Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sports and Sportspersons in India

After a break in running schedule for about 3-4 weeks, i restarted running on 4th dec, monday. Met with an eager running enthusiast at 6 am at Marina. A big thanks to his patience [he waited for 15 mins for me to arrive] and his drive to run [ we missed the runs together after planning 2-3 times in the last week], i finally got to run. Somehow, i just don't feel the same about running in the past 6-7 weeks and been skipping daily runs and weekend practise with my running group.

We started slowly and i quickly realised how much i've been missing by skipping the runs. It was exhilarating to run close to the sea, the wind hitting the face and peaceful thoughts running through the mind. We ran for an hour and ended the run near Gandhi statue. While we were coolling down the body and stretching ourselves, we met this man who must be in his 40's.

He looked strong, muscular, athletic and extremely fit. He was going through his regular stretching routine. He was doing a number of different routines and it looked very impressive. All of us in the vicinity had our eyes on him and his tricks. I was extremely impressed with his array of activities and my eyes lit up when i saw front of his singlet - it read "India". Surely he has represented India in some sport.

My friend and I continued our cooling down routine. In a short while, to our surprise, the impressive sportsman walked up to us. He introduced himself and we confirmed our thoughts - he did represent India. He has participated in international athletics and weightlifting!!!

His belongings were minimal. He brought with him a torn bag in which he had the skipping rope and water bottle. When i looked at the bag, it brought a tinge of sadness within me. It reinforced my thoughts that Indian sportsperson are the most lonely lot except of couse, the cricketers and the tennis stars. The guy could've carried on his stretching routine in a quiet corner on the marina, but he chose to do it right in front of Gandhi statue and with his India singlet on. He must have been neglected by his sports federation. He must be going through a lean patch, trying to make his ends meet.... and my thoughts went on....

When we told the man that we were practising for long distance runs, he was impressed with us. In his own words " please keep practising and am very proud of you". These are the words from a man who knows the meaning of commitment to sports in India. I was thinking to myself - if i had even some part of the commitment he shows, i would really make him proud.

We then said our "byes", promising him that we will meet again in a couple of days and started our walk back to our lives. A few steps later, i mused about the state of sports in India. My friend had the answer to my question - Its in our culture. Indians as such are very poor spectators. We hardly have anyone follwing the domestic leagues, except for the football leagues in Kerala and Bengal. Our domestic games are watched only by the eager parents and relatives of the players performing at the games. Unless, we follow the sports, the money wont flow in and the sports and sportspersons in India will remain the way they are right now....