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Saturday, July 3, 1999


Regional Vignettes

Lost generation’s mismatch: Cricket over Kargil
By Reeta Sharma

I JUST cannot stop my tears because they are flowing from the core of my heart. Although it is said that shedding tears will be an insult to martyrdom of soldiers at Kargil, but do you know, revered village elders, that these instructions are futile? These tears are beyond the hearing range of your instructions as they are the spiritual flowers meant for these martyrs only. Have you not yourself been secretly placing these flowers on these heroes?

Remember Lata Mangeshkar’s deeply touching call, Ei mere vatan ke logo, zara ankh mein bhar lo pani..? Even today this song brings tears to our eyes. So withdraw your call village elders, for there is no compensation that a nation can pay to these soldiers except these tears which are an expression of our gratitude and reverence.

To me, tears come quickly and naturally because I have grown watching my grandfather, my parents, my school teachers, my class-mates and my neighbours glued to the radio and newspapers wishing to learn about our motherland’s victory without having to face the bodies of martyrs. But has any victory ever come without the supreme sacrifice of jawans? I have seen all my near and dear ones with wet cheeks whenever the news of martyrs was announced. They had told me then that those were not tears but flowers for the martyrs for having brought pride and honour to the country.

But times have changed. During the past three decades or so we have produced generations which neither know where Kargil is nor have a desire to learn anything about "martyrdom". Your call not to shed tears has been received pretty well by these people. They have followed your instructions as, in any case, they have no tears to spare.

Somewhere we have failed gravely. Otherwise, how is it that they are passionately involved in the World Cup and not Kargil?

Is it not ironical that cricket, which is only a mere game, has taken precedence over a war-like situation in Kargil? People sit around glued to television for hours together over a cricket match between India and Pakistan and express their excitement and sorrow from the depths of their hearts. But these very men react with utter indifference to the situation in Kargil, where both victory and defeat means blood, amputations, deformations and bodies in coffins.

Today these people are more keen on learning names of Akrams, Sachins, Steves, Robin Singhs, Lances, Anwars, etc than Capt Amol Kalia, whose body could not be retrieved from the war-like "pitch" for 11 days because of heavy firing.

None of them has spared even five minutes to read the report on the martyrdom of Lance Naik Rakesh Kumar, a resident of a village near Dharamsala. He was married for only three months and his 20-year-old young widow wore her bridal dress and carried his coffin on her shoulders for a distance of 3 km to the cremation ground. The streets were lined with people shedding tears at this heartbreaking scene.

Do you know who were these people? They were all villagers. Yes, our villagers are still passionately involved with our country, India, and thereby inevitably with Kargil. No wonder they have tears to shed and the time to spare to pay tributes to our martyrs.

The rural populace is mostly ignorant about things like the World Cup, Madonna, MTV, pizzas, ice-creams, Internet, fast cars, motorbikes and fashion. Our villagers are instead fully aware of Kargil. You could see thousands of them assembled to receive the body of a soldier. They were not only from the martyr’s village but also from all the adjoining ones near Ludhiana last week. Everyone in that crowd was not only aware of the pride and honour bestowed by that soldier on them but also shared the grief of his family.

On the other hand, strangely, this other class of our people is very excited about the word "globalisation". To them the entry of MNCs (multinational companies), into India is God’s gift to our people. But ask them about the comparative impact of MNCs in China and they would wear a blank look. To them, it is enough of a kick and a thrill that they can eat same pizzas, icecreams or drive fancy cars which are also sold in America, England, Germany etc.

Anything indigenous is an outdated word, and is below their dignity. Perhaps, that is why martyrs like Sepoy Dinesh Kumar, Rifleman Ashish Kumar, Havildar Udham Singh, Major Mariappan, Capt P.V. Vikram, Major Rajesh Adhikari, Lt.-Col R.V. Viswanathan are the names which are not as interesting and all-consuming as those of the cricket players.

The cricket bat and ball, which costs as much as a month’s wage of a labourer, is being imposed on the nation as everybody’s sport by both the electronic as well as the print media. Is it our national game, really? Can all Indians afford to play it? Does it deserve the hype that is being built around it?

Really, we have become outdated. Our elders have no clue that cricket has become the biggest MNC to sneak into Australia, England, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It has acquired the status of being the number one commercial game. That’s why we have highly rated commercially saleables like Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajay Jadeja etc. The glorification of their rags- to- riches stories has made them role-models for our youngsters, who think that gambling their career in this one game is much better than struggling, toiling, bleeding and becoming a martyr at Kargil. But can we blame these people for not being as passionately involved in Kargil as in cricket? I am not sure.

Youngsters living in urban areas are intelligent and have the advantage of liberal exposure. They have everything that is the latest, self-promoting and consumeristic in nature. But what is amazing about this class is that while they display extraordinary sharpness in surfing the Internet for information, they do not care to learn about their own country.

For making this class aware of the unbelievable hardships faced by our defence forces at Siachen glacier, India would have to finance the Discovery Channel to make a film on it. In fact, this rural-urban divide which stands exposed through Kargil vs cricket is unfortunately so deep that one is alarmed. Our urban generations are clearly heading towards self-promotion, individualistic life-style and becoming increasingly indifferent to nationalistic feelings. On the contrary, you cannot miss the ridicule in their tone when they speak about their own motherland. I cannot pin-point specific reasons for this; maybe you can help in analysing this trend.back

This feature was published on June 26, 1999

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