It may be safe to say that Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s epic comedy Gol Maal is loved much more in this country than Rohit Shetty’s excuse to blow up cars and make fun of the mute. It might also be safe to say that Ram Prasad’s explanation for wearing a tiny kurta still rings true: “Kurta to sharir ke upraardh ki lajja nivaaran ke liye hota hai. Apne desh mein chaalis karod mard hai, agar un mein se sab apna kurta chhe inch bhi chhota kar le to kitne saare logon ki vastra samasya hal ho sakti hai.”
In English, that means the kurta (a loose Indian garment, with or without a collar) is meant to cover a man’s upper half. The country has 400 million men, if all of them reduce the length of their kurta by six inches, a lot of other people will be able to wear clothes.
That was 1979. The number of men in India may be closer to 650 million now. But the logic still works. If the Indian Premier League (IPL) reduces its use of water by a few million litres, a lot of other people will not have to go without it.
The logic is irrefutable. Large parts of Maharashtra are parched, why water playgrounds? Eight other states have been declared drought-hit. Special sections of the law are being used to prevent too many people from gathering where water is being distributed. Why waste copious amounts of water so some overgrown boys can hit a leather sphere with a piece of carved wood? This is the time to remember Kipling’s “flannelled fools at the wicket or the muddied oafs at the goals”.
There should be no emotion involved in this, certainly not nationalism. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) calls itself a private club, and says its players play for this club, not for the country. Look at the players’ helmets or shirts, they bear the BCCI insignia, not the national flag. It’s a game that does not win medals. It’s not an Olympic sport and the Asian Games do not interest the BCCI much. The IPL ditches the excuse of nationalism totally, it’s about mercenary cricketers from all over the world playing for teams named after places with which they may have little to do.
On top of that, the BCCI has more or less been accepted by the courts as something less than Caesar’s wife. The most recent epithet given to it was a mutual beneficial society.
However, if we use Ram Prasad’s kurta logic, why stop at cricket? India is as much a land of scarcity as of waste. Here are some areas to look at.
1. Wedding feasts: Most guests who turn up at weddings need to eat less, not more. On top of that, they leave about as much food on their plate as they eat. What do they celebrate? A man is going to sleep with a woman. Let them. They may have already slept together quite a few times. Cut out the noise, and the waste. An entire starving village in Orissa can eat for three days the food a Delhi wedding consumes.
2. Temple gold: Take it out, take it all out. It will come in handy in tackling the country’s current account deficit. At least, take out the gold Vijay Mallya offers in temples. It will pay many salaries.
3. One-person cars: The roads in India’s cities are living examples of disparity. They have crammed buses running by the side of cars that have just one person in them. Make it mandatory for every car to carry at least four.
4. Shaving: Coming back to water, a man uses at least a litre of water for each shave. If he shaves every day from the age of 18 to 80, that’s 22,630 litres. If you multiply that by 650 million, the number of men in the country, you will end up with a lot of water. Why does a man need to shave? Let’s be the way nature intended us to be. That brings us to the subject of baths and showers. But let’s avoid it, it may raise a stink.
One could go on, but first the principle of do-not-waste-water-on-cricket must be accepted and implemented. Else, we will be left invoking Kipling, this time paraphrased badly: We will have forty million litres of failure, but not a single excuse.
Will it be easy? Not a chance. This is a country where products and brands need crickets to seduce buyers. This is a country where we need cricketers to populate the list of Padma awardees. Heck, we even gave the Bharat Ratna to one of them, the same year we gave it to a scientist.
(The writer is the National Business Editor at HT. Opinion expressed here are personal. He tweets @suveensinha)