I am increasingly getting convinced that we, as a nation, are becoming paranoid with each passing day.
We are constantly searching for heroes whom we invest with qualities even God himself would be afraid to appropriate. And, God-forbid, if anyone questions those qualities in that person, he is treated as an enemy of the nation.
Even routine utterances are made to appear as if they are an assault on India’s moral, ethical standing in the world.
Take for instance the reaction to what Adam Gilchrist has to say about ‘Monkeygate’ in his book. What one can understand from what has appeared in an Australian paper is that Gilchrist expressed his disappointment at Sachin Tendulkar having changed his stand from ‘having heard nothing’ to ‘having heard Harbhajan abusing in Hindi, which had no racist connotations’.
From Gilchrist’s point of view, he expected Tendulkar to stand up for what he had said in the first hearing, hence the disappointment.
If what Gilchrist is saying is true, he is justified in feeling disappointed. And if what he has said is not true, it shows he is a liar.
This issue is as simple as that and, either way, it doesn’t diminish Tendulkar’s standing as one of the greatest cricketers of all time, nor does it tarnish his reputation as a person.
Assuming that what Gilchrist is saying is true, shouldn’t Indians feel happy that Tendulkar chose to defend his teammate, even if he was not truly convinced of his innocence? Why make it into an ‘Us vs Them’ issue again?
Gilchrist may not be as outstanding a player as Tendulkar, but he too has a reputation in Australia of being an honest, straightforward man and there would be a large number out there who would believe in what he is saying.
Just as there is an overwhelming majority in India who would believe in whatever Tendulkar has to say in this matter.
The problem with these nationalistic debates is that truth becomes its first casualty. I’m sure there will be a documented record with those who conducted the hearings. But, given the Gestapo-type secret ways in which the ICC holds these ‘in-camera investigations’, we are unlikely to ever know what transpired in those meetings.
And if Tendulkar chooses to deny what Gilchrist has said, we will still not know the truth. It will always remain one man’s word against the other.
Monkeygate will forever divide the two cricketing nations, especially given the jingoistic nature of the media in the two countries.
The Australians will see in it India’s brazen use of clout to shield its player, and for the Indians it will remain a symbol of standing up for a just cause against a white cricketing bully.
The point I’m trying to make is that, let us have a rational debate, and please not mix this issue with the pride of the nation and its integrity. We should be proud that Tendulkar, despite all his great achievements, still thinks being an Indian is greater than being a Tendulkar. But let India not think it is Tendulkar.