Ahimsa in sports

October 31, 2008

2008 has been a great year for nice men in sports.

Anand’s world championship win is an emphatic victory for all the nice men in sports, and in life,in general. The power of non-violence is extending beyond the political arena to all spheres of life. Anand is the Gandhi of chess, the non-violent but efficient winner in a sport renowned for ugly spats across and off the board, more than on the board.  The greatness of this man, lies in his assertion after this victory, that the ‘match format’ is not the superior format but he was desparate to win in this format so that he gains the moral right to make this assertion. (I had written about the unfairness of the match format and the challenge process earlier, in an unrelated article).

Anand is a pioneer-gentleman in chess but he has parallels in other sports.

Federer is a smiling assasin, but still the most perfect tennis player I have seen. Despite a few heartbreaking losses, he had his great moments this year. In a modern game of violent hitters of the ball, Federer artistically caresses the ball, with no less power.

Sachin, the boyish champion, has reached the highest landmarks this year and has even revealed newer strengths. Tendulkar’s only blemish in his long career has been his loyalty to his errant teammate in the so-called race row ( பொய்மையும் வாய்மை யிடத்த புரைதீர்ந்த நன்மை பயக்கு மெனின்? –  As Thiruvalluvar said, can a lie be equivalent to truth, if it is benefecial to all?).

Laxman, the perfect gentleman-cricketer with lazy elegance and wrists of an artist, is the strange satyagrahi who chooses to march only against the champions.

Abhinav Bindra is the rich man’s Gandhi with a gun and the Rama of Kamban. After winning the first-ever individual gold medal for India there was no thumping of hands,  no chest-bumping, no waving of flag or shirt, no shout of relief; just a reluctant smile – as if, to mark the end of a regular day at office!

If non-violence can be employed in Sport, where winning is everything, can it not be deployed everywhere else in life where there need not be any losers.

Spy satellite for Israel – India’s moral compromise

October 30, 2008

While the whole of Indian media was brimming with elation and jubilation over the launch of its moon mission – Chandrayaan, the other side of India’s space capability was tucked away in remote corners of media coverage. India launches a spy satellite for Israel. 

This is the country that had practised a diplomatic apartheid against Israel and South Africa for long. The moral high-ground gained through a non-violent independence movement, decades of principled non-alignment and various other self-imposed restraints in international relations, cannot be traded away for mere monetary gains. One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know the purpose to which this spy satellite will be used for. Then, why is it, our rocket scientists at ISRO, with the tacit approval of the Indian Government, are willing to play an active role in an endeavour that could ultimately be crucial in an immoral war?

Gandhi on Jews

October 14, 2008

I was ploughing through the vitriolic comments that had flowed in for the post on Israel and the subsequent apology (more of a clarification)  by Arun Gandhi (Mahatma’s grandson) on The Washington Post, when I stumbled across this link in one of the rare comments in support of the Gandhis. Mohandas Gandhi’s views on both the creation of Israel and the persecution of Jews, are so balanced and in retrospect, so full of foresight. Mohandas Gandhi is one person, who can easily be quoted, completely out of context, as many many have done in their comments. Any sentence, highlighted in isolation, can sound insensitive but in the context of what he has written, will carry deep insight.

Contrary to what most comments claim (that the Mahatma has been shamed by his grandson), I thought Arun Gandhi had shown immense courage in countering a complex and sensitive issue, and sounding right:

“Any nation that remains anchored to the past is unable to move ahead and, especially a nation that believes its survival can only be ensured by weapons and bombs.”

More importantly, he had the grace and courage to apologise for the only error that he was willing to concede in his article, without compromising on the core premise. He seems to be a man who has understood what his grandfather stood for and is not just, as alleged by so many in those comments, living off an illustrious surname.

More from Bharati…

October 13, 2008

The Fire-ling

I stumbled upon a fire-ling. In a hole,

deep in those dark woods,  I placed it.

The forest was consumed by the ensuing flame.

In matters of courage, where lies the difference

Between a novice and the veterans?

Thath-thari-kita thath-thari-kita thath-thohm.



Updated version (29-Aug-2011)


I stumbled upon a fragment of fire. I placed it,

deep in those dark woods, inside a cavity.

The forest was consumed by the ensuing flame.

In matters of courage, where lies the difference

between the young and the old?

Thath-thari-kita thath-thari-kita thith-thohm.

Challenging the God

October 13, 2008

Another translation from the Tamil poet, Bharati:

In persistently pursuing food and gorging,
In squandering off time in squabbling and tattling
And then, sulking and profusely suffering,
In scheming to inflict on others, undue misery
And then, after graying and growing senile,
Being preyed upon by the deities of death,
Withers away the lives of ludicrous men.
Like them, do you dare think, I shall fall?

Crafting Bharati’s veena

October 7, 2008

Here is a piece of poetry, straight from the soul of the fiery Indian nationalist poet, Subramania Bharati, translated from Tamil. I am attempting the impossible; there is not a word in Bharati’s songs that can even be replaced or rearranged, without losing the original fire and flavour, let alone be translated.


Will one discard in the dust, a veena, delicately crafted?

Solladi Sivashakthi, you have borne me, sparkling

with brilliance! Will you not Vest me with valour,

Arming me to make this world worthy of living!

Solladi Sivashakthi, will you let me rot in stagnation

Turning me into a burden for this nation?


Like a ball in acceleration, I seek from you, a body,

Agile, and obeying what the mind commands.

From you, I demand, a heart devoid of desire

And a life glowing anew with eternity.

If my body be roasted on fire, even then, I beseech you,

Sivashakthi, to bestow me with a soul that will sing of you.

From you, unwavering determination I demand,

Solladi Sivashakthi, what barrier do you see

For granting me, what I wish from thee?

* Veena – an Indian string instrument

Solladi – Can be loosely translated as ‘Tell me’ , however in doing so, it will lose the original tone of affectionate admonition.

Sivashakthi –The Hindu Goddess, Bharati’s embodiment of a friend and mother.