Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal winning performance at the Olympics has been a new experience in more than one way for India. Apart from the first individual gold medal in Indian Olympic history ( i.e. if you discount a gold won by an Englishman representing India way back in 1900), Abhinav Bindra has brought something else to the table which no other sportsman ever has – his own persona.
I’ll be honest with you, when I saw Bindra’s post-victory interviews on TV, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “What a pompous brat!” I mean, Hello, you just won the first Indian gold-medalist at the Olympics, you could at least make it look it’s a bigger deal than the National Games! Unsurprisingly a lot of my friends and in fact a huge section of the population apparently seemed to endorse the same view. Before I knew it, all that the media seemed to be reporting was how Bindra had a palatial mansion in Chandigarh complete with an air-conditioned shooting range in his backyard or how he was unrepentant in saying that the system’s contribution to his performance at the games was zilch. And so, the man who was the toast of the nation less than a week ago was looked at as someone who was too proud of himself to be Indian
Now if you ask me, there are two ways to look at Abhinav Bindra. One obviously being the above mentioned way where we compare him to other soft-spoken, seemingly modest athletes who make a statement to the system and naysayers through their performances rather than lashing out at them. The other way however is one we are not used to because it involves looking at someone in a way that is a free from bias. In simpler words, the other way we could look at a sportsman like Abhinav Bindra is to look at him as he is. Forget that Bindra financially belongs to a fraction of the population or that he isn’t a media darling and cut him some slack. Try to place yourself in his shoes. Is it Bindra’s fault that he was born in a rich family with a father who didn’t think twice before letting the cash flow for his son’s career? Or is it his fault that he plays a sport which neither gets media attention nor government support? And most of all, is it really his fault that he dislikes answering the media? Let’s be honest here, our media doesn’t exactly ask the most enlightening questions. Can we then really blame Bindra for not wanting to drape the flag and sing patriotic songs for the Chaddi-Banian news brigade? Think about it, isn’t it better that he doesn’t feign modesty? And finally (Pardon me for posing so many questions) – Is there something wrong with Bindra, or is there something wrong with the way we look at him?
I don’t intend to answer any of these questions. I’ll leave that upto you. But I certainly would like to mention something that I have personally realized. And that is the fact that as much as we would like a ruthlessly aggressive, go-getter as the face of Indian sports, we ourselves can’t exactly handle a guy like that. Be it a self-confident Abhinav Bindra, or cheeky Sreesanth or a defiant Dhanraj Pillay, there is still a long way to go before we can accept sportsmen that break the mold, let alone relate to them. As I write this, another outspoken boxer has trounced the world number one and has come of age. I can’t help but wonder when we will.