Last week I talked to you about education and its importance and how the young often take it for granted and treat it with genial contempt only to realise in later years what a folly it was.


I believe it builds character and character is something that is both tangible and yet, intangible in that you do not see it until it manifests itself. They say that integrity is how you behave when no one is looking. In this grab and run era the world is going through with its ‘me first’ approach to greed and avarice one of the best trials for judging character and seeing people for what they are when the mask falls is the sports arena. It is amazing how the physical competitiveness brings out the real person, warts and all.


 Now, in the few years I had on earth, I cannot say that I was a particularly special athlete. I was not. But exercise held great meaning for me and I took a healthy body concept very seriously.


And I watched the world of sport closely. Now we all know someone whom we have held in great esteem and we have a pre-conceived notion of that person’s value system. Then one day, the scales fall off and we are sad and shocked witness to bad behavior on the field of sport. A bad loser, an arrogant winner, a cheat, someone who fudges or loads the dice unfairly, a dozen different ways of displaying bad form. This does not gel with image you had with that person. But you have been there, seen that.


The call of the ‘out’ when the ball was in, the moving of the golf ball from a rough and conning a stroke out of it, fouling the opponent deliberately, refusing to surrender gracefully and walking away like when we were kids and if in the game of backlot cricket we were given out by leg before or run out we sulked and took our ball and went home. By the same token the  snobbery of victory and the lack of genuine humility can be as galling.Like when I played Tennis at the Tennis Academy Of Ahmedabad,it was right across grandma’s villa so mom used to keep me and Vidhi productively occupied for a couple of hours but there was a spoilt brat there who would not let us hit the balls and would again and again cut the line and hit the balls himself.Mom got angry and she complained to the coach who refused to see wrong so she asked me not to let the child cut the line but if this guy had no decency even though he was much elder to me I refused to play along and do what he did.Finally mom realized she was wasting time there and we stopped playing Tennis in Ahmedabad.There are no rules everybody does what they want and get away with it.


These are not flaws, these are character traits and will be reflected in every sphere of activity by that person. We do not see it because we do not wish to see it and very often it is camouflaged by the accoutrements of office and the symbols of power. All that gets stripped away on the playing field of life and we are left with reality.


The odd thing is how reliable this litmus test is because the human race cannot pretend to be what it is not in physical competition. We can be ruthless, cruel, hurtful, downright ugly in our desire to win and it probably is rooted in primitive caveman history but it still holds good.


So use sport as your yardstick for taking a man’s measure. And if you discover a glitch in the behaviour of the field of play don’t do business with that person for sure as the sun rises, the very same trait will show up in the office.

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