Winning at all costs !

I watched one episode of the Masterchef US 2016 and then the finale. In the episode I watched, one contestant Shaun, had won some sort of advantage and he was asked to remove an ingredient from the other participants’ baskets for the challenge that day. One of the participants walked out because Shaun removed an important ingredient from his basket. Chef Gordon Ramsay then went out and convinced this contestant, brought him back into the contest and the best part was to see that he was still there amongst the three finalists ! But this blog isn’t about him. This is about Shaun who had removed the important ingredient from David’s basket. The format of the program made him do it, but what he said into the camera after doing it, put me off. He said that he knew David would lose all confidence and probably not even complete his dish if this ingredient was removed and it will ensure that David was eliminated from the competition. I hadn’t watched the other episodes before so maybe David had also tried something similar but really, would you play dirty to win a competition ??… Shaun is the person who won the Masterchef US this year but did he have to make such an effort to ensure David lost ?

I watched several episodes of Masterchef India 2016 and again there were three contestants that made snide remarks and generally assumed that they were the contenders for the top prize. In one episode Ajay remarked that Siddharth was too slow because he was old … at 46, Siddharth is hardly old ! Then Samantha and Anagha were to choose their teams for a team challenge and neither one of them chose Sreelaxmi and Samantha didn’t even bother to use her skills when Sreelaxmi came into her team. Samantha’s team lost the challenge. Then closer to the finale, when all the contestants were asked who their toughest competitor was, Anagha, Dinesh and Samantha just took each other’s names and Kirti, the winner, did mention that and felt sad … the nastiest comment was by Dinesh when asked about the weakest contender.. he named Ashima and said the competition was to be a “Masterchef” and not a “pastrychef”. I was so glad when Kirti won the chef coat first. I was also very happy to see Ashima and Kirti as the finalists. What makes someone be uber competitive and want to win at all costs ? Since when did “being nice” go out of fashion ?

In the corporate world, this uber competitiveness and winning at all costs comes at a high price – relationships are broken, deep friendships are forgotten in the race to reach the top, young people end up with heart attacks for having missed a sale… hey, STOP, LOOK, PROCEED – stop to look at what you will ruin as you run after that promotion, powerful position or a new role… and then proceed when you are ready to pay the price. Also remember, winning against an equally good contestant is a different high compared to winning against a weak or depleted contestant.

In sports, athletes and sportspersons have forgotten the word “sportsmanship” – you play to your best, and win.. not take performance enhancers and cheat to win. The biggest star of the cycling world, came crashing down the minute he admitted to doping – he was a superhuman without having to dope, what made him use performance enhancers ? The uber competitiveness !

I understand competition. I understand the euphoria of winning, But, am I going to say nasty things, break the other person’s confidence, take away their advantages inappropriately, demean my them, and win? What sort of winning is that ?

In the Mahabharata, the most debated battle is that of Abhimanyu entering the “Chakravyuh” and getting killed. The background to this for those who do not know the epic – Abhimanyu is the son of Arjuna, considered as the greatest archer of his times. While he is in the womb, Arjuna was explaining to his mother the way to enter into a complex battle formation called the “Chakravyuh” but doesn’t complete the description, so Abhimanyu only knows how to enter the “Chakravyuh” but doesn’t know how to exit. During the great war at Kurukshetra, between the Pandavas and Kauravas (cousins!!!!), Arjuna is lured away from the battle field and the “Chakravyuh” is formed by the Kaurava army. Abhimanyu comes forward and informs his uncles (the other four Pandava brothers) that he knows how to enter but not how to exit. His eldest uncle then says, that he should breach the “Chakravyuh” formation and they would all follow him inside. Abhimanyu successfully breaches the “Chakravyuh” but nobody is able to follow him inside. He fights alone and kills many, but at one stage he loses all his weapons. One of the Kaurava commanders then says that they should stop the fight since Abhimanyu doesn’t have anything to defend himself… unfortunately, the others decide to kill him because that was their only chance (so they thought) of winning the great war of Kurukshetra. The result is well known – the Pandavas win the great war and all the 100 Kaurava brothers are killed.

I have thought many times about Abhimanyu … what would have happened if the Kaurava commanders had stopped the fight as soon as Abhimanyu lost his weapons? The war would have ended right there and probably the Pandavas would not have wanted the kingdom even because the Kauravas had had a change of heart …. Such a different outcome, but the Mahabharata is an epic that depicts the human life with all its frailities and that’s the enduring magic of the epic.

In current times, we are behaving like the Kaurava commanders – beating up the defenseless, the weak and not leaving any advantage to anyone. Winning at all costs is actually winning at a high cost, sometimes as high a cost as one’s life. Its good to win, but also be good while you win, also win friends not only enemies. In a hard fought fair battle between equals – both win, because no one remembers who fought better. That kind of competitiveness is uplifting, the “winning at all costs” kind of competitiveness is just not worth the price one pays for it.

4 thoughts on “Winning at all costs !”

  1. Of course I agree with you about winning gracefully. There can be no 2 opinions on that! But I must share my take on cook shows.
    I have watched Masterchef contests India, Asia, US and Australia. I know nothing about cooking, but merely provide company to my wife when she watches. 🙂
    The American version is the worst– because it encourages gamesmanship & inconsiderate behaviour (like the one you reported); Gordon Ramsay is foul-mouthed and rude. It kind of provides a clue as to why Trump succeeded in America!!!
    In contrast, watch the Australian show— there’s much bon homie, real love for cooking and everyone is having a great time together. Everyone is achieving something and the winners are such good sports.
    Bindu-ji, I have made a choice— it is better to watch TV shows that warm our heart rather than those which make the blood boil. I sleep better 🙂

  2. I love Masterchef Australia – it’s positive, uplifting and focuses on winning for your skill and talent with grace. Contestants help each other – there are so many examples of contestants not having a critical ingredient during an elimination test and others sharing what they have – you win on skill – not through back-biting and mean-spiritedness. I absolutely detest the American version of the series and what’s sad to see is the Canadina version also follwos the US theme. How can you get better at what you do when you’re being shouted at, undermined or being put down. great blog, Bindu!


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