Hima Das, the sprinter from Assam made the whole country proud by winning gold at the International Association of Athletics Federations World U-20. She won the gold medal in the 400-metre event at the IAAF championship which is being held in Finland. Hima Das comes from Dhing village in Assam’s Nagaon district and has become the first Indian woman athlete to win gold at the world championship across all age groups. Hima registered a time of 51.46 seconds in the finals held at Ratina Stadium to clinch victory. Her spectacular performance was lauded by individuals from all the corners of India. Politicians, sports personalities took to social media to congratulate her. The string of appreciations from India came with a pinch of salt for the athlete, the fact that the message which would have hurt her the most came from the body which is meant to care and nurture athletes from the country, the Athletics Federation of India. AFI posted a tweet with a video in which Hima Das was talking to a journalist, the tweet read,
#HimaDas speking to media after her SF win at #iaaftampere2018 @iaaforg Not so fluent in English but she gave her best there too. So proud of u #HimaDas Keep rocking & yeah,try ur best in final! @ioaindia @IndianOlympians @TejaswinShankar @PTI_News @StarSportsIndia @hotstartweets pic.twitter.com/N3PdEamJen
— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) July 12, 2018
Ironically enough, while mocking Hima Das for her English skills, AFI handle itself misspelled ‘speaking’ as ‘speking’. However, the irony was lost on the people behind the AFI twitter handle.
The tweet which was posted after the semi-final win of Hima Das was wrong at many levels. Hima Das comes from a small village where there is a dearth of modern schools which can impart education of the English language. True, she is not the most fluent in the language, and why should she be, apart from her mother tongue which might be Assamese or a local dialect of the same, she had to learn Hindi. English is therefore a third or fourth language for her.
Das who is merely 18 years old has given all she could to her career, in honing her skills through training and hard work at running so that she could be the best in class one day. Learning fluent English therefore was the least of her concerns, and it is quite apt that she didn’t spend too much time fretting over it. As was rightly pointed out by a Twitter user in response to the AFI tweet, “She has landed in Tampere for displaying her talent in track and not in English. Its shame on you @afiindia for what you said.”
This elitist mindset is the root cause of disregard which our athletes face on a day to day basis. Why just athletes even people are everyday judged in India based on their adeptness in a foreign language and not on the knowledge which they possess. English is just a language, and it is not necessary for everyone to know every language, least of all an athlete who trains to win at his/her sport. There have been several instances in the past too when sportspersons from Haryana have been mocked and ridiculed by the elitist left-liberal cabal for their lack of prowess in the English language, they have also been ridiculed for their nationalist stances and the same elite cabal derogates them over their language or rather the lack of what they consider to be the epitome of modernity. Hima Das is the latest victim of this mentality which needs to be countered at all cost. Athletes like her need praise and appreciation along with help from the society and not ridicule. The AFI later on apologised for its mistake and tried to clarify that it was meant to show appreciation for her determination and grit, but dear AFI, sprinters never really needed to be proficient in languages to become better. Hope you will understand.