Saturday, August 20, 2016

India at Olympics- always waiting for some miracle.

Since I started watching sports on TV I always loved to watch Olympics, for me, it is a symbol of ultimate human struggle and triumph symbolized in the form of sports. We get to witness epic struggles and ultimate triumphs, old records are broken and new records are set.Sometimes it is enthralling to watch and sometimes it is heartbreaking to witness an athlete missing a medal by a whisker. Today, I have a luxury of rooting for two countries in Olympics (India and USA), but I never watched Olympics for supporting any one country. For me, it was fun to watch spectacular performances of athletes all over the world. Maybe, I developed this attitude as India rarely used to win any medal in Olympics, there were some like P T Usha who came very close to winning a medal but there was nothing worthy of mention.

India started participating in Olympics in 1900, since 1920 they are sending their players regularly to Olympic games. India's first Individual Gold medal came in 2008, by a shooter Abhinav Bindra. Last Olympic games (2012) was the most successful event so far when India won six medals, two silver, and four bronze. India has won total 28 medals in Olympics so far (out of which nine are gold, eight for field hockey and just one individual gold), not a spectacular achievement for one of the most populous countries of the world. Just for the sake of comparison, we can compare India with the most decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps of USA has also won 28 medals in just four Olympics, and 23 of them are gold medals! What can be the reason that such a big country can not match the achievement of an individual? Definitely, large population or lack of resources and money cannot be the only factors responsible for this, because even countries more populated than India (China) or poorer than India (like Kenya, Ethiopia or North Korea) also win medals at Olympics consistently. It is also not true that Indians are not passionate about any sports, India is considered as a superpower in cricket, it is one of the most lucrative markets for this game and Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most successful league for cricket all over the world. Is cricket responsible for killing all other sports? Many love to blame dominance of cricket for pathetic infrastructure for all other sports, but then how come all other sports flourish in countries like USA where basketball, baseball, and American football dominate so much? India even has a dedicated sports ministry to look after countries sports activity, I don't think in US there is even a position called the secretary of sports.

The major difference I found between both countries is that in US kids start playing competitive sports at very early age and there are professional private facilities available to them for almost any sport. Sports is a part of culture as well as school curriculum, and most kids are either directly or indirectly involved with some sports activity. For many sports earlier you start better it is, in India many primary and middle school don't even have their own playground, playing is often considered as a waste of time. I remember that we used to get punished if my dad caught us playing cricket instead of studying,which according to him was much more essential activity than playing any game. I don't think my dad was an exception as many of my other friends also used to get a similar treatment.

During every Olympic games, a question pops up that how come country of more than billion people cannot produce even few Olympic gold medalists? It is fiercely debated, cricket and government are blamed, but if some athletes win any medals because of their own hard work and efforts they are hailed as heroes and saviors, they are showered with gifts and rewards from all over the country and everything else is forgotten until next Olympic games. This is going on for last so many years, so regularly that this activity has become a regular drill for many Indians and they all perform so mechanically. Whether it is Sindhu or Sakshi or Abhinav or Sushil, they all won their medals, not because of infrastructure and sports culture, but despite that. They defied all odds against them and triumphed at international level, but how long a country of more than billion people can depend on the efforts few brave individuals to bring ultimate recognition in sports? During every Olympics entire country expects some miracle to happen and at least one of their athlete wins some medals. If USA can do it, China can do it, Brazil can do it, why not India? Something needs to change if India wants's to compete with these countries in the medal count, sports should become a regular activity, only then talent can be recognized at an early stage and can be groomed to compete at intensely competitive international level. Lots of perseverance, dedication, and hard work is required to achieve success at international level in any field and sports is not an exception. Let's hope that achievements of Sindhu and Sakshi act as a wake-up call and not as an opium dose which makes entire country high and forgets about ground realities. Let's celebrate their achievements with an intention of making it a regular event, not just a pleasant surprise for which entire country depends to celebrate.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Superstitions- Being possessed by diety

Being possessed by some deity, devi (goddess), evil or God is one of very common superstition. Once I was very rampant all over the world, many women got killed because people suspected them of being a witch, this belief is still present in some parts of rural India (as well as in some parts of cities also), Andhashradha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS) defines this act as follows,
 "Being possessed by a ‘Deity’ ‘Devi or ‘Dev Angat Yene’ (in Marathi): During this condition, the individual completely transforms his or her expression and behavior (personality) to resemble some abnormal individual or a deity. The person is then supposed (pretends) to be possessed by a deity during that period he behaves in a convincing manner making appropriate actions and sounds to appear as if he is in a trance and pretends to know answers to all questions posed to him or her by gullible devotees."

As I mentioned before, it will be very wrong to assume that this superstition was only present in parts of India, but I personally witnessed it only in India that's why my views and opinions are exclusively based on these incidents. I used to see some women behaving in a very weird way on some days of the year, those days used to be some special days as per Hindu calendar and it was believed that some goddess used to possess these women, transforming them into some sort of proxy of those entities. Many people used to visit their home with lots of queries and grievances. These people used to ask questions and this possessed woman used to provide answers. These questions used to cover a variety of topics, personal as well as social: will my son get a particular job, when will my daughter get married, will there be enough rain this year to get a good crop, my daughter in law will give birth to a baby boy or a girl? People use to ask anything and this possessed person used to give very brief answers. This question-answer process was very interesting and entertaining for me. I am sure no one bothered to check the accuracy of these answers, but they came every year to ask these questions. I have no idea how this superstition started, but I saw it in UP as well as Maharashtra (the two states where I lived in India).

My own grandmother also used to get possessed by some deity once a year. I mostly saw women being possessed by some deity, I am sure there were men also who suffered from this problem, but at least I didn't witness any such incident. As a kid, it was really scary for me in the beginning as these women, when possessed, really used to behave in a very strange manner, but slowly I realized that they are not going to harm me and I became more curious about these incidents. When I started doing some research about this I realized that this is a type of psychological problem. This problem can be cured with proper counseling and medical treatment, but hardly these people get any medical attention to manage this issue. The victims (like my grandma) and people around them all believed so much in divine nature of this incident that they refused to accept that this is a medical issue. The victim used to get so much attention and importance that they also didn't feel that there is any problem and they should seek some medical advice to address it. After knowing all this I really started feeling very bad for all these people (including my grandma). I also realized that many people used to do these things knowingly or unknowingly to seek that extra attention and respect which they never used to get during their normal life. I think this is why I saw mainly women suffering with this problem as their status in the family or in society hardly gave them any authority, but this phenomenon used to give them a chance to be a dictatorial authority at least for a day every year. I am glad to see that now these incidents have reduced significantly, there are still some isolated incidents but largely this practice is gone for good. I hope that if anyone finds someone in their family or friend circle suffering with this problem they seek proper medical help to address this issue as this is a curable condition. Superstitions should be challenged and eliminated not respected and preserved as a part of culture.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]