Thursday, 26 January 2012

Flags, Flutter and Foul

Yesterday was marked as Australia Day. Australian flags were brought out everywhere as children waved them and cars and buildings flaunted them. If that wasn't enough the beaches were flooded with flag bikinis and briefs and even slippers (much to the horror of some Indians who would go to the courts if they saw their national flag on a chappal!:)) It seemed like a big occasion celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm. But what exactly was being celebrated? Australia Day is not about autonomy or constitutional empowerment or sovereignty. It marks a day when the first fleet from Britain landed in Sydney and this island of aboriginal people was claimed as British territory, with British sovereignty firmly entrenched. What followed the landing of the fleet was annihilation of the aboriginal people slowly and steadily over a 100 years. Many enlightened Australians (like one of my colleagues said the other day) mark this as Invasion Day. There is nothing to celebrate, is there? While it is true that subsequent generations cannot be held accountable for what their ancesstors did, surely a more sensitive understanding of history would imply atleast a recognition of any nation's embarrassing moments? Public apologies would be nice and communities can come together to officially remember the ills/evils of the past, children can be educated about their history and public debate can be held. Remembering a troubled past can be cathartic and a country can feel proud that they have moved on.

Instead of any of this, we end up celebrating occasions that we never even think about or care to find out more. Australia Day, becomes a flag waving, beach and barbeque day, bereft of any public debate about its real significance to the thousands of aboriginal people, who continue to languish, whose death rates are appallingly high, who remain in unlawful detentions and whose living conditions are worse than many third world inhabitants. I would love to do a survey to find out what majority of Australian youth think about this day anyways and what history they are taught. I am not making this point only in reference to Australia. Every nation has brutal histories that it should rethink how it marks. In South Asia, wouldn't it be nice if we had Pakistanis marking Bangladesh invasion day, India marking communal riots day (Godhara and Gujarat), Sri Lankan state officially remembering the anti Tamil riots of 1984. Real reconciliation with brutal histories can begin only when the brutality is recognised and not when nations continue to live in denial.

Australia Day celebrations in Canberra were marred by aboriginal protestors who targetted a gathering where PM Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbot were present. Gillard and Abbot were shown on TV, being shoved into a car by the PM's security and then driven off. The PM lost her shoe and was dragged to the car by security officials who were ensuring the protestors didn't get to her. She later said she was fine and it was sad that the event was disrupted. My first thoughts were that it was not funny to see the PM being 'protected' by her security men who dragged her and shoved her into the car. Is this the training the Aussie security has to protect their public figures from mob violence? It was utterly ridiculous. My next question was, if it was Tony Abbot, would he come to Julia's rescue as she came to his? (wink). Afterall the protestors were targetting him and not the PM. And thirdly, again I wondered why the pseudo event was so important to the PM than actually addressing the gathered aboriginal people or mark the day with some gesture of reconciliation. There was a message in it though for shoe throwing individuals everywhere in the world. In this case, the protestors got her shoe instead!! The PM's rescue has made media headlines worldwide and the story of how celebrations on Australia Day were marred has caused flutter in many circles, with people referring to it as the day of shame. Lajja, really? 'Shame' is when a few aboriginal protestors disrupt the official party of the PM? ah well...

This country has a great cricketing heritage but yesterday was a day of foul play, it seems. The match between India and Australia, being played at the Adelaide Oval, had the brightest moment ever for Indian cricket fans this summer when young Virat Kohli hit a brilliant century...majestic and thoroughbred. But the onfield tactics were dominated by sledging by both sides. Ofcourse, the Aussie cricketers are masters of that art, piling verbal abuses at any opposition, racist, sexist and all that. They hunt in packs. So if one guy has a bit of chat with the opposition, the rest gather and cheer him on as if its an achievement. We saw this yesterday with Nathan Lyon clapping away when Warner, Cowan were having a go at Kohli. Disgusting. And when Kohli and Sharma decided to return their verbal volleys, that elderly gent, Ricky Ponting decided to play Ban Ki Moon and intervened by dragging Kohli away and reminding him that if he said anything, he would get into trouble. Such has been the story that Aussies have gotten away with any kind of verbal sledge while any team that has tried to compete in that category has had to face music. So Andrew Symmonds being called a monkey was a national outrage in Australia (hypocrisy?), and when Bhajji got away with it (if at all?) they termed it BCCI bullying. They dish out the choicest of ridicule and abuses to opponents and when get sledged in return, cry outrage and BCCI bullying. For those of us who hate the BCCI, that's one good thing it seems to have done...established itself as the bully! So, Ponting intervened and instead of counselling his guys, he was offering advise to Kohli. As we say in Hindi: hazaar (in his case not nau sau) choohe khake billi haj ko chali. (after devouring 1000 rats, the cat's on a pilgrimage). ha ha.

I would not condone the sledging tactics deployed by the younger generation of Indian players even if they merely return the verbal compliments of their opponents. But cricket is a game between bat and ball and it is a very intelligent game. Australians' mental disintegration or sledging or banter that they proudly claim as part of the game is utterly ridiculous and disgusting and ICC should come down heavily on any kind of on field chit chat by anyone. Moreover, everyone knows Australian's sledge more when they are frustrated. The message: if you can't bat or bowl well, or the opposition is walking away with the advantage, sledge. Fair game? They have been pretty quiet all summer coz they have been winning but yesterday when things started looking good for Kohli, the sledge contest began. If we can't win fairly, sledging is fine! We should then have matches where no cricket is played and 11 players from each team can participate in a game of abuses to see which team is more offensive. Imagine, spectators paying for a game where abusing the opponent is integral to winning. Aussie way?

Australian criketers do not stop sledging even once they retire. The legendary fast bowler, Rodney Hogg yesterday decided to win the sledge contest by tweeting slur on Muslims. He wrote, "Just put out my aussie flag for Australia Day but I wasn't sure if it would offend Muslims . . . So I wrote 'Allah is a shit' on it to make sure,". He apologised later and said this was Aussie bad humour. Fantastic, say anything shit and then say its bad humour. Humour must take the toll here. Hogg is a public figure and surely he didn't write anything that he didn't mean? He wasn't using twitter for the first time and ofcourse what he wrote came to his bigotted, lunatic mind. He isn't the first Australian cricketer to do this either. Remember Dean Jones, calling South African Muslim batsman Hashim Amla, a terrorist in a live cricket commentary? He apologised later to Amla by saying something like, "Sorry mate, that wasn't supposed to come out on telly." Meaning clearly that he wasn't sorry for what he said, only sorry that so many people knew! I wonder why Indian Muslims do not get agitated at this racist moron, hired by Indian TV channels to talk about cricket as Prof. Dino. His sight doesn't offend people, and Salman Rushdie's does? Sometimes, one must concede, people don't think, they simply act. Thankfully true revolutions happen only when people think through their actions.

So, Mr. Hogg, "corporate speaker, legendary fast bowler, cricket commentator, author, respected public figure, perhaps always a bigot, racist creep etc. etc." has apologised. Media reported his tweet as upsetting 'Muslims'. Really? Shouldn't all of Australia have been shamed by this, outraged by this offensive tweet? The PM felt sad when the Australia day function was disrupted. Maybe she should feel worse that a public figure tweeted this. As for media that is portraying yesterdays aboriginal protest fiasco in Canberra as national shame, they should declare Mr. Hogg a national disgrace who has shamed the evolving multicultural identity and ethos of this country. Hogg's autobiography is titled: The Whole Hogg: Inside the mind of a lunatic fast bowler. I cannot recall getting insights about just how lunatic his mind is!

Meanwhile, it is the fourth day at Adelaide Oval and looks unlikely, India will save this match. Dismal summer and disppointing times for Indian cricket fans. Will rant about this again, but for now, Saurav Ganguly is annoying me. Such a petty, petty man who is venting his jealousy and frustration at the trio. Ofcourse they should be criticised, but Ganguly's agenda is singular, to target Dravid, VVS and Sachin and keep ranting about how useless they are. Dada, your ouster was painful to you when these guys are still playing and we understand/empathise but please maintain some dignity. Ah, do you have any left after pleading with IPL franchisees to hire you at any cost? You were more often than not, a liability, as a fielder and as a as a commentator. You were the kind of captain who is the first to abandon a sinking ship. Wriddhiman Saha is a good batsman with lots to prove, and he isn't the 'best' wicketkeeper in India, only because he comes from Bengal! Dada, please have your maachh-bhaat and relax. You have served Indian cricket well, but your opinions are sad...atleast mask your personal vendetta. Sunil Gavaskar, among several others, is also criticizing the team but he has more insight and I guess authority?

In all this discussion, I forgot to mention about our very own Indian Republic Day, and the deshbhakti songs in full swing. Perhaps for another time. At the Adelaide Oval, the Indian guy who sang the national anthem, messed up his lines. That was bad omen methinks....:) Amar rahe humara gantantra. Atleast that's something to be proud of despite the dismal summer of cricket. :)

More soon...till then, hoton pe sachchai rehti hai, jahan dil mein safai rehti hai. Hum us desh ke wasi hain, jis desh mein ganga behti hai...:)

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