Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My name is not Khan

[The image above is quite apt for my angry tirade to follow :P. Thanks to the guys for reading my mind and capturing it in this image even before I could read it myself!]

Just before the Knight Riders' match with Kings XI Punjab at Mohali, I wandered into the Reebok showroom at the South City mall in Kolkata. A sudden desire to possess an 'original' purple team jersey of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had seized me, fostered by a vague hunch that this was the key to help boost my struggling team's fortunes. I stared at the long row of the team T-shirts on display looking for at least one T-shirt which did not have “12 KHAN” emblazoned across it and there were none! Muttering aloud and rather indiscreetly, I asked a sales guy to get me one without Khan written on it (I'll be explaining why very soon) and wonder of wonders, there was actually one piece which did not have any name written on it, just that one single piece in the huge showroom. Then just as I was about to buy it, I found that the only T-shirt in the house which did not have Khan written on it also had a big giant tear in the stitching below the right armpit. Mission KKR Team Jersey was called off right then & there and I watched the match a broken man. KKR did win that match though but my grievances of that moment are still worth venting out here.

If you leave aside the content of his sub-standard movies – most of his movies are (Personal opinion of course. He is indeed the King of Bollywood as far as popularity goes, no questions asked), Shah Rukh Khan seems to be a very good guy in real life. Being an exceptionally gifted speaker, exemplary non-controversial family man and honest income tax payer are three characteristics more than enough to place him on a pedestal which everyone else (both common and 'filmi' men) should aspire to. Success is a breeding house for big egos and very very few saintly over-achievers manage to avoid that fate. Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is obviously not one of those few and no one can deny that he has been successful, immensely successful, starting his film career, sprinting all the way from the bottom to the very top. An unhealthy amount of megalomania in a man of such immense popularity is very forgivable and to his credit he does try to tone it down by referring to himself as a “performing monkey”, “just another entertainer”, “really really lucky” in his interviews once in a while. All in all definitely a man who commands huge respect, flawed like every other human being though he may be. But this was all about what works in his favour. Here is what doesn't!

Sports is not a scripted story. There are no retakes, there is no flattering camera angle to make a 45 year old face look picture perfect, there is no editing room where the inglorious parts of the story can be quietly snipped away, there is no well contrived happy ending worked into the plot even though you may have trained day in and day out for the past 45 years for that one moment out on the field in front of millions of pairs of eyes, some supportive, most just eager to witness it fall all apart and then pass their cruel judgements. Yes, there are “miles to go” and “promises to keep” for the Kolkata Knight Riders (Horrors of horrors, SRK quoting Robert Frost in the recent KKR ads on TV, my sentiments on which would be the content of a completely separate long long post), but no one knows it better than the captain of SRK's team, the same man on whose head rested the responsibility of a nation's cricket team once and now in charge of a city's cricketing aspirations. The same man who retains his stubbornness in the face of adversity, both his gift and his curse, as his reflexes struggle out on the batting crease and frequently fail to match the strength of his mind & the same man who stands in the background as SRK hogs the billboard ads of the KKR team as if he is somehow the guiding light to all the batsmen, bowlers and fielders in his team. In doing so, SRK makes a mockery of everything a sportsperson represents.

People watch any sport team or individual for the unique display of mental and physical co-ordination unsurpassed in real intensity and dedication by anything else, let alone a Bollywood movie. They tune in to watch stories of unsung heroes rising to their brief but brilliant moment of glory; to see legends display their mythological prowess & legends fail to live up to their claim to fame; wayward genius flash an occasional hint of what could have been; teams come together as one in an all mighty push for glory & teams fall apart in shell shocked disarray when that final outstretched leg or that sweeping swing of the bat determines who won a date with fickle Lady Luck. All this effort by sports-persons who surrender their entire lives to training and extreme discipline, all for that big stage and victory that they know can be granted to only one player or team while the others languish in pain. To have that kind of courage and a will to succeed is what inspires us, the ordinary to go on with the bits and pieces of our remarkably stress free (relatively speaking) ordinary lives.

We are talking real high stakes blood, guts and glory here, not painted-on versions here and about the minimum respect that any professional sports-person deserves. Yes, I will wear a KKR T-shirt which says “Abdulla”...“Mortaza”... “Dinda”... “Sharma”... “Agarkar”... “Bond”... “Matthews”... “Hussey”...“Gayle”... “McCullum”... “Ganguly” etc at a moment's notice because in the end they are the team that is putting themselves out there on the ground, whatever might be the outcome, subjecting themselves to the cheers or to the booes. But my name is not Khan and I'll never ever wear a team T-shirt which sports SRK's name no matter what heightened illusions he might harbour about his role in an actual professional cricketing team.