Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

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World Cup Football

By the time this column is published the 21st FIFA World Cup Football championship in Russia fever must have caught the entire nation. Though India remains a cricket-crazy country- world cup football makes us stay glued to the television sets to see twenty two men fighting to put a ball past the opponent’s goal post.

Football remains one of the oldest and the most popular sport across the world. The very earliest form of the game for which there is scientific evidence was an exercise from a military manual dating back to the second and third centuries BC in China.

This Han Dynasty forebear of football was called Tsu’ Chu and it consisted of kicking a leather ball filled with feathers and hair through an opening, measuring only 30-40cm in width, into a small net fixed onto long bamboo canes. According to one variation of this exercise, the player was not permitted to aim at his target unimpeded, but had to use his feet, chest, back and shoulders while trying to withstand the attacks of his opponents. Use of the hands was not permitted.

Another form of the game, also originating from the Far East, was the Japanese Kemari, which began some 500-600 years later and is still played today. This is a sport lacking the competitive element of Tsu’ Chu with no struggle for possession involved. Standing in a circle, the players had to pass the ball to each other, in a relatively small space, trying not to let it touch the ground.

The Greek ‘Episkyros’ – of which few concrete details survive – was much livelier, as was the Roman ‘Harpastum’. The latter was played out with a smaller ball by two teams on a rectangular field marked by boundary lines and a centre line. The objective was to get the ball over the opposition’s boundary lines and as players passed it between themselves, trickery was the order of the day.

However, the contemporary history of the world’s favourite game spans more than 100 years. It all began in 1863 in England, when rugby football and association football branched off on their different courses and the Football Association in England was formed – becoming the sport’s first governing body.

(To know more about the history of football see: https://www.fifa.com/about-fifa/who-we-are/the-game/index.html)

Going into the etymology of the words,  ‘Sport’ stems from the Old French expression desporter or se desporter – derived from the Latin de(s)portare meaning, to amuse oneself. Sure, a sports’ buff amuses oneself. But, once out on the field or court, one comes face-to-face with competitors to compete. The word ‘compete’ derives from two Latin roots ‘com’, meaning ‘with’ and ‘peter’, meaning ‘to strive’ or ‘to seek’. True competitors ‘strive or seek together’ for excellence. We have much to learn from competitors who shake hands, embrace, or share a meal after an intense contest.

Football highlights this part more vividly than any other competitive sports. That is perhaps the reason of its popularity across the world.

Book Reading

Last week I had been to Mahima Book Fair at Dhenkanal, Odisha as a speaker to deliberate on the role of market to popularize book reading habit.
The points I tried to make were:

  1. Basically market provides an interface between the product and its buyers. It will always have a bias towards any product/service that sells fast and easy or gives more profit. Therefore market’s role in increasing book reading habit is limited. What market can do is to make the book visible and accessible to the potential buyers and help to plough back money invested in the production of the product back to its producers. In case of the book it also includes the author. Popularity of book as a product will always depend on its buyers. The buyers/readers need to show interest and willingness to spend money/time. Otherwise market will lose interest and shut shop.
  2. Market needs scale for profit. For upping scale one needs to homogenize the product to suit the wants of more number of people. In case of books- it precisely means books that sell more will enjoy the support of the market. It will gradually push those books, which probably are necessary but not mass-friendly out of the market. Therefore book publication or for that matter knowledge creation cannot be entirely left to the market. The State must play a role here.
  3. Primary and secondary schools can and ought to play greater role in increasing reading habit of children and adolescents. There should be institutional mechanism to encourage children to read more and varied subjects. This includes provision for buying new books by the individual institute as and when required. This would boost the market and provide an impetus for books on varied subjects to be published.
  4. Civil Society needs to play a role to create ‘good market’ for the book by constantly creating a demand for ‘good’ books, which may not always be popular. I have seen parents asking their kids to read only the text books, as they think spending time on other books will be ‘waste of time’. Let me put this very bluntly: these kinds of parents do not know how learning takes place and they are causing irreparable cognitive damage to their children.

Present Day Indian TV Journalism

 

Here’s how the Indian TV news channels would report the ‘Jack and Jill’ nursery rhyme. All names (except those of Jack and Jill), are fictitious.

Prashant – TV Anchor: Two persons have been injured in a freak climbing accident. Jack and his companion Jill had gone up a hill to fetch a pail of water when Jack fell down and broke his crown. Jill came tumbling after. Live from the hill, our reporter, Amrita Shah, takes up the story.

Amrita Shah: Thank you Prashant. Well, as you say, two persons – Jack and Jill – had gone up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Suddenly, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. Prashant…

Prashant: Thank you Amrita. What do we know about the hill?

Amrita: Not too much. Jack was going up the hill to fetch a pail of water when he fell down and broke his crown. Jill came tumbling after.

[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: “Hill breaks crown of pail-boy Jack”]

Prashant: What news of Jack and Jill?

Amrita: Prashant, it seems that Jack had gone up the hill to fetch a pail of water. We know nothing about the pail, or how heavy it was but it seems that Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. I have here with me, an eyewitness to the accident, Mr Shahid Trivedi. Mr Shahid, tell us what you saw.

 

Shahid Trivedi: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: “Boy and girl tumble downhill. Water spilled”]

Amrita: Jack and Jill. What do we know about them? Are they brother and sister? Are they married? Just what were they doing on the hill together?

Shahid Trivedi: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

Amrita: And what happened next?

Shahid Trivedi: Jack fell down and broke his crown.

Amrita: Go on.

Shahid Trivedi: And Jill came tumbling after.

Amrita: Prashant, there you have it. Two people innocently going about their business to fetch a pail of water when one of them falls down, breaks his crown, and the other comes tumbling after. Back to you in the studio. Prashant.

[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: “Water errand ends in tragedy”]

Prashant: I have with me in the studio now, Professor Chandrashekar Belagare from the Indian Institute of Applied Hill Sciences. Professor,  a hill; Jack; Jill; a pail of water. A tragedy waiting to happen?

Professor: Well that depends on the hill, the two persons, the object they were carrying and the conditions underfoot. Let us look at the evidence so far.

Jack and Jill

Went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

Jack fell down

And broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.

Clearly, one would suspect that if Jack’s fall was severe enough to break his crown then the surface of the hill must have been slippery or unstable. But I think we’re overlooking something quite fundamental here. Who was carrying the pail? Jack fell down and broke his crown and – this is the key – Jill came tumbling after. If Jack and Jill had been carrying the pail together, would they not have fallen at the same time? The fact that Jill came tumbling after suggests that Jack lost his footing first and perhaps knocked Jill over as he slipped.

Prashant: Professor, thank you very much. So there we have it, two persons – Jack and Jill – went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

We’ll presently have a commercial break. Do join us after the break for a studio discussion about hills, boys and girls and whether water-fetching trips should be supervised.

We’ll be right back…

(Courtesy: social Media)

Have you noticed…

Have you noticed how in life, you end up spending more time looking around for things, than you do using them?

***

Mrinal Chatterjee a journalist turned media academician lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He also writes fiction. English translation of his Odia novel Shakti and a compilation of his columns titles Window Seat has just been published. [email protected]

 

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