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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stinking Thinking of our Society - Time to change

Have you heard of names like PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar? And also of Mariyappan Thangavelu, Varun Singh Bhati and Jhajharia?
Oh ! you can relate to the first three, but not the next three. Not your mistake. This is the 'stinking thinking' of our society, and we can change it together. Read on...

Defying all odds and showing killer instincts, PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar became the unlikely heroines and saved the country's pride from returning empty-handed from Rio Olympics - says an article from a leading newspaper. 

And the columnist is absolutely right. These three stars deserve the attention they got. Hats off to them for reaching the podium on an Olympic stage, representing a country where sports is still seen as a 'quota' to escape studies, procure a government flat or get a job in railways.
You type Rio Olympics in Google search from India, and you get some startling news articles and reports of Indian media, on what these marvelous ladies did for India in the just concluded 2016 Olympic Games at Rio, Brazil. Of course, for a change, the media sounds positive. Most newspaper and social media articles on this topic are positive, ignoring the fact that we had the biggest ever contingent procuring the worst ever result in the recent history. Media sounding positive is itself a very surprising news. And the only reason I see for this positivism, is the fact that when it comes to sports, we, the readers only want to see and read victory and success stories. Who bothers about failures?

But then, you search for Rio Paralympics in Google, and I bet even if there is one article from Indian media in the Top 10. Not many care for Paralympics in this country. Who has the time? Many of us even think that the athletes participating in Paralympics do not face the kind of competition the trio ladies were facing in the so called main Olympics. If this thought even occurred to you once, then think again.

If your leg gets paralyzed, or you lose your hands during childhood to an unfortunate accident for no fault of yours, and someone asks you to start thinking about competing in sports at the world stage, you might even go to the extent of thinking that this person is making fun of you. You cannot even imagine that far, forget about actually competing at a global platform. You fear for the upcoming struggles for survival in this tough world, and to somehow make your ends meet are too enormous to let you dream about participating in a world level sports. 

And if you come to know that one of India's Paralympic Gold medalist had to wait for 12 years to come back and break his own world record created at Athens Paralympics in 2004, don't you think he deserves at least the same attention from media and celebrities as P V Sindhu or Dipa Karmakar (remember none of them got a Gold), if not more?

Do you know how these 'differently-abled' champions at Paralympics think? Yes, they are NOT disabled, they are 'differently-abled'. Read it as many times you want. It should sink in each one of us. Because, remember, that ability is all relative. You cannot run even half the speed of a cheetah. You cannot fly. To that extent, a cheetah or any bird can easily label you as disabled. But that's not the fact. We consider ourselves superior to them. that is because we have other abilities that are stronger than them. Since ability is all relative, we must address our Paralympic athletes the way we would like to be addressed - as 'differently-abled'.  

In fact, they are as able as anyone else, if not more - it is just that their ability is stronger in certain streams of life and weaker in some.  One of the areas where they are much stronger than most of us 'normal' human beings is that they think much better than most of us. They are confident, they have big dreams, they put in the sweat, have a strong work ethic, compete against the best in the world who are at par with them in their abilities, and not even for a moment, they feel that they are less able than anyone else. They give a damn to what others think about them.
“My daughter (Jiya) phoned me to announce that she had topped in her kindergarten exams and said now it was my turn. That echoed in my ear when I entered the field. I had told my coach even before the event today that I would win gold. I was confident of my training, myself and my efforts,” Jhajharia said, after winning the Gold for India in Rio Paralympics 2016.
“As a kid, I was taunted as a weakling. I succeeded only because of my determination to erase that adjective,” Jhajharia remembered. His arm was amputated after coming in contact with a live high-tension electrical wire in his village at the age of eight. And there he stands today, a double world record holder - his heart filled with pride, for he has dedicated this win to his beloved country.

And just a few days ago, one of my friends forwarded a video over Whats App. There was a roar in the stadium. Mariyappan Thangavelu from Tamil Nadu was about to win the country’s first gold medal at the men’s T42 high jump event. You watch this video. The noise is absolutely deafening. It seems that the world is watching, except, of course, our own media - who is busy in political gup shup.

Mariyappan Thangavelu's gold medal jump in Men's T42 High Jump final:

P V Sindhu's final match was directly broadcasted on every sports channel. Why was no TV channel broadcasting this high jump? Why was it not a headline news in any leading national newspapers the next day? Why was it not a point of discussion in corporate tea conversations? Why is it always IPL, Sachin, Dhoni or Sania, Saina, Paes? They are undoubtedly our heroes, but what wrong have these differently-abled people done?
Mariyappan was joined on the podium by Varun Singh Bhati of Uttar Pradesh who won a bronze. Thangavelu’s right leg was damaged in a bus accident when he was five, while Bhati was born with a deformed left leg. Deepa Malik, who was paralysed below her waist after a surgery to remove a spinal tumour, became the first Indian woman to ever win a medal at the Paralympics. She took home a silver in the women’s shot-put event.

What other examples we need of their much superior class?

I asked my wife if she has heard of P V Sindhu? There was excitement on her face and she could have narrated a 10 minute biography of her career right there. Then I asked her, Do you know Mariyappan? ... Pin drop silence...She was blank...

Until now, I believed that she is not to be blamed (btw, a wife is never to be blamed). Neither are we to be blamed, if we have not heard their names. We will hear and see what is shown to us. Though the social media is changing things in a big way, and we come to know of a few heroes like Deepa Malik and Varun Bhati from sources other than traditional media, the fact is that we continue to be highly dependent on mainstream media for our own opinion formation. I was a strong believer that our media is biased against our own heroes.

But here is the point. Why is media not as positive about showing the achievements of Mariyappan or Deepa as it is for P V Sindhu or Sakshi Malik? The point is that media has nothing to do with positivism or negativity. It feeds us what we want to be fed, so that they can stay in serious business. So, while we long for heroics in Olympics and read every line of the P V Sindhu article in detail, we are not really charged up about Mariyappan's gold medal jump or Jhajharia's world record. And the reason behind this is the 'stinking thinking' of all of us, as a society. Conclusively, it is not the media, but the people who make the media what they are, to be ultimately blamed. 

Once we understand this problem, the solution is straightforward. What can we do to  generate media interest? If we all come out and share these marvelous stories of success and pride with others, media will get interested. They have to sell their news. If you see a small news related to such heroic deeds, like it, share it, comment on it. Media has to get interested. They have no choice. They have to earn their bread. So, while sitting on your couch with a smart phone in your hand, make a pledge for these real heroes. Pledge to share, comment and like when you read about their heroics. They deserve it, and it is in our hands. Trust me, life is far more difficult for them than any of us.
A day will come when we all will realise that that they are far superior in their mental and physical abilities than the so called normal people, that they deserve far more accolades and appreciation than any one of us. They have the mental strength to think and do what most of us cannot even imagine. Such a day will surely come. (Hum honge kamyaab ek din). And then media will have no choice but to highlight their news and promote their deeds.

This stinking thinking has to change. It will change. A time will come when we write a post and everyone recognises the names of Mariyappan, Varun, Jhajharia and Deepa much before Sindhu and Sakshi.  

We have come a long way as a society, but there are miles to go before we rest.

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