India is celebrating one of its best-ever performances in the Commonwealth Games. The country’s 61 medals may be no match to Australia’s 178. But for a country, which until recently was taunted for having no sports culture, the medals make a big statement – India has arrived.

But it’s not just about medals. It’s something much more remarkable that our athletes are achieving i.e. A CHANGE IN MINDSETS. Against the backdrop of our 75th year of independence, couldn’t help noticing the dawn of new freedom from colonial perceptions, outdated beliefs, and self-repressive attitudes.

Let only Talent Speak

Speaking fluent English has long been considered a ticket to a promising and dignified career. 75 years and the country is still divided into those who speak, and those who cannot speak English. Sadly, the former seems to gain misplaced superiority, and the latter reels under a false inferiority complex.

Finally, we have a new generation of sportspersons who are breaking these stereotypes. They are children of farmers, masons, cart pullers, and paan-shop owners, who are not fluent in the British lingo. But the best part is, they don’t care a damn. Coming from small Indian villages, they confidently set the stage ablaze in the very heart of our coloniser’s home. Their dreams are too high to be weighed down by factors as insignificant as language.  They are opening doors to new paths, new career options, and above all, new hope. The only language they speak is that of hard work and grit.

Proud of their Indian-ness

The viral picture of Tokyo medallist, Mirabai Chanu, sitting on the floor of her modest home for her meal, reflects more than her simple village living. This is how our forefathers have dined for generations together, sitting on the floor, sans spoons and forks. This is how most families in India still eat, despite their economic status. Given the humble background of most sports persons, the scenes are unlikely to be different in their homes. But they are testimony to the fact that despite your international fame, you can still live, eat, drink and sleep in ways that are very Indian and do so with pride.

Redefine Beauty and Fashion

Does the media make you believe that having a skeleton-thin body, and painting your face with make-up, enhances your beauty quotient? Then look who’s making a new style statement – our sportswomen! They are redefining beauty with healthy, fit physiques and not dainty figures. They gracefully carry whatever attire their sport requires them to wear and they do so in style. Their faces glow with nutritious intake and exercise and not external facials and colour. They are becoming the new inspiring models of beauty for young girls to emulate.

Real World Celebrities

It’s high time we looked up to some real-world heroes and heroines. Not that the ones in show-biz have had it easy. Many have struggled their way up to fame. But it certainly does not justify the adulation this fairytale world receives. The sporting arena has thrown in a new class of celebrities. These celebrities have no qualms wearing the same dress twice, they can proudly show their real and sweating faces, and they feel no need to be in the public eye all the time. They silently slip in and out of airports without attracting paparazzi cameras or people’s attention, as their focus is clear – PERFORMANCE.

Shattering Norms

Nikhat Zareen or Nitu Ghanghas do more than boxing their opponents. They pack a punch on the face of society, which merits girls on how soft their rotis turn out to be. Wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat pin down forces that expect girls to grow up into well-mannered brides. Hockey player Rani Rampal, who built a home for her poor parents, leads by example in a country where daughters are still considered to be a burden. Here are women, who put in hours of painstaking practice, which safe-keepers of old traditions cannot even fathom. These women are the shining emblems of true freedom.

Birmingham 2022 meant more than sports for India. Breaking away from the clutches of old attitudes, India’s 200 athletes displayed super fighting spirit to see the Tiranga raised and the national anthem played on a world stage. The jubilant hugs, the triumphant cheers, and the broad smiles said it all. What a befitting tribute to 75 years of independence. Vande Mataram!