Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Radio Inter-View of Fr.Raymund Chauhan on 16 August 2013 - Promoting the Language and Culture of Adivasies. 


Friday, August 9, 2013

India’s “Cricket Addiction” and the Neglect of other Sports - Dr. Ishanand Vempeny

India’s “Cricket Addiction” and the Neglect of other Sports

Dr. Ishanand Vempeny

          Allen Sanderson of the University of Chicago, is an international authority on the economics of sports. In an interview with Ronajoy Sen he said:

“I have no idea why India puts most of its eggs in one basket – cricket! There’s only a nod to soccer and strangely, to field hockey as your country’s national sport. I think for the country as a whole, and particularly for school children growing up, you’d be better off diversifying and having, say, half a dozen popular sports here. India’s seeming addiction to just this one sport is really a bit of a puzzle” (Times of India, Ronajoy Sen, “India’s addiction to just one sport – cricket – is a real puzzle”, May 20, 2013, p.12).

          Mr. Allen Sanderson calls our almost exclusivistic fascination for and intense involvement with Cricket, “addiction”. Addiction is even more enslaving than obsession. For us Indians (especially the middle class and the rich, including the ‘unsporting’ Indians) it is almost impossible to liberate ourselves from the iron grip of this more Colonialistic game than other games like football, basketball, hockey and volleyball. The anti-British film Lagaan became a box-office success chiefly because it was based on the typically British game that is Cricket. Even the Baiters of English and the Promoters of Sanskrit too are enslaved by this addiction. The English themselves are far more fascinated and even obsessed with football and tennis than cricket. It is enough to think of the national enthusiasm for the Wimbledon final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in July 2013 and the unprecedented national celebrations throughout the UK for the victory of Andy Murray.

The Indians Love also the Non-Cricket Sports and Sports-Heroes

          For the award of Bharat Ratna, among the Sports-greats the names of not only Sachin Tendulkar but also the flying Sikh Milkha Singh, the hockey wizard Dhyan Chand, the Payoli Express P. T. Usha and a number of others from different types of sports were given. In fact, the recent film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag on Milkha Singh was a box-office success. To perpetuate the name of Jimmy George, the great Volleyball champion and the Captain of the Victorious Indian Team, there is the Jimmy George Stadium in Trivandrum.

          In the recent London Olympics a few Indian sportspersons received Bronze medals and nobody managed to get the golden variety. Nevertheless, these awardees were acclaimed through the length and breadth of India including the Indian Parliament. In fact, the BBC which was derogatively critical of the poor performance of India in the London Olympics, expressed its amused wonder at the national applause for a few Bronze Medals. The BBC was wondering why India with its more than a thousand and two hundred millions of people, could not get a single gold medal in the recent Olympics while much smaller and poorer African countries like Kenya and Ethiopia could enrich themselves with a lot of gold. The Indian Bronze medalists were awarded with many millions of rupees by the government and by the private agencies. Is it not a myth that we Indians like only Cricket? These facts show that we Indians are fascinated also with sports other than cricket and the sports heroes are not only the cricket greats.

A Hurried Query into the Reasons for India’s Cricket Addiction

          After the sports fixing scam and the goofing up by BCCI, one might expect that Cricket would not take the central space of newspapers, news-channels and sports magazines. But the truth is that in spite of the French Open, Wimbledon and the European Football Championships involving such great teams as Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and the like, the Indian media was almost ignoring these great sports events and was chiefly busy with the news of cricket matches (often of minnows) and of sports fixing scams along with the intransigence of the BCCI.

          We say Cricket is ‘Religion’ in India. Now mark the difference. Football is ‘Religion’ in Brazil, even with many more reasons. They have won the World Cup (Five times) more often than any of the European, African and the Asian Nations. In the villages, slums and the cities of Brazil, little children, both the rich and the poor, start kicking around cheap balls with no football grounds round about. But when it came to the question of organizing World Cup spending a few billions of dollars, there were nationwide uproar and protests against holding these international sports extravaganza spending such exorbitant some of money. The protesters were shouting for more primary schools, more health centres and more and better food for the starving millions especially of the slums. This shows that Brazilians put us to shame in their social consciousness and their awareness of the grades or degrees of priorities. But the truth of the matter is that in India Cricket is growing more as multi-billion commercial empire of the rich and the elite than as a sports concern for all and sundry.

          In India the Cricket ‘greats’ get more money than many of the football and basketball greats in the West. Indeed, when the Indian football team or hockey team come home with medals the money given to a single cricket player surpasses that of the money awarded to the whole team. Gold medalists like Abhinav Bindra (Olympic), Anju Bobby George (World Championship), P. T. Usha (Asian Games and CWG) and Deepika Kumari (Archery Wizard) are not given such economic benefits though they became champions more at the expense of their families rather than that of the government. There is no serious protest against this step-motherly treatment of sports persons other than cricketers. The BCCI led by Mr. Srinivasan does not bother about such discrimination against other sports and before its tyrannical behavior even the government and the courts seem to be helpless.

Some unsporting Reasons?

a)    Economic Reasons

          In the Frontline there are number of articles which show how this game is losing its character not only as a gentleman’s game but even as a game itself. It has become more corrupt than other commercial ventures in India. In his interview with Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprasthasta, Mr. Ashis Nandy says:

“Money in a poor country is always important. But the corruption in the game has more to do with the corporatizations of the game. The moment cricket became a professional industry such incidents were bound to happens. Now it has become a real business… Profit has become so important. If you are linked with bookies, and you a good player, you won’t be thrown out of the system. (Mohammad) Azharuddin became an MP. The moral universe of players now and before is different. The clout of bureaucrats and businessmen in cricket administration has increased. But that clout does not want to improve the game, but energies are channeled only towards making the game more and more profitable.” (Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, Frontline, Cover-story “It has become a real business”, June 28, 2013, p.18)

b)    The Glamour attached to Cricket
          It is well known that with the British Officers in leisure, Rajas and Maharajas joined in this game. Besides, as Mr. Siriyavan points out, after the Royals and celebrities the high-caste people especially the Brahmins dominated the game. According to this author the high-caste Hindus who have a tradition of not soiling or dirtying their clothes through agricultural or factory work, spontaneously fell for cricket which is supposed to be played wearing white pants, shirts and hats. To this was added the association of film-stars, seminude, cheering girls, to enhance the glamour. 

c)    The Disproportionate Coverage by the Media

          For the newspapers in the vernaculars, sports reporting could mean mostly reporting about cricket games even by second rate teams and minnows. During the last National Games in Ranchi (2008) the newspapers and the TV channels except the DD channel almost ignored it. It mattered so little to the private media that more than 30 thousands sports persons from all over India taking part in sports. National games by its very nature contribute a lot for national integration apart from building up the infrastructure for sports. 

d)    The Domination of ‘Jugaad’ (karma-prarabdha) Mentality

          According to Ashis Nandy, for us Indians cricket depends more on luck and destiny. In the Indic Religions there is a tendency to depend more on prarabdha (karma of previous birth) rather than on purusartha (human effort). This seems to explain partly the Jugaad attitude of the cricketers. The Jugaad attitude with which we Indians approach cricket is partly responsible for this addiction. This addiction leads to all sorts of betting and gambling in cricket. Mr. Ashis Nandy writes:

“The uniqueness of cricket is that it is one game which depends very much on luck and how you handle luck or probability. It is a game of ambiguities. Cricket can never be predicted, can never be a clear-cut game, and however well you practice or train your team, a very important part of the game will always remain with your luck. You see, a batsman can get two chances but a fielder cannot. If you drop a catch, you just drop it. A bowler can go on toiling and experimenting with balls. A batsman cannot do that. Also, two teams are never fully on the ground at the same time unlike football or hockey or basketball. The two teams are not playing under the same conditions. Weather conditions matter. You can swing the ball only in a particular weather, putting one team at an advantage or a disadvantage. In cricket, as compared with other games, the role of probability is enormous. You fight not only your opponents but also against your own destiny.” (Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta, Frontline, Cover-story “It has become a real business”, June 28, 2013, p.16)

India’s need for the Growth also of Non-Cricket Sports

          According to the international authority on sports economics, Mr. Allen Sanderson, quoting whom we began this article, it is not wise for India to put “most of its eggs in one basket – cricket!” First of all, cricket is mostly confined to ten or a few more British colonies whereas there is hardly a country in the world (more than two hundred nations are members of the UNO) where football, volleyball, basketball and hockey are not played. Besides, these games give more physical exercises than cricket.      It is said that in the European Football Tournaments every player except the Goalkeeper runs from 10 to 15 kilometers during the 90 minutes of the game. Something similar happens in hockey, rugby and basketball.

          Another drawback of cricket is its failure to inculcate team spirit. For instance, in cricket never all the 22 players are in the court or in the pitch at the same time. In cricket, we often hear of one or other or even several stars breaking the records in runs, in bowling, catch etc., while the team loses. But in a soccer team, when a Rooney, a Ronaldo or a Baichung Butia makes a hatrick it is quite unlikely that such a team gets defeated. In March 2012 in the Asia Cup competition in Bangladesh, India lost but Sachin Tendulkar was working for his highest achievement, namely a Century of Centuries in Cricket. Mr. Siriyavan Anand points out with facts and figures how cricket is more an individualistic rather than a team game. (Eating with Our Fingers, Watching Hindi Cinema and Consuming Cricket in, Dalit E-Forum published on March 4, 2002).

          The government and the persons in charge of sports in India seem to be ignorant of the potential of sports for nation-building in general and of personality building in particular. This ignorance is partly responsible for the step-motherly treatment of sports in India. Perhaps no country in the world allocates so little capital for sports, in proportion to the gross national income, as India does. Even the so-called under developed nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, in proportion to their national income, spend more money for sports activities than India. On the other hand nowhere in the world except in the Indian culture, creation of the world is described as the result of ‘play’ (lila or krida) of the Absolute Reality as depicted through the images of Nataraja (The King of Dance – The Dancing Shiva) and the Murlidhar (The Flute Playing Krishna). From the philosophical and religious points of view this concept of the Ultimate Reality is very profound and enriching.

Some Indian leaders consider sports as “children’s play” (khel-kud). But let us remember some facts. England’s victory in Football World Cup in 1966 caused an economic boom and emigration from England went down drastically. After this victory somebody asked an Englishman: “Why did you change your plan of migrating to New Zealand?”  He replied: “We damn Englishmen can still do something.” In other words victory in the world cup was a great moral boost and a boost for the English self-image. The same thing happened following the London Olympics in which the UK got a big number of medals. The French victory in Football World Cup in 1998 had a similar effect in France. One of the motivating forces for the development of a nation is its continuously improving self-image. This is one of the reasons why China spent billions of dollars for organizing the 2008 Olympics and preparing their sports persons as world-beaters.

          From the points of view of many other leaders including great sports persons, investment in sports is the vitally necessary for the youth of a nation. Indeed it is the guaranteed investment for the future prosperity of a nation. According to an old saying, mens sana in corpore sano (=‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’) if one’s body is healthy his mind also will be healthy. Though sports primarily aim at a healthy body it equally will take care of a disciplined and focused mind and a steely, do or die attitude.

To Conclude

          The metaphor of a banyan tree can partly explain the Indian situation of cricket vis-à-vis other sports. Who does not like to have a banyan tree near his house with its cooling shadows and its numerous branches spreading far and wide? But no trees and most herbs will not be allowed to grow under the banyan tree because of the cooling albeit murderous embrace of this tree. This is precisely what cricket does to Indian sports. True, cricket gives a lot of money and a lot of entertainment but it does not allow other sports, vitally necessary for the Indian youth, to grow and develop.

          Who will not sympathize with Milkha Singh who lamented saying: “Cricket has driven down the standard of every other sport. And I blame the media as well. I want to be frank with you. The media hardly gives coverage to athletics or hockey or volleyball or any game apart from cricket” (Indian Express interview by Shekhar Gupta, the Editor-in-Chief with Shri Milkha Singh the Flying Sikh, March 28, 2010, p.14).

          Representing the Indian delegation to present the Indian point of view to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its headquarters in Lausanne, Abhinav Bindra, the only Indian Olympic gold medalist, (for an individual sports) expressed his apprehensions about sports in India saying: “We need sports administrators with a passion for developing sports. It will be great if sportspersons take up positions in administration. But no matter who you are, if your goal is to take sports forward, you are welcome… There is a lot of talent in the country that lacks direction. We need to give them a definite path towards progress” (Quoted by Kamesh Srinivasan, “Good Governance is the need of the hour”, Sportsstar, June 29, 2013, p.43).

          Who will listen to the heartrending expressions of these two sports heroes of India? Will the heads of the Sports Associations of India pay heed to these heartfelt and wise requests? Can the government shake up the goalless and lethargic sports administrators of India?  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013



    It gives me great pleasure to greet you as you celebrate ‘Id al-Fitr, so concluding the month of ...Ramadan, dedicated mainly to fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

    It is a tradition by now that, on this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sends you a message of good wishes, together with a proposed theme for common reflection. This year, the first of my Pontificate, I have decided to sign this traditional message myself and to send it to you, dear friends, as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders.

    As you all know, when the Cardinals elected me as Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, I chose the name of “Francis”, a very famous saint who loved God and every human being deeply, to the point of being called “universal brother”. He loved, helped and served the needy, the sick and the poor; he also cared greatly for creation.

    I am aware that family and social dimensions enjoy a particular prominence for Muslims during this period, and it is worth noting that there are certain parallels in each of these areas with Christian faith and practice.

    This year, the theme on which I would like to reflect with you and with all who will read this message is one that concerns both Muslims and Christians: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.
    This year’s theme is intended to underline the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect. “Respect” means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. “Mutual” means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides.

    What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal.

    Turning to mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!

    It is clear that, when we show respect for the religion of our neighbours or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions.
    Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.

    We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.

    When I received the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on 22 March 2013, I said: “It is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world.” With these words, I wished to emphasize once more the great importance of dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular Christians and Muslims, and the need for it to be enhanced.

    With these sentiments, I reiterate my hope that all Christians and Muslims may be true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education.

    Finally, I send you my prayerful good wishes, that your lives may glorify the Almighty and give joy to those around you. Happy Feast to you all!

    From the Vatican

Thursday, August 1, 2013

FR LUIS ARZA SJ - Fr.Pablo Gil

1921 - 2013

Fr Arza was certainly ready to obey the call of the Lord summoning him to come to the House of the Father. He had been purified by a long illness which limited his mobility, and what is more painful, prevented him from speaking. To make his Way of the Cross still more painful he had to suffer at the end a prostate operation that forced him to be bed-ridden till his death. The only human relaxation he received was taken for short rides in a wheel chair.

Fr Arza received his call to the Society of Jesus when he was studying theology in the Seminary of Pamplona. He joined the Society of Jesus in Loyola, and immediately after his vows he was appointed to the then Ahmedabad Mission. That is back in 1949. So he has been a missionary in Gujarat for nearly 64 years.
Fr Arza was particularly gifted for leadership which he exercised in various posts of high responsibility. After his ordination in Pune, he was appointed Spiritual Father of the boys in St Xavier’s High School, Anand. There he sowed the seeds of a vocation to the priesthood in a number of boys. He was Parish Priest in Dediapada, Rector in Anand, Principal in St Xavier’s High School, Surat, Principal of St Joseph’s in Baroda, Parish Priest in Valsad, Rector of Good Shepherd Seminary in Baroda, chaplain of the Shrine  in Baroda and Superior of Jeevan Darshan, where he was completely dedicated to the service and welfare of the retired and of the sick. He has left behind an example of what a real missionary should be.

While in Surat his contribution to the welfare of the adivasis is said to be an enduring monument to his zeal and love for the oppressed and the dispossessed. His six years of efficient service at St Joseph’s, Baroda have left an impression on all who benefited from his work. The clergy of Baroda still remember him with affection and gratitude for his fatherly guidance during his stint as the Rector of the diocesan seminary. His liberty and generosity as a genial host is still cherished by those who enjoyed his hospitality in Valsad.  Sevasi too has enjoyed his contribution in terms of making peace between rival groups and improving the conditions of the hostel, setting the accounts aright and making the farm productive. The Jeevan Darshan community was fortunate to have him as  Superior  cum chaplain in the Shrine of Our Lady  of the Forsaken.

Fr Arza was a man of deep spirituality. While he was in charge of the Shrine and of the Jeevan Darshan infirmary, I heard him often saying, that for him God as Father was what illumined and energized his whole spiritual life. God is my Father, he repeated over and over again. No wonder that he prepared himself so well through a long purification to go to the House of his Father.

His funeral was attended by a large congregation of priests, religious Sisters and laypeople. Bishop  Godfrey de Rozario, Bishop of Baroda, presided at the Eucharistic concelebration, assisted   by Archbishop Stanny Fernandes, Bishop Macwan  and Jesuit Provincial Fr. Changanacherry.

May he rest in peace.

Fr Pablo Gil SJ