Sindhu’s success, Feminism and Indian Apathy

There was a prince in the great Hindu mythological epic Mahabharata, Arjuna, considered to be the greatest archer ever. Indian government awards the Arjuna Awards to outstanding athletes every year. There was also Dronacharya, his guru. We have an award after his name too, for coaches.

P V Sindhu won an Olympic Silver medal in a moment that brought great joy and pride to whole of India. Sindhu, and Saina Nehwal before her in London, are both protΓ©gΓ©s of Pullela Gopichand or Gopi Sir, former All-England champion and the man behind the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad. Kidambi Srikanth — quarterfinalist in Rio — is also his disciple. Tributes started pouring in for Sindhu on her stupendous triumph. Her profile, biography and struggles were the highlights on social and electronic media. Naturally, Mr. Gopichand was being praised too. And then something happened.
There is a school of thought, on the internet of course, that giving Gopi a part of the credit for Sindhu’s triumph not only takes the focus away from her, it also follows some sort of a pattern where credit due to women is given to men. Like, really? Do we need to drag feminism into this?

Sindhu’s hardwork and determination have taken her to the podium and there’s no doubting that. But saying that Gopi shouldn’t be congratulated on the result or that doing so takes focus away from her is inaccurate.

We live in an age where more than ever, men and women work in close proximity and influence and assist each other’s success. This is true in just about every field you take up – engineering, politics and sports. Mr. Gopichand has been instrumental in shaping the careers of most of our current badminton stars and up until last year — when Saina left his academy to train under the tutelage of Mr. Vimal in Bengaluru — he was the coach of the country’s top three singles players. Just as we acknowledge the role of Dronacharya in Arjuna’s success, we must take note of the role Gopi has played in the success of our shuttlers. His wards have brought the country the laurels he couldn’t, from World Championship medals to top rank in the world to Olympic glory. It was a well-deserved, if fortuitous, bronze in London and a tour-dΓ©-force Silver here. Now for Gold!

The casteist Indian :

This Google search screenshot did the rounds after Sindhu’s win. Now this might be influenced by the search history of the person concerned, but it does show us in poor light if we are checking the caste details of a person who made sure that every Indian regardless of caste, creed, sex and religion, was beaming with pride that night.

Apathy and Hypocrisy lead to more heartburn :

No, I’m not talking about the official apathy that our athletes have to face time and again. I’m talking about the general populace. We see these hardworking guys once every 4 years when we consider them worthier of our time than cricket. And our blood boils from righteous anger when they fail to get a podium finish or heck, fail to even qualify for the finals of their respective events. Hardly what they deserve.

While P V Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar are household names now, how many people will be able to tell which event Dattu Bhokanal took part in? Or who was the second-best shooter at these games from the country? I’m generously considering that they’d know that Abhinav Bindra, gold medallist in Beijing, missed a bronze by 0.5 points in Rio. And these are the standouts. Even I’d struggle if I was asked to name all the members of the women’s archery team (I only recall Bombayla Devi and Deepika Kumari).The answer to the questions here are Rowing and Jitu Rai, respectively. My point is, we don’t care enough about those who make it their life mission to achieve glory for the country at the biggest stage in sport. We don’t want our kids to have anything to do with sports, other than the odd gully cricket or football game in the evenings. So when you won’t check whether your own kid has an aptitude for outdoors, won’t let him pursue it when he’s in +2 (since that’d spoil his chance of getting in a top college), how come you expect others to excel? And do we even know how harsh the lives of many of these Olympians were before they reached that stage? The answer is an emphatic NO! For a sample, here’s Bhokanal’s story.

Singapore’s 21 year-old Joseph Schooling beat Michael Phelps in 100 m butterfly to win Gold, inspired by a meeting with Phelps eight years ago. How many people here, even those with the means to do it, will let their kids pursue swimming as a career?

Change must take place, one person at a time :

Thing is, we must respect even those who are the last in their competitions at the Olympics. They are the best of our nation. More often than not, they did it despite the system. The amount of money Sindhu and Sakshi are getting now, if even a minuscule percentage of that had been spent well in advance before the games, Dipa wouldn’t have had to gamble her life on the deathly Produnova. She might then have been able to beat Simone Biles and co at their own game, with “normal” vaults. But shoulda, coulda, woulda don’t cut things, do they?
We must build a sports culture for jerks like Piers Morgan to not be able to mock our country’s athletes “losing” gold. And that change must start from The Individual. We need to embrace sports as a lifestyle and make it mandatory in our school and college curricula. That’d not only win us more medals but also ensure the scourge of diabetes and hypertension don’t ravage our nation. Oh, and I despise the blatant elitism and casteism of the Dronacharya-Eklavya episode. But that’s a rant for another day.

Do share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading. 

Images courtesy : Google Images.


  1. You make a fair point. Feminism is not about bashing men. It is about equality. Yes, a great athlete needs a great coach- be that a male one or a female one. There is enough place for both to have praise. I understand the caste hierarchy is a true problem in India- that affects all Genders. I am 100% anti it. All people should have equal rights to succeed .

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I read that thing about people hating on the attention media gave Gopichand. Sindu’s victory and Gopichand’s training can both be given attention simultaneously; it’s not like we are incapable of applauding two people equally!
    Feminazi’s have issues with men. Feminists are forever going to applaud anyone who has accomplished their dreams and not going to check their genders before doing that πŸ™‚

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yeah, of course we can applaud both of them at the same time. That noisy minority, though, will do everything in its power to find scandal and male conspiracy in that.
      Thanks a lot for reading and sharing your views. And beware of the Nazis. πŸ˜†

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting post! We had a similar issue in the US when one of the TV announcers credited a female swimmers medal to her husband, who happens to be her coach. It caused quite the uproar over here! Not to mention the female athletes who have been introduced by what their husbands do (play american football), with no mention of what sport the woman competes in.
    It has been a very interesting Olympics coverage, that’s for sure! I wonder if there would be as much uproar if the coach had been female and that same statement made. Coaches do share a part in the medal I believe, because the coach puts a lot of work into training the athlete. But the coach isn’t out there playing the game, the athlete is.
    All I can say in regards to feminism is that it is very frustrating as a woman to have credit be taken by men, or given to men. Women have to deal with this particular issue constantly. It can sometimes lead us to be a bit defensive due to constantly having to battle on a daily basis.
    And fascinating that sports doesn’t seem to be a big focus in India. This is absolutely fascinating to me, as sports is such a big part of American life & culture. It is literally everywhere. Physical Education is mandatory in our junior high & high schools.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yeah, when something like that happens, introducing a female athlete through her hubby and not her own records, that’s grossly unfair. But in this instance, the applause was deserved. Like say for instance, when Amelie Mauresmo was Andy Murray’s coach, if she was being credited with a rise or positive change in his game, or for some title he won, it was deserved, well-deserved. Of course Murray (and Sindhu here) are the ones sweating it out on the court, but bringing militant feminism in this issue was unwarranted, IMO.

      As for sports in culture, look where it has got the US in Games after Games at the Olympics. You guys fight for (and mostly win) the top finish, and we celebrate only a couple of medals. Add to that the fact that India is the diabetes capital of the world, despite huge malnutrition levels. So as an Indian I can only hope that things will change for the better. In fact, they are changing. But we need the pace of that change to be higher, not glacially as it is now.

      Thanks a lot for reading and putting forth your opinion. Have a great Sunday. 😊

      Liked by 3 people

  4. You’ve touched on some really important points here. Feminism is a concept that only 10% of the people (in the world) really get, others just think of it as male bashing. I mean isn’t feminism about equality!?
    The problem is people love to talk, no matter whatever’s the issue, but rarely anyone follows it or spreads it. It’s so good to see you posting about stuff that really matters and that can at least trigger a change in a few people’s lives. After all, that’s how change happens (as you rightly said.)

    And true, we should all be proud of not just the winners, but also those who made it to the Olympics and also those who tried, but couldn’t. Because everyone worked hard and that’s what matters.

    Thanks for sharing such a brilliant post, dear. I’ll reblog it on my book blog πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

    1. First up, thank you for reading and taking time to comment on the post.

      Its the militant brand of feminism that is worrisome. In fact, the extreme brand of any school of thought is an undesirable thing. But then, its not a perfect world. So not much we can do about their existence.
      Gossiping and backbiting are some of the most favourite pastimes we have as a nation (I guess it’s the same throughout the world). So instead of actually doing something, we prefer taking the easy way out. Thanks for appreciating the effort.

      We can only hope our recognition of the sportspersons and their hard work will increase with time as also that the change will come sooner rather than later.

      Thanks a lot for the reblog. It’s very kind of you to do that. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Coming to what you said about idiots pointing out to the fact that by praising the coach, we’re ignoring Sindhu’s hardwork and being misogynistic , you’re absolutely correct… Some people deviate from the current discussion as a conversation/trend starter and their ticket to instant fame too! Such irrationality exists. We gotta ignore it… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes that’s exactly when the problem starts. Sensible people like us will ignore it instantaneously. Others don’t use their brain or lack rationality. You’re most welcome. πŸ™‚


  6. I loved this post! And feminism is about equality and not all people get that. Do they? Mr. Gopichand has been a great guru, let’s salute him. And as for expecting more and bashing athletes for not winning! The ground reality and the million stories these candidates carry should be known to the public. Sometimes I feel our country has double-standards, snatch the equipment and training, have all the brilliant athletes sleep on a bean bag and expect laurels and gold from them all! We couldn’t even offer them water!
    I hope this changes and everybody is a winner, we just don’t give them the credit!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You made some really great points.. And you were really informative and offer fair criticism..
    You are obviously a very smart and intellectual guy…

    But.. It’s only natural to be proud of her accomplishments…. Because she put India in the spot light… Good job!!!!


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