“Love for religion should come from within and stay there. My faith is between me and my God. I think the more we keep religion out of education, sports and politics, the better.”
—Maria Toorpakai Wazir, Pakistan’s No. 1 woman squash player.
Just when you thought Indian sport had it good and that it could only get better from here on, reality struck and bit hard.
Ravi Dixit, a 23-year-old squash player ranked 211 in the world, offered his kidney for sale on social media quoting a price of Rs. 8 lacs.
That such a venture is illegal and could invite strictures from policing bodies is besides the point.
The question is: How did things come to such a critical point?
Aren’t the mushrooming of leagues across various sports a signal of the healthiness of Indian sport?
Can’t Indian sportspersons hope to earn a living through their endeavours?
But wait, Indian squash has yet to sprout a league to showcase home-grown talent. (Feel free to correct me if I have my facts wrong. All my research is courtesy Google.)
“I need at least Rs. 1 lakh to participate in the South Asian Games but have not been able to find any sponsor.
So, I have decided to sell my kidney for Rs. 8 lakh so that I can participate in other tournaments as well for the rest of the year.”
Dixit later retracted his statement, saying:
“I did not realise there is so much to be read into this until I received a call from a reporter.Squash is my life and I wish to continue playing it. I am keen to pursue the game as my career and would continuously look for sponsors. I never intended to sell my kidney and it was a spur of the moment statement for which I am sorry. I apologise to my family and the people who have supported me.”
His mother, Sarvesh, said:
“It is difficult for us to support the family solely on my husband’s income. The mill has been very generous in its support to Ravi’s career but we are too embarrassed to ask for more help.”
Uttar Pradesh politicians have been quick to jump onto the publicity bandwagon.
Minister Moolchand Chauhan said:
“I am surprised that such a talented player is auctioning his kidney. All possible help will be given to him.”
Indian squash may not have as illustrious a heritage as their neighbours across the Khyber pass but they have turned out sterling players over the years. Most Indian players in the past were soon lost to American universities who offered sports scholarships to play and prosper on their courts.
Adrian Ezra is one such instance.
Tennis players such as Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh have also traversed this route.
Will the Squash Rackets Federation of India take its cue from this almost miscue?
Sarbananda Sonowal, Sports Minister of India, reacted swiftly to squash player Ms. Dipika Pallikal’s comments on sportswomen not receiving equal prize money at the Nationals.
“The reason is the same why I haven’t played in the last three years. I feel we deserve equal pay like most of the tournaments which are becoming equal prize money on the PSA professional circuit.
I don’t see why there should be a difference between men and women. I would have loved to play in Kerala and definitely miss playing the Nationals. If women have started getting equal prize money at professional tournaments around the word, why can’t the same happen in India?”
In a circular issued to all the National Sports Federations, the minister said:
“Henceforth, there is to be equal prize money distributed to both men and women players in all national level championships. In fact, there will be no prize money at all for participating in the nationals. This should end the debate about pay parity among the genders.”
While players reacted with shock, awe and disdain in varying proportions, organizers were at a loss as to how to felicitate the winners of these tourneys.
A spokesperson for the Senior National squash championship said:
“We could present ribbons or medals to the victors. Different color ribbons or medals for each place. Other suggestions from our innovators include tees proclaiming, ‘Senior National Squash Championship, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM. I was there. Were you?'”
Organizers at other senior championships were quite enthused about the changes after their initial shock.
“This will allow us to provide athletes two-star , if not three-star, accommodation. No more dingy dormitories or dirty toilets and bathrooms. Every participant will be comfortable with the eating, drinking and living arrangements.”
Some men players were not so pleased.
“If women and men enjoy equality, then why aren’t men players allowed to wear skirts or skorts (i.e. skirts over shorts). This will allow us to move more freely on court. Why are our movements hampered so?”
A spokesman for a leading sports federation responded:
“The men have a point. Abolition of prize money will free up funds to equip our players better. We will be able to provide them designer clothing much like the Indian cricket team. In fact, we have sent out feelers to leading Scottish clothiers seeking quotes for kilts which are truly a unisex form of attire. We hope to be hearing from them soon.”
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. (Some facts and some “quotes” in this article are fabricated but you knew that already, didn’t you?)