Yesterday, I read a ticker on a news channel: ‘Superstar Katrina Kaif shoots for twelve hours without a break for Yash Chopra’s film.’ I was annoyed: do they not realize that most Indians work more than twelve hours every day? And without vanity vans or a small village of attendants, and then travel home in crowded trains or buses or traffic jams?
As I get older I find my concept of heroism is changing.
Our cook, who loves feeding people and works harder than Katrina Kaif, interrupted her work yesterday because one of her daughters needed money to pay school fees. My cook’s husband recently passed away, and now she supports three young girls, but she refuses to let them drop out of school.
After my son Nirvaan was born, when I saw my wife Aditi go through almost two years without sleeping for more than two hours at a stretch, yet always madly in love with the little poop-factory, I felt a jaw-dropping awe for her and all mothers.
When I think about my dad, the son of a millionaire-gone-bankrupt who grew up dirt-poor, at times selling candy in a handcart, and then taught himself drawing from torn pages of comic books left behind by departing British troops to become ‘the father of Indian comic books’, I am amazed.
When I think about GD, who has dedicated his life to others in such a uncomplaining way that he has never once been too-tired or too-busy or not-in-the-mood to support someone, I feel there is nothing closer to an angel on earth.
All around, I see heroes. In auto-rickshaw drivers who put agarbattis and have a ready smile, in CEOs who don’t let the pressure get to their team, in teenagers who try to grow up sane in an insanely sexualized world, with a body which is a swirling storm of hormones and conflicting emotions… and even just people battling to get through another day against their inner demons.
‘Ordinary people’ shine with an extraordinary light these days. And superstars, when they fight in media like three-year-olds on a playground, are ordinary sometimes. Yes, I even see heroes in some movie stars – well-read, articulate, visionary, trying to change the consciousness or to challenge the mass hypnosis of ‘what works’ in cinema. We are so lucky to have a few of them.
But worshipping a guy, as GD puts it, “because he can hit a leather ball with a wooden bat” excites me less as I grow older. Hey, it’s a great talent but it doesn’t make you a contender for the greatest Indian alive in my book. For that honor, if you look deep enough, there are a billion contenders.