This post is the Loose Consortium Bloggers’ Friday post when Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Marianna, Maria, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy , and I write one post each on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs too to have different views on this fascinating subject.
My earliest memory of Hero worship was of an actor named Ranjan. He starred as a villain in Chandralekha, I now understand, when I was around six years old, one of Tamil Film Industry’s all time greats and subsequently, as one of the brothers in the Tamil film, Apoorva Sakotharkal. I was too young to be impressed by his histrionics, but why he was my hero was because he was our neighbour. He used to indulge us youngsters with a smile and a wave as he elegantly got into his open top MG Sports car and drove away. On other occasions, we would catch him in his checked lungi and kurta in his compound quite nonchalant about his star status, ever ready with a smile and a wave for us. My class mates would not believe that he was our neighbour and I had to take them to show them that he really was. Is it a wonder that our son is named Ranjan? Luckily, Urmeela’s father’s name was Niranjan and it was a simple matter to persuade Urmeela to accept the shorter version for our son!
Sadly, I grew up and Ranjan moved on. My next object of hero worship was Johny Weismuller as Tarzan. I was then living with my uncle and aunt as an experiment for a year while my parents and siblings were away at Mumbai. In the campus where we lived, movies used to be shown once a week and Tarzan was a regular hit with boys of my age and perhaps even older. The campus also had a number of banyan trees with the roots climbing down from the branches, enabling some of us to do the Tarzan swing between branches, falling and getting hurt. But the best part of it was the Tarzan yell, we thought would get us face to face with the bad guys.
Other heroes came into my life, all from the reel world and none from the real world. At various times, different heroes were objects of my worship, like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin from the English screen and many Indians like Sivaji Ganesan, Dev Anand, etc. Other fictional heroes like Robin Hood, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Perry Mason, Ayn Rand’s Howard Roarke and so many others who gave me hope that mankind can produce heroes and may be I too can become one!
In the meanwhile life was passing by and I was growing up. My first real life hero came into my life only to lose his, to insurgents in the North Eastern part of India in an ambush. He was my classmate and fellow member of the boxing team who joined the Indian Army, rose to the rank of Captain in the Gurkha Regiment and was killed in action. At that time I was already into my working life and had little time for hero worship of the film world.
I also had newer interests and hero worship was not part of that agenda. The agenda was for me to become a hero to others. Whether I succeeded in that attempt is not for me to say, but the truth is that, that was my aim anyway. Some of my friends on the other hand have been convinced since those days and remain so till date, that I am eminently qualified to be a zero.
I grew up as we all do and value systems and definition of heroes changed. I started to notice that the world was full of heroes about who we do not know as they simply keep doing things that make them eligible to be called heroes without ever being conscious of that, nor being acknowledged as such. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Let me give some examples.
Among those I consider to be very close friends are two individuals who, in other situations would have been sainted!
The first is a lady, let us call her VW. (Yes, I occasionally call her Beetle and she still does not know why.) She is married to a man who must be the world’s most difficult person to live with. Let me clarify. He too is my friend and I have his permission to say this about him. His life has been like a yo-yo with a great deal of downs and a few ups. They are blessed with two lovely children, a son and a daughter. The younger one, the daughter is an American citizen with two lovely children in American colleges. The son is mentally challenged and has a body of a middle aged man and the mind of a teenager. VW’s husband, CW does not accept this and strongly believes that it is just a character defect. CW has had many health problems and has been semi invalid the last few years, and VW has become care giver to the two men in her life. She has recently undergone treatment for cancer and has had to put up with the side effects of that treatment as well manage the household. To see her, you would not know that this is her internal reality and quite how she manages all that is something that very few people know and I am one of the very few who do. No film life hero or heroine can come anywhere near portraying what VW does to me to inspire me with awe, admiration and the respect that her character fully deserves.
The other is KD about who I have written earlier and who recently provoked me into posting about my own inarticulate angst. KD too is an amazing man for his heroism, which is not recognized for what it is by most people. He is a bright Indian Civil Service man whose career has been stuck at middle rung because he is afflicted with Multiple Scelorosis. His wife has left him and because of some problems created by her, his career has been further affected as well as his having to be involved in many legal complications. Despite these obstacles and problems, he is successfully bringing up his children and is a loving and caring father to them. He has not let his handicaps affect his character and zest for life and is an inspiration for me.
I am sure that all my readers will have such heroes in their lives too. I shall however briefly talk about two more who, despite all odds have succeeded in their own ways in a highly competitive environment by sheer determination and grit.
The first is our newspaper vendor. When we bought our present home twenty years ago, Sanjay was an office boy in a builder’s establishment. We bought our home from the same builder and discovered that the office boy was also our news paper delivery boy. The neighbourhood was still sparsely populated and Sanjay would drop all the newspapers early in the morning and attend to his official work also from morning till evening. As the population increased, so did Sanjay’s business, and today, he employs a few other young lads to do the physical distribution. He has quit his job and is a successful entrepreneur with his own fleet of school buses and vehicles besides his newspaper distribution agency. He has enabled his whole family to come out of poverty and today is a respected member of the community and chances are that he will get involved in local politics too. If he does, I will canvass for him.
The next is another slogger from the backwoods of Uttar Pradesh. He is our bread delivery man and I wrote about him in one of my earliest posts. A cheerful and hardworking man, deeply religious and pious, a role model if ever for the kind of entrereneurs who form India’s unsung economic backbone which does not reflect in our GDP. He is a Muslim but even in during Ramzaan, when he observes the traditonal, not the modern, fast, but rides his bicycle delivery van and without fail delivers various types of bread to his regular customers. He is educating his children so that they can climb out of the life style that he has chosen and hopes that the boys would do well. That is his sole ambition in life.
There are more such people in my life who I admire and respect. Women and men who despite great odds do heroic things without being known to be heroes. There are some who do not get their recognition like Dean Kamen whose invention can revolutionize health in developing countries. There are others like our own Elly, quietly bossing her mother around but making her mother so proud. Like Looney who pushes himself to achieve great feats etc.
On the other hand, we also have wannabe heroes like the Heenes family who took quite a lot of folks for a merry chase with their caper!
And we have other heroes who wish to leave their footprints on the sands of Indian time with pithy slogans on their vehicles like this one on our Delhi Roads.
I believe that the world is full of heroes. I can write a book of perhaps fifty chapters, each about a person, at least in my eyes a hero. We can find them if we look hard enough.