Friday, June 17, 2011

‘Mohali Spirit’ Decoded

By Birinder Pal Singh

The Foreign Secretary talked of the ‘Mohali Spirit’ which is supposed to usher India and Pakistan into a new era of friendship and peace. It was for this reason that the chief executives of the two governments were accosted by the ruling party high command of the host nation. It is a political gimmick on the part of both governments. I wonder how a match generating so much heat and pressure could lead us to think of peace, leave aside realising it on ground. The symbolism all around is suggestive of negative consequences.
            Was there any one from the Indian side who supported the Pakistani flag or symbol on her face or body like it was done for our team. How could one do that? If someone dared, s/he would be branded a traitor and an anti-national. No Indian could shout in favour of the Pakistani team for the same reason. Reading into the highly charged emotions, I remarked to my young nephew, a cricket enthusiast, ‘We should let the guests score victory.’ ‘What are you saying uncle? Why should we?’
Games and sports are very essential and had traversed a long distance in human history. These had ever been there since times immemorial. It is not only a human trait but animals too play, and not only their young ones but adults as well. For them it is amusement, not politics. For us it is more of latter and mostly always that. In the Cricket World Cup finals and semi-finals we were sport(ing) diplomacy, alleviating differences with our neighbours in the west and the south. If the Prime Ministers were together at Mohali, the two Presidents were present at Mumbai.
After victory at both places, peoples’ reaction was different. Very sensibly indeed for which Punjabis deserve a pat on their back, there was no untoward incident or even innuendo of hatred towards the visiting team despite the fact that there were serious apprehensions. But the burning of Ravana after the finals at Mumbai remains unpardonable. One could understand burning the effigy of a player playing foul but why Ravana? Even Rama did not kill him but only redeemed him. 
 (Photo: Reuters)
 This was the reaction of Mumbaikars after the victory. What they might have done following defeat is any body’s guess? If one looks beneath the sporting event, it is not difficult to comprehend. So much is at stake during the match that victory and defeat become a matter of life and death for the players. Harbhajan Singh remarked at Mohali: ‘There was lot of pressure on us. It is double when we play with Pakistan.’ What is this ‘double’ pressure if not pressure of politics of the nation and the economics of the match. Gautam Gambhir too announced dedicating victory at Mumbai to the victims of 26/11, something akin to Indian 9/11.
It is not the question of politics only but violence reflected in every aspect of the game. Besides the players wearing war like body armour, gestures of the players are blatantly violent whenever a crucial wicket falls. Harbhajan Singh at Mohali was noticeable when he bowled out Afridi. It was a close long shot. The Punjabi pop provided a ‘suitable’ background. Besides others, one number played refers to picking up guns and rifles for taking possession of a territory – chak lo bandukan raflan kabza laina ’ai. I was wondering the fate of ‘Mohali spirit’. Could it remotely suggest peace and amity between two teams and their nations? It appeared like a war on the play ground.
What about the advertisement posters? Does one depicted here invoke sentiments of peace and harmony? It seems Dhoni, the captain (read India) is in flames of passion (read anger) to score victory over the other team (read adversary). He might well be saying: ‘I’ll **** you bastard.’ What about the policeman? Is he suggestive of teaching those a lesson who may become instrumental in Dhoni’s  (read India’s) defeat. Why the players of a nation, its heroes and others need heavy police protection? May be because, it is less of a game and more of politics and economics.
So much money has gone into cricket that it has become a lucrative industry for capital investment. Earlier when Bollywood cinema multiplied capital, smugglers invested in it and now it seems is the turn of cricket. Industrialists’ presence and enthusiasm for such matches is understandable. Teams and players are betted and millions roll into this trade. Bollywood actors with surplus money too invest in this game and own IPL teams, hence spectators to these matches. Commentators have always highlighted their ‘presence amidst spectators’. It enhances the status of ordinary citizens and the pride of the game in the eyes of a commoner.
The political elite and the sport stars are no private individuals in a public arena. They ought to restraint their behaviour in public domain. Unlike Manmohan Singh, Sonia was manifestly exhilarated at the victory. The television camera did not miss the moment focussing on her as also the commentator recording: ‘Sonia ji bachae ki tareh khush hain.’ Dhoni too went for hair-cutting fulfilling the blessings of a goddess. Harbhajan too attributed victory to the blessings of religious babas. In our country where tempers run high in the name of religion, the public personalities must practice and display sthitaprajna as advised by Gita and sahaj as prescribed in Guru Granth.

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