There are some moments of a movie that stay on with you for a long time. The ones that defines the movie for you, sums up the message for you and evokes emotions in you. There is one scene in the movie Chak de! India which does the same for me. It is the registration for the hockey team scene. A general belief and have been brought forward several times that we are religion first, states first, linguist first and then a nation later, but has been put remarkably in that very scene. In relation to sports this fact takes altogether a different dimension.
The scene opens with arrival of the ‘railway’ goalkeeper. Playing for the railways or ONGC is considered most lucrative for just one reason; it earns a desk job and free or cheap accommodation. The hot headed Punjab player arrives getting into a tiff with the auto driver. Such fiery displays, not always of the sport, on field have on numerous occasions earned the country penalties. Then comes the Reddy from Andhra who for a north Indian passes for being Tamillian. For the fact that up in the north every south Indian is a ‘Madrasi’ basically. For the question ‘anyway what is the difference between Telugu and Tamil, the girl shoots back with an apt reply that just that much how different a Bihari and Punjabi is.
The viewer is then shown a patriotic Muslim family who for generations have served the country playing hockey. But the viewer also is made to witness that the family is a large one corroborating the general notions of shambles of family planning in Muslim families. The Haryanvi hockey player is shown with a father, who would today pass on for a liberal khap panchayat member, for that is what the image of Haryanvi Jat is carried on these days. The petite girl gives guys a run for their money, but is destined to spend lifetime in kitchen as the mother thinks it to be inevitable. Two girls from Jharkhand which many people consider jus to be a jungle also join the camp. One that many would not know that Jharkhand is a state in itself is true. The apathy for backward class and backward state is demonstrated when the Punjabi girl asks one from Jharkhand to sleep on the floor.
The neglected north-east is depicted in its right light. For their culture, their attires they pass on to be a partying lot by the bystander in the movie. And to add to that being called guests was a salvo that should hit hard at the south block. For it is the failure of successive Indian governments to get the seven states into the mainstream since more than six decades now. The Hindi heartland has never been able to or haven’t ever tried to be inclusive in growth and moving forward. The scene ends with the senior players coming in and displaying the typical attitude of we-know-it-all. It has been for the lack of fear of losing their positions that senior players have blocked places that could have easily gone on to more deserving junior players.
The movie addresses this issue by coming over these differences, bonding the diverse India together with a common string of nationality in achieving a feat which in the movie is winning the world cup hockey. The players which played for themselves, their states ended up playing for the country. Integration was facilitated and made possible. But without the cup to win, without a motivating coach, how integrated are we? What do we take pride in? In the culture, the traditions, the diversity, the temples, the exotic places, the IT revolution, the Azim Premji’s, the Ratan Tata’s, the remarkable growth story? Yes may be. Or the leaders (read politicians), the cricket team, the infrastructure, the IPL, the Ramalingam Raju’s, the commonwealth games, Kashmir? Maybe not.
Unity in diversity is a hallmark of the country is what we are all taught in schools. And by the time we grow up we have become diverse but we are not united. We stand united only when there is a attack by terrorists, we are united only when there is a famine, a flood or a cyclone. It is certainly good to be united then. But for a nation to grow we also need symbols of unity in times of peace. The country needs strong rallying points around which we can script stories of success similar to Chak de! India.