The gloves are off

Not that we needed confirmation. But it is now official that the raging IPL is pure entertainment. The Chennai bench of the Income Tax tribunal has declared that the ‘IPL is an entertainment venture organised with the sole aim of harvesting profits’.

Rejecting the TNCA’s claim for exemption and its argument that the IPL is charity, the tribunal says:’ No free or concessional tickets are issued to the so-called slumdogs or poor people; the tickets are actually high-priced market products. IPL matches are big game of big money’. The tribunal called the ‘public service’ bluff and alluded to celebrity cricket matches wherein stars play just for money, fame or image. The very observant tribunal did not also fail to notice ‘cheer girls and other fanfare that garnish IPL’.

The TNCA had some gall to invoke the charity tag. Charity? My foot. The IPL, instead, violates all norms of public utility and public interest that qualify an act as ‘charitable’. Many legitimate questions can be raised about this ritzy extravaganza in a country of extreme economic and social divides. Very valid polemics can be advanced on the elitism of the IPL and how the bulk of India, its most populous States that actually relish cricket, have absolutely no part in this celebrity celebration. The wasteful parade of raw wealth and the glitzy pantheon of bloated biggies present a fanciful but false facade of India, hiding the real story. In fact, the IPL does no justice even to middle India, its sustaining factor, but we will come to that later.

So, it is natural to intepret the IPL in terms of class cleavage and conflicts. There is no doubt about it alienating huge caches of the country, which fact now carries the seal of an Income Tax tribunal too. But apart from the isolation and anger in the minds of the left-outs the real fatal fallout is the craving that the IPL has caused amidst them. This is a cinema-cum-cricket crazed country that can live without roti, kapada & makkan, but never sans its Dhoni, Kareena and Khans. Given such an insatiable market, the mighty money bags and slick entertainers, ever on the prowl for fresh pastures, can surely be trusted to conjure up viral schemes to convert this urban distraction into a national disease.

The idea is not to deny the other India this entertainment. The point rather is IPL is way beyond the means of even the middle classes. This rich man’s pastime is played out at the expense of frenzied and fortuitous urban Indians, whose prosperity could well be a mirage. A single visit to, say, Chepauk in Chennai, by a parent-child combo would cost a minimum of Rs 3000. If even five matches are deemed a must-see, the family is down by quite a sum. The hole in the pocket gets bigger as class-aspirations and canteen attractions too come to play. Now, if such addictive profligacy were to afflict more of India, imagine the turmoil it would cause to households! And all this to enrich a few gladiators swinging their bats like clubs (club cricket!) and the snooty slave-owners who bought them at ugly auctions for vulgar prices! The primal passions of primitive men pale before these polished present day predators!

Forget taking hooked individuals for a ride, the IPL cocks a snook at our collective conscience too. It lays bare the hypocrisy of the Jantar Mantar classes’ recent agitational fads. The cry over inflation falls flat at crowded ticket and food counters; the furore over fuel prices goes up in smoke if you count the cars at the stadium. It does not matter that the IPL is the premier playground of crony capitalism and the dumpyard of its ill-gotten money. Sleaze, sex and substance abuse are passe if seconded by sensational stars. No issues even if the IPL tickets are black-market favourites and the season’s legal tender for bribes. Power and water shortage are no deterrent if only to ensure a daylight-like night and a silken outfield. Head or tail, environmental and civic responsibilities go for a toss, as pollution, garbage and general chaos peak just for the sake of pleasure and profit. The strain on the security system is a small price for the super sixes by a super hero. Parental control and concerns vanish as child turns mate of man to jointly ogle at the skimpily clad cheer-leaders or the chic anchors adrift all over the place. No one is worked up over the brazen offer of women as eye-candies. And the merrier it seems as TV studios, open fields and dug-outs shed cultural inhibitions while the pavilions and party halls cross steamier thresholds.

This cricket charade was never charity. Cash and carry commerce is now taken for granted. The conversion of this crass entertainment into a carnal carnival is a happening reality. But let’s take a strategic time out before guessing what’s next on the IPL’s unlimited menu of vices.

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Jawahar T R