India versus Bharat: Is it all in the name or just a game?

Whatever the origin of the word, ‘India’ comes more naturally in certain situations


Who will win if India faces off against Bharat? A lot depends on the game you are playing. If it’s kabaddi, you can probably put your money on Bharat. But alas, as far as popularity rankings go, kabaddi isn’t a patch on cricket. Practically everyone you meet will know that we are world champions in cricket. Most people wouldn’t know—perhaps you didn’t know it yourself—that we are also world champions in kabaddi and have been so for a long time. Or turn to malkhamb. No question about, it is ‘Bharat’ all the way.

But when it comes to cricket, that’s literally a different ball game. It was obviously ‘India’, not ‘Bharat’, which won the recent ICC T20 World Cup. For the commentators— even the Hindi ones—it was ‘India’ that came most readily to the tongue inside the commentators’ box. We even have acknowledgment from our friends on the other side of the border. In the heated exchange that Haris Rauf had with a selfie-seeker, the Pakistani bowler did not settle for the politically correct, but somewhat unrelatable, ‘Bharat’. He went: ‘Yeh tera India nahi hai’.

Okay, let us excuse Rauf. He is an excitable fast bowler who gets abrasive whenever his team loses (he should have got used to it by now). But look at the suave Ramiz Raja. Irritated when Pakistan lost a match they had in their pocket, this former CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board became waspish. Turning on a hapless Indian reporter, he told him he must be overjoyed that Pakistan lost because ‘Aap India ke ho na?’ It is in such moments of extreme emotion, that the truth slips out from behind the filters of diplomatic niceties.

Perhaps, cricketers may not be the right persons to ask. So we turned to the Isha Foundation’s Sadhguru, spiritual leader and prolific pontificator on general topics. He delivered a sermon recently on the subject, where he pointed out that ‘Bharat’ has a certain resonance that ‘India’ lacks. And the reason for that, he said, was that ‘India’ is a name given to us by the British. Most students of history, or to call a spade a spade, most readers of Wikipedia, would know that ‘India’ came from the name of the river Sindhu aka Indus. And it happened in the BC era, long before the British entered the picture. But let’s not split hairs. If Sadhguru believes that King Alexander and the Greeks were Brits dressed up in robes, who are we to question?

Whatever the origin of the word, ‘India’ comes more naturally in certain situations. On the raucous, throbbing stands inside a stadium for instance, the phonetics of Bharat don’t fit in with the rhythm and cadence needed for a stirring chant. So it better be ‘Indiyaah, Indiyaah’.

Bharat has another, more serious, handicap—it has been officially recommended. In fact, last year, our prime minister created a flutter by insisting that invitations go out from the ‘President of Bharat’. Now, anything that is officially recommended, stands automatically disqualified in the popularity stakes. Like the Pepsi advertisement of old, we prefer a thing because there is nothing official about it.

For the most sobering answer to this ticklish problem I turned to my perennial fount of wisdom—Bollywood. Indian cinema always gets it right—instinctively choosing the word to suit the context. So we can have ‘Chak de India’ when needed or ‘Yeh Bharat desh hai mera’ depending on the context. Bollywood doesn’t baulk even at ‘Hindustan’ because whatever else happens ‘phir bhi dil hai Hindustani’. I call such wisdom maturity. You choose the word that fits the emotions, not the other way around.

Chak de Indiyaah…!

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