Hero Worship

2.4 Hero Worship

Kapil Dev’s recognition as a hero came not long after he surfaced as a raw fast bowler in 1978. With his earthy approach to captaincy, Kapil led the Indian cricket team to an unlikely conquest of the World in 1983 and became god. Post-career, his halo grew when he visited Kargil in 1999 spending time with the soldiers. “I don't tell myself I am a hero. People do look up to performers and think of them as heroes,” says Kapil Dev, in a candid conversation on heroes and heroism. “Hero worship in India is too big. It is both right and wrong. It is fair to respect people who have done things that others haven’t but it is not right to treat them as gods.”
What does the term ‘hero’ mean to you?
       A hero is someone who does something for society, someone who people look up to and say I wish I could do the things he has done. A hero has the extraordinary ability to rise above those around him; he’s willing to do things that most just dream of. A hero is someone whose shoes you would like to be in. The wanting is the first step towards establishing someone as a hero, willingness to do things and not put oneself over one. Dhirubhai Ambani, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, Shiv Nadar - to name just a few - are some who have inspired others to follow them. They are outstanding performers who we look up to.
And what is heroism to you?
       Heroism is what the heart and soul make the mind and body do in challenging circumstances. And then, there are those who serve in the army. There are some who join the army because it offers them a chance to earn a living and others who enroll because they have a passion to serve the nation. The army has a way of imbibing passion in all of them. The passion to serve without the expectation of a reward is what makes them heroes.
Is there a need for heroes?

       Young people do need heroes to look up and emulate. The coming generations do need examples to follow. Heroes are the key to any nation’s success. Each generation has produced heroes. Heroes are the only ones who change lives. Heroes can make great impact on the minds when one is between 7 and 15 years of age.
When one speaks of a hero, it is usually a film star or a sports person who comes to mind first. Do you think this is right?

       Film stars and sports persons work hard to achieve something. They are given the tag because they are performers. But there are a number of real heroes who don’t get a chance to prove themselves in front of TV cameras. When a bus falls into a river and hundreds of people watch, the real hero is one who jumps in to save lives. The real heroes are those who serve the nation. Their heroes is something else. They are ready to sacrifice their lives and not expect anything in return. If you can achieve that, you are a hero.
Did you grow up having any heroes of your own?
       When I was growing up in the’ 60s the freedom fighter / politician was still the hero. Of course, we also heard inspiring stories of men like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad. But stories were not fresh and the film stars were beginning to make an impact on the public. The heroes there would do things all by themselves-fighting and winning against the bad men. The sports hero is different because he performs on a big stage where there are no rehearsals and no scripts.
What about sports icons like Dhyan Chand and Milkha Singh?

       I didn’t know enough about Dhyan Chand and Milkha Singh because the media in those days had not evolved as much as now. There were no stories about such achievers. In some ways, the media does contribute to the making of heroes. When you are growing up, your father and elder brothers are your heroes. In an Ideal family, children usually look up to their father as their hero. But as you evolve and expand your horizons, you realise that there are other heroes. And your heroes keep changing with time.
So do you have a hero now?
       For me Nelson Mandela is a true hero. He lived in jail for 27 years and when came out; he showed no hatred for the people who kept him there. The same people, however, treated him with such respect in the end. Such heroism is easy to talk about but ‘hard’ to achieve. Imagine spending a week in jail and the hatred that will spring in your heart. Imagine being made to stand on the last bench in class with your face to the wall or imagine being fired by your boss for no fault of yours. And imagine 27 years in jail.
How did you get the tag of a hero?
       I don’t myself I am a hero. Whenever I meet people, they feel I am one of them. They don’t feel they can’t approach me. But, yes, people to look up to performers and think of them as heroes.
Who can be a hero?
       Anyone can be hero––the man on street, someone in your school or a man in your community. A hero does not have to be a nation hero. Everyone is a hero in one’s own mind. You want to do hundreds of things that can qualify you as a hero but at the end of the day, it is the people around you who determine which of your actions qualify you for that tag. Anyone, who is making the world a better place to live in, is a hero.
Do you think it can be a choice, to be hero?
       You cannot become a hero by choice. It is only when others admire your action that you are recognised as a hero. Of course in our own ways, each one of us wants to be a hero. In fact in our own minds, we are heroes but other have to accept you to be recognised as a hero.
When does one become a hero?
       The bigger the challenge that you overcome, the greater your recognition as a hero. And if you can go beyond your basic abilitiesand perform an action, that is when you are likely to be appreciated more. Amitabh Bachchan became a hero many times over when he did KBC the first time around. His mannerism and his style of conversation made him true champion. He went far beyond his basic skills as an actor.
What are the dominant emotions when one is performing a heroic act?
       Emotions? None at all. All you want to do is to do your duties as well as you can. It is for the world around you to recognise any act of heroism. You do not pause to think if what you are doing is heroic or not. You just do what needs to be done.
Isn’t there a sense of satisfaction?
       Each one has different frame of mind. No two persons may think alike. But I can tell you no one does an act of heroism thinking of the applause that many follow. The feeling of satisfaction of a job well done may be there but not of having done a heroic act.
Does life after being recognised as a hero become tough?
       You are not looking at fulfilling the expectations of the people. Life does change when people recognise you as a hero. For, hero worship in India is too big. It is both right and wrong. It is fair to respect people who have done things that others haven’t but it is not right to treat them as gods.
Do heroes have their own heroes?
       Of course, heroes have their own heroes, too. While others may appreciate what they do, they themselves would be appreciating someone else’s ability and strength of character. You would like to do things that they do.
Would you have been a hero if you weren’t a cricketer?
       I was born to play. Cricket was but a platform. If I were to fly kites or play marbles or go fishing, I would do that passionately. The passion to play and perform has not diminished.
G. Rajaraman