There is something drastically wrong with us as a nation. It’s almost as if we are determined to destroy everything that has been carefully built. Indira Gandhi started it with institutions such as the judiciary and the executive and today, we see it afflicting almost everything around us. I wasn’t in the least surprised to see the reactions that Leander Paes evoked last week and perhaps continues to. It is saddening and repulsive.
Let’s get to the facts first. The Olympics are not about individualism. They are about the country, or so I thought, until I heard Bhupathi say that he was not going to play with Leander. Was it his choice, or that of the association that governs tennis in India, the All India Tennis Association (AITA)? Yes, this is the same Bhupathi who has partnered Paes and performed gloriously for India. There may be reasons for his outburst, but surely Bhupathi could have washed ‘their’ dirty linen in private. Rather than isolate a man who is not only India’s No. 1 tennis player officially, that too in a manner both disrespectful and demeaning? It would seem our sportsmen have acquired the crassness of public demeanour from our politicians.
You then create a situation where Paes is in a corner like he has never been before, even in the most gruelling tennis match. You make the man out to be a pariah, you have people taking their unreasoned points to the press and you treat Paes’s silence as an admission of guilt. What is even more galling is the AITA’s flip-flop. It was clear that when the selectors met, there was going to be one team to represent India in the men’s doubles. And that would be a team that had won many times before.
A team they, not the players, would select. Why did the association change its stand? I never heard Paes say (in the context of the Olympics) that he would not play with Bhupathi. He did about Vishnu Vardhan, but only because of the latter’s rankings, which quite frankly are an insult to what the team as a whole can achieve. So what does Paes do? He keeps quiet from June 19 to 22, but instead writes to the association, which then leaks his private letter to the press. He was still concerned about India, not about himself. But Paes underestimated the power of effective PR; Bhupathi knows how to work the press. And sometimes the PR machinery creates a spin which makes the truth look indefensible.
But then the problem with Leander Paes is also where he was born. We Calcuttans love to give it (and take it) on the shin. The land of Tagore and Netaji infuses you with a nationalism that is deep-rooted, rare and cannot be wished away. And remember, both his parents were Olympians. There is a lot of pedigree to what Paes said and believed in.
So why is it some folks hate Paes? Only because he wanted to end his unwarranted humiliation at the hands of those very players he has helped bring into the game? Should we hate Paes for being India’s number one?
Should we hate him for not wanting to destroy his track-record (this would be his sixth Olympics)—and, more importantly, that of India—by playing with a player who may not be the best partner for him?
We as a nation have moved beyond decency and uprightness. Kindness is now misconstrued as weakness; perhaps Paes should have been less kind. For someone who has been the Junior Wimbledon champion when most trollers on Twitter were not even in a foetus, he should know we are now a nation of instant verdicts without fair judgement.
But this hatred says more about us as a nation than about those we seemingly hate. Remember it was the same army of haters that spewed venom when Tendulkar was nominated to the Rajya Sabha two months ago. This hate is about the shallowness and immediacy of our emotions. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the Olympics credo and pluck the word ‘fairness’ in all that we say and do.
(Suhel Seth is managing partner of Counselage India)
For once, Suhel Seth has voiced something that echoes the thoughts of most Indian tennis fans (In the Age of Unreason, Jul 9). The cheek of Bopanna, refusing to partner Leander, one of the greatest tennis players that India has produced.
Rajesh Ramaswamy, Bangalore
Let’s assume, the Earth is under threat. Superman and Batman are at loggerheads. Who do you send? Obviously, Batman and Robin. Superman can meanwhile force Supergirl to team up with him. Get the drift?
Ram Yeggina, on e-mail
Mr Seth, your article was well-written. In this age of bitterness and malice, it is people like Leander who are needed the most. Kindness is no longer perceived as such.
Mamatha Joshi, on e-mail
Patriotism cannot transcend personal egos. Leander and Mahesh were bound to spring on each other some day. India should perhaps look to blood the younger players and stop sticking with ageing stars.
T. Santhanam, on e-mail
For Paes and Bhupathi, this may very well be their last chance to win an Olympics medal. Not so for Indian tennis. All the concern for Indian tennis just doesn’t wash.
Francis Chandy, Kochi
While Mr Seth’s arguments during TV debates are usually well-reasoned ones, he surely needs a crash course on refinement in speech.
Debashish, New Delhi
Could you think why nobody wants to play Paes? We don't know why Outlook gives its platform to a sophist like you.
Kya likha - kuch bhi nahin samajh nahin aaya.
> "We as a nation have moved beyond decency and uprightness. Kindness is now misconstrued as weakness.........But this hatred says more about us as a nation than about those we seemingly hate....... This hate is about the shallowness and immediacy of our emotions."
Probably because haters shout from rooftops whereas moderate or kind people keep quiet.
For once Suhel you have said something which most of the Indian Tennis fans like Leander are waiting for his racquet to speak unlike people like Mahesh who seems to be intimidated by Leander's popularity and greatness, look at the cheek at which that the upstart Rohan Boppanna has to refuse to play with the greatest Indian player that India has or will ever don the Tri colour. Ashamed to see that the 2 belong to my beloved state, also see my spineless CM feliciatete them on getting to play the Olympics. Sorry to say, sad day. But would love to see Hesh and Bopanna lose in the 1 st round just like the Wimbledon!!!
"We Calcuttans love to give it (and take it) on the shin."
So it has nothing to do with country blah blah...let me defend fellow calcuttan
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