Halfway down the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and India are still seeking the elusive El Dorado, the city of gold.
Forget gold, even a medal has become something of a challenge for the largest-ever Indian contingent to the quadrennial Games, as pre-Olympic claims that India would sail past the London figure of six medals are rapidly becoming faint and distant.
So as the next phase of competitions gets underway, the only Indian to have come near a medal podium is India’s new IOC member, Nita Ambani. It’s true, and would have been funny had it not been such a pathetic state of affairs.
When the Games began on August 5, we had all set ourselves up for long nights and lots of action, with the host broadcasters promising a veritable bouquet of events on multiple channels.
But as the broadcast unveiled, we realised that the broadcasters had no control whatsoever on what was being shown. Consequently, many of the Indian’s initial performances were only read about over the Internet, since there was no telecast.
But just as well, since many of them must have been unwatchable.
Our table tennis stalwarts, who among them have been to six or seven Olympics, vanished like a puff of smoke. Achanta Sharath Kamal and Mouma Das have been the names of Indian TT over nearly a decade, but one match each was enough to send them packing.
Soumyadeep Roy and Manika Batra were no better.
Then there was the famous men’s doubles tennis event, involving Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna.
Now, we are all familiar with the drama that was enacted before the tennis squad left for Rio. About how Rohan didn’t want to play with Paes, preferring Saketh Myneni, and how the All-India Tennis Association had to intervene and adjudicate in Paes’ favour.
Even after this, there was little love lost between the two.
As it so happened, the actual match lasted about a tenth of the duration of the fight and subsequent flight to Rio. It was a disaster and a joke, all in one go.
The women’s doubles was also a ‘blink and you’ll miss’ exercise in futility.
So our demand for success became desperate, and even one win was lauded as a world beating feat. Dattu Bhokanal won a round in single sculls and became an instant hero.
Jitu Rai’s entry into the 10m air pistol final or that of Abhinav Bindra’s similar step-up into the 10m air rifle were applauded. Bindra’s fourth is as close to success as we come so far.
But we live in hope. As a nation, we are used to adversities and mediocrity but we always rise above that.
There were some flashes of hope as the days passed. The women archers were not too good in the team event, but Bombayla Devi and Deepika Kumari have so far shown some quality in the individual events.
Deepika, in fact, was in great form in the round of 16 match, hammering a round of 30 on her way to a win. A remarkable effort, considering the rain and wind that has hit Rio.
But the same rain and wind can be quite an irritant too, especially when it becomes an excuse.
We had hockey stalwart Viren Rasquinha, now a correspondent at Rio for the host broadcasters, stating that the rain and wind had affected Jitu Rai.
Really? I thought pistol events were indoors.
Also, if there was any effect of the elements, I would safely assume they would affect all athletes. So why is it a constant excuse for our athletes?
But never mind that. We have hope still.
The mixed doubles tennis pair of Sania Mirza and Bopanna has to get its act together, as do the shuttlers, led by Saina Nehwal.
Narsingh Yadav is still to appear, as does Yogeshwar Dutt. Names that raise some hopes.
But that is it. Our track and field squad will be ineffective as always, a complete waste of time and energy as they have been in all the Games past.
Maybe there’s a lesson in all of this for us. Maybe we should tone down our ambitions, which are akin to those nations that have a real sporting culture.
But we are optimists always. So there’s hope so long as we breathe. That is what sport is all about.