Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Khatron Ke Kalmadi - Norman’s Fear Factor


Khatron Ke Kalmadi - Norman’s Fear Factor

Bridge collapsed near Jawaharlal Nehru stadium…. Stray dogs found jumping on Athlete’s bed at the CWG village…CWG supervisor calls the situation un-healthy…” These were the headlines that Norman Smith, a Track Cyclist from New Zealand, could hear for the past 15 days in his local media detailing the preparations for the Common Wealth Games 2010, in Delhi. He was among the 20 member delegation who was supposed to start to Delhi in a week’s time.
Norman, who is from a suburban Auckland, was never too thrilled about his trip to India. Even though he badly needed a medal after his 4th place finish in the previous games, he always had his concerns about the venue and the nation itself. With all the things that he was hearing, the last thing he wanted was to fall sick because of the village not meeting the cleanliness standards.
As the rest of the ‘white’ world, India just meant Taj Mahal for him, and nothing else! In his attempt to know more about the country, he started to do some research himself. Rest of the things about India didn’t please him either. He learned a bit about the culture, the people, the traffic, the weather and of course the Bollywood! Their team started watching some Bollywood movies and they couldn’t stop laughing at the drama that unveiled before them (Thank you, KJo!). Even though he awed at Aishwarya’s hawwtness, he mocked at the antics of Rajnikanth.
The situation in Delhi didn’t help either. With all the Breaking News in the Media about ‘Khatron Ke Kalmadi’ and the politics behind it, his comfort level with the venue was at its all time low.
The ‘Immigration mudhras’ at the T3 welcomed him into the country (of course, after the customary Tikka, garland and the handshake with Shera). He did not expect the airport to ooze with awesomeness. Rahman was singing ‘oh yaaro (the tweaked version) on every single speaker in the Airport. He always had nightmares about the traffic, thanks to YouTube. There came the surprise number 2! Two dedicated lanes for CWG traffic. He reached the CW village, a solid 25km ride, in 20 minutes. He checked in to his room with the view of Akshardham on the banks of Yamuna. The room itself was definitely not as fancy as promised, but at the same time was totally livable.
He started off with his daily practice runs and was confused/surprised by the salute that the 60 year old security guard, Tukaram, gave him for each entry and exit to his building. Even though Norman doubted Tukaram’s physical abilities to be appointed as a security guard, he admired his dedication and dutifulness in circling their building from midnight till dawn. In his mind, he seemed guarantee athlete’s security in spite of the trillion CCTVs and the Perimeter securities that have been installed. Tukaram wanted to do his job right, and Norman was fascinated with this dedication.
It was a daily practice run for Norman, and on his way back to his apartment he was surprised to see Tukaram not standing up as he usually does. Norman was curious and he tried to check out if everything was OK. The moment Norman put his hand on Tukaram, he instantly realized he could be running a fever of 104 or more. He tried to communicate with his gestures and tried to ask Tukaram to take the day off. All he could get back was a smile and a nod and eventually a salute after he tried standing up. Norman couldn’t leave him there. He took him to the local hospital and took care of the Rs.100 medicinal expenses. He was also kind enough to offer a ride to Tukaram to drop him at this place with the help from a CWG Volunteer. When the car came to a stop beside the pavement without a single building in sight. He curiously asked the volunteer as to why they stopped here, just to know that Tukaram was among the thousands of people who recently got forcefully moved from the nearby Netaji Nagar Slum – an intentional move by the game organizers wanting to remove the 'eyesore' near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Tukaram and his family now live out of a tent on the pavement (temporarily) and the nonstop rains in Delhi is not helping their condition either. Norman felt so bad about how the games were indirectly responsible for Tukaram’s present state and wondered about the irony of him being the security guard for the same games village. He didn’t see Tukaram for the next 10 days.
A week into the games, this was a big day for Norman. He fought his way to the final round and if at all he had any chances to win a medal, it was at this game. He heard someone knocking on his door at 7:30 in the morning. To his surprise, Tukaram was standing outside along with one of the game volunteers. Tukaram gave him the half of a broken coconut and a bunch of flowers and applied a horizontal stripe of holy ash on his forehead. All this was very confusing to Norman and he asked about it to the volunteer. What he heard moved him. Tukaram, after knowing Norman's progress in the games, had woken up at 5, took the trip to the famous Malai Mandir and offered special poojas for Norman and prayed for his gold medal. While Norman was listening to the volunteer, Tukaram placed his hands on Norman’s head, closed his eyes and blessed him. Norman knew that that gesture was real and from the heart.
Norman is now back on a flight to Auckland. He started looking beyond clumsy Indian politics, sensationalist media, mediocre infrastructure and the other things that he has been fed with so far. He realizes that not everything can be perfect in the event as huge as the Common Wealth Games and was satisfied that India could pull off the games with no major embarrassment. What touched him most was the sincere dedication, love and affection that he got from an ‘aam aadmi’ Tukaram who just lost his home because of this games. He realized that India is not about Kalmadi’s but it is about the dutiful aam aadmis who kept the games alive and made it a success!
Norman started watching the latest Rajnikanth movie on the plane while biting his shiny gold medal from CWG 2010!
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