Iceland: Celebrating loss as success

Success is no doubt exhilarating, but even more so is overcoming the hurdles on the way, each one in its own time. Until the last one, and we reach

Within fifteen minutes of the game France had scored its first goal against Iceland in the quarter-finals of the Euro 2016 match that they played last Saturday. I am sure many spectators would have thought by the end of the first half, with France leading 4 to nil, that there was no way that Iceland was going to catch up. But it did, perhaps due to a surge of the Viking grit and spirit, going on to score two goals, with the final score being 5 to 2 in favour of France. But did Iceland lose?


In fact, not only Icelanders but football fans across the world congratulated Iceland for beating England and reaching the quarter-finals. That was considered an achievement for this small nation of only 330000 people, because their players had shown skill and determination, and persevered to reach their final score. They returned home to a hero’s welcome for, as one posting online described it: ‘Nobody in Iceland is angry, nobody is disappointed. We are more proud of our team than words can describe. They are true warriors and heroes!’ It was also pointed out that they received outstanding support from their president: he refused the VIP seat at the Stade de France to go and sit with supporters and cheer his country’s team!

A superb example of the human spirit that never says die, I would think. If taken in the right perspective and with a readiness to spring back, loss is not failure but a temporary setback. It can even be a success, and celebrated as such as Iceland has shown. The other example that comes to my mind is from the Hindi film Dilwale Dulhania Lejaenge. Of course the way that it is presented in the film is humorous, perhaps even as a joke if one were to take an extreme view – but it is a serious joke!

It is about a father in London, played by Anupam Kher, who is so happy that his son, played by Shah Rukh Khan, has failed his B.A. that he decides to gift him a holiday trip to Switzerland. When the son expresses amazement about his father’s reaction to his result, the latter explains that his own father had only reached the equivalent of SC, and that he himself had only made it to HSC – both without passing of course — so the fact that the son had been able to go beyond HSC was itself an achievement. So what if he had not passed his B.A.? At least he had reached up to the level of eligibility to sit for it! And so on holiday he goes, and the film then unfolds as the very successful romantic story that we all know, taking us to the fertile fields of Punjab.

That was over two decades ago, and Punjab as far as I know was not then the ‘Udta Punjab’ that the recent film of the same name so dramatically and poignantly reveals. I followed all the controversy that erupted prior to the release of the film in India, with the Censor Board of India demanding 79 cuts to the film, including any reference to Punjab. But thank goodness for India’s judiciary, which overturned the Censor Board’s decision. The film has been a great success.

Can Punjab ‘do an Iceland’ for the whole of India?

I have watched it, and much like the realities depicted in V.S. Naipaul’s Area of Darkness, those that I saw in ‘Udta Punjab’ struck a chord. I did not find anything that denigrated Punjab or its people; quite the contrary, it has brought to the fore the very serious problem of hard drugs in Punjab that is destroying the flower of its youth and is the cause of social disintegration by the extent to which it is ravaging families too, something which should be painful to all of us.

With others who have already expressed similar sentiments I sincerely wish that the film will be a wake-up call for a more pro-active, positive and efficient approach to the scourge of drugs in Punjab, so as to restore it to the days of its former glory. In recent times, that was in the 1960s, when it had the reputation of being the state where the Green Revolution took place, and for long years Punjab was considered as the granary of India.

A key aspect that the film depicted was the nexus between politicians, the police, and the chain of drug traffickers that included fake pharmaceutical firms – all of whom presented a veneer of respectability in society. It’s a pattern that is common to all countries affected by the drug problem. If the film awakens the conscience of the destroyers of the people and the polity, could this be the trigger for a reversal to the glowing times of the earlier Punjab?

Can Punjab, in other words, rise again from being a spurious ‘Udta Punjab’ to a reborn and genuine ‘Udta naya Punjab’ and celebrate success à la Iceland in a forseeable future? And be a model for the rest of India where the drug problem is as acute, such as in Goa, Mumbai, Bengal among others?

The driver for such an undertaking can only be the people of Punjab rekindling their pride, and having a non-divisive leadership that rallies them around the theme of a drug-free Punjab that will shine afresh. But it must move fast, and not sacrifice another generation like what has happened in Columbia – where after so many years and over a hundred thousand of innocent lives lost, the government and the drug driven FARC have a few days ago signed an agreement to end the bitter fighting of the drug war. Belatedly, but at least – and at last – the promise and hope of success taking over from loss looms ahead for the long-suffering people of Columbia.

Dropped but not dropped off

There are many examples of dropouts who went on to wow the world – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg come to mind. But there was also Albert Einstein who apparently did not ‘get on’ with zoology and left. And transformed our understanding of the physical universe with his Theory of Relativity. Late President of India Abdul Kalam was not successful in his first interview in New Delhi for a technician’s job, met Pujya Swami Sivananda at his ashram in Rishikesh who told him that he was destined for bigger things, and that is what exactly happened. He was humility personified.

So what is success? As Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati taught us, it is not a fraction of what we achieved over what we did not achieve. It is how well we cope with the consequences of our failures, which is primarily determined by our life philosophy. Choose the right one, and you are on the road to success, which invariably has potholes and bumps. But once the goal is clear, perseverance and focus lead on, and all obstacles will dissolve as one marches ahead.

Success is no doubt exhilarating, but even more so is overcoming the hurdles on the way, each one in its own time. Until the last one, and we reach. And go on to beyond, as a never-ending enterprise on life’s canvas — the only way to live life, and to enjoy it to the full.

RN Gopee

* Published in print edition on 8 July 2016

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