Just got back from seeing Chak De India. And came back with many memories…
My family has always been into sports. I've grown up seeing four of my mamas (mother's brothers) play Table Tennis, of which two played for India. I remember going to the Gymkhana just to see my fave 'mama' in action. He was the youngest Junior National Champion during his time…only 13-14 then. And went on to be the National Champion in the Men's league many years later. He then represented the country in at least 5 World Championships and other international events. He used to play in a very particular style…he would lose the first round and then aggressively zoom and clinch the next two rounds so easily that the opponent never had time to realize what came into this cool, calm player. I used to watch him observe his opponent's every move with total concentration in that first round. Absolutely cool, nothing would faze him; nothing would break his concentration from his opponent.
It was then that I had decided I would be a Table Tennis Player. Never mind a lot of other people laughed saying Ping Pong was a kiddie's game, for me it was more than that. Only that, the day I was going to the YWCA to register for TT, I got put into the volleyball team and my life changed after that. My sister and I joined Volleyball for a summer camp, turned out to be good in the game and played on after that for a long time. My father being a wonderful sportsman himself, encouraged my sister, my brother and also me completely. Between us three, we have played volleyball, chess, football, cricket, tae-kwon-do and karate at school, district, inter-zonals, inter-districts and state levels. And most importantly, won.
This movie, especially Shah Rukh, reminded me of my mama. Especially of the time, when despite him being seeded 4th (despite being in his 30s which is considered an old age in TT), he was not taken for one of the World Championships. There was uproar in the TT Federation camp but none could withstand the might of politics that reached the Sports Ministry. Also of the times when the Federation had recommended only his name more than once for the Arjuna Award, but it was declined because of politics. Which acts in a funny way at times, because my other mama luckily was not as talented and was untouched by the politics that most Indian ministers play with our Sports. So he not only got the Arjuna Award, he was also the manager of the National TT Team till last year.
I used to hear a lot of stories of how players were treated. National level players that too. They would go to play for their country, but the new sports kits would never reach them. Instead the middlemen like the selection committee and also the ministers would embezzle that money or sell the kits. The staying conditions used to be deplorable. (They still are…look what the National Hockey Team had to go thru recently!). And bribery was the way to get into the game. The players who would not get 'gifts' like music players, expensive gadgets, perfumes, etc for these middlemen would be harassed or not taken for the next few games. The Sports Ministry was in cahoots with them. And didn't care a damn about the players or the country. Which is what happened to my uncle too. And I saw India losing one of the finest TT players of his time. I knew he had the capacity to win like no one else could and I'm not saying this because he's my uncle, but as a fellow sports person. And I saw that spirit being killed like slow poison. And I felt ashamed then of being part of this country.
I remember my Volleyball coach, who made us run the four floors of our school as exercise, apart from the ground. And who fought for every girl in his team more than a father could. He would personally go and visit every girl's house and talk to the parents, especially those who wanted their girls to concentrate more on their studies than sports. "One can not make a career out of sports, especially those that are not popular!" And he would say, "Let your daughter play and win, and it will be popular!" This movie reminded me of my sir too. And I felt pride like never before. Because with every smash of the ball, and hurt of your body as you fell or got hit and bled, the win became that much more sweeter! And this is something that no corporate boardroom game can match…or even understand!
This movie, not only made me relive my past, but it gave me a new life too. It made worthwhile every drop of sweat; blood and tears of all those sports persons who played for their country (in sports apart from the so coveted cricket that Indians are obsessed with). It gave the dignity to those whose lives have been ruined because of 'one mistake'. It showed what team spirit and force can be. And it gave a renewed hope…to the future of sports in this country. And I truly hope that more parents encourage their kids to play for India.
So, Chak De India! (and thank you too.)
(ps: If we are talking of the movie- I think it was one of the best roles Shah Rukh has ever played and each of the girls were absolutely wonderful! A salut to them all!)