Anyways, for those who have not watched it, the movie is about the struggles that a coach (himself an ex-India player who was framed and shamed with match-fixing) faces when he takes on the brave task of coaching the Indian Women's Hockey team and how they ultimately triumph. Folks, that movie really hit home........i could literally walk down memory lane and identify with everything happening in the movie.......how girls from different parts of the country come together, their different cultures/traditions, ego clashes, biases, groupism within the team which ultimately gets played out onto the field.....it was as though I was watching myself 10-15 years ago on the big screen!
I still remember reading about a movie called Chak De India which was to be made starring the self proclaimed Badshah of Bollywood (ok ok Shah Rukh fans don't get your fangs out for me!) and the subject was on Indian Hockey women's team. I turned to my husband and said," This movie sounds like FLOP" and he said " Why? What's wrong with SRK trying to take on a different subject?" I thought to myself- no lead actress to speak of, subject matter is Indian Women's Hockey team.....hmmm...... still sounds like a FLOP. Now, I don't mean to be disrespectful towards any sports, especially hockey, which I have played since 1987 and went on till about 2002 having represented my school, college, University, district and National levels in those years. I truly love the game and think that playing hockey helped shape my personality in more ways than one. I continue to remember my playing days with much fondness even now and will do so for the years to come.
I have learnt so much from hockey.....not just about how to pass and dribble the ball, but about life too. I know a lot of you may read this and arch your eyebrow up in skepticism.....hockey and lessons for life?? Doesn't add up, you may think, but it does. Team sports, like hockey, teach you team approach, team spirit, how to deal with difficult team members, how to handle difficult egos, difficult situations......Does all of this sound familiar in your work settings?? It definitely does sound in mine! For me playing a team sport instilled in me a sense of team spirit and team work that has even helped me in my professional life as a Physical Therapist. All of us in the field of Rehabilitation work together for the betterment of the patient. In here, too, there is the usual upmanship between the physical, occupational and speech therapists but it helps to remember that we all need to keep our egos aside and see what is better for the patient. Same goes for hockey....How much ever you cannot get along with a team mate, you have to swallow your pride and ego and pass her the ball if that is the correct thing to do in the match....those who have not played a team sport may read my article and think what the big deal is, but when you are playing with someone you don't like and have to make sacrifices on the field for that person in the interest of the team........boy, is that HARD or what! And this is where I relate so much to the movie Chak De.......I was watching that movie and it felt surreal. Folks, it's all real and I have experienced it first hand and it has been captured beautifully in the film. I could go on and on about my experiences and the politics that prevail even at school level (!!), but i need to restrict myself and so I am going to touch up upon a few things that i feel will make interesting reading.
When we played University level, we used to get paid rupees 50 everyday to manage all our daily meals in that amount!! Yup! A dollar a day to fill up your tummy. Sounds melodramatic and some may say that in those days the value of 50 rupees was a whole lot. But, no......when you actually have only 50 bucks in your hands, in a new city and you are 15-16 years old, that money is really not that much. I remember how the great Pargat Singh had once lamented to the journalists about the same. He said that when the Indian Team went abroad, the players would get very little money on a daily basis and had to manage their meals and shopping in that versus the obscene amounts of money that our cricketeers get paid. He had also said how bad some of the living arrangements were. I remember how 16 of us used to be literally squished into one classroom (yes, you read it right, our staying arrangements were made in a school classroom whenever the
team travelled out of town) . During my first ever trip out to Kolhapur, we were all given one classroom to sleep in andthe toilets were outside. The less said about the conditions of the toilets the better!! Smelly, yucky, unclean....... But one learns to compromise, survive and accept. As time went on and as I made several more such trips, the living conditions never even mattered. All that really mattered was how well we, as a team, fared in the matches. I vividly remember travelling to Chandigarh from Poona which must have been a day journey and being confined to the topmost berth of second class train with three other team mates and being able to come down only to use the toilet!! Also fondly remember our bumpy bus ride of 5 plus hours with all 16 of us standing because no one made our reservations!
The up side to all this? I think none of my team mates will ever forget the Antakshari that we used to play (antakshari is forming two teams and singing songs in a sort of competitive way) at the top of our lungs even when confined to the topmost berth for 24 hours, or the new friends that we made or the new places that we got to visit or the way we got out of the train at all wee hour stops just to have a sip of hot tea and eat the most delicious of omletes made in some of the most questionable hygenic situations!! Man, that omlete still has a taste in my mouth!
I always wonder how my experience would have been had I continued with the sport as a profession......maybe played for India. But I shudder at the thought.....playing a National in Chandigarh exposed me to the dirty politics that goes on within any sport. I guess when you have a group of humans the inevitable is politics!! I wonder if that ever happens within a pack or herd of animals?! In the end I would like to pray to the politicians to not kill the spirit of the game in their mindless quest to make more money. Hockey is supposed to be the National game of India having won Olympic Gold medals decades ago and we need to encourage more and more youngsters to come forward and play. I know a medal for the hockey team in 2012 in the London Olympics sounds too ambitious, but maybe 2016??