Sunday, July 06, 2014

Maria, Sachin and all that - 2

Sequels hardly ever match the first creation, whether in movies or novels. I am almost certain that the same fate befalls this post too. But these stories are struggling to get out. I will let them out and inflict it upon whoever reads them. The other reason for writing this is a comment to the original post.

Dr M R Raghavendra Rao had narrated another story. A bit of background: MRR Rao had played cricket in his college days. He had represented the state and had played in a few Ranji Trophy matches too. Later, he thought that cricket was a silly game and a big waste of time - especially for a poor country like ours.

He was once on a flight from Bangalore to Delhi. I tall and handsome young man came and sat next to him. He soon realised that the other passengers and the air hostesses were all excited and were fussing about him. Once the flight took off and things settled down, he talked to the young man. Now I switch to the as-if-in-his-own-words mode.

"I said, "I see that everyone is making a fuss about you. May I know who you are?" He said, “I am Roger Binny, Sir". He spoke with great respect and he was very well behaved. I said, "I see that that is your name. But, what do you do?" He did not seem to be offended and said, "I am a cricketer, Sir." I asked him, "At what level do you play?"  "I play for the country Sir", he said.

"I told him what I thought of cricket and gave him my lecture on cricket. You know my lecture. (This was said with a self-deprecating smile). He agreed with all I said - smiling and with respect. Finally I asked him, "you agree with all that I say. Then, why do you still play cricket?"

"He was completely disarming and said, "I simply love the game Sir" "

This speaks volumes about both of them.

The next incident I want to narrate is something I read about forty years ago. I take no responsibility for the accuracy of my version of it. I just tell you the story as I remember it. This is from the autobiography of Mohammad Ali, "The Greatest".

It was the height of the Vietnam war. Ali was to be conscripted into the US army. Ali refused. He even wrote a poem which went something like "I ain't got nothing against the Viet Cong" He was to be arrested and sent to jail. When the world was abuzz with this news, Ali received a transatlantic call. The caller announced himself as Bertrand Russel and asked Ali if it was true that he was against the Vietnam war and that he had refused to join the army and was ready to go to jail for it. Ali confirmed it. Russel congratulated him on his stand and the courage to stand by his convictions.

Ali said to Russel, "Hey man, you are not as stupid as you look". Russel chuckled and ended the call.

Ali indeed went to jail, lost his title, came back from jail years later and regained it. A sporting legend to beat all legends!!

After this, he was in his publisher’s office in connection with his book - "The Greatest". He had some free time and was browsing through the Encyclopaedia Britannica and came across the entry on Russel. It described him as one of the greatest mathematicians and philosophers of the twentieth century, a pacifist, Nobel laureate in literature and so on. Ali had remembered the name of Russel after the phone call and was mortified that he had talked so lightly and disrespectfully to so great a man.

He called Russel and apologised profusely. As Ali puts it, the two years (?) of school education he had received had not prepared him to know about Russel. Russel brushed off the apologies and made light of it.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Maria, Sachin and all that

Dr M R Raghavendra Rao was a friend of my father from their college days. He was the deputy director of CFTRI in Mysore. A gentle gentleman who was enormously well read, with highly cultivated interest in the arts, especially Hindustani classical music. He used to travel  often on work and he once narrated the following incident from one such journey. He spoke very softly, had a wry sense of humour and thought very logically. Here is the story - as if in his own words.

"I went to Delhi last week. I was seated in the aircraft when a gangly young man, not very handsome, walked in. There was a buzz around and many craned their necks to look at him. I also looked to see what all the fuss was about. My neighbour looked at me excitedly and exclaimed, "Amitabh Bachchan", as if that was explanation enough. It was not.

"I asked him, "who is he?". He looked at me contemptuously, almost pityingly, and said,  "he is a film star". I was not impressed since I had not heard of him at all. I felt a little superior - not knowing a mere film actor.

"On the return flight I saw Ravi Shankar (Sitar maestro, Pandit Ravi Shankar, not the triple Sri) walk in to the aircraft. I was excited and turned to my neighbour and exclaimed, "Ravi Shankar!!". He craned his neck, took one look at him, was not impressed or excited, sat back and started turning the pages of the in-flight magazine. He did not even ask me who he was.

It served me right. I was exicted about one man and others about another. There was no need for me to feel superior."

I remembered this incident when I read about the brouhaha about Sharapova and Sachin. Sharapova not having heard of Sachin is an incident that could tell the fans that their god is a god with a very limited sphere of impact and tone their admiration for him.

In another incident from days gone by, when Borg won Wimbledon for the fifth time, in a row, reporters asked him if he knew of any other sporting achievement that could be comparable to his. When Borg said that it could be Eddy Merckx winning the Tour de France four times in a row the reporters were pleasantly surprised that he knew about that at all! 

Most do not realise that at that level of most sports, especially individual ones, the players live like hermits. Every minute of their days accounted for in activities oriented towards achieving excellence in their chosen sports and practically nothing else.

Sharapova has not heard of Sachin. So what? Perhaps our admiration for her should go up a notch or two.