Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Heroes are made!

Recently, CNN-IBN ran a marathon campaign to identify and recognize the Greatest Indian since Mahatma Gandhi. There were a lot of names in the fray, most of them ones we expected to be on the list. Cutting a long story short, the finale decided that the Greatest Indian since 1947 had to be Dr B R Ambedkar, and that is where this article starts.

How many of us really know Dr Ambedkar? I'm not passing judgement on whether he's deserving of the sobriquet in this article. But then really, what I know of the man is only what I heard or read of him, and from the speeches people give each year on his birthday and gave a while ago for his centenary. The same is true of most people who were on that list. How many of us really know Sam Manekshaw, or for that matter, the real Sunil Gavaskar? The show had about 2 crore votes cast, and considering the stats that about 50% of our country is below the age of 35, at least half those votes would have been cast by people who did not really know the above mentioned people, including the winner. Honestly, we don't even really 'know' Lata Mangeshkar, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Milkha Singh, DhyanChand. What we know of the political class (which make up the bulk of the list obviously) is only what we studies in the Civics text books of school. Most of the voters in the fray wouldn't have gained any direct inspiration from these people. Yet they voted!

Ok, i'm getting ahead of myself here. Coming back to what I wanted to say, this brings to the fore an issue which is quite contradicting in itself. Most of the 'heroes' we've had growing up are ones who've been fostered on us by our earlier generation. We've got our own generation's heroes, and i'm sure we'll feed them to our next gen. This cycle will continue, and the world will live happily ever after. 

So does that mean i'm right in saying that heroes are made? And not consciously either! There is a game played by communication skill trainers the world over, called Chinese Whispers. The game involves a passing of messages from person to person, and the end result is often hilarious and the message they start with is entirely different by the time it reaches the last guy in line. The same is probably true of hero-making too. A great-grandfather, who probably did nothing more than to stand among thousands at a train station while the Mahatma waved from a passing train, becomes a close associate of Gandhiji by the time the story reaches today's kids as a bed-time story, and yet another anecdote becomes a legend. And a hero is born - much after the real person has left this world!

It is logical, right? And there is nothing wrong in it either. Just a way to ascertain our position in the world of today, as we are what we perceive ourselves to be. Malcolm Gladwell would probably have a thought point and a term for this phenomenon. Our past is our identity, and our future stems from the inspiration we derive of our bygone eras. Legends are what hold our past together, and there is always space for heroes in our past.

Meanwhile, we've crowned a legend from our grandparents' generation as the greatest Indian. I'm certain that when this same exercise is repeated for India's centenary of independence, some icon from our generation - probably a Sachin Tendulkar or an Amitabh Bachchan, or god forbid, some politician from today - will be crowned as the next legend. And the story goes on :)


Capt. Ajit Vadakayil said...



capt ajit vadakayil

Rajyalakshmi Vathyam said...

not sure if I missed your point, but who are the people anyways from our generation? Sachin, Lata or some more artists and sports people? And how many of us really know their contribution to the citizens (or even animals and plants) of the nation? In fact, one fan once scolded me that they do not need to publicize what they do, but I don't agree with that somehow. While they get enough accolades for their professional greats, they cannot be branded heros if their heroism cannot be advertised. Somehow, we are hell bent in keeping age old heroes alive by doing some award shows or jayantis. Different times, Different problems should give us different heroes, but alas!
In my opinion, Narayanan Krishan ( and others like him deserve some media space and light! There are really a lot more like him, They are real heroes!
My 2 cents,