From the land of sati, a world billiards champ

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: If there’s one country that has baffled and confused many an observer, it's India for sure. John Kenneth Galbraith may ahve been on the ball when he described it as a functioning anarchy. But also perhaps at his wit’s end in his desperation for a description!

A country, let’s face it, that is so terribly poverty stricken, so under educated, so full of strife and segregation.

A country of a thousand castes, languages and dialects. Where a vast majority of men and women—except for the urban, educated minority—live in the fear of not being able to organise for themselves one square meal a day.

Where female foeticide looms large; where millions and millions of women, especially in the vast hinterlands, are given the short end of the stick; where even to be born female is a curse, to whom life is one long drudgery of lugging water, cooking, feeding children and keeping house. Where women, by and large, are never given their due professionally, personally, socially and even intellectually.

And it is the same country that so casually throws up a World Ladies’ Billiards Champion, Chitra Magimairaj! Defeating Emma Bonney in the title clash at Cambridge, England!

A champion in a game that has always been the domain of the high-end urban elite; a game that is associated with a certain class distinction, a certain uppity attitude. A game specifically designed for the cigar smoke filled club houses; the watering holes of high society.

How many Indians have even seen a billiards table in their lives, let alone attempt to play the game or understand its nuances?

India. Land of female infanticide, sati, populated by millions of families that are mostly desperate for a son to perpetuate their ‘lineage’; where most rural girls don’t even go to school; are married off at the age of 13 or 14 and live lives of sad obscurity.

India. Female infanticide, foeticide, child marriages, sati and a World Ladies’ Billiards Champion!

What a paradox! What inconsistency of being! What improbability!

Let’s describe India in three words. Let it be!