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Friday, Dec 06, 2019

Wish a name upon a shooting star

Twisted criminal genius who tried to nuke Fort Knox in 1959, as chronicled by Ian Fleming. Also, popular epithet for Indian shooting stars. We are like this only. Pratik Kanjilal has more.

columns Updated: Oct 09, 2009 14:32 IST
Pratik Kanjilal
Pratik Kanjilal

Twisted criminal genius who tried to nuke Fort Knox in 1959, as chronicled by Ian Fleming. Also, popular epithet for Indian shooting stars. We are like this only.

The despairing prayers of a billion have been answered and we have our first individual Olympic gold. Abhinav Bindra’s win is desperately important to us. India has been shooting for gold since 1952, when the marksman Harihar Banerjee participated in the Helsinki Olympics. We came within striking distance in 2004, when Rajyavardhan Rathore took a silver at Athens. And the way we welcomed Bindra home on Wednesday night, with a brass band and impromptu bhangra dancers, left no doubt that this is a shot in the arm for us.

Being a well-meaning but confused race, we immediately started calling Bindra Goldfinger, which is the name of a criminal who made millions smuggling gold to India and got diddled by James Bond. No Bond fan would associate him with shooting prowess, but rather remember him for killing a woman by coating her with gold paint. Even Ajit would have thought that’s stretching a joke too far.

Before Bindra, air pistol ace Samaresh Jung — who bagged seven golds in the Commonweath Games — bravely bore the cicatrice of this name. Probably, the public had Fleming’s ‘Man with the Golden Gun’ in mind when they started calling him Goldfinger. Of course, that wasn’t exactly a national hero’s epithet either, but that of a vicious hitman. Whatever. We mean well, but we get confused.

Right now, we’re a bit bewildered about what Bindra’s gold really means. Anxious parents are hustling their kids in his footsteps. In Punjab, air guns sold out a day after the win, though Bindra himself has said that he wants to move on to other things. And Kapil Dev has declared his achievement to be more important than the cricket victory at Lord’s. What these stars are really saying is: don’t obsess on good bets, try everything else.

Excellent advice, but it will work only with meaningful State support, which almost all sports have been denied. And they have been held down by the sort of petty politicking which informs the backstory of Chak De India. Bindra would not be where he is without his family’s enormous financial backing, but few sportspeople are so fortunate. More corporate and nonprofit involvement is clearly called for, and not just in glamorous disciplines like golf and cricket.

For now, in these Olympics, we would be glad to see the trend Bindra has set cemented with a few more wins in unexpected categories. As Goldfinger said, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action, Mr Bond.” Or should that read ‘firing on all cylinders’?

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine