FOUR, FIVE & ELEVEN
This is obviously not a mathematical equation. Let me tell you why I chose these random numbers.
The number Four reminded me of the Readers’ Digest. It invariably carried a feature, “Drama in Real Life”; of how human beings endured and overcame insurmountable odds in deserts, ice, land or sea, and lived to tell the tale. They were tales of hope and courage; at a premium in a growingly cynical and pessimistic world. I am sure that in due course the Digest will carry the drama in the real life of the Four.
They are the four children who were lost for forty days in the dense rain forests of the Colombian Amazon. With our appetite for Breaking News, we may have relegated the story of the Four to a remote corner of our brain’s hard disk. Hence I thought it fit to recount their story, whether or not the Digest does so.
Their Cessna 206 plane crashed on 1st May. The four children and their mother survived; though the mother died of her injuries four days later. The children, belonging to the indigenous Huitoto tribe were aged 13, 11, 9 and 1. They were in a territory infested with snakes, jaguars and mosquitoes.
Before dying, the children’s mother gave them the courage and fortitude to survive. The eldest were Lesly and Soleiny Mucutuy. Initially, they survived on flour, seeds and fruit found in the wreckage of the aircraft. When these ran out they were at the mercy of the wild. It has now known that the children were actually given survival training by their parents and grandparents, which held them in good stead in the midst of adversity. They survived on wild fruits, seeds and rainwater dripping off the leaves. Lesly carried her one-year-old sibling in her arms.
The Colombian army also did not give up hope, combing a 300 sq km area. They dropped 10,000 leaflets giving advice on survival. Helicopters blared out a message from their grandmother. Ultimately it was rescue dogs that found the children, whereupon the army radio crackled with the message “Miracle, miracle”. President Gustavo Petro hailed it as “an example of total survival that would remain in history” and a triumph of indigenous knowledge. The rescuers said that the laws of nature protect those who respect nature. Indeed this was a miracle, a triumph of an indomitable spirit, modern technology and indigenous knowledge. As the President said, this was a drama in real life that needed to be retold.
Now to the Five, a more recent tale of 18th June, the tragic end of the five persons in the ill-fated Titan submersible implosion. They were Stockton Rush the CEO of the adventure company Oceangate, the British adventurer Hamish Harding, Titanic specialist and former French navy diver Paul Henry Nargeolet (77) and the Pakistani father-son duo of Shazade Dawood (48) and Suleman (19); the latter two having paid US$ 250,000/- each for the misadventure.
The Titanic wreckage lies at a depth of 3800 metres under the sea. The Titan submersible imploded at a depth of 3500 metres, where the pressure would have been 60,000 lbs per sq inch. The pressure on the submersible would have been the equivalent of the tens of thousand tons of the Eiffel Tower.
Rush was described as a meticulous planner yet an overconfident pioneer. His wife Wendy was the great-great-granddaughter of Isidor and Ida Strauss who had perished in the Titanic after seeing other women and children to safety. With such impeccable credentials, what could have gone wrong?
US Coastguard Rear Admiral John Mauger said that the implosion took place because the submersible lacked safety features. Was this then a case of “overconfidence” overriding “meticulous planning”? Possibly. The drama of the five who died in the submersible is so much in contrast to the “miracle” of the four in Colombia. The poor, defenceless and weak survived. The rich, resourceful and intelligent did not. These dramas in real life, a few days apart, have many lessons for us. Let them speak for themselves.
Now to the Eleven, the number in team sports like hockey, football and cricket. In school, hockey and football were my favourites. I often represented my school in the Colts’ tournaments, always as left wing. Of late Indian premier leagues in both sports have raised the standard of the games.
Nevertheless, India is primarily obsessed with cricket, the big-money spinner, now controlled by Jay Shah, the son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Jay’s ignorance of the game is now rubbing off on the selectors, based on favouritism, and resultant losses.
After dinner, I usually switch on the TV at about 9 p.m. That is when political debates are at their fiercest, like Roman gladiators in the Coliseum. I avoid them like the plague, preferring to watch live sports or comedy shows. Why add more misery to one’s life by watching morbid debates?
Just as with the Four and Five, I learnt some important lessons from the cricketing Eleven. I begin with a frank admission; I am a Virat Kohli fan, just as I earlier was of Saurav Ganguli – both known for their aggressive captaincy. Notice how both were sidelined by Shah’s “Board of Control of Cricket in India” (BCCI), with emphasis on the word “control”. Kohli was removed from the captaincy shortly after he stood up to the trolling of Mohd Shiraj (a Muslim) because of his poor showing against Pakistan. Ganguli was eased out of the BCCI chairmanship after he didn’t play ball with the BJP in the Bengal elections. Hence my emphasis on the word “control”.
In contrast, Rohit Sharma was retained as the India captain across all formats, despite his dismal showing. Was this because he is also the captain of the Mumbai Indians owned by a fellow Gujarati, Ambani? I leave you to connect the dots.
It is also worth comparing the three formats – T20, ODIs and Tests, with the three political jamborees in India – elections to local civic bodies, State Assemblies and Parliament. There are important lessons to be learnt by political parties. Literally, one cap doesn’t fit all. Teams for the three formats are different, as should be the approach to different types of elections. One size doesn’t fit all, as the Karnataka Assembly elections conclusively proved.
Back to cricket then. The IPL was one by CSK led by veteran M. S. Dhoni. But at the end of the league stage, when all had equal opportunities, no CSK player was in the running for the orange cap (batting) or purple cap (bowling). The orange cap went to Faf du Plessis of RCB with 730 runs, Shubman Gill of GT with 661 and Kohli with 639. The top two for the purple cap with 24 wickets apiece were Mohd Shami and Rashid Khan of GT, who were the runners-up.
What lessons can we learn? The winners didn’t have any “cappers”. The runners-up had three. In contrast, RCB, despite individual brilliance, was eliminated. So team building is more important than individual performance. The IPL also has big money, but some of the biggest guns misfired. Locky Ferguson of KKR was bought for Rs 10 crores and took just one wicket. Ben Stokes of CSK had a price tag of Rs 16.25 crores, and scored just 15 runs! So money isn’t everything.
Now switch to the World Test Championships final held just after the IPL. Its big guns flopped. Kohli was at the “top” with just 63 runs, followed by Rohit Sharma at 58, IPL wonder Ravinder Jadeja at 48 and Shubnam Gill at a miserable 31. Only Mohd Shami showed some consistency with 4 wickets.
More lessons to be learnt. What clicks somewhere may not be replicated elsewhere. So too with elections. Unfortunately, most parties believe in big caps and big money rather than team building, Will they then pass the electoral test?
I conclude with a slogan emblazoned across the court at Roland Garros during the French Open tennis championships. “Victory belongs to the most tenacious”. That is the real numbers game and drama in real life.
- The writer often expresses his thoughts on socio-political issues