At the Indian Olympic Association's headquaters yesterday evening, there was a great deal of cheering and clinking of glasses. "What's all the celebration about," I asked an official.
"We are celebrating our performance at the Asian Games. Wonderful, wonderful," the offical said. "It is going to be our best Asian Games ever."
"Strange, I did not know our boys and girls had done so well," I said. Our weight-lifters, wrestlers, swimmers, all eliminated. Just two bronze medals on the first day, a total blank on the second day. Not much chance of a medal in hockey. What is there to celebrate."
"Ah, ha, you have not taken into account kabaddi," said the official, getting a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and giving it to me. "We have swamped both China, the host nation, and Nepal; when our kabaddi boys got moving, the fancied Chinese did not know what hit them."
Another offcial passed by, whispering in my ear: "Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi. Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi."
The first official contined: "P.T. Usha may win or lose, but we are assured our kabaddi gold. I have got reports from Bejjing that our boys are playing like champions and they are going to be unbeatable in this Asaid."
"Yes, but…", I said.
"No ifs and buts about it," the offcial said. "We are going to be the world champions in kabaddi. We are going to insist that the event be included at the Olympic Games in Barcelona also. And, why not! If they can have football at the Olympic Games, why not kabaddi."
Another official passed by, saying to himself: "Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi. Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi."
The first official gave me more champagne and said: "At last, we can be proud of our contingent. The kabaddi team has saved Indian and brought honour and glory to the country. Prime Minister V.P. Singh will personally receive the kabaddi team when it returns home. Or, at least, Mr. Sharad Pawar, who was a kabaddi player himself in his youth."
"Yes, he looks like one," I said. "But…"
Just then, another official approached me. He pushed out one leg, twirled on the other, then ran back, shouting: "Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi. Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi."