Many Indians are deeply aghast why Virat Kohli is prioritising a mere childbirth over the glories of an entire nation. Unlike the glorious MS Dhoni who true to his semi-military stature chose his keeping gloves over the maternity ward apron, thus setting a seemingly noble example. I for one truthfully adore the stance of Virat, for it does prove that Cricket is not war and it is perfectly alright to act human.
Actually the self-sacrificial mindset is rather common in middle class India as those in advertising are well aware - birthdays and anniversaries forgone at the altar of the magnificent artwork. The self-flagellating workaholic is a genuine Indian institution, much respected in a work culture where the perception of input was more valuable than the influence of outcomes. So when Aditya Puri confesses upon retirement that he always left work at 5.30 PM, it comes across as audaciously courageous. Even the great Tendulkar denied himself the traditional tenure of paternal grief to return to the 22 yard battlefield. In the context of all this, a childbirth seems like a tea party in the hierarchy of dining invitations and missing the new-age Ashes overdoing the family act.
Far too much of our historical self-worth depends on sacrifice and there is certainly a Nehruvian backstory in all this. Our means were always modest and Amol Palekar amplified this dimension manfully in the Suburban Local dramas of the 1970s, work being the supreme master. So this extended seamlessly to sports as well which also benefited from the additional qualification of patriotic pride, a tad but just a tad short of military maneuvers. In the history of any sport in India you would struggle to find a genuine case of family over team, unlike the many Western examples. Graham Thorpe missing key encounters for mental health reasons seemed too much of a sissy action and even recently, Kevin Pietersenâ€™s choice to ignore IPL dollars for his children alien to the Indian worldview, regimented and straight bat.
Exactly why we must be truly grateful to Virat Kohli for setting a genuine, human, candid and honest example - thus emphasising that cricket is a highly remunerated profession which inspires the masses but that is about it. There is a huge dimension of national pride involved but that need not come at the expense of personal goals and the twain can well and truly meet. Also, it can be counter-argued that he is endangering his personal self in the process way more than national interests, for gone are the Gavaskar-Vishwanath days of India being a one or two horse batting side. Old timers will recall an entire West Indies tour being cancelled because the host board could not cough up guarantee money for an Indian outfit minus Sunny Gavaskar and today the competitiveness of our side is not dependent on a single player for sure.
There are a few other cross currents that do enter the discussion effortlessly and one of them is the power of affluence. It is true that once financial milestones are successfully achieved the call of duty does matter less and the Virat case may well be an illustration. An yet to be established player may well have had different views but one again, this truth is not a problem. People are perfectly entitled to individual choice in a democracy and this additionally proves that Virat is not an insecure leader, as he is not worried about Rahane or Rahul usurping him like Shahrukh Khan in Baazigar. This must be emulated by professional leaders as well and we must enthuse a culture of collaborative individualism, where interests of self and others reach a positive equilibrium. This will lead to happier workplaces, higher median EQ and pleasing work and home environments, as we stop taking ourselves too seriously.
Finally this action promises to signa the death of the combat metaphor, unlike Ravi Shastriâ€™s virulent exhortations it will never be a war out there. Real wars get fought in real battlefields and soldiers are the only real heroes that exist in this context, with a constant threat of mortality. Cricket is a sport, a very competitive sport and a credible source of pride and patriotism but it is equally a top notch profession with incredible paychecks. So when the stars stop pretending to be superheroes and act vulnerably human, we must applaud and not chastise them.
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