If you didn’t know it before, you know it now: Indians take their cricket really, really seriously. It’s always interesting to me how so many Indian fans like to think that it’s just about the cricket, when, in reality, the actual game matters very little to them. It’s about Indian glory, Indian dominance, Indians shining — all the usual upper-middle class mumbo-jumbo about a rising India we’ve been hearing in India for the last 15 years.
And so, without missing a beat, the Harbhajan Singh scandal has been portrayed as nothing less than a full-scale assault on the Indian identity. More than a few ex-cricketers and Indian statesmen have argued that just the accusation that an Indian could be racist — true or otherwise — is too much; after all, they say, Indians waged a campaign against racism (that is, British imperialism and, later, South African apartheid).
It’s strange, because these people are relying on the same sloppy thinking that, well, racists employ. They are saying, in other words, that Harbhajan Singh’s example (guilty or otherwise) casts a negative pall on all Indians. Well, that doesn’t make sense: you cannot draw universal conclusions about an entire race simply because of one bad apple. This is what’s so infuriating about racist logic (if it can be called that): selected anecdotes can be abscribed to fit preset perceptions and beliefs.
So, the national honor argument is just silly. Even if Harbhajan is guilty, it says absolutely nothing about Indians as a whole, or India’s history.
(Incidentally, I’m also a little tired that Indians insist that they do not discriminate at all — in a country riven with anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, anti-lower caste prejudice, I find all this jingoistic claptrap nothing more than an attempt to airbrush our past. This is not to say that all Indians are racist or prejudiced. Of course not. But like all countries, India and Indians have a fair share of problems with tolerance, and a fair share of great qualities as well. And don’t let Harbhajan Singh decide the scorecard on this one.)