The power of inclusivity….by Pritish Nandy


We all know the power of exclusivity. It is being hammered into us every day, by every brand that claims to be exclusive. In short, special, elite, select, fashionable. We are told at every opportunity, every forum, that if you don’t stand out, if you are not special, not exclusive, you will never be memorable. Nor will you survive. You will be swept away by the tsunami of mediocrity. Not only are the biggest and best brands built on this premise of exclusivity, but so is almost everything today. Everyone wants to be special. So special that you defy the commonplace and stand apart. This is the promise behind a Rolex and a Rolls Royce. This is the promise behind a Lady Gaga or a Gaitonde canvas. The best Chinese factory can’t replicate them.

But some things thrive on the opposite. On being inclusive. And there’s no better example today than cricket. Almost every one of those who are part of the victorious Team India that won the World Cup last Saturday grew up playing the game on the street or in the park nearby. Cricket may have arrived in India, like polo and golf, as an upper class game imported by the East India Company to keep the white man entertained during long, lazy Indian summers but, as the allegorical tale of Lagaan so artfully articulated, it soon became the brown man’s weapon against colonisation. More and more people learnt the game and practised it wherever they could, giving birth to the term gully cricket and honing their skills to eventually beat the white man at his own game. In 1983, when Kapil’s Devils picked up the World Cup in Lords and waved the Indian flag against the London skies on a bright summer day, it was the ultimate statement of freedom—and victory.

Last Saturday reaffirmed this when India won the World Cup on its own soil, in Mumbai, the city where the man often described as the world’s greatest batsman of all time resides. At 37, he is still the mainstay of the Indian team. He is still defying the statisticians, continuing to break records. But what was most interesting about this World Cup is that three out of the four teams in the semis were from this subcontinent and the final was played between two sets of brown men. The last white team, New Zealand fell out in the semis. (Exactly like England tumbled out of the semis in 1983.) All the great white teams that once dominated the game, England, Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe couldn’t even make it to the semis this time, proving Kipling wrong. If the best team in the world is to be chosen today possibly the only white man included will be the twelfth man—and the coach.

The Indian team today is as inclusive as it gets. The bowling attack is led by two young Muslims, one born in a small town called Shrirampur in Maharashtra, the other in a tiny, impoverished village called Ikhar in Gujarat. The coach, who played a fantastic role in making this team into a winning combination, is a devout Christian from South Africa. The captain comes from a town in what was once possibly the most backward state in India. Legend has it that he worked as a ticket checker in a railway station and lived in a tiny room without a toilet which he shared with three others. The star player who won the award for the Man of the Tournament comes from Chandigarh. The icon player is a Saraswat Brahmin whose father was a writer. The top spinner is a Sikh from Jalandhar. One of the finest batsmen is from Ghaziabad. Another is a jat from Haryana. The third is a Kashmiri Pandit born in the Rainawari quarter of Srinagar who grew up in Ghaziabad and Lucknow. The third pace bowler comes from Kothamangalam in Kerala. Another bowler comes from Aligarh. It’s an amazing group of fiercely talented young men, each with a back story that’s inspiring. They come from different faiths, castes, communities. Together, they have made India into the world’s best cricket team in every format of the game.

That is what makes cricket so special. It lives out our every secret fantasy of belonging to a new, young, world-beater of a nation, where all differences within us become so irrelevant. It bonds us together as a winning team, consolidated by success, not divided by it, as our politics is. This one game has brought us together as one nation, one people. And this victory is a celebration of that inclusiveness. It shows that we can be one hell of a winning nation if we want to be. To use a familiar cliché, together we win. Together, India wins.

It is therefore time to live without fear. To believe in ourselves and realise that nothing can now come between us and our destiny to be one of the great nations of the world. Neither corruption nor terrorism, nor the inept political leaders we elect can hold us back.

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15 Responses to “The power of inclusivity….by Pritish Nandy”

  1. Sharmila,

    Together they simply were the best, they won and made their country proud. I love them as if I were an Indian, have been rooting for them from the very beginning and literally sacrificed many nights of sleep to their enchantment and paid for it the next day.

    Why am I saying this? Because, as a “white” person, I do not want to be excluded. India is proud, and rightfully so for what it accomplished. Just simply being the best. Why make it into brown against white?

    Kipling was wrong, obviously, has been since long before this victory, in spite of being a blessed writer. But he is long gone and you – all Indians – do not need to prove anything.

    • Thats true, we dont need to prove Kipling wrong, not at this stage at least. There are bigger issues to worry about.

    • That’s true…and this brings me to the topic which my friend started when he told me that I don’t look Indian.

      There is no such thing as looking Indian. We have Parsis, Iranians, Chitpavan Brahmins, Anglo Indians all of whom look more Western than Indian, even Mongoloid looking (correct me if the north east Indians are not Mongoloids …i don’t know how to classify them). My friend Dolly for example is from Sikkim and many Chinese girls approach her and talk in Mandarin only to find out that she is Indian and speaks Hindi. There is even a big colour difference between north and south Indians.

    • Ninad,

      Unfortunately there is such a thing as NOT looking Indian. I wish I could just dress right, learn a language like Hindi or Kannada and blend in. But in the very least I would always be suspected of being British. Must be the big nose…

      🙂

      • lol, well yes that’s always going to be the case. Even Indians born in USA or UK will always be called Indians even if they consider themselves Americans or British.

        Doesn’t matter how you look like or what people think. Only thing matters is what you feel yourself.

      • That’s the recipe for a world without racism.

        🙂

  2. Do you know whether Dhoni vowed to shave his head if he won?

    I wish he’d go back to this:

  3. Anand Khare Says:

    Sir,

    United we stand, divided we fall.

    However, I wish that this was not the reason for which we got this victory. Selection to the team must be strictly on basis of merit and not on any other criteria.

    I am getting more ambitious and looking for the day when the Indian coaches and academies would be in demand world over and the world look up to us as a success story.

    Regards,

    Anand

  4. Mr. Nandy,

    This is hardly the time to pay homage to the English empire and their sporting indulgence.

    Never was racism so fiercely promulgated as during the empire. Racism is a scar that the English have left behind all over the world and continue to dwell in its wake even today.

    Notwithstanding that ugly face of the Englishman’s sport, we Indians are ever forgiving in joy and victory. We are not vengeful in our success.

    This is a moment to demonstrate the values that our heritage has granted us, not express our colonial hangovers.

    On the contrary, we embrace everyone with such equanimity that the world is rather shaken by our openness!

    Thanks, but no thanks for reminding us that the world owes the game of cricket to the summer sports of pale faced imperialists.

    • Mr. Nandy,

      On the second part of the post, about inclusivity:

      I am amazed by your writing skills, or rather the expressions that you manufacture with words.

      You have described “inclusivity” by dividng the joy of the victory into Muslim, Hindu, Tribal, Maharashtrian, Punjabi, brown skin and white skins.

      This is like analysing the taste of Mysore curry by reading the recipe book.

      In my opinion, differences are never irrelevant. They are the necessary cause of both the performance and the flavor. A vocational difference is not a political diversity. Inclusiveness has nothing to do with these differences.

      The nation celebrated the victory of the Cricket World Cup, not a unity in political adversity.

      The last paragraph is sheer emotional exuberance, and rather aggrandizing. Cricket is not the solution to our political problems.

      We have never been disunited as Indians inspite of the presence of opportunists, traitors and betrayers amongst us. We are not fragmented by those who are part of the solution. We are divided by those are part of the problem.

      • Correction: Last Line… We are divided by those who are part of the problem.

      • I think Mr Nandy is taking a very simplistic approach to solve India’s divisive issues using cricket as an example. I understand how and why China works. Teams have to function, there is no scope for any thing else.

      • Thats what MS Dhoni too said in the post match interview:

        We convert pressure into responsibility

        That is a typical Chinese situational quick-fix to what are historical and systemic maladies.

      • I don’t think India has many problems with cultural divisions. Most divisive interests like separation of states are politically motivated. Some other divisive interests are economic. India’s unity is mind boggling given that we have some 20 or more languages and cultures. Even if most follow the same religion, we have different gods/goddesses and different temples for each. I don’t know what keeps all of us together but my guess is – 1) we fought for freedom as one state 2) Religion 3) Cricket 4) Bollywood

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