Newspapers comprise a significant part of the mornings of a jobless man. When I had rummaged through the front pages, and had reached the sports page to read about our Olympic miracle, I felt a sense of relief more than pride. So, at last! I had personal reasons also apart from the collective nationalistic one. My aunt is part of the Olympic contingent this time, and behold we have fared far better than ever!

But then, that’s not what I am writing about. I am writing about a news clipping I chanced upon, just five minutes back, and have filled my heart with infantile happiness and wonder. I looked up the net to share the article with you. An excerpt:

An 11-year-old boy who set out for China from his Kasba home on a Hercules bicycle with Rs 1,300 in his pocket was sent home from Dum Dum airport on Wednesday.

CISF men became suspicious on seeing Sayantan (name changed) loiter around the international terminal on a bandh day. Under persistent questioning, the boy revealed that he had cycled six hours down EM Bypass and VIP Road to catch a flight to China so that he could meet Jackie Chan and watch the Beijing Olympics.

I mean when I grew up, I never cared much about Olympic sports. I didn’t even know shooting had so many different categories (and eventually where the gold would come from), nor did I ever imagine wrestling could be an Olympic sport. I was an ignorant ass, but then I was not the only one (Lenon-esque!). Thousands paid exorbitant sums to get a seat in Eden Garden those days to get a glimpse of a Manoj Prabhakar or Salil Ankola. While million idiots like me gaped on an India Pakistan cricket match on television munching Uncle Chips and Pepsi Cola, there were a few exceptions.

Exceptions that were too busy trying to get a job in the army fighting their mittens off, or some suburban misfit who ping-pong-ed plastic balls across a shoddy plywood table to make a job in the railways, or someone who kicked and volleyed a dump of paper rolled to a ball in alpine heights of East Himalayas. Once in a while there was a guy who went for net practice when the hallowed match was on, for he loved playing the game more than watching it.

Sports, or so I have believed, is the mark of a man’s character. How hard he plays, how much he risks losing, and how magnanimous he is victory or graceful in defeat: these according to me can be imbibed through sports. Sports, mark it, not entertainment.

Even till a few years back, there was a sense of mockery and self-ridicule, which claimed that India could never win an Olympic gold, India can never win any International football contest (Sunday editorials were spent ruminating on politics in sports, post-modern songs were written dryly at the failure, pundits remarked that we are basically a cerebral race). However, in a span of a week, both these cynicisms were thrown out of the window. The phoenix like rise of sports, or as I see it, has not come by being witty, but by spending hours in training and fighting really hard to achieve one’s dream.

Therefore, when I saw this article, I felt genuinely happy. The kid didn’t try to board a train to Bombay to become a Bollywood icon, as has always been the case, but he cycled six hours to the airport to make it to Beijing to pay homage to his heroes.