Just a few days ago we admired a spectacular closing ceremony of Rio 2016 Olympic Games. People in different countries are debating if this was the best that their athletes could do. Or maybe their achievements exceeded people’s expectations? The same questions are being asked in India. People wonder why in such a huge country only two women won medals. The British journalist Piers Morgan went on to make fun of Indians in his tweet and was challenged by the great ex-cricketer Virender Sehwag. But, Piers Morgan should be reading this article to understand what it is all about.
So, let’s find out if sport in India is going in the right direction. Or maybe there are reasons behind it and India should not bother too much about the lack of Olympic medals.
Sport – what is it?
First, let’s try to define what a sport actually means and let’s do it ourselves. We, logical people, can try – let’s not overuse Wikipedia 🙂 Sports are basically activities, physical in nature which are more often than not challenging. These activities at some stage were a part of a lifestyle. From the lifestyle, it converted into a sport, from a sport it transformed into a modern day Olympic game.
Are Indians less sporty?
Coming back to India, let’s try to answer one simple question- does only two medals achievement mean that Indians are less sporty? Of course, not! In everyday life, a common Indian is tougher than a common Westerner. Why head carrying of up to 70 kilograms and walking every day by thousands of women in India should not be considered as being athletic apart from being a necessity. Or it is only about the rich people sport which poor people will be forced to take up and then try and beat them in their sport, otherwise be called less sporty? What about men who are so strong that every day they are carrying weight 5 times of their own and then trekking in the mountains in flip flops for 50 km in 5000 m altitude? Sounds less sporty? Sounds less athletic? Gangotri glacier trek is one of the many examples of such activities when locals carry food and other essentials to the bases in the mountains where no machine or animal can transport any goods. In the hot desert, school children walk every day for up to 10 kilometers to reach their school in extreme temperatures. Are they less tough by any means? Or the school children in the northeastern India who cross a hanging bridge every day just to go to their schools? And how about the rain-forest tribes? Don’t you think that living in this kind of conditions proves enough that Indians are sporty and tough? Well, the point of toughness is clear now, let’s talk about the games of the Olympics.
Are there archers or swimmers in India?
Maybe Indian athletes won only two medals in the Olympics but does it mean that they are bad in all these sports disciplines? India got no medal in swimming, but it doesn’t mean that India has no amazing swimmers. With the coastal line that is thousands of miles long India should have many versions of Phelps. India got no medal in fencing (Olympic style sword fight) but it does not deny the fact that some of the best sword fighters in the world live in Kerala region of India and who are the masters of kalaripayattu (Kerala martial art). So does it prove that India is less skilled in sword fighting? Does it prove that India got no sword fighters? No, it just proves that the activity that they do has a different version and culture and the Olympic authority does not recognize that activity as an Olympic game. Indian athletes got no medals in a marathon and sprinting but does it mean that there are no fast runners in the country of 1.3 billion? Impossible! Indian athletes got no medal in archery but does it also mean that India has no amazing archers? Absolutely not! In the tribes of Andaman and Nicobar islands of India, some of the finest archers of the world roam around, live and use archery in their everyday life to get food even today which I saw with my own eyes. So why bother about the Olympic version of archery? Maybe on the international stage, people wonder about Indian underachievement but it does not prove again that India is less sporty or less skilled in such activities.
Scared of mosquitoes…
A common Indian does not care about mosquitoes or an air-conditioned car and is happy with a cold shower but on the other hand, a common person from the west needs an air-conditioned car, is afraid of even mosquitoes and takes a warm or hot shower every day. The country that won the biggest number of medals in Rio is the USA and we all know that this is the place where more than 30% of society is obese (while in India less than 5%). So does number of medals prove if the nation is sporty or not? Think, walk the streets of USA – obese people, fighting with depression, unhealthy, with high blood pressure, prone to heart attacks, with poor lifestyle, eating fast food… Scared to come to India without getting vaccinated! Does it show the toughness of people? Doubt that! Indians don’t take any vaccinations to go to Africa or Brazil even though there are many contagious diseases there.
‘’Olympic medals is not a way to judge a nations’ health or its people’s toughness’’
– Karolina Goswami
Should everyone take up the same activities?
So why do Indian athletes not get the medals? The answer is simple – the games in the Olympics are those which are common or were initiated by the developed countries apart from a few exceptions. No one is going to include in the Olympics some extraordinary game from India – like kalaripayattu. Today developed countries’ activities become a norm for the underdeveloped countries to practice, the way is to get better at it and then beat them. But the question is if it is not about being sporty then why one nation should take up other’s nation activity? Being sporty is good but picking up the activity of another nation just for some international glory is debatable. Adopting other countries activity also means sacrificing your own cultural habits and activities. If Indian athletes become obsessed with fencing, who will take up kalaripayattu in 20 years from now? That is why India will have to become the powerful nation – strong enough to influence its culture on others and then make the games out of it and compete. And that day we will see Kabaddi included in the Olympics and India getting a gold medal every single time. Otherwise, be like China which started a specific program to beat others in their activities. But India should not become a copy cat and should not bother about Olympic medals.
Bharatnatyam dance – dare a Westerner to try dancing it
Sports in India are unique and Indians should be proud of it. I already mentioned one of them – kalaripayattu, which is a super difficult martial art from Kerala. Have you ever heard about a contact sport called kabaddi? Indian team won all seven gold medals in Asian Games! More on kabaddi sport in India and around the world you will find soon on my blog. Why Bharatnatyam dance is not in Olympics? This amazing type of dance is not only breathtaking but also has a positive impact on health. Did you know that it includes 36 movements of just eyes? But in Olympics, they just include gymnastics instead of this ancient sport. And this is just one example from the long list of traditional Indian dances. And what about yoga poses? Indian yogis can make amazing poses which a common Westerner can’t even think of! And trust me, there are many games in the Olympics which require less skill or balance and synchronization than some of the Yoga poses or ancient Indian dances.
There is one more thing that India should be proud of. Olympics in India happen in some way but they just have a different style – Kila Raipur sports festival is one of the Punjab festivals which attract lots of people. Not only people take part in it but there are also some animals’ competitions like bullock cart (but this year they were changed for horse carts). During this Rural Olympics, you can admire wrestlers, kabaddi players or weight-lifters. Apart from this typical competition, there are now even these modern one like football, handball or athletics. But the biggest attraction is totally different games – stunning acrobatics, fire games, balancing a cycle with teeth or twisting a rod when it’s placed on Adam’s apple, balancing while standing on two horses (also seen during Hola mohalla in Anandpur Sahib) and many more. There is also something cultural about this event – people dance, sing and spend a quality time together. More on Kila Raipur festival you will find in one of my future posts. But this is not over. One day after Holi, Sikh people in Punjab celebrate Hola Mohalla festival. This is the moment when they demonstrate their martial skills and impress the whole work with unbelievable sword fights. But not only this – a man rides two horses with each leg on a different horse (also seen during on Kila Raipur festival). I bet some of you did not even know about it as most of us just admire equestrian competition in the Olympics! All of them should come to India and see the abilities of Indian horse-riders’ skills. But, I strongly insist that I am not confused about extreme sports with the games in Olympics. What I am trying to suggest is that Indians are not less sporty, athletic or tough than the people from any other nation.
The conclusion is that India should not be ashamed of winning only two medals during this Olympics and should not connect it with their toughness or sport skills. As a wife of an Indian man, I will be very happy if India brings a lot of gold medals in the future Olympics. So, it does not mean that Indian athletes should not try for Olympic medals but if Indians do so, it would be just to show the world that they are athletic and skilled from the general point of view of the international community. But it is not going to change the fact that Indians are already very sporty and tough people. The funny thing is that people who are afraid of even mosquitoes and cannot live without bottled filter water are taking all the medals home. To prove a point to the world, India should focus on these foreign activities turned into sports included in the Olympic Games, just like China did. But bear in mind that India does not need to prove a point to themselves, because Indians know what they are capable of in everyday life which a common westerner can only dream of.
Below is a film on the ancient martial arts of India by me, that you may want to watch to understand the sport culture in India.