Subba’s Serendipitous moments

April 30, 2008

A cricket question transposes to a Indian culture question

This post is not about cricket. There are too many things happening in Indian cricket on a daily basis and there are many experts out there who are more appropriate to comment.

The game of cricket apart from Bollywood is one thing that unifies India and to a large extent serves as a proxy for the changing Indian ethos. The recent slapping incident when Harbhajan Singh slapped a fellow Indian cricketer (his team mate in the national team) in the field in full view of the public raises several issues, not just related to cricket but how Indian ethos has been changing with our short lived patience, how the much prized aggression on the field is going overboard and how jingoistic we tend to become.

Questions arise and legitimately so, because the country considered Harbhajan not guilty in Australia even before the complete truth was known. As Kunal seems to imply, somehow a charge of racism against him was considered as questioning the country’s moral position on racism and hence the whole country brought it on itself to defend Harbhajan even going to the extent of unleashing vile threats when everyone knows how divided the country can be on race, religion, caste and class considerations.

Kunal also forces the “schizophrenic double standards” Indian style of thinking (that is increasingly getting manifested in many different walks of life) into the open. He cites the instance of Sreesanth being called brilliant on the morning he gets five for 40 and uncouth when he goes wicket-less for 40 from six overs.

While we were applauding the new found aggression in the Indian team and justifying them in all possible ways, we are now forced to condemn Harbhajan’s action which was nothing but just another manifestation of aggression. So, where do we draw a line? Why the double standards? I am sure that people will quote the rule books, but that would be inadequate.

Kunal Pradhan asks some very penetrating questions here.

At a time when India — the board and the media — has encouraged, embraced and celebrated these players as icons of a new, young, aggressive team, here is my question: How would they have reacted if Harbhajan had slapped a foreign player? Would the moral outrage have been replaced by justifications of extreme provocation? Would the player who now stands in shame have become a symbol of national pride who gives as good as he gets? Would there have been stories of how a peace-loving Indian who respects all other cultures can only react so viciously when pushed against the wall? Would the nation, instead of looking at his crime dispassionately, have rallied around him?

I feel that much of the event driven problem solving that goes on has one fundamental flaw– the essential question (the problem statement in this case: should aggression deserve praise and approval at all?) being considered is rarely given enough thought. Often, the larger, more profound question about whether direction (is display of aggression a sign of weakness or one of power) or desired long term effects of aggression is ignored while the temporary problem is dealt with. The neglect continues, as the same root cause recurs in different colors, until we take courage and honesty to examine the underlying cause.

While much of the post has dealt with cricket and aggression, hopefully someone will examine the changing Indian ethos caused by a sudden transient growth of Indian economy or surge in global standing.

My own view is confidence is good to have, power is potent when it is not exercised, aggression is effective when it is controlled and surge in relative positioning in the inter-connected hyper competitive world is sustained when it is done quietly and softly.

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1 Comment »

  1. I would relate Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth to a husband slapping his wife.( I am not condoning either)

    What I am driving at is Harbhajan slapped someone junior and obviously helpless to retaliate. To clarify – would he have slapped Dravid or even a Tendulkar if provoked?( Not that Tendulkar or Dravid would behave badly).

    Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth is a reflection of the society in general.

    Comment by Ottayan — May 1, 2008 @ 9:24 am | Reply

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