Two recent incidents have bothered me terribly. Both related to Cricket, supposedly a Gentleman’s game. India you got it all wrong. That just wasn’t cricket.
What are we turning into? A nation of whingers?
Take two examples. One when Nasser Hussain called a fielder a ‘donkey’. Two when Shoaib Akhtar made some sensational claims in his autobiography.
Both the times these were not concerted slurs on the country but comments on individuals. We could have condemned the language or the content in a more decent manner.
Instead the reactions were baffling. It seemed like India was caught in a frenzy. Nasser Hussain’s commentating stint was cancelled and Shoaib Akhtar’s book events in Mumbai and Bengalaru cancelled. The BCCI foolishly jumped in to demand an apology. There were ministers who didn’t have better things to do. They demanded apology from UK and Pakistan. What were they thinking? Both these gentlemen were speaking in their personal capacity and the Government had no business to intervene. Pandering to popular sentiments and that too by responsible ministers isn’t right.
We all agree Sachin is our greatest Icon and a true gentleman and brand ambassador for the game. Do we need any certificate from anybody, the least from a maverick like Shoaib Akhtar? But we all must agree that Shoaib has played enough cricket and he has the right to have his opinion. As a mature democracy, we must learn to accept that there would always be dissenting voices. We can’t suffocate them by shouting them down or by banning them. We have to learn to ignore them.
A few years back, the controversial President of Venezuela had called President Bush ‘ An ‘A** Hole’ and that too right in the heart of New York city. But there was no rabid reaction like we see now. It wasn’t seen as worthy of comment. President Chavez was allowed free movement in the USA till he was there. He had insulted the President of their country not just some player. Yet it was dealt in the most civil manner befitting a mature democracy. I cannot think of a better example of freedom of speech.
In fact Sachin and Dravid are the two most dignified gentlemen to have graced the game of cricket. Both reacted remarkably well. Sachin gave a terse ‘ beneath my dignity’ comment and Dravid chose to ignore it totally. Wish rest of India had done the same.
Probably most of the readers were not even born when the shameful Emergency was clamped. There was no freedom of speech then. Today it is far more dangerous. It isn’t being done by a smug and overconfident leader. Mrs. Gandhi was rightly over thrown by angry voters. But now the freedom of expression is being decided on the roads of the country. People are questioning the motives behind Kapil Dev when he criticizes the public for being more interested in Sachin’s hundredth century than about the country winning.
I think it is time that India now grows up and show more tolerance to the other view.
No one is forcing us to buy Shoiab’s book. So why should we even muzzle him? Boycott his book instead. Ditto turn off the sound if we don’t like someone like Nasser Hussain.
We should be happy that we are living in a country where we are free. But freedom comes with responsibility. And restraint is just one of those.