Wednesday, August 13, 2008

India Strikes Gold...and the whole country goes bonkers

The big news during our first few days in India has been Abhinav Bindra, who won the first individual gold medal in India's history, and its first gold medal of any kind since its field hockey team last claimed gold in Moscow in 1980. Although cricket is now the country's biggest sporting passion, field hockey (or simply hockey as its known here, since there isn't any ice) was top dog for decades. In fact the Indian Olympic hockey team was somewhat of the equivalent of the old US Olympic basketball or Soviet ice hockey teams, winning 6 consecutive gold medals and going undefeated from 1928-1956.

Bindra took gold in the mens 10M air rifle (ie: BB gun) on Monday, and the country has been going crazy every day since. Every single Indian TV station had "Breaking News!" banners about Bindra's achievement on Monday and the locals are simply beaming with pride. Now everybody wants a piece of the Bindra Bonanza. The Indian State Railway (the world's largest employer for all you trivia buffs out there) has given him a "golden pass" allowing him free 1st class rail travel for life. He is being congratulated by legendary Bollywood superstars including Amitabh Khan, perhaps best known to younger audiences for being the original host of India's most popular game show, Kaun Banega Corepati. Still no word yet on whether or not Shahrukh Khan, Bollywood's biggest star and successor to Amitabh as host of KBC, has also sent along his praises.

I'd be lying if i said that my blogging about Bindra wasn't in some way an effort to draw traffic to this site, but I'm certainly not the only one as the LA Times jumped on that opportunity almost immediately after Bindra hit the medal stand.

Although he's somewhat soft-spoken on camera, I will say that Bindra's own blog makes for entertaining reading. However, I'll concede that I haven't been nearly as taken with Abhinav Bindra himself as I have with his adorably proud parents. His mother is already very busy looking for a bride for India's most eligible bachelor, as well as getting ready to cook him a home-cooked meal of tandoori chicken and seekh kabab. Glad to see that Abhinav and I share a fondness for Indian barbecue, as well as a mother who wants nothing more than to feed us and see us get married. It also appears that Abhinav didn't inherit his calm demeanor from either parent, as his boisterous (yet super cool) father is more than happy to tell all who will listen about the ultra high-tech shooting range that he built for him in their backyard (see below), or about how he used to let his son shoot water balloons off of their maid's head when he was only 7 years old.

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