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June 29, 1999
Eff the Killer Instinct!
What is the most important difference between India and Pakistan?
Before you try and answer this question, let me tell you why I am asking it. For the past few weeks I have been reading long, well meaning columns in several newspapers and magazines telling us that it is time to give up all our other interests and focus on the war in Kargil. Journalist after journalist writes that it is time we grew up as a nation and stopped worrying about cricket, silly Hindi movies and infantile politics and focussed, instead, on the terrible things happening on our borders and ensured that the intruders who have crossed the LoC are swiftly kicked out.
Good thought that. But how much sense does it make?
To go back to my original question, most people (at least those who watch cricket, which means almost 90 per cent of India) have been repeatedly saying that the real difference between India and Pakistan lies in the fact that Pakistan has the killer instinct, we do not. I agree with them up to this point. But what I find so disgustingly demeaning is the fact that this argument is drawn to the illogical conclusion that if we are to beat Pakistan we too must acquire this killer instinct. Nothing is further from the truth.
India's greatest strength lies in its sagacity, its wisdom, its ingenuity to think through a problem and resolve it. It is no dumb nation that needs to emulate a half-wit army dictatorship next door that masquerades as a democracy. That is why even when we play cricket, we win some games, we lose some but we always play it our way, on our terms. Even in the World Cup, where we failed to make it to the semis, we played some rather good cricket and, what is particularly amusing, we defeated the so-called killer instinct team, whose big-mouthed captain had declared it as a mere practice match. Yet even after hammering the Pakistani team out of shape, not once did Azharuddin rub Akram's face in the dirt for that silly comment about a practice match. Not once did any of our players even refer to it. That is the grace with which India plays. That is the grace with which we win and occasionally lose matches.
Thank God, we do not have the killer instinct. We do not need it. We do not want it. We want the winning edge. We want excellence on the field. Style. Sportsmanship. We know the difference between a game and real life. We do not see, we do not want to see every meeting as a point of confrontation, every sport as war, every dispute as an opportunity to be exploited for political gain. That is what makes India, India. And, yes, that is what makes Pakistan what it is today. An apology for a modern democracy. A pathetic example of a free nation. An economy that would put Uganda to shame.
Meanwhile, India has grown from strength to strength. Even as the fight goes on in Kargil, our stock market has not just remained stable, it has, in fact, improved. Our economy is in good health. We may have lost the World Cup but our cricketers have come back safely. No secret service is leaking to the press which discotheques they went to in London, which casinos they visited. No one is burning down their homes, threatening their families. No one is instituting an inquiry to crucify them. It was just a game that we lost. No more; no less. Yes, we could have done better but that does not mean we must lose sleep over it. We have moved on to other things.
That is what makes India different. We can cope with the occasional failure. We can lose the odd match and yet win the ultimate war because we have the capacity, the intelligence, the wisdom to know what is important, what is not. We are not driven by some mad, obsessive desire to win that will burn us to cinders when we fail. You can call it fatalistic if you want. I call it wise. We do not play on other people's terms. We play on our own. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose. Neither victory nor defeat can destroy our self image.
The killer instinct is the instinct of the moron. It drives you to a posture where you cannot face failure. It is either victory or vulgar self-flagellation. If you lose a cricket match (even though you may have played well enough to reach the finals) you must face the lynching mob. If you cannot extract false confessions from the prisoners you have captured during a skirmish, then you must torture them, maim them, kill them by gouging out their eyes and chopping off their testicles. That is the killer instinct that drives our neighbours because they have nothing else to drive them. For they are a stupid, barbaric nation posturing as if they are our equal.
Pakistan can never be our equal simply because we are not a nation that lives only for victory. We live for the sheer pleasure of living, playing, winning and occasionally losing. We are a holistic civilisation. We do not have to win at any cost. We are comfortable in defeat as long as we know we have played well.
We enjoy cricket. We like to win. But that is not the be all and end all of our lives. We do not lynch our cricketers; we adore them. We do not jail our editors; we respect them. We are not stupid enough to believe that every game must be won and if it is not, we must say "off with their heads" like the Red Queen did in Wonderland. We would like to win the war in Kargil but that does not mean we will cross the LoC and violate every understanding that has taken years to hammer out between our nations. We are angry with Pakistan but that does not mean we want to shut every door of negotiation, barricade every window and eat, sleep, drink the hemlock of hate and speak, think, discuss only war, war, war.
Biwi No 1 is a hit right in the midst of all this. Our television channels have launched a delightful range of new music, drama, chat shows for the coming millennium. Our theatres are doing rip-roaring business. In fact, better business than they did last year. The FIIs are still investing in good Indian paper and the Sensex has defied all the bad news from the border and keeps rising steadily. Pundits predict that it could well touch 5000 before the millennium. Yes, we talk about the war at the border, we worry about it but it does not consume our lives, it does not take over our entire mindshare and leave the nation quavering. That is, I believe, the best rejoinder we can give a nation like Pakistan which is so consumed by its hate. Who are so desperate to defeat us on the cricket field and in the frontiers that they have no time left for anything else.
We are not desperate. That is what makes us an infinitely stronger nation, a richer culture, a wiser people. For we know how to deal with both victory and defeat. We are no mindless Schwarzenegger swaggering through the minefields of hate. We know the price of every conflict. That is why, despite Kargil, we have carried on with our lives as we have always done. We are not obsessed with war. Our lives are filled with many other joys, many other pleasures, many other hopes and we are not going to give them up just to please a few belligerent generals in the Pakistani army.
That is why even as Pakistan boasts of its Islamic roots, it is a Muslim in India who has been just adjudged as the world's richest Indian. He did not inherit his wealth like the Tatas or the Birlas. He did not make it overseas like the Hindujas or the Mittals. Azim Premji created Wipro sitting in Bangalore and working with a small team of world class professionals. He did it not by any killer instinct but by sheer hard work, an obsession for quality. He is an example for all of us. He represents the magic of Indian enterprise, the ingenuity of our people, the sheer diligence that builds nations. Nothing in the world can destroy that spirit. Not war. Nor defeat at Lord's.
That is why I protest every time someone complains that we lack the killer instinct. That is why I protest when they say Azharuddin must be booted out because he does not show the kind of aggressive leadership Wasim Akram does. That is why it angers me when people say that we must "learn" from the Pakistanis how to win. There is nothing we need to learn from these idiots. A decrepit economy; a politics based on hate; a sham democracy run by the military; a stupid, belligerent nation hurtling towards its own destruction is no role model for India. We are a nation way, way ahead.
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