(Reproduced is an article written by me & published a couple of years ago, but very appropriate even today)
The long years and the journey from Amby to Nano have been very eventful for the nation. It also provides a glimpse of the economic, sporting and technological progress of emerging India from the earlier years of foreign dependence for food, machinery and defence.
Two recent powerful images of India came through from Sydney Cricket Ground and the Auto Expo at New Delhi in the last few days. The first was a visibly upset Harbhajan Singh in a verbal duel with Andrew Symonds, along with a very composed and confident but hurt Anil Kumble giving it back at the Australians: “There are two teams out there; only one is playing cricket.” The second was the Tata Motors unveiling its car in a blaze of glory and publicity with Ratan Tata driving the one- lakh car, thereby pulling off a one in a billion coup. And Ratan Tata modestly said. “This is the biggest thing I ‘ve done.” The world took notice. When did this last happen? And Nano, in this new-year, a symbol of modern and vibrant India, heading on to become an economic power.
Cricket for India and Indians is a way of life. The players are their heroes. It has become associated with the national character. In the days of the Ambassador car, socialism and a weak economy, it is unlikely any Indian player would have reacted to Australia sledging the way Harbhajan did. And it would have been unthinkable, the captain of the Indian team would have the guts to call the rival captain and team a bunch of cheats – which is what Kumble did without mincing words.
Indians of the earlier generation, say from 40’s to 80’s would have been horrified by Sreeshant’s war dance against the South African’s and earlier by Sourav Ganguly’s shirt-waving act at Lord’s. The so-called Amby days, India was defensive because it was just irrelevant and economically weak. Invoking high ideals of Gandhism and respect was just a cover for our inability to deliver a timely blow – tit for tat. This is what happened in the 1962 war with China and 1965 war with Pakistan. Now in cricket we also have good fast blowers to give back as good as we can get.
In the Amby days or before the mid-1990’s, India was minor player in the world of sports, economics or politics. There were individual Indians who counted for some of their achievements and brilliance. Today, Kumble’s straight-bat comments and the outrage of India’s cricket fans are heard with respect because India dominates the cricket economy. Many thinkers and economists admit openly that the period between the India of the Nano and the India of the Ambassador is the period of many wasted years, so very valuable for a developing India. And the entire blame lays with the politicians, their planning and policy decisions. They were immune to the happenings around the progressive world.
If one looks at the nation closely, there are two India’s – one, an economic and emerging India, which dominates and demands to be heard. And the other political India, which still lives in a time wrap. It is tragic the importance of assertion and self-esteem by India’s cricket isn’t understood by our politicians, who are still comfortable to live in the Amby days and dusty roads.
Recently at the Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan, it was amusing to see the politicians making policy statements, little realizing the changed equation between India and its diaspora. Earlier India looked to the Non-residents to remit money and invest some spare foreign currency in the country. However today it is the NRI and PIO cardholders who are basking in the reflected glory of an emerging India because of which they are now looked at with respect in the countries they reside.
Whatever may have happened in Australia between Symonds and Harbhajan, right or wrong, but in today’s world; it pays to be brash; it’s a sign of arrival. Has India arrived?
The old generation with the then economic and political environment exhibited a body language of a pronounced inferiority complex that marked the dealings of Indians with foreigners, especially whites. Many still carry the burden of servitude and the ‘yes sir’ attitude. Unfortunately, most politicians, including those professing Hindu nationalism suffer from this thinking. Witness the comments and the body language during overseas visits. Can you imagine an Indian politician bluntly telling a Chinese Premier or a Pakistan ruler, ‘stay away’ from Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir.
The day the two India’s – economic India and political India merge, and believes in the dictum strong shall prevail, India will be a super power in the true sense.