ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: OK, I am a cricket purist, so maybe I am plain prejudiced. OK, I earn peanuts, so maybe I am filled with bottomless envy. But am I the only one disgusted by the spectacle of cricket players being “auctioned” to the highest bidder like a 40 X 60 site, or Britney Spears‘ soiled underwear on eBay?
Of hearing TV anchors and correspondents say Player X has been “bought” by this industrialist, or Player Y has been “sold to” that film star for Z crore, plus or minus a few lakhs. Yes, it happens in other sports, but should suits and celebs be haggling about a cricketer’s worth like my mother haggles about bhendi or badanekayi?
As a free-marketeer, it’s not for me to dish out the champagne-socialist view (familiar to churumuri readers!) of the irony of it all: that, in a nation where half a billion live on less than a dollar a day, a few dozen already-wealthy players will be earning enough in 40 overs over a few weeks to feed a few millions, blah-blah.
But, as the “auction” of 77 cricketers for the Indian Premier League dragged on all afternoon, I was left wondering whether there was any difference at all between the bidding for the boys in the boardroom and the bidding for the girls at street corners. Aside, that is, from the corporate ambience, and the absence of cops.
Think about it.
1) There is no sentimental attachment between the pleasure girls and their owner; it’s all about how much dough the girl can whip up for the madam by doing business with pleasure. Ditto, there is no sentimental attachment between the pleasure boys and their team owner. It’s all about how much the owner can afford and what the player can fetch him/ her, and it may not necessarily be through his on-field performances.
2) Before buying their services, strange men wearing strange clothes evaluate the pleasure girls at the street corner by looking at the “figure” from a distance. Before buying their services, strange men and women wearing strange clothes and even stranger spectacles evaluate the pleasure boys by looking at their “figures” on laptops and handhelds.
3) Menacing looking bald men, wearing thick gold chains and six rings on five fingers, supervise the transaction at street corners while picking their buck teeth. Menacing looking bald men, wearing thick gold chains and six rings on five fingers, supervise the transaction in the boardroom, while hissing into their bluetooth.
4) The pleasure girl’s loyalty is to the highest bidder for the night (or for the hour). The pleasure boy’s loyalty is to the highest bidder for the season, unless old age, injury or retirement strike, whichever comes first.
5) The pleasure girls display their skills behind closed doors. The pleasure boys display their skills in open stadia. And in this new version of the game, the pleasure lasts just about as long in both forms.
6) The girls give pleasure usually to one recipient at a time, but sometimes more if the action is captured and uploaded on YouTube by some idiot-deviant. The boys give pleasure to millions, through legally sold tube rights but with one key difference: with their clothes on.
7) The pleasure girl never asks the customer who you are, where you are from, what you do for a living. All she is bothered about is the crackle of the notes at the end of it. Ditto, the pleasure boy. All he is bothered about is the crackle of notes as you buy Kingfisher or Reliance products.
The pleasure girls and pleasure seekers are told ad nauseam to go for protection to prevent the spread of AIDS. For the sake of cricket, and overall sanity of the cricket lovers, hopefully the pleasure boys will wear the condom of common sense—besides their pads, gloves and guards—before the disease becomes a pandemic of unmanageable proportions.
If we turn our nose at the sale of human bodies (and talents) of one kind, how do we end up silently applauding the sale of human bodies (and talents) of another kind?