Pressure is not American, Mr. Kapil Dev

by Chandra Sundeep

Who doesn’t know Kapil Dev? The legend who held the 1983 World Cup and gave us Indians, our maiden world cup victory. He is an icon and a role model to so many people. He has given wonderful moments to remember and cherish to his fans and players of the game.

Like so many of his fans, I have placed him on a high pedestal for so long that I forgot to separate his larger-than-life personality from him, the individual

His latest interview was one such lesson that reminded me our heroes are flawed human beings too, and we should not worship them to the point of being blind to their fallacies.

Today is World Mental Health Day, an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. It was unfortunate that I came across this trash talk on such an important day. His talk shows how little importance we give to mental health.

He couldn’t be further from the truth when he said,

These are American words-pressure, depression. I don’t understand all this. I am a farmer who enjoyed playing. If you enjoy, how can there be pressure?

When did “pressure” or “depression” become American terms? Last I checked, these terms were universal and anyone from across the world could be afflicted by them. I am certain Americans don’t hold a monopoly over them! And certainly, his lack of understanding does not make these terms “American.”

According to him, if a player is passionate, he shouldn’t feel pressurised. How is that a fair statement? Are passion and enjoyment enough to keep the pressure at bay?

I am passionate about my craft, work, and family; does it make me immune to pressure? NO!

If this poor jab at the players wasn’t enough, he had the audacity to mock today’s generation of students for being “fortunate.” He narrated an instance of a recent visit to a school where grade 10 and 12 students mentioned being under pressure.

This is a verbatim translation of his Hindi text –

You are studying in AC schools, your parents pay the fees, teachers cannot indulge in corporal punishment, and you are under pressure!

I was appalled at his statement and the response it garnered. The sheer enjoyment of his co-speaker, Saina Nehwal, the host, and the audience filled me with rage. None of them bothered to correct the speaker and rather went on a giggling spree.

Isn’t this a callous mockery of our kids’ struggles? I am a mother of two teens, and I know from personal experience, pressure, and depression aren’t “foreign” words. These are very much a part of our lives.

Just because a child studies in an AC classroom or has parents who can afford to pay the school fees does not alleviate their suffering. Every school-going child, and especially a teenager, is under tremendous pressure. Their struggles are way too different from what their parents or grandparents faced.

Just because our kids are not wading through rivers to reach school or have electricity or aren’t getting thrashed by teachers does not mean they are free from pressure. It’s just that they are facing a different kind of struggle.

The struggle to score marks, get admission to the best of universities, fit in, yet stand out, and not succumb to peer pressure is very much real. Anxiety, depression, fear of failure are the demons they battle every day. 

Our emotional, psychological and social well-being is affected by many factors. Leading a comfortable life doesn’t make one immune to negative emotions or struggles.

Mental health is a sensitive topic. It takes a lot of courage to talk about it. And attitudes like these are certainly not helping create a conducive environment to talk about mental health openly. Mocking such serious issues should not be encouraged at all.

I am unsure why Mr. Kapil Dev is so far from understanding today’s kids’ realities, but such contempt is certainly not conducive to creating a positive environment. This kind of crass mockery would discourage many from seeking help.


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