Mystery and Excellence on The Human Body - Interview With Narotam Puri

Interview With Narotam Puri

-30_Interview with Narotam Puri - 1.jpg


Interview with Narottam Puri

(Narottam Puri is a well known sport journalist and commentator in India)


About common attitudes in India

We, Indians, have a tendency to copy the West. To take an example, Hatha Yoga was almost a forgotten art here in India till the West took it up.

As a medical man, I consider the basis of yoga to be sound in termsof health; for instance, the importance given to breathing. But Yoga has also a spiritual meaning, which may be the reason why it practically disappeared from the average man's life, as it was too deep.

In India , we made the mistake of not pursuing the practical applications of the theoretical knowledge that we possess. In the West, it is applied in day-to-day life and becomes therefore popularized.

Nowhere in the world do we find lesser importance given to physical education than in India. The role of physical education in mental development is now universally recognized, but I don't think it is so well accepted here in our society.

Once I had a very interesting conversation with the sport editor of a big Japanese paper. He was wondering why India was not doing so well in many sports. He asked me: "Why do you Indians consider that a pot-bellied man is a successful man?" In India, well fed means successful, doing well in life. The perception that a pot-belly is rather a sign of disease has not yet penetrated, although there are signs of changes, particularly in big cities, as the world is becoming smaller.

Interview With Narotam Puri

Interview With Narotam Puri

About the neglect of physical education

To my mind, physical education is a totally neglected field in our sys tem of education. In school, we are receiving education from the  teacher. But who is educating the teacher about the importance of physical education? No one. The most important task now is to teach the  teachers. We should target first the colleges of India.

But our society is also to be blamed: why should a good physical  education teacher have lower status, be less paid and have fewer career  opportunities than other teachers? As a result, too often you get only  less brilliant persons in such posts and it explains why physical education is too often badly taught.

If physical education is a part of the curriculum but is given no  importance as a subject, it becomes self-defeating. There is no evaluation, there is no talent scouting.

About the importance of proper training from young age

There are three mother sports: athletics, aquatics, gymnastics. A child  should be encouraged when he is 6 to 10 years old to participate in any  or all of these mother sports. It is only at about the age of 12 that specialization should come, when overall development through the mother  sports is sufficient. Only in gymnastics specialization tends to start  quite early: usually around 6, but sometimes like in Rumania as early  as 3. It happens also sometimes in swimming.

One point is very important: specialization should be determined by  medical study. There are certain medical tests, like biopsy of tissues,  which give indications about the kind of sport which is best suited.  Certain muscle fibres allow more rapidity but less endurance, other  fibres are the opposite. Particularly in competitive sport, this knowledge is very important to give a proper orientation. It does not apply to  gymnastics where it is more a question of flexibility.

A very high level of fitness is indispensable even in activities which  look less physically demanding: to become a top archer, for instance,  you have to develop a capacity to concentrate,, to focus, to maintain a  posture without tremors. This can be acquired through yoga exercises  or specialized exercises.

You cannot have a champion who is only physical: there has to be a  balance between physical and mental. Physical fitness is not merely  Physical: it should be a state of complete physical and mental well

Interview With Narotam Puri

Interview With Narotam Puri

being of an individual in which the parameters for health are fully met.  Health consciousness in India is still very low.

About the need of a proper strategy a/development

In India we have not been able so far to decide whether we want to  build a better sport infrastructure or if we want medals and glory in  international sport. As a result, not much money is available for the  fundamentals of sport building. My personal feeling is that given the  scenario in the rest of the world and our limitations as a poor nation,  what is important is to forget about gold medals for the time being.

We should simply state that sport till the age of 12 should be compulsory, and we should provide children with basic infrastructures for  mother sports: athletics, gymnastics, aquatics. In other words, in every  district at least, let the Government provide one stadium, gymnasium,  swimming pool, well maintained, instead of spending money to participate in so many competitions. If we were to spend that much money in  providing for playgrounds, it will generally uplift the standard of physical fitness in the country and, who knows, someone may one day  reach the level of world championship.

India never really chose between the two main ways about sport: the commercial way of the West and the public funding of the East. My  solution would be to let Government be responsible for infrastructure  and ensuring serious physical education till the age of 12. After that,  the sport federations should take over and do their job. Money can be  obtained from private sponsors like it is currently done in the West. Let  him or her who is gifted be supported by private parties. The real problem is that bureaucrats do not want to lose their power and therefore do  not let such possibilities manifest.

As money is very limited, it has to be managed very well. I cannot  blame the Government for allotting only limited funds for sports and  physical education: in the present state of poverty in the country, there  are more basic investments needed to uplift the lives of people, such as  providing water, shelter, energy, etc. But I can blame it and I do blame  it for an inefficient use of the available funds. Running after medals in  international competition when most of the time you reap only humiliations seems to me to be a bad strategy.

The Chinese once were faced with the same problem: their athletes  failed to win in international competition. They decided to withdraw

Interview With Narotam Puri

Interview With Narotam Puri


them. They ordered their coaches to study the methods of the successful countries and adapt them. Then, after several years, Chinese athletes reappeared in international competitions and were able to compete with the best in many fields. Naturally, they were able to do such a  thing because China is an authoritarian State. Here in India we are a  free society and such methods cannot be used in the same way.

About the results obtained through international competition

Some people say that only through participation in international com petition can you realize the gap between your standard and the world  standard. Even assuming that to be true, we have done enough of that: India has been participating in international competitions since 1928.  Apart from Hockey, the only medal India ever won has been a bronze  medal in wrestling during the Helsinski Olympics. All the other medals,  gold, silver, bronze, have been won in Hockey.

Ironically, the sports in which India is doing well are really the elitist sports, cricket, tennis, polo, which, even if they are no longer the

Interview With Narotam Puri

Interview With Narotam Puri

Maharajas' sports still require a lot of money. In tennis, we have done  rather well, much much better than some of the developed countries.  We have reached three times the Challenge Round, that is, the finals in  the Davis Cup, which is a remarkable achievement.

About the problem of motivation

Lots of Indians do very well at junior levels, even at world level. But  later, at senior levels, it slips, because after junior levels in India, many  athletes are looking for jobs and security. Most Indian athletes aspire  for State and National levels, because it is a good way to get jobs in  State companies. As it is now, most Indian athletes go out of India, in  international competitions, already beaten: they do not believe they can  win. Their horizon is very limited. As a result, there are very few sport  heroes here, with the exception of those in Cricket. So for our youths,  there are no models, which is a great pity.

About Adventure Programmes

There are tremendous possibilities about adventure programmes in  India, but the average Indian is not a very adventurous person. The  sense of enjoyment is lacking. So, despite an unbelievable potential  here, it is mostly the foreign tourists who go for adventure sports. It is  again a problem of attitude: most teachers in India would say: "Don't  waste fifteen days on a trek; better you study geography. Treks won't  give you a job."

Now, if in interviews for jobs, questions were put like: "How many  safaris have you participated in?" or "Have you been river rafting?"  then attitudes would change and adventure sports would be perceived  differently.


Interview With Narotam Puri

Back to Content