing up and skipping out at the first opportunity.
With such qualifications, it is difficult to go wrong.
This august group always manages to find the real reasons behind the debacle. And, to their eternal credit, they find the same real reasons four-year after four-year.
They find that there are more administrators in the contingent than sportspersons and coaches. So many more that the allocated stands for supplying drinks to the nation’s marathon participant have to be left unattended leaving her to collapse at the end of the run.
They find that it was a young team that participated and that this was meant to be a great learning experience which will stand them in good stead for the next one for which they will not be selected.
They find that there is no cost in being unsporting and yet expecting the moon from people drawn from the same stock, many of whom have reached where they have because of personal motivation and desire, and not a supportive environment.
They find that the scoreline never accurately reflects performance. When we win 2-1, the scoreline fails to reflect our superiority over the rival team. When we lose 1-7, the scoreline does not represent how close the game actually was.
They lampoon (after the Games) folks like writer Shobaa De, who, swimming against the tide of data and trends available on FB and Twitter, and only relying on actual historical data and her own gut, had the temerity to say that the Olympic contingent will disappoint, because a silver and a bronze were won between 1.25 billion people.
Not one to stop at mere analysis or fact-finding, this group of experts boldly goes where no official committee dares to; they make recommendations and claims for the future of Indian sport.
As punishment, a different swarm of officials will be sent to disgrace us at the next Olympics.
A team of officials with no idea of sports will be sent to (mostly European) nations like Belgium and Netherlands in peak tourist season so that they can ensure none of their practices are ever introduced for better results.
Officials will travel first class while athletes will go by ship, instead of Economy Air, in order to keep them sharp.
The position of the Sports Minister will be upgraded with better facilities, so that athletes can perform better.
And, importantly, laws will be introduced to ensure that any youngster showing ability and motivation to work hard and perform well in sports, is either packed off to a suitable college of higher studies at the earliest opportunity or given a bit role in the next Bollywood movie. Charges could also be brought against parents of such children for not having checked the desire at an earlier stage. Booking them under “anti-national activities” is also a possibility.
This group has declared that based on performance at the recently concluded Games, it can safely be assumed that this is the beginning of a golden era for the country in the Olympics. They had declared this before the Games had started. Again, the assertion is based on hard facts.
It will be like the Golden Era that started after K D Jadhav won a bronze in wrestling in Helsinki in 1952.
Like the one that began after Milkha Singh came fourth in the 400 metres race in Rome in 1960.
Like the one that started after P T Usha placed fourth in the 400 metres hurdles in 1984 in Los Angeles.
Like the one that started after Leander Paes won a bronze in 1996 in tennis in Atlanta.
Like the one that started after K Malleswari won a bronze in weightlifting in 2000 in Sydney.
Like the one that started after Rajyavardhan Rathore won silver in shooting in 2004 in Athens.
And like the one that started after Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 that included a gold won by Abhinav Bindra in shooting.
Meanwhile, Bollywood is abuzz with possibilities these Games have thrown up. Makers of Lagaan, Chak De, Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag are in a dead heat for producing the next sporting biopic on the lives of famous Indian Olympians, based on concocted stories linked to oppression under a foreign regime and the pain of partition. And if a concocted story shows that the Indian underdog always performs at the crunch, it must be true in real life too. And since we perform so well at the crunch, preparation is a waste of time.
The purpose is noble. The purpose is to inspire the youth to greater heights.
Business corporations are also abuzz. They have selflessly been trying to inspire their employees to greater performance and teaching them the fine arts of Change Management, Strategy and Leadership, by exposing them to rare snippets, that can be seen in movie halls by purchasing a ticket, from these great movies based on real concocted stories, in the confines of their training facilities. On account of the limited variety available in Bollywood, they have even exposed employees to rare footage from commercial Hollywood movies, mostly with a character played by Al Pacino who delivers a stirring speech and changes the world , that could be seen in a movie hall by purchasing a ticket. Now they will have a greater variety in Bollywood to choose from.
Indian coaches have been asked to focus on their own speech-making skills instead of working on their athletes.
Nothing comes easy in life. A few athletes like PV Sidhu and Sakshi Malik had threatened to derail the four-yearly celebration by winning medals at the just-concluded Games. Thankfully, it was not a communicable disease that the others caught.
All is well that ends well.
Already looking ahead to the festive period immediately after the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.