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The great Olympic bubble
It is not for economic reasons alone that we have a culture of servants. Physical work is not attractive to Indians. Doing it is indicative of low social status.

"It turned out to be a disastrous day for the Indian contingent here at the Rio games": This has been the regular headline in print and electronic media ever since the Rio de Janeiro Olympics commenced.  If someone says that it was surprising, that person should be very naive. There is nothing to be surprised at all.

For months, the media had been feeding stories of the Indian contingent, the largest ever sent to Olympics by a South Asian nation. Perhaps it was anticipated by the common people that we would achieve better results in this Olympics. But the reality is flop show, as usual.

What are the reasons for this miserable performance of Indian participants year after year and Olympics after Olympics for all these decades? There are a few. Let us analyze them.

One of them is a universal problem. Please compare us with the successful nations of the external world. We lack facilities like encouragement and support by the government, adequate nourishment, a healthy population and good coaching and training. Once a nation has them, it starts winning medals.

Many people in India are poor and get no proper nourishment. But we cannot say all of India is poor and suffers from malnutrition. A huge middle class, whose size is equal to and in very many cases exceeds the population of most medal winning nations, gets all the nutrition it needs.

On the coaching facilities, things are definitely getting better. Though not comparable to those in Western nations, it is undeniable that things are improving adequately. State support, in the form of cash, homes and jobs, is always announced for medal winners and hence you cannot blame this beyond a point.

Another common grudge is that cricket gets maximum media support in comparison with athletics and other sports. But similar problem exists in other nations too. Swimmer Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian in history, would go unrecognized on the streets of New York while a Michael Jordon or a Serena Williams might get mobbed.

We have all the required things that are essential in India. And in due course, we will win some more medals. But is it – a few more medals- enough? Certainly not. Then what is the reason that blocks us from winning medals like say China or Japan or Korea? That is dealt below.

This is peculiar to the Indian subcontinent. It is our outlook towards physical work. For most mornings in his life time, Thomas Jefferson – the third president of America and author of Bill of Rights – went out and measured the atmospheric pressure on his barometer himself. George Bush, the 43rd president of America, enjoys clearing up the weeds and bush on his ranch himself.

Forget about our netas. Are we doing such things? It is not for economic reasons alone that we have a culture of engaging servants. Physical work is not attractive to Indians. Doing it is indicative of lower social status. If we can get someone to tend to our garden and wash our car we will not do it ourselves. And there is no question of enjoying these tasks, though we might enjoy owning a garden or car.     

In such a culture, where there is contempt for the physical work, it is not possible to produce world class athletes no matter how good the facilities may be. The crucial thing here is not enjoying the physical work. Elite Indians do most of the physical work in the gyms. If a sofa has to be lifted or shifted, someone else must do that. Westerners do not want others to intrude into their private life and they enjoy doing everyday physical cores. We do not and there is no dispute about that.

It is not the external world that is stopping Indians from winning medals. It is our culture. Include our culturally identical neighbours, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and we are over 1.6 billion people – about a fourth of humanity. But we are pretty much useless at the global stage in the Olympics.

We will wonder what is wrong with us and discuss it hotly over a cup of tea-made by our servant.

Reference: 'Spectator nation' by Aakar Patel published in Orissa Post/ Aug 14, 2016.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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