There is a cult of ignorance in India and Shobhaa De given her current form is a good candidate to lead it. Her comment on Twitter last evening was a prime example of the idiocy she is capable of.
Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat wapas aao. What a waste of money and opportunity.— Shobhaa De (@DeShobhaa) August 8, 2016
It was a comment that clearly had its origins in the frustration brought about by India’s medal drought at the Rio Olympics so far and it was made despite her complete lack of knowledge of sport. And for that it deserved to be slammed.
But her statement, as ignorant as it may be, also showed why India continues to struggle as a sporting nation. She sadly isn’t the last of the ignoramuses – not even close.
A recent article by BBC spoke about how India – based on population and wealth – should win 22 medals at the Olympics – just behind China and the US who top the table with 25.
But India does not even get close to the number and it probably won’t for another decade or so. In fact, the situation is so bad that it defies prediction. We may have sent a bumper crop of athletes to the Games but how many of them truly have a chance of winning a medal?
We don't understand sport
People in India don’t really care about Indian sport – it might sound like a stereotypical statement but it’s true. It is also true that they don’t understand sport, which perhaps is the root of the problem. Simply put: how do you respect something you don’t understand?
At the Vijender Singh title fight in Delhi, people turned up in droves. The stadium was packed, but a majority in the stadium didn’t know the difference between a jab and a hook. For them, boxing was little more than a fight; not the sweet science it is. The deft footwork, the slip, the glide, the feints, the combinations were all lost on them.
The ‘fans’ were there because it was cool to be there – ‘first title fight in India and I was there,’ has a nice ring to it. Vijender’s star power drew them in and so did the marketing and the novelty of it all. But they came for the spectacle and not so much for the boxing itself.
A majority of these ‘sports fans’ will celebrate our triumphs on social media because it is the cool thing to do but how many follow any sport in which Indians participate other than cricket?
Indeed, it makes one wonder… what does sport really mean to India?
Is it the game of galli cricket or football played in the muck while in school? Is it something to be watched on TV? Is it timepass? Is it for the elite – because the rest of us have to work for a living? Is it a waste of time?
The percentage of true sports fans in India is shamefully small and perhaps that explains the lack of India’s sporting culture. The rest like Shobhaa De have no understanding of what an athlete has to go through to get to the Olympics; of what it means to be the best in the world or even in India; of why it is difficult.
And that is why we feel it is okay to talk about athletes taking selfies. It’s okay because you don’t even know that athletes have to qualify to make it to the Olympics – and the qualifying marks if nothing else are a stamp of quality for every athlete. Only the best make it to the Olympics – the rest spend their lives trying to get there.
To expect De to understand this maybe asking for a tad too much – given that she even refused to apologise for her statement. She had just this random excuse:
Official apathy main reason why we fare so poorly during every Olympics, not just Rio. Difficult for athletes to 'compete' with this hurdle.— Shobhaa De (@DeShobhaa) August 9, 2016
But she could at least stop talking about it.
After all, as Martin Luther King once said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
De, as things stand, is guilty on both counts.