Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Why the goodies? Do not demean Team India's feat

Cricket and me? Indifferent. The World Cup did wake me up and I did try to infuse some enthusiasm, the 2-3 matches that I saw were fun, but frankly, I do not understand or appreciate the hype that surrounds the 11 men all the year round, year after year.

I read a post in which a friend justifies her indignation when she hears the cynics whisper that the match was fixed. I would like to believe it was not: I was extremely angry the first time such an insinuation reached my ears. We Indians can be classic killjoys at most times.

But here, I wish to discuss how I resent the cartloads full of goodies that the government smothers the cricketers with at the slightest opportunity. I mean, nation's pride, desh ki shaan and all those passion-packed punchlines seem more advertorial-oriented than anything else. I remember getting annoyed and let down when Dhoni and Harbhajan skipped the ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan to accept their Padma Shree award around April 2009. I mean Hello??

I am upset for two reasons:

A)Why the largesse in the first place..

We may have a hundred other worthy sports and a hundred other sportsmen who are really good. But we are talking about Padma Shree and Padma Bhushans here, not cookies and candies! Kajol gets one, Madhuri gets one, even Saif gets one. I digress. Cricket, Dhoni and Bhajji: let them stay around for a while, a good two or three decades before conferring such honours!! Their callousness may just go on to show that the men really mean business, such hullabaloo of cash rewards and awards may be actually embarassing, irritating them too for all you know!

B) Talking about World Cup 2011. Team India did a brilliant job. Exactly. They were doing just that, their job. We are happy and proud and we love the men in blue, but the God-like reverence seems inane. It seems very cheap and unfair to other worthy professional sectors of our country: farmers, army, navy, police, healthcare workers, teachers and so on that need immediate attention and bureaucratic commitment to meet decades-old demands for better working conditions, easy loans, higher pays. It seems a fickle government that loses hold of its stoic to announce cash awards to the tune of crores, plots in prime locations the country over and a dozen other such lavish goodies to the cricketers at the flimsiest of opportunity possible.

For me, even the World Cup is a flimsy reason when it comes to crores and crores of "official" impromptu cash rewards. Would I be wrong to say that at least 0.0001% of the tax I pay shall go into their Audis and what not? Big money, luxury stuff for winning a match, rubbish I say. I cannot afford to be lavish with gifts for my own kin. I do not dispute for a second that the men-in-blue made us proud, we are happy and grateful, but are these bounties not taking things a bit too far? I have enough faith in Team India to believe they will play well, perhaps better, without these cheap gimmicks and political pull and push. Dhoni and his men earn crores by the way of commercials, let them. Do not commercialise their hard-earned game on the field.

And last question. Is money the only way to show your appreciation? Has India as a country grown so cheap and materialistic to equate appreciation with cash rewards? How can you announce such extravagant gifts on my behalf, me the tax-payer? Did you consult me? Minute as my stature be as the citizen of this country, I would like to believe my money matters and my opinion counts. How you disappoint me every time. Sorry Mr. Pawar and kin, but this largess stinks. And you, incidentally, also head the agriculture ministry. In this country getting a loan for buying an SUV is easier than getting a loan to buy seeds and fertilizers. How about less pricey onions and easy loans for farmers, Mr. Pawar?

-Gauri Gharpure

April 5, 2011


ER Ramachandran said...

Absolutely and spot on! Thanks for a well written article.

Gauri Gharpure said...

I first posted this piece on Facebook and got a lot of replies there. With the permission of my friends, I reproduce the comments here.

Deep Contractor: Love it!

Digant Nagarkar: Ultimate, I second you on that!!!

Baruk Feddabonn: i watched and enjoyed the final, and was delighted at the win. i even defended the BCCI decision to give them a crore each...that is sponsor money. i however take strong umbrage at the govt giving them money/land. i don't worship the gods, damned if i am going to worship a bunch of sportsmen, however good they are.

Chaitali Phadke: bang on!... i dont think we are appreciating, rewarding or respecting them by giving away such extravagant chunks of our already deficit hit economy.. but we are making them lethargic and sloppy.. they have so much money in their kitty at the moment that if any 1 of them gives up cricket at this point he is still going to be well off.. but its the team who's going to lose it right! encourage tjhem dont make them so special that they lose their very quality.

Me: Baruk, did not get the relation between BCCI's announcement and sponsor money, kindly explain. BCCI is not required to make their balance sheets public. How fascinating is that. We are talking about hundreds of crores here that are invested... in the game and the layman does not even get to know what money is earned, how it's spent. We just madly celebrate, that's the role we are expected to play and we play it so well. WC2011 is a huge thing, and this post is not to undermine the superb win, but as I think more, many things come to my mind. Have always had a feeling that cricket in this country has become too complicated and involves much intriguing, secret and ulterior stakes to be simply called a sport. Case in point, Lalit Modi and IPL. Hah!

Dhiren (Hitchwriter): Good that you didnt blame the cricketers but the Govt. !! Frankly other sports deserve more importance, even other sectors.. !

imagine Manmohan going to see the Davis Cup !?? or Common Wealth ?? actually they use it as a vehicle again for their own publicity !!! nothing else

Baruk: @gauri: at the prize giving i heard the BCCI announce a 1 crore award to each player. i guess that is sponsor money they are giving away, and while i don't necessarily agree with that use, it is their money. my grouch is against the use of public funds to make individuals rich.

Esha Clabil: SPOT ON!!whenever someone asks me my feeling abt cricket, i asked them "Iqbal dekhi hai? us mein Iqbal ke abba ne kya kaa tha? vahiyaat khel do saare desh ka thappa bitha deta hai..i think like that. " they dont ask me again :-)

(Nidhi Arora is associated with the NGO Esha, People for the blind. This is their website: http://www.braillecards.org/ )

Arvind: Well thought, well written but it will go unheard as lots of things have gone before, that does not mean we shud stop thinking..... but it is frustrating at times and hence the cloud burst :).... we can all write pages abt all this but futile :(

Me: @Nidhi-- those were some strong views, i like!

@Arvind-- Agreed. But as a journalist, I have to maintain the mad conviction (or hope) that whatever I write shall be heard and shall make a difference. May be now, may be ten years down the line. Optimism is my professional hazard. :)

Arvind: Yeah I kinda sound pessimist. I am not but i think it is just passive aggression and helplessness......

Me: Hey Hey! :) That won't help. Ever.

Anil P said...

While the Indian team did great, and made us proud, the cash prizes rained on them from State coffers is a tad misplaced, more so considering the endorsements they draw as a routine.

The wall to wall TV News coverage leading up to the World Cup and during was overdone.

Gauri Gharpure said...

ERR, Anil: I wonder how many of us detest the showering of bounties thus. As someone pointed, are we a minority? If not, can we do something more concrete to get the point across?

Anonymous said...

Good points Gauri! They did a good job...true but showering them with our money into their already loaded bank accounts seems too much. Giving them a just a medal would serve a better purpose.

ER Ramachandran said...

there are a couple of issues here. the team won a prize of 3.8 mln$ for winning the finals and the cup.So that money being given to players is ok as they have really earned them
but the State Govts. is rather lavish in displaying their slavish mentality!
Each player is connected with some charity or other.. If the seniors are made to take the lead to donate the extra amount to charity of their choice, this might work. because that gives them additional fame for being involved in a worthy cause.. and money they already have it.. fame is something everybody welcomes if it comes for donations made for charity.. some Lions or Rotary Club should try this approach..

doremi said...

Blatant opportunism, nothing else. It is nauseating how easily they 'sensationalise' everthing. Who would bet against a judicial probe investigating the cricketers if they had lost? They are fickle.

Fictitioustruth said...

Excellence in any field is to be rewarded. Millions are entertained, millions are made proud by the action of our cricketers.
Everyone end of the day is doing their job, but some excel in the job they do. And in excellence hides the dispropotinate rewards. Our crib is against the rewards, it is just monetary, what is money, nothing. The reward they have got is nothing in comparison to the legends they have become. We still remember Balwinder Sandhu, Madan Lal, Roger Binny, for the word cup they won for us.
Don't grudge the money, it is nothing but a small token of appreciation for an experience that we are unable to get for our ourselves individually, the vicarious victory, living that experience is much bigger than the money we give.
Strive for excellence, let that motivate you, not the rewards demotivate you.
Higher the achievement, disproptionate the reward.
So it should be, so it is.

Fictitioustruth said...

What is more disappointing is the way we disdain achievement. I believe our innate approach to negating excellence is our biggest tragedy.
Its just cricket.
Its not just cricket, it is as credible as any other game.
I haven't heard anyone cribbing about footballers, golfers getting millions.
Why should a golf tournament have a 25 million dollar priz money.

You can challenge anything, if you want.

Capitalism and socialism and communism are all an outcome of that debate.

Gauri Gharpure said...

Homecooked: A medal, a ceremony, a token reward within an acceptable, decent monetary range seems fine. The hype and commercialisation of the victory is what is saddening.

ERR: My uncle said exactly the same thing. But social responsibility is spontaneous, and it hasn't been depicted quite convincingly by the team so far.

Doremi: Bang on. Fickle is the word. And in our country used to corruption running into thousands of crores, what is Rs One Crore? Measly amount, this. Ha!

True Fiction: "What is money, nothing?"

It is we, from the middle or upper middle class of the divide who can afford to make this philosophic statement. Even the cricketers, yes, for they already have billions. Would the impromptu bounty really matter to their well-stocked kitty? Not really. What mattered to them was the spontaneous jubilation, the fireworks, the mad dances on the streets. The common Indian has a lot of love to give, and they give it so liberally, so unconditionally, isn't it enough? If I were to meet someone from the team, I take the risk to hypothize that he would also say that love and medals were rewards enough.

The article is not to question the credibility of the game of cricket, debate the legends the players of the Indian squad have become, or to downplay the win. Rather, it is to ponder over how trivialised money has become in current-day Indian socio-political scheme of things. We talk of nothing below crores, be it scams or rewards.