To the right of me is a television screen showing a man in a suit and a top hat, riding a horse. At one corner of the screen is the logo of state tv, Doordarshan. For a snap of a second, I’ve gone back in time: it’s Sunday and any moment now, Jeremy Brett will yell something in his Sherlock Holmes’s voice. Except it’s Saturday, what’s on tv is the bloody Olympics and I’m at work. Work which has come between me and something that I really wanted to attend, but never mind that (for now). Let us, at the moment, focus on Olympics 2012, which for some bizarre reason has an excited following in India. This is remarkable to me because we must be one of the most unathletic populations in the world. For example, there is not a single fit man or woman in the lot that is watching this top-hatted, equine event. Yet, there they are, all goggle-eyed. “We’re actually waiting for the badminton,” I was informed by way of explanation when I asked why they were watching what they were watching.
“Is India playing?”
“No ya. But the Chinese are damn good.”
That’s lovely for the Chinese but how does it explain you, an Indian, gripping the edge of the chair and grunting as the shuttlecock shuttles between four distinctly non-Indian looking chaps? When you should be whimpering in shame at how bollocksy the performances of our sportspeople usually are at these things.
“You gotta love it for the sport, yo,” someone told me the other day, when I was musing aloud about how bollocks most of our sportspeople are. “Rise above petty patriotism and all that.”
Last week, two friends of mine chatted with me while trying to get last minute tickets to something, anything at the Olympics. Both of them asked me — in a way that you know you’re not really meant to answer — whether they should get tickets for an event in the Paralympics. To both of them, I said something along the lines of, “That sounds like the most pathetic version of ‘I woz ‘ere’.” Not particularly polite or politically correct, I know. After that, in one case, my friend sighed and decided to try getting some work done. In the other, friend and I whined about how life is depressing and hopeless. Yes, we’re that myopic and self-indulgent.
This morning, I chanced upon a series of photographs that photographer Martin Schoeller has done for ESPN. They’re of American Olympian athletes and one of them is Oksana Masters, who makes me feel awful at a number of levels. Here’s why.
What you see is a woman who has no legs, barely any hands and there she is, casually defying gravity while she hangs from a rope. And I complain about my life and not being able to write a novel.
Curiously, there isn’t that much on Oksana. Possibly because there are lots of people like me who dismiss parathletes. Here’s what I could piece together with help from Aunty Google.
Oksana suffered from radiation poisoning as a foetus and consequently, when she was born (in Ukraine), she had a number of physical defects.
Her left leg had practically no tibia…. She was born with six toes on both feet, and some of her toes were webbed. She had five fingers on both hands, but no thumbs, and her fingers were webbed.
Her mother put her up for adoption because she couldn’t afford to take care of her. I don’t know how many years she spent in the state orphanage, but it was long enough for her to apparently develop a resistance to hunger. There wasn’t enough food to distribute to all the children in the orphanage and so little Oksana would go without food for long stretches. Apparently, she can still go for a couple of days without eating.
A Canadian family adopted Oksana when she was about 8. This profile was written about Oksana when she was 9 and living with her adoptive family.
While living in the Ukraine, Oksana had as many as five to seven surgeries, including limb lengthening surgeries on her left leg. However, she still had a long way to go. When she arrived in Buffalo, her left leg was severely deformed. The leg was 3 inches shorter than her right leg, and her left foot was two shoe sizes smaller than the right foot. … As Oksana continued to grow, so did the discrepancies between her left leg and foot from the right side. Because of the severity of the deformities, her left leg was amputated at the knee (knee disarticulation) in May 1998. … In addition to the amputation of the left leg, Oksana has also had to endure problems with her right leg as well. She has rotational problems at the knee, as well as knee and ankle instability. She has worn a Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthosis (KAFO) fabricated by Chris Van Dusen, CPO for the past two years to alleviate the problems with the right leg.
As is obvious from Schoeller’s photo, her right leg eventually had to be amputated too. Schoeller has photos of her wearing both her prosthetic legs in ESPN’s gallery. With or without them, she’s absolutely gorgeous.
I think Oksana is designed to make all of us who are lazy and not missing any limbs feel like absolute cows. (Yes, of course, the world is all about us.) I also think I shouldn’t complain about my life. And I should really knuckle down and write the stuff that I keep thinking I want to write.