The dream chase
Boria Majumdar talks about the making of India’s experiences with the Olympics
Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
The chronicler Boria Majumdar
Noted political psychologist Ashis Nandy rates it “The first comprehensive, scholarly and yet lively account of India’s Experiences with the Olympics.”
“Olympics: The India Story” is just that. An eloquent narration laced with rare anecdotes that make it immensely readable. It is racy all the way. As Boria Majumdar, the co-author of the book with Nalin Mehta, says, “We have been researching this for over four years. While I started work in late 2004 and visited the IOC archives in Lausanne for the first time that year,Nalin joined me in late 2005, and we can guarantee that we have done our best.”
The wealth of previously unused archival sources is the strength of the book. Laudable for having picked up a subject hitherto untouched, the book proves that you have to study social histories of sport as a whole rather than as a history of cricket, football or Olympics.
The story of India’s Olympic encounter is a unique prism to understand the evolution of contemporary India in a different light. “Let us be clear, it is not a sports story. Rather, it is a story using Olympic sports to understand modern India better,” stresses Majumdar, a Rhodes scholar and a senior Research Fellow at La Trobe University, Melbourne. He also has to his credit historical books on Indian cricket and football.
In the opinion of the authors, the book is a “complex and a far deep-rooted story and we have tried to draw attention to this truth. The Olympic movement is not only about medals won. It is far more than that and once you accept this, India is no longer reduced to a footnote in the international Olympics story.”
There are some interesting facts in the book. Like the Indian contingent refusing the Nazi salute or Dorabji Tata paying for India’s Olympics participation in 1920 and 1924.
Indian hockey finds a special place in the early chapters for its haul of eight gold medals in Olympics. The list of enchanting anecdotes that adorn this superbly researched book is long.
The book highlights India’s glorious hockey journey with emphasis on facts. The book is a “unique” effort, an untold story. “To be more specific the chapters on hockey should stand out as should the chapter on GANEFO, which constituted the single biggest challenge to the IOC ever.”
Rare information was gathered through hard work and Majumdar, 31, understandably takes pride in it when he says, “Not only Lausanne, we had access to the Aafla archives in Los Angeles, the IOC archives in Olympia and elsewhere.”
The amount of primary material the two authors had to read for this book was huge. “I can also tell you that no one had ever read up this corpus of material,” insists the young historian. Thanks to Majumdar and Mehta, there is a catalogue now on the India related material in Lausanne.
Published by Harper Collins, the book is a must for all sports lovers, especially the youngsters, for its appeal is wide. The statistic freak has the appendix to fall back on, the historian will find a fascinating untold history between the covers and the sports fan will get answers for many untold questions that continue to haunt us all. “The anecdotes that adorn the pages should encourage the lay reader to pick up the book,” concludes Majumdar.
Well, with the greatest sports extravaganza unfolding in Beijing this Saturday, the time is appropriate for it too.
Send this article to Friends by