On every Independence day, there is always that one person in our Facebook friend list who asks that question everyone is bored of hearing, “Are we really independent, though?” The more annoying bit is the person actually believes he has said something extremely profound and ought to be taken seriously. In more recent times, another trend has emerged of people wondering if India should lose in sports to curb the rising tide of nationalism or asking Indians to not celebrate too much by pointing towards another country that has done better. Such people, it is quite obvious, do not understand sports at all.
I had the misfortune of coming across an article in a certain outlet that claimed Indians should not celebrate its success in the Asian Games since China had done much better. It is equivalent to suggesting that Arsenal football club should not have celebrated its FA Cup victories since it hasn’t won the Premier League in over a decade; or, suggesting that Kevin Anderson should not have celebrated his remarkable display at Wimbledon 2018 merely because he lost to Novak Djokovic in the final. It does not make any sense but if you are an intellectual, you can use the significant mental resources at your disposal to defend even such great depths of utter nonsense.
It is one thing to suggest India should not be satisfied with the tally of medals it has secured in the Asian games but completely different to suggest that India shouldn’t celebrate its success at all. Suggesting that we should not celebrate the success that we have achieved because of the fact that we haven’t achieved more is remarkably obtuse. It’s an insult to our sportsmen who have worked so hard to achieve the success that they have if we do not celebrate their achievements as a nation. It’s an insult to the dedication and devotion of our sportsmen if we do not shower them with all the adulation that they deserve merely because our nation hasn’t won as many medals some others might have.
Celebration and adulation is an essential part of sports. The glory that awaits a sportsman when he secures a place in the podium serves as an infinite source of motivation for many others who aspire to earn the same amount of adulation to work hard and dedicate their entire lives towards the sport. Who knows how many girls watched Dipa Karmakar and were inspired by her heroics following her remarkable performance at the Rio Olympics and the praise that was showered upon her? Who knows how many youngsters Indian sprinter Hima Das is going to inspire with her heroics? If the nation hadn’t celebrated their victories and that of other Indian sportsmen, They wouldn’t have become the sensation they are today and couldn’t have served as an inspiration to so many others to achieve what they have. Not celebrating India’s success is denying our athletes what they deserve, glory and adulation and veneration.
An argument can be then made that the success of the athletes is not so much due to the nation as it is for their own individual efforts and therefore it should only be celebrated as a success for the athletes themselves and not the nation, and as a nation we should not be too proud since we haven’t won too many medals. Of course, you have to be capable of a remarkable amount of conceit to make such an argument. We celebrate the success of our athletes because they are Indians and even though the government or we as individuals might not have contributed to their success, we are proud of them because they are our own. Their achievements cannot be separated from their nationhood as they won those medals representing our country, they won their medals representing us at the events, representing India.
There is such a thing called ‘expectations’ which intellectuals often fail to appreciate as their mental faculties are far too busy with inventing problems to solve. It is pretty immature to critique our low expectations at such events or the fact that we take immense pride over our medal tally even when it’s considerably smaller than other nations. That is because historically we haven’t performed very well at such events. When more of our sportsmen start winning more regularly on a consistent basis, our hunger for medals will grow and our expectations will exceed. There is a natural order of things and childish rants are generally of not much help. There is also a clamour for the government to increase its expenditure on sportsmen but considering the massive amount of investment that is required, a better option would be to provide private institutions with incentives to participate in improving the infrastructure available for the development of sports.
Sports is about glory, it’s about loyalty, it’s about the hunger to succeed in overcoming every obstacle that is thrown your away, We feel proud as a nation of the achievements of our sportsmen because when they take to the arena, they cease to be ordinary individuals and carry the aspirations and expectations of an entire nation on their shoulders. And a significant aspect of sports is the players taking to the field for a higher ideal. You will hear football fans speak all the time about the necessity of footballers playing for the badge on their jersey, about them understanding what it means to play for the club. The same goes for players of any other sport. All of us remember the pride with which Hima Das wrapped the Indian flag around herself after Gold in a track event at the IAAF World U20 Championships. We remember the Phogat sisters taking to social media to affirm their love for the country. Anyone who understands sports understands that tribal loyalty, hero-worship and heroes. The players played for their nation and for that. the nation is honoured and its heart swells with pride.
India may not have won as many medals as China but we are proud today. We are proud as a nation of Swapna Burman who surmounted all odds to secure the Gold medal for the country at the Heptathlon event. And the entire nation felt emotional after watching her mother’s reaction to her stellar performance at the Asian Games. We are proud of our shuttlers who have made winning medals something of a habit in recent times. We are proud of every single sportsman who participated in the Asian Games because they played for that flag we call our own. Our sportsmen have done the nation proud with their performance and for that, we shall be grateful and celebrate and cherish their achievement.