P.T. Usha is a Rajya Sabha member. Her nomination to the upper house of the Indian parliament is a matter of pride for Keralites. But I think the recognition has come a bit late. Better late than never!
Late? Yes, it is. Take the example of Sachin Tendulkar. The Indian cricket maestro was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2012, a year before his retirement. Mary Kom too was active in boxing when she was made a parliamentarian. Both thoroughly deserved the recognition, having steered Indian sport to lofty heights. But juggling sport and parliament is not easy, and the duo have come under fire for their prolonged absences.
So it doesn’t make sense to nominate active sportspersons to the parliament. But Usha retired from athletics in 1998. It took 24 years to realise that one of India’s greatest athletes deserves a place in the parliament.
Maybe, the memories of her exploits have faded. Many may not even be aware of Usha’s golden era. A time when she stormed the tracks, winning at least 18 golds in the Asian Track and Field Championships and Asian Games. And many more silvers and bronzes. Like Milka Singh, Usha too missed an Olympic medal by a whisker, and the two share the best performance by an Indian athlete on an Olympic track. (Neeraj Chopra’s javelin gold in the Tokyo Games is in a field event.)
I have never come across a more humble sportsperson. Usha and her coach O.M. Nambiar always had time for the media. Shy and retiring, Usha is forthright too, when it comes to responding to questions on controversial topics and onfield rivalries. Unperturbed by fame and popularity, Usha has always kept to herself, even at the zenith of her career. After retirement, she faded away from the limelight and set up an athletics school to nurture budding talents.
In the last few years, Usha’s name cropped up only when one of her wards performed well. That was until the Rajya Sabha nomination. Politics can be weird, Usha was to realise soon. One of the elected parliamentarians from her home state of Kerala was quick to accuse that the nomination was a reward for burnishing her Sangh Parivar (right wing) credentials.
Politicians can only see everything through the prism of politics. That’s a shame since Usha is not just a legend in Kerala. She wore the India colours with pride. Worked hard to bring glory to the nation. The nomination may have come late, but it’s still an honour. It’s never too late to recognise the contributions of one of the finest athletes of India. One who inspired a generation of athletes around the country.
More power to Usha.