The story unwinded during the second Test between India & Australia at Sydney when Harbhajan was accused of 'racially insulting' Symonds by calling him 'monkey'. Bhaji was summoned after the test and Match Referee Mike Procter was convinced that he had enough evidence to hand over a 3 match ban for the Indian offie. The BCCI immediately sprang to his rescue and appealed against the ban, alleging that the accusation was false. The air was turbulent for a period of time and even the whole tour was in jeopardy. And just before the conclusion of the series, appeal commissioner John Hansen cleared Harbhajan of charges with this observation:
"I need to be sure and if I am left with a dishonest and reasonable uncertainty, then I must find in favour of Mr Singh,’ he said. ‘There was a direct conflict as to whether the word was used. ‘There are cultural accent and language differences and it is accepted some of Mr Singh’s remarks were in his own language." (Read full report here)
The crucial evidence of Sachin Tendulkar that Bhaji used the term 'maa ki' in Punjabi and was percieved by Symonds as 'monkey' was too plausible for Henson. Harbhajan was fined a portion of his match fees, a let away compared to the original ruling. Everyone seemed happy and content. File closed!
There is an ocean of a difference between what one perceives as an abuse across different communities. Symonds, Australia's only black player was repeatedly monkey chanted by the crowds during the last tour of India. Even terms such as 'black', 'Indian' or 'Asian' could be perceived as a racial abuse and is considered a serious offence in Western Countries, whereas 'monkey' wouldn't be an almighty abuse in India, even to our aborigines. Some groups even claimed that monkeys are considered God in India and it isn't associated with even a tinge of racism!
Now 'maa ki' is a direct verbal abuse to one's mother and it wouldn't make a difference if you are an Indian, Aussie, American or Utopian...It is an offense. Ask Marco Materazzi, he will tell you how it feels after addressing one's mom the wrong way.The infamous head-butt incident was as a result of his verbal assault on French star Zinedine Zidane's mother. Even though he defended his words as 'a phrase you would hear a hundred times on a football pitch', Materazzi had learned the lesson the hard way. But you wouldn't expect similar episodes in cricket; touted the gentleman's game.
Well, some gentlemen we have here!
Many have considered the 'Monkey' incident as a lighter moment, a comedy. Now some local chewing gum company is utilizing the incident to their advantage by casting Bhaji and Symonds in their ad based on this story. What I find really incomprehensible is Mr. Hanson's ruling that a 'monkey' is more degrading than a 'maa ki ****'
To be honest, I wouldn't mind a 'monkey'.