By Karthik Menon:
Ours isn’t a world excessively filled with people who know exactly where they are going to be in the time ahead, and how they are going to ferry themselves there. We are an oversized search party in a constant lookout for a little inspiration to hook ourselves onto. Inspiration that we hope will keep us going for a while, until it runs out and we get back to the hunt. Without this little fix of motivation, more often than not, we find ourselves floundering with every step and ultimately standing hand-on-hip and scratching our heads.
But for a lamentable minority, this search symbolizes more than just a means to move to the next rung in their life. For them, the hope they scour the world for, fuels every passing minute of their lives. Theirs is a life of tall stories, almost wild fantasies, that keeps them going as they crawl and claw their way out of the hole they’ve been condemned to inhabit. It is their motivation to walk square through a life that has seen a little too much pain for its own good. In all honesty, they could use all the hope they can get.
I have a vivid recollection of my head being filled with a potpourri of utmost awe, wild imagination, and hungry ambition as I marvelled at the life of the author of the book “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life“. I’m not going to put up a show of being a cycling aficionado, but I knew enough at the time to have known what the Tour de France was. And I also knew that putting yourself through this inhuman trial and finishing ahead of the rest, to win the Tour de France, is no walk in the park. And I wasn’t extraordinarily well-informed to know that. So if you picked up a book and the author took you through the story of how he did just that, and he did it seven times straight, after beating unfavourable odds and surviving testicular cancer, you couldn’t help but have the same set of impassioned emotions running through your head, in spite of the fact that the chances are that neither of us are either cyclists or patients of any form of cancer.
Lance Armstrong’s is a story so potent that it could make a sizable amount of us, hunting for that light to guide us, stop in our tracks and open our mouths in wonder. We wouldn’t need to take another step in the pursuit. And more importantly, it gave every person in the world who has had the misfortune of having the word “Cancer” written on his diagnosis sheet, a new beacon of hope. Suddenly, half the world’s cancer patients were sitting up and proclaiming to anyone who would listen that they were going to “do an Armstrong“. In a moment of unparalleled camaraderie, millions of people were travelling together to a common fantasy, filled to the hilt with hope.
But apparently, not everyone likes happy endings. Being tried for drug-abuse, which the prosecutors claim was behind the almost-impossible story that caught all our imaginations, Lance Armstrong suddenly didn’t seem to have the same grit that we thought won him all those spoils. Armed with the fact that he didn’t fail a single doping test for the 12 years that he zipped through the world on 2 wheels, he seemed to have a rather comfortable defence against allegations that he had used banned products, but he chose to let the prosecutors win. Not surprisingly, he was disgracefully thrown into the media-hot seat. With no dearth of people waiting to snap at your ankles and get one up on you, there was no end to the bashing his credibility was taking at the hands of the media. And you can’t blame them. With so much at stake, it is extremely bizarre for someone so prolific to meekly back down.
A statement explaining his actions didn’t seem like a good enough cover from the onslaught. He had won enough, he said, and didn’t have anything to prove, and had other more important matters to attend to, like his foundation. It seemed like that wasn’t enough to pacify the crowds either. Or was it? Hiding behind their veil of sensationalism, the media never once mentioned the hordes of fans’ messages and mails that poured in from every corner to support him. The media never once mentioned the fact that daily donations to the Lance Armstrong Foundation had risen to 20 times their daily average since his ban from cycling. Whichever way you look at it, Lance Armstrong has won, yet again. For a million people around the world, this is one hook they are not willing to let go off, because for better or for worse, they have been inspired.