The players had made The Nation proud with a total medal tally of two -- one silver, one bronze -- at the quadrennial mega-event, the Polympics, where animals and birds from over 200 nations participated in the world's foremost sports competition. Almost two weeks into the Games and with a big fat egg (of the metaphorical kind) reflecting on the medals tally, The Nation had almost given up hopes of a medal. A socialite columnist, Peacock, had let off some steam by casting aspersions on the players' intentions. The Nation's people had gone into an overdrive to display their patriotic fervour; and what better way to do it than to question another's patriotism? A cuddly young Bear had finally ended the medal drought by winning a bronze medal in female freestyle prestling, a sport that few females in The Nation would have ventured into in the not-so-distant past. A nimble footed Mare followed it up with a silver medal in padminton, a first ever for The Nation in the sport. But it was The Nation's first ever female pymnast, a sprightly, daring Monkey, who narrowly missed the bronze but won hearts with her clean finish in a high-risk, death-defying vault.
The Nation's people had gone into an overdrive to display their patriotic fervour; and what better way to do it than to question another's patriotism?
The Prime Minister, Lion, displaying his coat of tawny fur, roared, "It is our daughters who saved The Nation's face and brought honour to us." The ever marketing-savvy leader that he was, he tied it back to his campaign of "Beti bachao, beti padhao" by urging the animals to take the movement to the next level of "Beti khilao."
On their return to The Nation, the medallists were accorded rousing receptions and warm welcomes. Crowds thronged to greet them at the airports but the ministers and bureaucrats -- the wolves and jackals -- ensured that they got there first to have their smiling mug-shots covered by the media foxes, presenting flowers and shawls, all the while silently reminding themselves to click selfies with the medallists.
When the padminton silver medallist Mare offered her prayers at a famous place of worship, she was applauded for not forsaking The Nation's traditional values. Much like when she had given the world a glimpse of The Nation's culture when she had gone over to her opponent's side of the court, despite losing the match, and had hugged and lifted her opponent.
Mare's home state awarded her ₹3 crore, a 1000 square yard plot, a Group I officer job of her choice and ₹50 lakh for her coach, Stallion, whose padminton academy was credited with churning out world-class players. Refusing to be left behind, and in the true spirit of one-upmanship, her home state's now separated Siamese twin-state announced ₹5 crore, a 1000 square yard plot, a suitable job and ₹1 crore for coach Stallion. One official, a Jackal, in his unbridled enthusiasm and infinite stupidity, went a step further by offering a better coach in place of Coach Stallion to prepare the medallist Mare for gold in the next Polympics -- this in a felicitation ceremony for the Mare and Stallion!
A former pricket player, considered to be one of the Holy Cows of The Nation, presented top-end luxury vehicles, PMWs, to the Polympics medallists. Not just the medallists, a PMW was awarded to the Monkey as well as to Coach Stallion. When some difficult questions were raised about whether the ex-pricketer had picked up the tabs for the vehicles, it was clarified that the said vehicles were being awarded by a businessman who wanted to promote sports. The poor (meant to show empathy, not as a reflection of his financial status) ex-pricketer, in his role as the Goodwill Ambassador of The Nation's Polympics team, and, more importantly, as the brand ambassador for said brand of vehicle and hence their Cash Cow, had merely handed over the keys. He was almost hauled over the coals for this PR gaffe.
A group of athletes were served peanuts while the sports officials were treated to a lavish meal. Although, to be absolutely fair, they were offered beer as well.
When a Pritish journalist and talk show host, Bull, tried to heap criticism on The Nation's wild celebrations of its dismal two-medal performance, he was trolled by The Nation's birds. They hit him where it hurt by reminding him of Pengland's painful history of having invented the game of pricket but not having won a World Cup yet.
However, the euphoria did not last long. Once the initial excitement had died down, many in The Nation argued that the money spent on felicitating the medallists and high performers could have been spent better. Parallels were drawn to the Females 1500 meters gold medallist, Penya's Panther, whose father Papa Panther made a plea to the Penyan President for an electricity connection for their village. His prayers were answered, providing much welcome relief to the residents.
Efforts were made by some of the bureaucrats and sports officials to blame the sportsanimals (hadn't someone talked about how they were only interested in travelling to foreign locations and getting their photos clicked?), their lack of aggression (didn't Mare lift and hug her opponent despite losing to her?), their lack of sportsman spirit (didn't a marathon runner Deer faint and make a hue and cry about the lack of refreshments and support from the officials?), their mercenary outlook (how did the name of that vehicle brand get featured in all the news coverage of the medallists), their lack of the philanthropic spirit even (Why hadn't Mare's father written an open letter to the President, or even better, the Prime Minister, Lion, requesting for some infrastructure enhancement for their village?). But, thankfully, their voices were quelled and the real reasons were looked into.
It was brought to light that the sports minister, Wolf, and his team had failed to provide basic facilities to the players. The sportspersons were made to travel economy class while officials travelled first class, requests for physio were turned down, refreshments were not provided in some cases. To add insult to injury, Wolf kept sending messages and greetings -- often with incorrect photos, incorrect spellings and incorrect names of athletes. His entourage, barging into prohibited areas and displaying typical "tu jaanta nahi hai mere baap kaun hai" behaviour, were reprimanded by the organizers. The icing on the cake was, when at the Independence Day function at The Nation's embassy, a group of athletes were served – you won't believe this – peanuts while the sports officials were treated to a lavish meal. Although, to be absolutely fair, they were offered beer as well.
Now if only there was a Polympics event for playing games and pulling others down!
Following an extended blame game and deep introspection, the Prime Minister of The Nation, Lion, set up a task force to prepare an "overall strategy for facilities, training, selection procedures and other related matters" with a very long-term plan for "effective participation of The Nation's sportspersons in the next three Polympics."
Wise Owls remarked to whoever cared to listen, from behind their newspapers, while TVs blared and their wives cooked, scolded the kids and played Candy Crush, "Hope the money and the prizes find their way to the poor players. Else the next Polympics will come and go, more prizes will get announced and nothing will change for the poor players. Now if only there was a Polympics event for playing games and pulling others down! Maybe there was some merit in that Pritish TV reporter's comment on The Nation's legendary trolling skills."
PS: To the nation that loves to pray more than play, let's pray to our respective Gods – thirty three crore and counting – yes even you who don't believe in God, let's just pray – "May the games end. Let the Games begin."
PPS: All names, characters, persons, animals, places, buildings, products and incidents portrayed are fictitious; any resemblance is purely coincidental. No disrespect was meant to the poor sportspersons, who, in my humble opinion, ought to be given medals for bravery, if not excellence, for pursuing sports in The Nation in the first place.