In this age of infotainment, the IPL drama is part of the larger reality show that we human beings have become so attuned to. We have come to live and like the sleaze and slug fest that goes on in the evenings and wake up next day around noon, groggy and grumpy, ready to go over the routine of pills, power and pelf with equal doses of indulgence and self-pity. Are we imagining that we are living in a progressively democratic global order, where education, distribution and reach and money has brought about opportunities that could not be even imagined ten years ago, to make the quality of life better!
Let us first examine the ‘least common denominator’ in the form of Mr. Shashi Tharoor. Even his detractors find it very hard to keep sticking the label of corruption on him. His supporters believe that he is politically naïve. If it were any of the above two, there would be no reason for concern. From the way in which the cookie crumbles, a politician will be involved with corruption sooner or later and if it was the latter, everybody goes through an initiation process and Tharoor would not be an exception; especially to public life and politics in India. It is “Tadka Marke” here!!! The real problem is despite Tharoor being such an intelligent, articulate and well-meaning human being; he got sucked into the system to believe that IPL was his ticket to immortality in his home constituency. How could such an experienced UN professional see that the IPL was a hot bed of sleaze and sauce? If he wanted a piece of it despite what he saw, it is time for the common Indian to be worried on the quality of representatives they elect to parliament. Tharoor was considered as a ray of hope and he rewards his people with this?
Lalit Modi on the other hand is just a fraction, not even a factor. He is the fraction that has drawn the integers that are the bold and beautiful, who have the money to play around with and form the highest common factor. In the mathematical equation, he is just a scum collector and in his case, the scum is good money that has made up for his lack of charisma, intellect, personality and integrity. It is a real tragedy that some of the captains of the Indian industry see him as a visionary and some others as an indispensable administrator / manager. It is not poor Lalit Modi’s fault that these super big wigs have no class and conscience to deal with integrity in business and public life.
It has been debated that the real muck will never come out. The real people responsible for the larger malaise will never be shown up. The irony of these predictions is that, they are made on live television where the seed of muck and sleaze is sown, propagated and fruits borne. Just before the IPL 3, every single media house was upset with the IPL governing council for its apparent high-handedness in dealing with the media representatives. They were the ones who complained that the rights to broadcasting, re-casting and other distribution and reach features were manipulated to favor the favorites of the mandarins in power. But commence IPL, they all had special slots and made extra investments to cover the IPL. The sleaze fest has just added to their TRP ratings contest competing for who has an exclusive and who broke a story.
The core of IPL is cricket. The players go out there and play and people come to watch them. In India, this is a passion and a national sport though officially hockey might be quoted in the general knowledge books. There are many aspirants today who hope to play the game and “become rich” and there are millions who want to spend their time in front of televisions or in stadiums patronizing a game that takes them away for sufficiently long periods of time from the miseries they face in real life. These are common people who require a security net from an emotional as well as infrastructure perspective. Anyone who runs the game must first consider this before anything else. It is very obvious that the current day administrators have considered neither; whether it is BCCI or the IPL. Sure enough, the IPL 1, 2 and 3 might have thrown up a few players of national caliber who have the potential to do national duty in the future. But does that justify the expense? At the peak of summer and examination time, industry and households are denied power but the IPL games get uninterrupted power supply for an exponential consumption. Is there a social justice system that tracks this inequality? Overpriced Contracted Overseas players indicated that they are coerced to play games even under security threat while the lives of domestic players are cheap?
M S Dhoni, the Indian Captain and the leader of Chennai Super Kings, made a telling statement when he said he had to give vent to his emotions after winning the last league match to qualify for the semi-finals because “he owed the minimum responsibility for the amount of money invested in him and others by the franchisees”. On the other hand, you have overseas players who are less how they perform and are ready to complain and make it sound as though they are doing a huge favor by being part of the event. Where is the pride and self respect in a game where India is currently undisputed champion and a leading financial contributor to the gamer globally?
Cheer leaders and MTV parties do not necessarily make up entertainment. There is still much to be evidenced about the longevity of the business model of IPL with respect to what is in it for the customers and consumers. On the evidence of the three editions so far, the customer focus has been ignored and there are very few business models that have survived purely on the rotation of money. At the heart of the matter is a sport called cricket that needs to be seen in the modern context of continuing to entertain a nation and legitimately seek their spending. As Jug Surya points out in the TOI editorial (http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/jugglebandhi), it is about time that the customers and consumers showed that they cannot be taken for granted. What if, the customers and consumers boycotted the fare put out under any name?
Enough has been lamented about commercialization; be it of a game or of life itself. We have now come to live with this reality show which we are all a part of. Having accepted that, let us expect a minimum of value for what we are offered in exchange for our time and money. We have caused upon ourselves this living out of a fish bowl syndrome. Having said that, let us expect each of us to have an equal opportunity to make money and enjoy the view. Monopoly has no place in a free market. Some of these principles and activism might itself contribute to the use of less brute force manifesting itself as coercion, sleaze and terrorism. It is impractical to expect the very people such as the politicians and business who have caused this problem to solve it and say we have now a better way of life for you. The only way out is for customers and consumers to take up activism and boycott as a means of saying that we are not part of a system that takes us for granted and we want better. Our hard earned money deserves more.