The idea of success
Or is it that billionaire celebrities and overnight ad-icons help us hide the transparent truth that we are basically a battered nation of infinite, all-round failures...
The hyperbole of success for the neo-elite in India's marketplace is hallucinatory and one-dimensional. One gold in Olympics, the first in history among one billion people, and the modest, rather shy, hard-working shooter is on every page of a leading English daily as guest editor, he is showcased on every channel, every talk show host wants to host him. One leggy on the couch host literally starts singing... something like tralalalala... wrapping the medal around her in glee. From abject obscurity he is suddenly catapulted as role model, demi-god, success story beyond belief. Meanwhile, the shooter who won a bronze in the earlier Olympics, after hitting every Page 3 party worth its name, flopped at Beijing. He was predictably banished from the limelight.
One wrestler won a bronze, and every TV anchor became a wrestler, screaming their guts out in patriotic delight. Completely forgotten was the fact that he lived and trained in stunningly poor quarters sharing the same dilapidated dormitory with 30-odd wrestlers with may be one or two fans, surviving on low quality food, abysmal living conditions and training facilities, making it completely on his own resilience and hardwork. So whatever happened to all the other wrestlers? Or shooters? Or hockey and football players? Or athletes and boxers and archers? Who will make their success a collective redemption for the country?
Son of a former peon in Uttarakhand/Jharkhand suddenly makes it big and becomes an ad-icon, making billions, selling every product on earth. He owns several cars and bikes, a palatial house, walks on the ramp and sings on TV and hangs out with film-stars who are his buddies. Others sing and dance on TV, sell products, make obscenely unimaginable sums of money and goodies in IPL (One ball: one lakh), surrounded by sundry failed film stars and neo-rich tycoons, all out to bastardise cricket and make loads of money. For 20-20, 2007 world cup victory: one crore for six sixes in one over plus a Porsche 919 luxury car, and $3 million to the entire team.
Compare it to any other sport, or skilled profession in India and you can see the ugly disparity. So what is the social and economic value of a nurse, government doctor, scientist, roadways bus driver, primary school teacher, construction worker, soldier, farmer and theatre-actor in new India? How do we measure their contribution to the society?
Is Bollywood, corporate biggies, cricket and miscellaneous celebrities the only idiom of success in Indian democracy? And why do we go so overboard with just one gold or bronze, or one Dhoni, while completely eliminating the entire kaleidoscope of stark failures, helpless struggles, collective frustrations, left alones? Is this the idea of fragmented, microscopic success enough to elevate the nation-state into a state of drugged hyperbole?
One Shahrukh Khan is interrogated in the US and the entire nation's pride seems to have been trampled. What about thousands who have been denied justice after communal genocides, farmer suicides, mass starvation, police atrocities, custodial deaths, rapes? Or is it that billionaire celebrities and overnight ad-icons help us hide the transparent truth that we are basically a battered nation of infinite, all-round failures with either equality or justice, vision or hope. And surely, not an iota of self-criticism or introspection.