Why Indians Need Real Idols, not pretentious ones

Why Indians Need Real Idols, not pretentious ones

The pretentiousness and shallowness of many Indians can be really overwhelming.

sultan may have been a great movie, but I won’t know because I won’t be watching it. Not in theatres, or on TV subsequently, for obvious reasons. It’s not the movie I’m against, but the encouragement of wrong. But should that bother fellow Indians?

What should bother us, is that we are the same people who were furious when vijay mallya fled the country.

And we are the same people who, despite salman khan’s wrongdoings and ego, continue to encourage him by supporting him, by watching his movies and making him even more full of himself than he already is.

Now, there is a marble plaque installed by him on a traffic island outside Mehboob Studio. In memory of, (beat this!), his two dogs that died about 7 years ago. And what’s so important about those dogs? Nothing, apart from the fact that they were his pets. The plaque itself, approved by a local BMC ward, was installed about 2 weeks ago. Less than 700 metres from the spot of his infamous hit-and-run. [link]

I love dogs. And out of admiration for ‘man’s best friends’, I have read a fair amount about memorials for dogs all over the world. But those memorials were for exceptional and distinguished ones; those who either served in a war or with the police, in narcotics or anti-terror divisions of the forces, or saved multiple lives, or bravely sacrificed themselves saving or protecting children, etc.

Yet, in a country where even our human war heroes, police martyrs and civilians who have lived for social causes fight for remembrance and recognition of their exceptional sacrifices, we choose to make heroes of smaller people, and their pets.

It is not that our heroes don’t deserve our country. After all, we have been blessed to have been born in one of the greatest countries in the world, and our heroes undeniably loved it more than we can imagine.

It is, shamefully, that we Indians don’t deserve our heroes, for our respect and loyalty are invested in petty mortals.

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Time For Us To Bhaag

Time For Us To Bhaag

In continuation to my previous post on Milkha Singh and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag [BMB], here is another small piece in connection with an article doing the rounds about how Milkha Singh never held the 400m World title [link], as portrayed in BMB. [Again, ‘Bhaag’ is Hindi for ‘run’]

In humble defense, all I’d like to say without getting into specifics, is that maybe he never broke a world record, or maybe he broke some record where there were three runners ahead of him who also broke the same record, which of course still doesn’t give him claim to something he didn’t win. Maybe the record was at an altitude, or the 400 m then wasn’t exactly 400 m (it was sometimes measured it in yards). And, Milkha Singh himself has said that only about 80% of the movie is factual. And given his humble background and sincerity, I doubt he would have allowed or given wrong facts. So, hoping that now we’re all agreed on that, allow me a few minutes to share my view of the movie, about why I feel Milkha Singh is so important, and about an important underlying concept.

For a long time now, I have believed that we Indians are quite a pretentious lot.

Take Ratan Tata for example; an outstanding businessman and gentleman who is admired by most, if not all of us. But, the hurdles we as a country have placed before him don’t quite add up. Be it with setting up of an auto plant for the Nano in W. Bengal, or problems with their repeated desire to re-enter the airline business. Can you think of any similar hurdles faced by corrupt businessmen? I can’t. And yet, other influential groups even pull-off successful IPOs with no actual business to show.

Some entrepreneur circles have some often repeated (and increasingly boring!) questions. They include ‘when will India give the likes of a Google, Apple or Facebook to the world?’ Or ‘will India be able to build one of the greatest businesses of the world’? The problem is that these questions, just like the pretentious outlook, are superficial.

Indians have helped build some of the greatest global companies. Some stats for the uninitiated: 12% scientists and 38% doctors in the US are Indians. 36% of NASA employees, 34% at Microsoft, 28% at IBM, 17% at Intel and 13% at Xerox are Indians. And these stats are from way back in 2008.

So, again, it isn’t that Indians are not capable. But perhaps many Indians in India seem to have a crab-like mentality rather than one of encouragement and support. And reality continues to be quite distorted for a lot of us.

We spend considerable time trying to lay a claim to fame in every world event imaginable. Don’t believe me, try these:

  • Britain’s royal baby will have a karmic connection with India, an astro-numerologist predicts
  • There was an Indian connection in the delivery of Britain’s new prince – One of the doctors present at the birth of Prince William and wife Kate’s first child was Sunit Godambe, who grew up in Mumbai (India)
  • Last financial year, Red Hat became the first Linux vendor to breach the $1-billion revenue mark, recording $1.3 billion. This growth story has a strong India connect
  • Scientists testing saliva samples from Prince William’s relatives discovered a direct link between the future king and a woman who was part-Indian
  • Nobel laureate, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer has an India connection – he came to Bhopal immediately after the gas tragedy to express solidarity with the victims, noted Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan
  • God particle: ‘India is like a historic father of the project’
  • There’s an Indian connection in 4 films with 36 Oscar nominations

We claim from a distance. And yet, we often fail to see or acknowledge legends walking amongst us. We give our lives, money and time for cricket, and yet curse and scorn when the hockey team doesn’t qualify for an event. We seem to have taken ‘freedom of speech’ the wrong way around. It does not mean we sit pretty on our couches and ridicule and brush aside the important, and hang out our drooling tongues for an international spotlight. It is about knowing what is right, what is important, what is fair, and what is inconsequential.

BMB is not about a claimed shot at breaking a world record. It is about how a ‘nobody’ with an unimaginably horrific childhood, overcomes, pursues and persists to win. And makes India a little bit more well-known, the world over. A tale of inspiration, introspection and encouragement.

It is ironic, that a Pakistani general conferred the title of ‘The Flying Sikh’ to Milkha Singh soon after a race in which he defeated Pakistan’s own Asia champion; yet here we, not so proud but quite cynical and underplaying. We are arguing over facts in a movie, albeit important ones. But in the process, we are losing sight of greater lessons that can be learnt from a glimpse into his life.

So for starters, let’s just stop simply laying claim to events, people or successes, however remote. Let us change. Let us create, and work together, in such a manner, that when we have something wonderful and new to offer, the world will take notice and itself shout out about the Indian source or contribution.

Running