Awaiting due support

Village youths have displayed excellence and earned pride for the nation but are still in want of good-grade civic infrastructure

Awaiting due support

The Tokyo Olympic Games have served as some vital reminder to all in our country. Many of us revel privately and in our small groups, feeling a sense of pride in the medal winners. Some, who actively seek the reflected glory, are hoping for dividends in their quest for public office. They are making a public spectacle in photo-ops and pronouncements of big rewards at state expense. Nobody of noteworthy credentials has promised a hard look at why we could not have done a lot better and why our sports framework is pathetic all the way from poor infrastructure to poor management of facilities and funding and leadership. We can go through a legion of things that are not there, but let us admire the sheer guts, the determination and the will to beat all odds by the youth of our villages who broke every barrier to bringing name and fame to themselves and the country. From modest homes and limited resources, theirs was a valiant fight in every which way. They have overcome a lack of nutrition, lack of training, and lack of guidance. They had hunger with them and singular determination to find a way to triumph over their hardships. This they did.

We have ignored our villages, even though we never tire of the message of pride that India lives in its villages. True, agriculture has been our main occupation but illiteracy and lack of opportunity to excel should not have been the essence of this life in the villages. Rural poverty has been a continuing feature in our villages. Agriculture has seen many positive developments, but input costs and market distortions have not increased incomes to prosperity. Infrastructure development has been tardy, and the lack of social infrastructure has severely impacted economic opportunities in rural India. But human endeavour triumphs against all odds. Cable television, over thirty years ago, transformed lives in the back of beyond India. Ambitions for a better life were kindled when the young boys and girls saw the lives on the small screen coming to glory, money and fame. They could do it, we can do it, and became the personal and silent inspiration for many youngsters. They began their quest to escape the shackles of poverty, find fame and with it will come money and glory. Music contests, sports contests and many other career choices became known and the hungry youths began their hunt. Find somebody to teach, find somebody to coach, find the method to train, through cousins, soul mates, through acquaintances, they connected and put in the hard work, ignoring insults, torture and bodily pain.

The sporting arena has always been a fertile ground to nurture excellence. Excellence in sports does not brook nepotism, favouritism or any kind of manipulation. It is pure, it is a gathering of supreme effort, determination and an insatiable hunger to be the best in the world. Yes, only a few succeed, many fail but those who fail have the heart to revere the rival's performance without rancour. They have a bigger heart to pick up their courage and try again. No deceit, no lies and no cheating, that is the beauty of this fairest of competitions in human endeavour. These signal strengths of character have been the hallmark of the men and women, coming from small cities and villages, who have brought honour to the Indian flag on many occasions.

There is no better medium to forge relationships and bonds than the playing fields. It inspires, it nudges ambition to unconquered heights, it forges life-long friendships, it creates the purest space for humans to compete and, may the best, only the best, win. It leaves no bitterness in the loser. The playing field has no preference for colour, religion, caste, gender or lineage. Only the excellence of the player gets respect. It is indeed a wonderful idea that one wishes could be all-pervasive in human spheres.

The devotion of the youth from the countryside and their dreams and aspirations need a caring nation and a nurturing ecosystem. Not just one, not just two, but many facilities in their proximity are needed so that talent gets a fertile ground to prosper. The promised Rurban Mission, launched with great fanfare, needs just that — a missionary zeal. It was hoped that our villages would also be developed on sustainable models with good grade civic and social infrastructure. Schools, health and wellness centres, colleges etc. can lead the way for much greater and enduring glory in sports and much else. Holding it back is a national injustice and an outstanding debt to the future.

The writer is the now retired-Director of the India Habitat Centre. Views expressed are personal

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