Monday, February 26, 2007

Of Gods & Humility & Papri Chaat

Virendra, lord of the heroes, of noble descent and brave design. Thats what his name means.

Till about a week back it wouldn't have mattered. But then, till about a week back I hadn't met him. I was oblivious to the perks of working with adidas till I sat on a warm evening last week in a group of six (the point being, that, it was select. well, select enough) and had papri chaat with a legend.

I know I sound star struck. Believe me, I'm not. This was no star that I met. I'm just struck by the demeanour Sehwag chose to adopt.

I write "chose" because with the kind of adulation Sehwag has seen and the years and times that have "braved" him, he could choose to be anyone he wants. And, he "chooses" to be himself. For a person who is being ridiculed by one and sundry on playing the most irresponsible innings of his life consistently over the last few months, responsibilty sits easy on him.

I don't know much about cricket apart from the fact that we, the audience impart the game with a life and, its players, with life after the game. We never fail to appreciate the human angle. Or so we think. We make them and then we break them so that they can make themselves. And, now, we have precedent. As Ganguly makes a comeback, with tears in our eyes, happy tears mind u, we take a bow and claim his success as ours. How touching!

Virendra Sehwag is going through bad times. He just happens to be in a position where we feel we all have a right to a piece of him. We invest our time and money in making Gods out of players and it is only justice that we demand when one falters. Considering the alarming frequency with which we declare the resurrection of Phoenixes it is no wonder that the Indian Audience begs and demands in the same breath. When he lumbers back to the crease only to get run out in the most humiliating fashion we conveniently forget that the road out of angst is laden with such illustrations of the bad getting worse.

I sat with Sehwag till he polished off his papri chaat that evening. The only thing I could think of was what must he be thinking of us.

His humility was made the hero repeatedly in groups of cricket crazy fans through the office. The fact that he smiled, he seemed so unassuming, he laughed at himself gave his fans the justification they needed to hold on to the person they wanted him to be. It felt sad that we needed justification for someone we believed in. It was tragic that he had to witness the need to justify, within us.

Yes, Sehwag is humble. Yes, fame has not changed him. Yes, he is our friend. He is also scaling a professional low. Behind that smile would be angst. But then, Virendra means of noble descent and what is nobility, if not, the graciousness to wait for time to heal its own course.

Heres hoping time heals in style.


Abhigyan said...

welcome to Sports Marketing!! Sports is the greatest real-life drama played outside war (and war is a drama best avoided). And every drama needs its own heroes and villains. It is just sad that our voyeuristic nation chooses to follow just one kind of sport. And if you believe some researches, they prefer film stars to sports stars, because film stars can do something which normal people can't. Any stronger example of arm-chair criticism is needed?
I am a huge fan of Sehwag's, but the bugger needs to lose weight. So pls ask him to stay off papri chaat!!

Amit Bajaj said...

how one istance can impact us forever (especially with celebrities, because that may have been our last instant with them).. you will probably like sehwag for the rest of your life...just as i will despise two-minute interaction..less than that actually and i am quite happy to arrive at the conclusion that he is an arrogant SUV driving sort of punjabi..the kinds who run over people on footpaths or kill barmaids if drinks are not served immediately!!

svety said...

Seriously bajju. I can see Yuvraaj is not a personal fav. But at some level I guess thats the feeling we need to defeat. After all, they are entitled to there bad days.

And abhi, voyeurism is natural. As old as living ure life through ur kids. Its the degree that screws it up.

satya said...

I like such posts. I am also a star struck kind of person, that I have a whole range of emotions which show up when I run into some of them. The excitement and the nervousness too.

I dont think much of Sehwag not because of his skills or his current bad days but maybe because I am generally out of cricket beyond the dhaba conversation.

But for the necessary processes related to calling a man 'simple' and humble, I react. It is a simplification and it misses a deeper reading of the Jat's persona.

I ran into Md Azharuddin a few months ago and as a reaction called out to him and shook his hands, the same hands which wielded the willow with magic and the same hands which probably collected the match fixing money.

There was a time (pre-1996) when India's victory or loss determined by state of mind and general outlook towards life. Azhar was all over during those days, captain and magician.

But is Azhar simple and humble? One can categorise him as such and a lot of readings to just that, 'simple guy who got lost in the money and the glitter', but how accurate is that.

When we categorise some people especially from the non-upper middle class/non-urban (non upper caste hindu) backgrounds why is simple and humble the only two descriptions we come up with. We expect such people to behave so, remain true to them selves, true to their origin and in our reading of the Indian pecking order, some people are forever condemned to be simple and humble. Kaif for instance, Azhar though typifies this kind of adulation.

Why do idealize their socio-economic backgrounds and deny them the fun, thrill and power of enjoying the adulation, the power they symbolize and the money they make?

I saw Yuvraj a few years ago, tall walking with a girl (she was not hot) towards TGIF, talking smoothly along the way. I am not sure If I mean the same thing but Bajaj's reading of Yuvraj is rather accurate.

I have also seen Jadeja a few times, very few stars have generated such scorn in me. Sadly ordinary, this once 'cool' boy of Indian cricket actually gets lost in a crowd. I hold against Jadeja the match fixing involvement. Why I dont hold it against Azhar is something I have never understood?

svety said...

I completely agree with u Satya...simple and humble are so vanilla and so aspirational india that the mind rebels at the very thought.And, it was so prevalent that day. It was as if everyone was trying to justify his non performance by defining him in this manner. Its not as if we don't do it in day to day living with people around us. It just becomes so much more amplified when u do it with a star..

Abhigyan said...

As SRK puts it, the 'celebrities' are also in a profession, just much more glamorous than all of us. If I see Satya early in the morning, I will despise him for seven lives...And we generalise as much about celebrities as we do so for others..Isn't chutiya a perenially favourite subjective word?