These are peculiar times. Things are off kilter in the cockpit of the old empire. It is as if something in the air and soil has conspired to banish the celebrated cliches Britain as a nation moans about: miserable weather, sporting failure—and weather causing, affecting or being in the vicinity of sporting failure.
For those determined to find gloom amidst this—this summer of mass content—there’s still the tanking economy, plus a coalition government looking increasingly like a petty resident’s association doing its dirty linen in public. And for steely republicans, the hysteria over the birth of a future heir to the throne.
But, for the majority in the UK, the past few months have been a rather spiffing affair. The temperature has soared to around 30ºc most days, the sun shines uninterrupted and the skies beam a blue so blue they make the turquoise mines of Madagascar curl in envy.
And as if the scorching climate was not enough, it seems Britain has rediscovered just a touch of its past greatness in the realm of winning.
At Brighton Hundreds of Britons enjoy the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. (Photograph by Reuters, From Outlook 29 July 2013)
It seemed impossible that last summer could be topped—a phenomenally successful Olympics in London, with Team GB reaching a staggering third in the medals table, the pomp and grandeur of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the first ever British winner of the Tour de France (Bradley Wiggins). But, apparently, 2013 just will not be beaten at the game, on any field, track or pitch, played with balls in leather, rubber or cork. In the past two months, Andy Murray has won the Wimbledon—the first British men’s champion for 77 years; the British and Irish Lions rugby team were victorious in their Australia tour, the first series win in 16 years; and Chris Froome has retained the Tour de France for Britain.
And the crowning glory? England are simply thrashing the Australians in the Ashes. This week’s excoriating 347-run rout at Lord’s has put England 2-0 up, with a big series triumph anticipated by all except the staunchest outposts of optimism Down Under. Indeed, the confident Lord’s crowd openly, derisively, chortled when Australian skipper Michael Clarke voiced hope for a turnaround in the remaining three Tests.
Trent Bridge England wins the first Ashes Test. (Photograph by Reuters, From Outlook 29 July 2013)
As Tim Adams noted in The Observer, an apparent change in the British character has occurred—yet, characteristically, without too much fuss. “Forty-five years of inbuilt resignation—born out of assuming the homegrown player or team would eventually locate a novel means of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory—was replaced by a strangely un-British confidence: things may look pretty bad just now, but most likely they would turn out alright in the end.”
It is an odd cocktail, at once sweet and strong—optimism has after all always come with a health warning in Britain. One of the most common phrases quoted around times of ignominious exits from football World Cups—usually on penalties—is paraphrased from John Cleese’s character’s lament in the 1986 film Clockwise: “It’s not the despair. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.”
So is this indeed a golden period of British sport, thematically engineered to complement its golden summer? English cricket has enjoyed many a heyday, but this one coincides with the decline of the once indomitable Aussies who whitewashed them 5-0 as recently as in 2007. Rugby tells a similar tale. And tennis and cycling, two sports played by the individual, are undoubtedly having their day in the uncommonly warm sun.
Kenya-born Chris Froome was the second Briton to win the Tour de France in two years. UK lauded their golden track riders. (Photograph by Getty Images, From Outlook 29 July 2013)
The Daily Telegraph sports writers pitched right in. Cycling correspondent Ian Chadband feels the UK has never had it so good. The wins “eclipse anything that has gone before, with British track riders dominating the Olympics and a nation now being able to boast three champion road racers who could adorn any era.” Simon Briggs, its tennis writer, chimes in with the thought that Murray is up there with the best British players of all time.
But can a healthy suspicion of good fortune ever be dispelled? Shakespeare wrote in The Rape of Lucrece, “What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?” And those who are quietly elated now that British reserve and pessimism has had its day should bear those words in mind. On the night the royal heir was born, the heavens shook and the rains lashed down. The gods were either joyous or cheesed off, depending on who you spoke or tweeted to. It felt like the final act in a ‘history’ worthy of the Bard himself.
A history that begins in far-off lands, where warriors of the Sceptred and Emerald Isles fought to reprise the mighty egg of the heavens. Through scrum and drop-goal, they conquered the ferocious Wallabies that had tortured them so through pub banter and humiliation (Cue lightning). A prophecy of a highland (well, Dunblane) brave who would conquer the green, pleasant lawns of England with his sword hewn from graphite and catgut (Cue thunder). Of the man with winged helmet and magical machine, fleet of foot, born in the dark continent (Kenya) who shall speed to the triumphal arch (Cue more lightning). Of the island natives that shall rise up with willow cudgels and leather missiles to beat back the invaders who come armed with sun cream and bleached hair (Cue thunder again). And, finally, of the infant kingling, born under a hyperglycemic storm—whence the people rejoice...until World Cup 2014...when England go out...on penalties once more (Cue rain).
By Saptarshi Ray in London
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Sports might never have been an enjoyment, unless one is Ian Botham, in Britain. It seems, the social interaction, and the lessons one learns about life, from sport, are very meaningful to the British. It seems, that W. G. Grace, could learn how he might not be a doctor, being an all rounder, playing at Lords. County Cricket isn't exactly enjoyed being played. It is amazing, how people feel it is hard work, playing Cricket, when the spectators want a very relaxing, pleasant experience, watching County Cricket. Looking at a womens India Vs. England international, might be similar.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT