No worship, period…hero/ines aplenty.
If I were taking part in a beauty pageant and was a finalist, (and pigs may fly), I would have been asked this question….”Who is your hero/ine or role model?” Like many finalists from India, I would have said Mother Teresa without a blink of the eye. That is the picture perfect answer that beauty queens are coached to answer.
However, for me heroes and heroines have been ordinary people who have fought daily battles to wake up the next morning to face another day, another battle.
My generation of Indian girls were not into dating or meeting boys in social environments. We were convent educated and brought up on Rochester (Jane Eyre) and Darcy (Pride and Prejudice). Heroes were found between the pages of romance Mills and Boon and Silhouette novels and occasional Hollywood movies. Many married into chauvinistic families where they were suppressed and reduced to housewives.
Flashback to a famous theatre in Bombay, Eros. The film Carpetbaggers, the hero George Peppard. After having read the trilogy by Irving Wallace, Peppard was the hero and my collegemates and I had gone to see the movie and we came out as maidens bowled over! I don’t remember seeing him in any other movie after that.
Then on the Indian scene, Amitabh Bacchan burst onto the scene. He was the tall, handsome, surly, angry young man who caught everybody’s notice. The young saw in him and the roles that he essayed, all their angst about the inequities of life. Older people saw him as the quintessential son who looked after his parents, especially the mother figure. For women he was the caring, loving, fun loving lover, partner, the man they did not find in their real lives. Men saw in him the heroic qualities that drew women to him in hordes.
The hero that AB replaced in hearts was a chocolate box character called Rajesh Khanna. I was teaching in the undergraduate classes in 70-71, just before I got married. There was a boy who completely fashioned himself—dress, talk, walk, behaviour–on this hero. And everybody forgot his real name and called him Rajesh. That was the impact of this hero on young minds.
Later in life, I ran across a strange case. My friend’s househelp had a daughter who was normal in every other department. Her only obsession was an actor called Vijay and she would run away from home in search of this filmi hero.
It was a nightmare for my friend and her househelp to go in search of this girl. We then got her admitted into an in-house facility where they gave her counselling and life=skill training. She was there for about three months and then totally vanished and there is no news of her—whether alive ot not—till today.
Over the years, many of middle-aged women turned to religion and to men who glamorously proselytized the spiritual path of life. The spiritual quotient of this focus on a man was socially accepted without negative aspersions. There were friends of mine who became obsessed with these Gurus and became totally centred around them as heroes. They used religion as a crutch to escape the dull monotony of their mundane lives or the abusive restrictive life of husbands and in-laws. Some Gurus are women too and their ilk is growing more and more in the modern middle-class milieu.
Common sense dictates that it is better not to put people on pedestals. Heroes are usually people with clay feet. And with the thump that they fall in one’s respect and adoration, it can be quite a let down leading to cynicism about any achiever in any field.
This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four PLUS 1 bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Natarajan and Sanjanaah.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic.