My social media feed is flooded this morning with people celebrating the Olympic Gold Medal of Neeraj Chopra in the Javelin throw event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It was such a proud moment for millions of us who were watching it when the Indian National anthem was played. All of us posted, shared and forwarded deliriously, the snippets and pictures of his moment. Neeraj chopra will now be a household name. But let’s for a minute think about what if he hadn’t won the Gold Medal. What if his first two fantastic throws had been bested by others? After all his competition included a man whose personal best was 97 metres and who had thrown over 90 metres several times before. But yesterday had not been his day. ‘To the victor goes the spoils’ and the Indian government announced a 1Cr. award for Neeraj and CSK rushed to award him a crore and make a jersey in his honour. I’m sure he will be flooded with endorsements and the farm boy from Haryana will be blessed with a comfortable life. But what if he had thrown the exact same lengths, but others had thrown better, and he had not medaled. No glory. No celebration. No money. You return home and get on with your ‘average’ life.
And because of the world’s reaction in this manner, all of us are conditioned to evaluate OUR OWN self-worth only by somebody else’s performance and the world reacting to it. It’s not enough if Neeraj threw 87.58 metres. Others HAD to throw less, for him to be considered a winner. At every phase of our life, it is not enough if we scored so much, earned so much, worked so hard, struggled so much….. if the world around you didn’t appreciate it by THEIR standards and your hard work didn’t RANK as a gold medal IN COMPARISON, your efforts mean nothing. Steeped in this societal norm …. we spend our lives evaluating our self-worth, in comparison, trying to figure out in which category we can win at least a bronze medal. Otherwise, our efforts mean nothing. We mean nothing. We are a nobody. And we cannot accept that.
in this context, it is indeed a tall order to live by Chap 2, Verse 47 of the Bhagavad Gita.
Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani
‘You have the right to work only but never to its fruits.
Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction’.