May 18, 2017 Japan
It is important for each one of us to understand that not all heroes wear a cape. There is hardly any possibility of seeing your Prince Charming riding a white horse and jump out of a Disney Princess movie or meeting the perfect person in your lifetime. All of this are merely goals of human dream and ambition. It sounds too good to believe that any of the above would ever come true. And just like Ying and Yang, there is no absolute black or white. It took me 19 years to realise everything that I wrote until now. “Dr. Kiran Bedi should be someone who you should aspire to be. She broke down the walls of challenges in our society and etched her name in history,” my dad said when I was about 14. I was in Class 09. My reading convinced me that I cannot have someone as a role model with whom I had no association with. A few media articles and school projects which were plagiarised from Wikipedia for a long time were not sufficient to make me accept Dr. Bedi as my role model. Just the way I never resonated with Shakespeare or writers who wrote poems about spring because I never saw spring in my lifetime spent in Ulhasnagar, I could not resonate with Dr. Bedi. It was also around the same time when Julie Miss first taught us the poem ‘The Brook’ by A.L Tennyson. The line ‘For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever’, stuck with me for an extremely long time. I somehow felt connected with that poem and enjoyed imagining myself as the brook itself. I wanted to have Tennyson as my role model. I thought that it is he who understands me and is my friend in despair who would shine his wand made up of words and lead me through my way. Swish and flick! I announced Tennyson as my role model. My dad was always sceptical about it but allowed me to hold on to what I would realise later was merely infatuation. Years passed by and I normally prefer to skip the period in between because your schedule hardly gives you any time to think about your role models any more. Yet, Tennyson still stayed with me during that time. I still enjoyed his poetry but, I was slowly inclining towards Sarojini Naidu. After all, infatuation cannot hold on for a long time. Around the same time, the vegetable vendor who regularly supplies to our house, suffered from a cardiac arrest. A poor father of a teenage boy and a girl, he is the sole breadwinner in his family. Years back, he left his parents back in Uttar Pradesh and got on a train bound for Mumbai to live the big city life along with his wife and children in search for opportunities. The poor quality of education at a Hindi-medium government school where his son studied, forced his family to send him for tuitions. Unfortunately, life did not provide the luxury to attend both. My father was a witness of his sorry state and after enquiring about his son’s fees, both my parents decided to fund his son’s education and also help him monetarily with the medical expenses at a local private hospital. I grew up seeing my mother being generous to the domestic help in our house and supporting them every now and then in both cash and kind. She allowed mandatory paid leave for them and turned the rather unorganised sector in the society into an organised one in our house. I had heard stories about my grandmother who was the principal of Children’s Academy, Malad back in the early 1970s before she passed away battling cancer on how she was one of the few women back in those days who received her masters degree and broke the vicious cycle of poverty. What seemed to be so natural to me came as a blow to my face when I realised that it was an exception rather than a norm. I began to question myself finally : Who is my role model? Someone who is popularly accepted to be legendary because of his/her actions and contributions or someone who is sitting just next to you and doing little inspirational things that have changed someone’s life? Why is that we have to find that one person and engage in idol-worship at a time when we accept that no one is infallible? Why cannot we inculcate a sense of polytheism when we look for people who will shape our ideals? In the midst of these questions, I had to fill out a form for an event here in Japan. One of the blanks asked : ‘Who is your role model?’ In capital letters I wrote : ‘MY PARENTS’. Tennyson finally rested in peace that day. We hardly realise the value of something we are born with. In search for glittery paparazzi, we shove our primary goals under the casket of life. Each person we encounter has something that we can learn. It is indeed this learning attitude which takes us to places and opens doors for us. Half-knowledge leads to absolute harm. The person sitting next to you in the class can teach you an important value. The barista you met at a coffee shop, the teacher who taught you a life-changing poem or the child who peeps into your room from the opposite apartment, each individual can teach you something worth remembering. Who knows, you might be a role model for someone. So, the next time you set out on an adventure to look for your role model, you do not need to find a fancy man uttering ‘exasperating farragos’ but just learn from people all around you the best they have to offer. After all, learning happens in the most unimaginable places.