Friday, December 28, 2007

Celebrating the unknown Indian

Reader's Digest recently planted 960 ‘lost’ cell phones in 30 public places in 32 cities around the world to test people’s reactions in a cell phone honesty test. The most honest city in the survey turned out to be the smallest city in the group, Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, where 29 of 30 cell phones were returned. But bigger cities showed they also had trustworthy citizens with Canada’s largest city, Toronto, coming second with 28 of 30 phones returned, followed by Seoul and Stockholm. New York came fifth in the list, tying with Mumbai, and Manila in the Philippines.
Many people predicted in preliminary interviews that return rates would be in the single digits but the average return rate on the ‘lost’ phones was 68 per cent. People didn’t expect a lot of good Samaritans. Since then, I have been thinking a lot about how we view our society and fellow men and the cynicism that typically drives our thinking. Maybe we should revisit our opinions and honour the many good Samaritans and the unknown men and women who keep society stable and our country liveable.
I have been thinking this way particularly because this is the time of the year when traditionally the media sifts through all the news makers of the year gone by and identifies the one celebrity who has made or is perceived to have made the maximum difference to the country’s life and profile. Typically they come from the world of politics, sports or entertainment as these contribute the most to the national image, at least in mainstream media. TIME, for instance, has already identified Vladimir Putin; CNN-IBN is still sifting through nominations and so are several other media houses.
But if our society survives, endures and even makes us feel proud of our Indianness today, it is not because of the contribution of stray celebrities here and there and their piecemeal contributions - in fact, it may be that celebrity contributions don’t really contribute any thing substantive - apart from a little feel good factor, what is there to celebrate if a top notched cricketer breaks another record or India wins a test series or if a celebrity superstar brings home another super hit?
It is of course extremely unlikely that advertisement driven mainstream media will ever recognise as the Indian of the year in any year, some one who is not already a celebrity and a magnet that will draw in advertising revenue. After all, these recognitions are not awarded to acknowledge true innovations or any genuine contribution to nation building in any field of human endeavour but rather to ensure that people buy a particular issue of a magazine or to make people watch a particular television programme and generate more and more advertising.
With the alternate media going from strength to strength, may be this is something, this genre of media should consider taking up. The intent here should be not to create a parallel set of alternate celebrities propped up by a parallel medium but rather to celebrate happenings, occasions and doings that serve as markers in those intangible areas of life and living that mainline newspapers and mediums normally would not capture but which nevertheless make us more human. Maybe in the manner in which the Godfrey Philips awards unshackled and redefined bravery, the definition and understanding of what it means to be a celebrity needs to be unshackled too and the unknown Indian holding things together needs to be celebrated rather than the single celebrity.

1 comment:

Ganesh Nayak Ullal said...

While reading your post I remembered a situation from movie 'Fight Club' - 'Enticing someone to fight with self and losing is much harder than it seems'.

I constantly try to believe that people are always good, but its hard.