Thursday, 24 February 2011

All For The Gold

The sound of drum beats came as a surprise. 

The compartment was moderately full, about a dozen and a half people or more; a few standing. They, too, were a little surprised to hear the drums. When you travel in local trains for a considerable portion of your life, the sound of drums usually indicates one very certain possibility—beggars.  
And quite certainly it was one; a child. They come in various sizes, you see. This particular girl, all of 6 or 7 years, was a performer. And, yes, they come in various specializations, too; singers, dancers, performers and other kinds. 

In a swift motion, she somersaulted in the narrow passage-way; forward, then backward again. Then, twisting her arms, almost like she dislocated it (which I think, she probably did), she spun it around the entire length of her little, frail body; like a skipping rope (remember King Louis, from The Jungle Book?). If there weren't people sitting, she'd probably have done a horse bar, or parallel rings type of stunt-thingy, all in the moving train, mind you. Then of course, came the inevitable—alms. 
I honestly felt sorry for her. A girl of her age could probably put our national gymnastics team to shame, with only street-level training. And there she was, displaying her skills on a local train, begging for alms; where she could very well be India's next gold medallist.
The socio-economic disparity between two people in our country is so wide, almost like a chasm; which unfortunately secures an unjust system too. As I sat in a very comfortable first-class compartment, this realization dawned on me, like it had several times before. But this girl’s story wasn’t about missed opportunities; she obviously didn’t have any. This issue goes much deeper than that.

In the 1980s, when Mrs Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, the Sports Ministry came up with the idea of tapping into these talent pools of street performers, circus gymnasts and the likes. There would be benefits for them, training and, well, better chances for India in international events. It is a known fact that several East European nations, like Romania, enroll their children, particularly girls, into gymnastic schools as soon as they learn walking. The intensive training and hard work pays off; two Gold medals in the Olympics and the family’s future would be more or less secure. 
Why did this initiative fail in India?
Come now, I think the answer actually is quite obvious. Bureaucracy.
I think it is extremely stupid that the bureaucracy has so much of a say in the field of sports. Not that I have a problem against it in other walks of life. For one, how on earth can these guys possibly think that they can run the show in sports? You see more officials on the Indian contingent than athletes. I mean, forget transparency and accountability, is it too much to ask for a little decency? 
Knowing these guys, that probably amounts to more than the entire universe. That’s why bribes suffice. And that is why only those who can pay rise to the visible level in national sporting, only to disappear because of lack of training (and in many cases, talent).

One solution is to privatize the sports sector. This is a possible option, especially after the CWG debacle, and the fact that our present athletes (not sports-persons, like cricketers and hockey players) receive pathetic training, poor allowances and no respect. 
I mean, the government would be only too happy to wash its hands off a responsibility; not that I mean this in negative sense. Skilled athletes would do the nation proud, wouldn't they? 
We, as spectators, would be happy; the young children, like the girl in the train, and their families would have a chance to be happy, and well off, while making their country proud at the same time.
What I say here is not an optimistic future that I personally envisage; this is a possibility, and this can work out. And like all problems, this requires rational thought, and most of all, political will.
Political will? I guess, now you could call me a naive optimist.

As for the bureaucrats, I'm pretty sure they'll find some other victim to fleece. Hmm, they should try making that into a sport, right? A bronze for a fraud that’s under ten lacs; silver for ten crores. And a gold for a scam above one lakh crore.

Then, I can be positive that the gold will indeed be ours.

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