Oct 24, 2016

Why is India the Champion in Kabaddi?

R Jayaraman

In the recently concluded World Cup for kabaddi in Ahmedabad, India once again emerged the champion. Iran came in second. This is one game in which the country has shown its calibre. Three years in a row. One reason could be because in kabaddi one has to resort to surgical strikes. And these days such strikes have become much talked about and it has come to notice that Indians are good at it. However, it goes back a long time.

Duryodhana used the surgical technique to occupy the top of the cot position to enable Krishna to sight him first, so that he could get his support for the Kurukshetra war. Arjuna was beaten to the strike, but emerged the eventual winner. But Duryodhana got what he wanted – he was after the Yadava armies and not Krishna himself, who had already declared that he will not take up arms in the war. Should it ever take place, he added carefully. Even in those days quantity was given priority over quality. I wish Boeing had been born many eons before it eventually did – then its slogan “Quantity – we can count, Quality – we can count on” could have been heard by Duryodhana. Maybe the war could have been prevented. But then that would have prevented the declaration of the world’s greatest poem – the Bhagavad Gita.

Kabaddi is a game where one needs to be on one’s toes, literally. One’s legs carry one to the enemy territory and they should carry one back – only then can one count on points. This is one game where the legs get the highest importance, like in no other game. Not even football where the most famous goal has been credited to the “hand of God”.

Kabaddi is one game where one can – and is called upon to – to pull one’s legs. Indians are naturally good at this and this could give them a natural advantage. Pulling legs is an old pastime in India. Yamaraja tried it with Satyavan but Savitri figured it out and pulled her husband out of harm’s way. The story of the poor Brahmin and the tiger which lured him into the pool with the promise of gold bangles told in the Panchatantra, informs us that as soon as the poor Brahmin got into the pool his legs got pulled into the quagmire and the tiger got its meal. It is another point of interest, although not central to our blog , that in all old stories in the Panchatantra or any other Purana the Brahmin is always referred to as the “poor Brahmin”, no wonder that Brahmins in kalyuga are thinking to improve their lot.

Pulling legs is an ancient occupation. When one bathes in a river or a pond one must be very careful. Once I had been to a small agraharam near Tiruchi, where we had gone for a divyanaamam concert with our guruji. We had to go to the Cauvery for a bath and I stepped into the river with a prayer in my mind, but misjudged the current velocity and the sudden drop in the height under water, being totally unaware of the floor profile of the riverbed. My legs got pulled swiftly by the current, had I not held on to the towel thrown in my direction by my guruji, they would have had to pull out only my body. I pulled my legs out in time and escaped certain death. Pulling legs can be serious business.

Is there any relationship between the art of pulling legs and the Indian’s ability to survive the vicissitudes of life? Take the case of that quintessential Indian – the Indian politician. Much maligned he may be but he has learnt the art of pulling legs to a fine point. He can pull himself out of any situation, witness the cases of Raghubir Yadav and Rocky Yadav, of recent news mentions. These are only the small fry; Lalu is perhaps the best example of the survivor politician who has pulled not only legs but everything else to keep himself in power and pelf.

Getting back to kabaddi, I am sure the western countries are now busy plotting how to pull the rugs from under the legs of the Indian teams. Recall that when we were the best in field hockey, they pulled out the field from under us, put in the artificial turf, to suit their style of play – muscle (many times built up through steroids and drugs) and brawn, and then got a thirty years + advantage. Indians were too poor to lay these turfs and practise. It was all done with great finesse. They couldn’t do it in cricket because of the BCCI and our financial strength. So, one way to keep your legs from being pulled is to be strong and mighty. The world is still in the “might is right” mood.

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