Eric & Hima: Lessons for India

Eric Liddell’s self-imposed restriction adversely affected his prospects while Hima Das’ grit to break from the shackles put her on top

By Author B Maria Kumar   |   Published: 2nd Aug 2019   12:05 am Updated: 2nd Aug 2019   12:21 am

We are aware of the mythical Amazons and puranic Pramilas, who were known to fight much more fiercely and valiantly than the male warriors. The young Joan of Arc used to dress up in male clothing and led the French army in the 15th century. Reminiscent of such heroic women, Hima Das quashed the rigidities of social biases and showed to the world as to how the gender gap could be closed with the antidotes of will and grit.

Eric Liddell was a living legend during the first half of the 20th century. He was fortunate that he suffered neither prejudices nor extrinsic restrictions from the society he lived in. He represented the British Empire that stood firm as a rock in his every endeavour. On the contrary, Hima had to face severe opposition to challenge boys in sports as village girls are hardly encouraged to pursue running, which is predominantly perceived as a male bastion.


Similar yet Strikingly Different
Born about 100 years apart, both Eric and Hima share a glittering comparison between themselves but with a striking contrast too. Eric, known as Flying Scotsman, believed that he had to run for the glory of God. On the other hand, Hima, called as Dhing Express, has her ambition set to glorify the motherland.

But Eric had a self-imposed rule on himself that eventually had adversely affected his prospects. His parents were missionaries who spent a considerably long time in gospel activities and his God-fearing sister Jennie had exerted enormous influence on his Christian faith.

Come the Olympics, France hosted the 1924 games. Having had already won many a laurel at various international meets, Eric was a prime contender for 100 metres gold. On arrival to Paris, he had embarked on his training from day one. When he came to know that 100 metres heats were scheduled on Sunday, he decided not to run because it was a resting day as per his conviction. He thus lost his chance.

If we analyse this incident, it is clear that Eric missed the opportunity of winning the Olympic honour just because of his own belief that has no rationale. He had a great supporting empire behind him but he could not overcome his own mental blockade. His efforts were exemplary and the opportunity was simply at the door. His self-imposed restriction stood between his efforts and opportunity and as a result of which possibility turned impossible and glory a gloom. Though such situations take place sporadically in the western world, they are quite usual in India as people are normally found stuck on their superstitious notions, groundless fears and unfounded belief systems.

Extrinsic, Intrinsic Blockades
It is as common as dirt in India to witness that most of the people are conventional in their thinking as a consequence of which they tend to lose the opportunities, which come their way. This unfortunate reality is due to some factors that stand as mental barriers, which can be categorised as extrinsic and intrinsic blockades.

Extrinsic ones are those that are forcefully thrust upon the individuals by society. Hima could have experienced social inequality as she hails from the disadvantaged community. Till date, modern India does not see any perceptible change in the social status of marginalised sections as prejudices and fears obstruct their mainstreaming as well as their self-upliftment.

The second type of barrier is intrinsic (self-imposed) in nature in the sense that the people of the weaker communities tend to succumb to the beliefs of inferiority, which take a heavy toll on their confidence. Recent research by Dr Peter Belmi of University of Virginia shows that posh people think confidently and so they perform better than others.

Conversely, the downtrodden masses are susceptible to fall prey to the syndrome of ‘disadvantages beget disadvantages’. And Hima has amazingly overcome these two types of blockades. Moreover, she being a rural teenage girl had to dismantle the stereotyping of social roles based on feminine gender and she came through successfully.

Urge to Excel
Despite her old-fashioned bringing-up in the interior Dhing village of Assam, Hima explored light for herself to brighten up her sporting career in which she had an innate urge to excel to such an extent that she longed every time to take on opponents who were older and stronger than her. She competed with boys of her age group though there was an initial resistance from them. When called to the State capital for training, her mother hesitated to send her but it was again Hima’s daredevil attitude that won over her mother’s conservative outlook.

Any lessons for India? Countless Indian youth have either been knowingly or unknowingly rendered unproductive as a direct consequence of intrinsic and extrinsic barriers. With nearly 20 crore of young men and women who are trapped inside the bondage of auto-taboos, India’s economic productivity is alarmingly low at present.

Productivity is determined by human capital, which takes into account the quality and quantity of education and health. Whereas Finland clocked the highest score on the World Human Capital Index of 195 countries, India stayed at 158th position.

It is high time we invested on a massive scale in education and health but sadly we are unable to achieve the desired level of productivity because of the fact that continued illiteracy, coupled with lower standards of prevailing education, causes ignorance and ignorance, in turn, leads to poor health. That’s where the Indian psyche needs to be urgently addressed to rid of intrinsic and extrinsic blockades, which have since long been writ large. And now, Hima has shown the way as to how these fetters could be busted.

(The author is former DG Cyber Crimes, Bhopal)

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