Sunday, September 27, 1998
THE picture was symbolic. It captured two extreme moods, one, with champagne cascading down a young Frenchman and the other, with a Croatian soccer fan crying hysterically. It brings to the fore a sociological question worth pondering. Is this the true spirit of sports?
Is it to divide the people into two polar opposites? Is it to destroy the very peace and amity that we seek to establish through such events as World Cup France 1998? One fondly recalls Baron Pierra de Coubertin (1863-1937), one of the greatest educationists of France, who is credited for initiating the first Olympic Games of modern times at Athens more than a century ago in 1896. He firmly believed that the most important thing in sports is not winning but "participation", just as in life the essence is not"victory" but "struggle". Happiness is to be found along the way, and not at the end of the road, as they say.
Else, there occurs alienation between life and work making people, in the memorable words of Karl Marx, at home when they are not working, and when they are working they are not at home.
Sports at international levels provide an excellent opportunity to bring out the "human best" through "participatory sports". The human beings are brought together to bring out the best in them. Each one of them competes with the available best irrespective of their religion, race, caste, colour or creed. The doctrinal differences which often divide people into ideological blocks tend to disappear. Every attempt is made to make the competitions clean, fair and non-partisan. The singular objective is to promote human excellence, pure and simple.
Fair competition alone is healthy. It is beneficial to all. Perhaps, the so-called losers learn the most. They learn that it is humanly possible to improve their potential. The winners also learn. They learn to explore what is more humanly possible by breaking their own records, so to speak.Viewed from this perspective, there are no "losers" in reality. All are "gainers", and each one of them is truly competing against ones own self. This is the true sportsman spirit.
In this respect, the best example that readily comes to my mind from the contemporary history of sports is that of the legendary Olympian Jesse Owens who created a sensation by winning four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But, do we know the man who enabled Jesse Owens to explore the new limit of human excellence in himself? It was the German long-jumper, Lutz Long, Owens only serious challenger for the title in the event of long jump. What Long did for Owens is something that really gives the sports world the spirit for which it truly stands.
In the long jump, while warming up, Owens took a practice run and strode through the pit. Much to everyones surprise, this was ruled as a jump by the pit officials. In the second attempt, his toes had brushed the bank of earth bordering the take-off board. This was treated as no jump". Just one last chance for the world champion to avoid ignominious elimination. He had to jump 23 feet and 5 inches to advance to the finals a piece of cake under normal circumstances. Then came the invaluable suggestion from Lutz Long. He suggested that Jesse should place a towel a few cms before the take-off mark to guide him. Owens took his advice and duly cleared more than the requisite distance. In the finals, Owens not only annexed the gold medal but broke the existing Olympic record as well, with a colossal leap of 26 feet and 5.31 inches. Long rushed to congratulate the victor and both men walked off the field arm-in-arm, to the extreme pleasure of the spectators.
It is this spirit that makes the sportsmen forget even their national identity and merge themselves completely into the indivisible stream of humanity. It is this spirit again which is shared by the millions of persons who are participating through the world-wide network of television and press reporting.
I call them participants, although they are passive, because they share the spirit of sports by viewing or reading, and not by doing. We all thus become imbued with the sportsman spirit! This spirit invokes in us an urge to do better in life from within. The beauty of this spirit is that it makes the pursuit of life, whatever that may be, rewarding.
At this stage of realisation, "competition" does not mean an attempt to beat others. It merely means "to do better than what one is already doing. It enables us to overcome the notion of "loss" which is often responsible for creating an emotional upheaval affecting our performance. Likewise, "success" is not necessarily equated with "victory over others", because one can succeed even when one is said to be a "loser" in relation to others.
In sum, the world sports provide a truly functionalist perspective to our social life. A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, a British social anthropologist, terms it as the postulate of "functional unity", whereby all parts work together for the maintenance and integration of the society as a whole, the well-being of the whole being and as an end in itself.
The creator of Om Jai Jagdish
A powerful literary figure of the 19th century Shardha Ram "Phillauri" was a Sanatani missionary. He was also a social reformer and a trend-setter in the fields of Hindi and Punjabi literatures. His contribution towards the evolution of modern Hindi is imseminal. While on his death-bed he had said, "There are two writers of Bhasha in the whole of India. To-day only one shall remain. His reference to the other Bhasha writer was to the celebrated Bhartendu Harishchandra. This dying declaration of Shardha Ram might have seemed an exaggerated estimation. However, with the passage of time, the truth stands established. Renowned critic Ram Chander Shukla writes "His language was forceful and his speech hypnotic. He was a true Hindi lover and an effective writer of his times."
Only a few people are aware of the fact that Shardha Ram was the creator of the most popular prayer Om Jai Jagdish Hare , sung by almost every Hindu family the world over. Even during his lifetime, the popularity of this prayer tempted many persons to appropriate it. The word Shraddha denotes the devotion and dedication of the author at the same time, this reference makes him the creator of the prayer. The devotional feelings of the author show through each line of the prayer. The omnipresent Almighty God is everything to the poet and he cannot even think in terms of another:-
Maat pita tum mere, sharan gahun main kiski,
Tum bin aur na duja aas karun main jiski.
He firmly believed that total surrender before the Almighty bestows all kinds of bliss!
Jo dhyave fal pave dukh vinshe maanka,
Sukh sampati ghar aawe kasht mite taanka.
Satya Dharm Muktavli and Shatopadesh established Shardha Ram as a poet of eternal devotion and dedication on a par with Tulsidas and Surdas of the Bhakti Movement.
Shardha Ram was born in a Brahmin family at a small town, Phillaur (Jalandhar) in the year 1837. His father, Jai Dyalu was an astrologer by profession. When the latter learnt about the birth of a son, he predicted that the boy would accomplish many things and win laurels during the short span of his life. The prediction came true.
Sikhan De Raj Di Vithia and Punjabi Batcheet are two notable works of Shardha Ram in (Gurmukhi) The first work earned him the title of "Father of modern Punjabi prose. It contains the story of the Sikh religion and politics according to the perception of the author. The book is divided into three chapters. The last chapter contains customs, usages and folk song s of Punjab. Perhaps for this reason this book was prescribed as a text book for higher education. Punjabi Batcheet depicts different customs usages and fashions prevalent in different regions of Punjab such as Malwa and Majha etc idioms, modes of expression and variations in dialect are shown. The study of this book was made compulsory for getting into the administrative services.
Though Shardha Ram was the product of religious turmoil of his age, he was far ahead of his times". His novel Bhagyawati, written with the sole purpose of bringing an awakening amongst the womenfolk, has been called the first Hindi novel, although the claim is not uncontested. Pariksha Guru, written by Shri Niwas Dass, is a contender for the prestigious first place. Bhagyawati can, however, rightly claim many firsts in the field.
On the birth of a female child, Bhagyawati, the main character in the novel makes her husband understand that there is no difference between the male and the female child. Opposition to child-marriage and laying stress on adult education makes this novel far ahead of its times.
Satyamrit Pravaha demonstrates the profound scholarship and rational outlook of Shardha Ram and it shall be long remembered for the strong convictions and principles that it embodies.
Even a sentence uttered by a child, with a rationale behind it is more acceptable than a quote from the Vedas without a rationale says the author. Shardha Ram was a person of independent views and he desisted from withholding his own thought and interpretation of Vedas and Shastras". He was charged with conducting a propaganda against the British Government, through his forceful lectures on the Mahabharata.
His lectures on the Shalya Parva were attended by police trainees. He was exiled from his hometown, Phillaur. Shardha Ram did not relent and the order had to be subsequently withdrawn after the persuasion by father Newton, who had a great admiration for Shardha Rams scholarship. Through his literary pursuits and lectures, Shardha Ram emphasised the literary development in Punjab.
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