The din in the RajyaSabha may have left Sachin Tendulkar unheard on Thursday. But hours after sharing his thoughts on social media on Friday, the former cricketer, now an MP, spoke his heart out to TOI on subjects that have begun to matter to him "more than anything else"- specifically, inculcating a sporting culture and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
"We rejoice when medals come, we're happy when we are so carefully planning the development of sports at a macro level. We say we love sports. We're doing good in so many aspects. But are we focused on getting better?" he wondered
There are some stories in Indian sports which show how sportspersons from disadvantaged backgrounds have struggled to make ends meet. Sita Sahu did the nation proud after securing third place in the 200m and 1600m races at the2011 Special Olympics, sells golgappas for a living. Nauri Mundu ranked among India's top women's hockey players between 1995 and 2008, has to work on a farm to earn a mere Rs 5,000 a month and feed her family. Asha Roy a former national champion in athletics, sells vegetables to earn Rs 3,000 a month.
"The list is endless. Is this where we want to head? " asks Tendulkar.
Pointing out how, even as India races to become the world's youngest nation, it's also the leading country in diabetes and obesity, Tendulkar says, "Look at the numbers listed by the United Nations. A healthy lifestyle has to be the way forward."
Speaking about his recent interaction with former All-England badminton champion and now a renowned coach Pullela Gopichand ,Tendulkar adds: "Just recently he was telling me about the talent emerging in India. He says it's huge, and the problem that the sport faces now is whether we're equipped to suit the requirements of this talent hub, let's say from a coaching perspective".
Similar to how parents put emphasis on and encourage education from an early age, Tendulkar wants sports to also become a way of life. "The world around us is changing so fast. Countries are identifying talent at the age of four and five and nurturing them. So, by the time the child turns 20, he/she has already put in 15 years on the circuit. Just imagine how much we lag behind. We begin our Olympic preparations months into the event and then expect our athletes to go and win medals. It should start at the grassroots level," he says.
Tendulkar believes as much as the country rejoices winning a medal, instilling a sense of sport and helping sportsmen and women to sustain themselves financially - so they can pursue their respective field - is equally important.
"Sports should compulsorily be made part of our curriculum. Look at the way the world is changing around us. In fact, we have brought out a sample book on India's unforgettable sports heroes, which if looked at in detail, is an endless list. There are inspiring stories to tell, stories that children need to grow up reading so that they learn a slice of their own history," says Tendulkar.
The former batsman says he had mentioned earlier about the need to "take better care" of former athletes rather than just giving them any random job while ignoring how they can be used better. "Jobs are offered, some get them, others lose out, and those jobs involve no specific contribution from their field of expertise. Instead, there should be an effort to create a forum through which such expertise can be put to better use. In turn, there's scope for employment too," he adds.
Courtesy : TOI