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Nationalistic Fervor in India Would Ensure Nightmare Scenario

Issue Date: 2/14/2005

Dr. Bal Ram Singh

The danger alarms are being raised throughout the world - those of cultural, religious and linguistic annihilation of nations and tribes; those of clashing civilizations; and those of natural and environmental exploitation. And President Bush's inaugural diktat to enforce his brand of freedom and liberty in the world has now started ringing the alarm bells of imperialism.

India, the only surviving ancient civilization in the world, which could bring some effective alternatives to the table, is itself under siege from inside and out. From smoldering Bihar to eccentric Tamil Nadu, from a puppet prime minister to corrupt communists, from deranged BJP to paralyzed VHP, and from Benny Hinn's healing sessions to Bible-touting evangelists pimping for tsunami victims, one sees India's populace is dazed by the spectacular gaze of its own imbecile leaders - be them political, religious, social, or intellectual.

There is a clarion call for Indians to equip themselves with organizations, arms, and ideologies to defeat nefarious forces in legal, political, and armed battles. However, I am not sure if any of the groups will ever be able to mount a challenge to perpetrators of the blatant power game dangerously being dared in India. The whole situation should be looked at differently, in my opinion.

The best way to make my point is through a dream (or nightmare!) I have foreseen!In my dream I saw the past, about 250 years, when India was a democratic country, and Lalu Prasad Yadav its prime minister. I saw that all the ministers were required to take special lessons in Lalutalk, and the rest of the country was speaking Bhojpuri. India was linguistically united with Lalu its leader, who always walked with a lathi in his hand. Lalu in his true nationalistic fervor refused go outside the country; the business with foreign countries was carried out through meetings in India.

Sports were big in the country - wrestling, khokho, gatka, bana, kabaddi, surr, sherdandi. Mattha, dahi, dhoodh, ghee were in surplus. No one was hungry, no one sad. One day the prime minister's office came to know of a world-level sports competition being held in Barcelona, Spain. Lalu, being a fervently nationalistic leader, decided to send its best national sports team, which happened to be the Kabaddi team, not realizing at all that the world-level competition was for soccer. In Barcelona, the Indian team, speaking and understanding only Bhojpuri along with its coach, entered the soccer field for its first game against Italy. Referees spoke only Spanish (which was more popular than English those days it seemed). Of course, the Indian team did not understand a thing the referees were trying to say, and no one understood them. Finally, the referees were able to convince 11 of the Indian players to stand on one side of the field, and the game began. The Indian team, never having seen soccer, thought that in foreign countries the soccer ball was used to assist the Kabaddi game they knew in India. As soon as the Italian center forward moved with the ball toward the goal, the Indian players surrounded him and wrestled him down to the ground. The referees pulled out the Indian player who had grabbed the Italian center forward's leg first. Of course, the Indian players, not realizing what was going on, went along, and started playing again with only 10 players. They thought their teammate got out on some technical foul. They repeated their kabaddi tricks in grabbing Italian players and pushing them down to ground, each time disqualifying one of their own players. Soon, the whole Indian team was off the field. The Indian team and its coach had no clue what had happened, not knowing the game of soccer and not understanding the language. They could not even gauge the extent of their defeat. They realized they badly lost that tournament when they found out the Italians were the second-worst team participating, as they could not advance beyond the second round.

On their return, Prime Minister Lalu Yadav gave the team a warm welcome and huge pep talk on how India believes in sportsmanship and hard work. He increased team's diet budget, and gave them more incentives so they would perform better the following year. The team was sent to the world soccer tournament again, performed similarly, and returned back. The players felt dejected and started losing interest in sports. Not deterred, Lalu kept sending his kabaddi team to the world soccer tournament, who kept losing their games badly. Ultimately, sportsmen in the country became so demoralized that no one wanted to play any sports anymore. The whole country became demoralized, and became target of world scorn. It lost its glory and morale. Lalu contacted the Spanish government and asked them to send experts to teach Indians to play sports again. The Spanish government sent its army and diplomats to manage Indian sports, and eventually took over India.

After I woke up, I was sweating profusely. It took me an hour to get in my normal demeanor. It took the whole of my tea time to realize what had gone wrong with India of my dreams. The Indian kabaddi team, even though with better athletes, kept losing badly when it played a soccer game with kabaddi rules. Not knowing the language and the rules left them looking like fools, year after year, ultimately leading to the loss of country's independence in India's effort to learn someone else's game. There are calls within the Indian populace to lace themselves with tricks of fear, exclusivism, selfishness, and dividism. However, I think we may lose our independence (a.k.a. Indian values and traditions) in the process.

Bal Ram Singh, director of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, may be reached at bsingh@umassd.edu.

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