ByÂ Lata Jha:
I’m no cricket freak. I don’t get the game or the frenzy around it and I don’t really care. The only time I’ve actually watched or observed a cricketer is when they’ve done endorsements and charity campaigns. And because they are public figures, I listen up if they make a statement.
But I have to admit that I felt myself choke with the rest of the nation as Sachin Tendulkar gave his farewell speech last month. I didn’t cry, but I got exactly why he means so much to the country and to the world. For whatever it may be worth, I don’t think the brouhaha was overdone at all. He is exactly the kind of person who deserves such euphoria without asking for it himself. And I just wished there were more like him. Though I completely realise that’s impossible.
And it set me thinking. As huge a loss as this is to the game, I think even sadder is the lack of icons like Tendulkar in the country. For the simple reason that its heart warming to see so many people come together for something apart from what may concern only their own interests. It’s wonderful to see them smile, cry, pray and give up so much of their time for something that doesn’t really affect them directly. Only someone as special, inspiring and incredible as Tendulkar can do that to people. Make them forget their grief, conflicts, stresses and disparities to both celebrate the joy of sport/entertainment or simply the existence and contribution of a legend. And do so along with people they otherwise might not share comfortable spaces with.
Icons are rare. We live in a world where it’s all about you, your life and your Facebook profile. The world begins and ends with where you want to go. And relationships are pretty much about what the other person can do for you. A picture is not about the moment, but how good you look in it. In scenarios like these, it’s nice to see the relationship a fan or an admirer shares with an icon. It’s one of respect, faith and unconditional love. It’s great to see people give up so much time for another person. It’s wonderful to see faded, old pictures of an unconventional looking legend circulate and be worshipped. And I could be wrong but I think it’s only in a country like India that a celebrity transcends barriers of real and virtual reality and geographical distances. He or she then goes on to become a part of people’s lives, hopes, dreams and prayers with amazing fervour.
Like films and music, cricket, if I’m not wrong, unites this hugely diverse country. It connects people and identities. You could be thousands of miles away from the country, but a Lata Mangeshkar song will soothe you just as much as Sachin’s century. These are arenas where you’re, more often than not, acknowledged and appreciated for your talent irrespective of caste, creed, class, gender or socio-economic status. And in case you’re good at what you do, people come together for and with you regardless of those barriers.
This is why we need icons like Sachin Tendulkar. We need them to not just gain the courage to deal with our own lives getting progressively tougher, but to look beyond ourselves and connect with the world outside. There is so much that we all share, so much that binds us, so much that brings us closer. Also, it’s okay to be star struck to gain all of that. One doesn’t need to sit on a high horse and feel that one is too unique an individual to gain inspiration from or be affected to such an extent by just another person. After all, celebrities come and go. Nothing is permanent.
Yes, celebrities are many. But icons are rare. And thank God for them.