The Game That Will Get Us Gold


The Game That Will Get Us Gold

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré

As we close this Olympic season with the familiar chorus of “oh, that was close”, we can take heart from the fact that we have only one more Olympics to endure with this refrain. Come 2024, when India makes a bid to host the games, we are likely to open a whole new chapter of “Olympic fails”, such as hosting swimming events in floodwater, and introducing a 100metre obstacle race with crater-sized potholes. When this happens, we are likely to make such colossal asses of ourselves that not winning enough medals despite being a billion-strong country will be the least of our problems.

But before all that happens, Bharat will protest the bid. Bharat will blame India and India will blame Bharat. Bharat will pose questions like: When so many people are dying of hunger, shouldn’t we focus on feeding them and not constructing a games village that will later be used for political rallies and dharnas? Then a political party will name a stadium after its leader. And when a new political party comes into power, it will rename the stadium after its leader. Social commentators will blame political hubris and compare hosting the Olympics to hosting a wedding in Delhi, where everyone is served liquid gold with their vodka, but after the hangover has passed, nobody will remember what the fuss was about. Political commentators will call out “Western influence”, and compare the Olympics to McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Arnab Goswami will get a week’s worth of fodder for his heavy metal show, during which everyone will pass the parcel.

We’re really good at this game of passing the parcel, making sure we aren’t caught with the parcel when the music stops. We are hardwired to play this blame game when a big scam breaks out in the country or a small politician is caught watching porn in Parliament. When asked, the politician will say he thought it was a video about a flood in his constituency and quickly blame another politician for showing it to him. A committee will proceed to lock itself up in a room and watch the video for a whole week to determine whether it was indeed porn.

The ruling party blames the previous party. The previous party blames the opposition. Everyone blames the population.

We play this game so often and in so many spheres of our lives that our genetic code for generations to come will be written with it at the centre. Just like the Tarahumara, a race of Native Americans who have run so hard to survive through the generations that every newborn pops out with a pair of Nikes, all ready to run.

We’re ready to pass the parcel at any given point in time. On your way to work, you will see a previously freshly tarred road sporting a freshly dug up look. So you try to find out who’s to blame and zero in on a worker. The worker will tell you that new cables have to be laid out, and that permission had been granted only a couple of days earlier. So go ask the cable guys. When the question is posed to the cable guys, they bark in defence about how permission was delayed because approval from the local corporator was late. So you ask the corporator’s office and someone there tells you that the request never came on time. So you go back to the cable guys. They say the request was sent by post, and that they have proof. So you ask the post office. They tell you that the postman had been attacked by stray dogs a couple of weeks ago and ended up dropping a bag so he could run for his life. The letter, they say, may have been in the bag.

At the mention of barking dogs, you give up and blame the ruling party for the state of the country. The ruling party blames the previous party. The previous party blames the opposition. Everyone blames the population. The populace blames the censor board for showing them sex scenes and Pahlaj Nihalani decides he’ll censor every bloody thing. This, we hope, will one day prevent all infrastructural issues, from roads being dug up twice to bridges collapsing.

Hockey really shouldn’t be considered the national game of the country. Neither should cricket. “Passing the Parcel” should be accorded official sanction with immediate effect, and introduced as an official Olympic game, thus making us a nation of winners. No more will we have to excel at sports we were clearly not made to excel at. No more will we have to listen to stories about abysmal infrastructure and training. Finally, we will able to justify having a goodwill ambassador in the form of Salman Khan, who passed a pretty huge parcel the last time he stepped out of his SUV.