When Shobha De, in her utmost moment of self righteousness, tweeted, “Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat wapas aao. What a waste of money and opportunity.” Little did she know that her usual banter was not to be taken lightly. From Senior Bachchan to everybody else declared war on the writer-columnist. She has come around and apologised after India has won two medals in Rio Olympics. Calling this whole episode a lack of calculation, a sentiment of frustration.
After Sakshi Malik’s bronze and PV Sindhu’s silver, the Indian women athletes have been in the headlines. They broke the awkward silence of India’s tally of medals in Rio Olympics. While Dipa Karmakar’s Produnova vault showed that for becoming a hero, one doesn’t have to be perfect. A leaking gym, piled up mats instead of a vaulting table, without proper shoes and costume, she defied all odds. They gave a cricket obsessed country something different to talk about. Although, we do have a way of making things personal. On the eve of her gold medal match, with world no 1 Carolina Marin of Spain, while PV Sindhu was gearing up for the biggest fight of her career, people in India were busy googling her caste. Now, who would have thought that, huh?
To make matters worse, India’s chief medical officer was a radiologist. Having a gala time at the poolside and prescribing Combiflam. This amazing genius chosen for such an important task happens to be the son of the vice president of the Olympic association. Tada! With 119 athletes in the contingent, the biggest ever, India participated in the Rio Games with many seasoned athletes too. With expectations and anticipation soaring high, the 2016 Summer Olympics turned out to be a huge disappointment until a fortnight later the women athletes of India rose to the occasion and created history. These three athletes, far far away from the limelight, in a hidden corner, weaving, building, carving their own stories of success. Inspiring many other young girls back home. To choose, to dare.
But who do they owe their success? Clearly, not the man with Combiflam. Or Sports Minister Vijay Goel who misspelled Dipa Karmakar’s name in a selfie that was meant to encourage and motivate her. Or the apathetic Indian officials who failed to provide replenishment to athletes in a 42 km race. OP Jaisha, India’s national record holder, ran a tough race in Rio, finally collapsing at the finish line. In her words, “Though there were officials from all other countries to provide refreshments to their runners at designated points – after every 2.5 km – there was no one from India and our desks were empty next to the country’s name and flag,” said a distressed Jaisha.
In the pursuit of their own motivations, because, well in India, that’s the only thing that can get you going as a sportsperson, our athletes did an incredible job. Lalita Shivaji Babar, the only woman after PT Usha to qualify for an athletic final in Olympics, chose the sport to support her 17 member family. Hailing from a drought prone district of Maharashtra, Babar made running as a part and parcel of her daily life.
The Olympic games originated in Olympia, Greece. Participants from from city-states of Ancient Greece during the course of the games proved their mettle and athletic competence. The more significant aspect of the games was the Olympic truce. According to this truce, it was absolutely mandatory to maintain peace between warring city-states in order to ensure free mobility for the participants. An attempt to foster goodwill. Something that the outstanding performance of these remarkable and courageous athletes has caused. Celebration and the much deserved appreciation. These ‘daughters of India’ have been given a break. From shame. From prejudices.
The Journey towards winning a medal in Rio Olympics
Calling them the pride of India, is not only unfair, but also outrightly shameful. They did it, not because that’s what women in India do. They did it, inspite of being told they can’t! And that is what we must remember. Well, ofcourse, a lot of people raised their eyebrows and scoffed at this ‘women are awesome’ outpour. Calling it gender bias etal. Well, nobody ever said that our male athletes are not great. India has had some of the most brilliant male athletes who won many medals in Olympics for India. Dhyan Chand, the wizard of hockey, the magician who even impressed Hitler, took India and Indian hockey to unimaginable heights. Only to be forgotten. He died in a general ward, penniless, ignored by the Nation.
In a country where women are killed in wombs, it is important to cherish this moment. This journey of overcoming social ills and taboos. Of braving discrimination. And doing all this and more, without applying fairness creams. Let us hope that Tokyo 2020 gives us even more reasons to be happy. Until then savour all that you can, every bit of it, all of it.
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