By Devaiah Bopanna Aug. 09, 2016
Shobhaa De’s scathing tweet about Indians not performing at the Olympics reeks of drunken uncles spewing out nonsense at a college reunion of the batch of 1970.
hew! We almost went two whole weeks without a celeb having a brain fart on social media. And then Shobhaa De put an end to that dream run, forcing armchair activists like me (the type who specialise in “Socialites’ Take On Olympics”) across India to bring out our Word docs and get down to ripping her apart.
And what a joy the task is. Because let’s face it. We don’t like Shobhaa De. We never have. Not when she wrote novels like Starry Nights and Sultry Days, not when she elevated herself to a journalist, and certainly not when she decided to call herself an “opinion shaper”. The day opinions are shaped by Shobhaa De, I will start listening to lyrics of Taylor Swift songs.
“Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat vapas aao. What a waste of money and opportunity.” This is a particularly nasty dig at our athletes, unless of course she was making a reference to the spiralling crime rates in Rio, where if you pose for a selfie someone is sure to run away with your phone, thus ensuring you come back “khaali haath” and having “wasted money”. But De and her ilk do not concern themselves with things like crime – they’re so much more interested in the latest kaftan. So yes, the woman was shooting her mouth off hoping no doubt to “shape our opinions” with her tweet.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: People can say anything they want to say; they can go on a rhapsodic rant if they want. Especially on Twitter. But if you’re ranting against popular notion, you better have a solid argument or then you’d better be Chetan Bhagat. And Shobhaa De is no Chetan Bhagat. In fact, one almost has a new-found respect for Bhagat after this episode – he has a gift of pissing off people, but only one at a time. Feminists, liberals, historians – all, but one by one. But De managed to piss off everyone at once – libtards, sportspersons, pseudo-intellectuals, non-sportspersons, nationals, and just to make sure the right-wingers don’t get offended at being left out, she threw in the words “Team India” too.
And where’s the question of “waste of money” here, Ms De? None of the athletes drive fast cars. Most of them don’t even drive cars.
De’s argument of India not performing at the Olympics is reminiscent of drunken uncles spewing out nonsense at a college reunion of the batch of 1970. Their arguments are loud, and as they hiccup between long slugs of whisky, they always settle on this wobbly war cry: We have one billion people, but we can’t find X.
X = Eleven men to represent India in a football world cup.
X = One man to break Bolt’s record.
X = One woman who can win Wimbledon. (“She married that Paki no,” said every uncle ever.)
Let me flip this argument a bit for you. China has out-fucked us by 200 million people, yet they can’t find eleven people to form a cricket team. America has a population of a quarter billion people; forget finding eleven people to play cricket, they can’t find people who can do their own work. They need to outsource it.
Just like philosophy, culture, fashion, and food, sport too is unique to each country. Sport is a function of the country’s dietary habits, mental make-up, and physical attributes. It’s unlikely that Jordan will ever win a gold medal at swimming. Because if Jordanians see water, their first thought is to drink it, not swim in it. And similarly, India will always excel at cricket – everybody gets to take some rest between deliveries, between overs, and if that wasn’t enough, during the Karbonn Kamaal Timeout. The gentleman’s game also comes with generous doses of non-gentlemanly corruption – another thing that suits us just fine.
So when someone is taking up a sport that is out of their country’s comfort zone, they deserve applause right away. Yes, “merely” representing India at the Olympics by qualifying in sports like rowing, shooting, or gymnastics is a big deal. They are going up against the cultural zeitgeist, the system, the infrastructure, and of course, Shobhaa De. They are putting everything on the line. Most of the people De bumps into at Page 3 parties do that as well. The only difference is that they snort the line at the end of it.
And where’s the question of “waste of money” here, Ms De? None of the athletes drive fast cars. Most of them don’t even drive cars. They come from the hinterland where a woman is looked down upon if she steps out of the house without a pallu covering her face. So when one such woman steps into the boxing ring, she is punching gender stereotypes, patriarchy, and your arrogance, in the face. If there’s anyone in this world who has earned the right to take a selfie – it is them.
So, let me rephrase that tweet of yours, since you are terrible with words. (Oh, the irony!)
Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat vapas aao. WE ARE WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE FUCKING EARNED IT.
Devaiah Bopanna is a Mumbai-based writer who writes bad jokes for a living using non-living things. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter (@devaiahPB), and Instagram (@devaiah.bopanna). But don't follow him on his way back home because he will find that very creepy.