Monday, August 13, 2012
Nirmal Shekar used to write well on sport–tennis being his specialty, and that was in the pre-Sampras era when Lendl, Becker and Edberg (to name three) were around. Nowadays he has all the attributes of a hack. His articles that appear in The Hindu are packed with sentimentality, irrelevance, and plain old mannishness. Very seldom does he make any point worth taking seriously. A recent article he wrote was in the form of an anonymous letter. In it he bats for the competitors at London 2012 who did not have any of G, S, or B next to their names. He says they probably had “a Perfect 10 for effort”, and that they are a “winner in your own way.” What drivel! Just as it is irritating to watch a Super Bowl/NBA Championship presentation ceremony that virtually shoves the losing team (no, not that fearful word "loser") out, such Kipling-esque dithyrambs equally gall one.
If all he can come up with is a rambling it's all right-some has to win-some has to lose commiseration, then you must wonder how easy it is to write an article. The same thing could be written by a self-help expert, a Hollywood writer of mush or any of those motivational speakers (denial is a big industry today). And of course the loved ones of the pitiable athletes. What is also conspicuous in the article is the generous administration of quotations–from Lombardi to Borges to Dylan. “When I saw you, I wondered who you were. Of course, I did not recognise you. Nor will the courtesy car driver who will drop you at the airport, or the (quite possibly grim-faced) immigration officer at Heathrow when he checks your passport and waves you on to the boarding gate.” When you read this it is very tempting to play the game along with him. For one thing, a reference to the Gita could have been inserted here, or if you want to show your sense of humor, the Ozymandias melancholia of Woody Allen. Anyway, if your argument depends on such second-hand “evidence”, you may as well argue a cricket ball will fall to the earth faster than a shuttlecock if dropped from the same height (Aristotle) or that life is meaningless (Dylan and his surreal lyrics). While the smattering of names may reveal a widely-read writer, it may also show us a pretentious one and one whose articles are formulaic: some point, usually a rant + some feeling + some attribution. It may be that his articles have always been like this and my powers of discrimination were hampered by my impressionable youth and my likes of that period (being a fan of Boris Becker like him), but one feels that he ought to at least stop to think before he is “tapping away” on his keyboard.