Monday, October 3, 2011

Where are the role models?

A role model is a person who serves as an example, whose behaviour may be something to be emulated by others. With changing social mores, the choice of role models is also shifting. I presume in the past, political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi or Jawarharlal Nehru were dominant role models. Role models are often persons from a particular field which has relevance to a person. For example a budding entrepreneur may regard, say, Sunil Mittal as his role model. Often role models transcend a particular sector and assume a more general or overall state. A role model may be someone whose moral values we respect or whose valour and bravery we think highly of.

Over the years the choice of role models, especially for young people, is deeply influenced by their celebrity culture which in itself means their relative wealth, and not their actual profession or achievement or even their value systems. This creates a deep problem. On the one hand the role model never intended to be one and on the other the influences the role model plays on his admirers is often for wrong reasons.

The problem is quite apparent in the UK where often the role models are football players. The players are talented footballers, generally very fit with a good work ethic and make lots of money. Is this enough to be a role model? The player’s performance on the field is sometimes extraordinary, however it is the phenomenon of WAGS, extra marital affairs, infidelity and drunken antics at clubs is something that is viewed with much adulation by the admirers. This is viewed as a sign money power, or simply power. The well documented stories of lavish wedding celebrations of players, their very public spats with wives are reported with much glee by the tabloids. So you have a situation of a person with very ordinary values becoming, without him really intending to, a role model and thereby instilling value systems in followers that are flawed.

While that is the case in the UK, here in India we have a different problem. Our sportsmen, politicians and businessmen are far more puritanical. In many cases they genuinely do not drink as much or carouse in nightclubs and lead rather mundane lives. Those that do drink or party, probably do so with a lesser intensity than in the UK, and, coupled with a relatively tame press and hypocritical lives, the result is that very little of what goes on gets out or gets documented. 

Unlike the West, our sportsmen, politicians and businessmen are all experts in what is most appropriately described as `Jugaad’. Jugaad can be described as an innovative fix to a problem, or a way around the rules or finding a loophole. It’s not a terribly complementary attribute to have. The other word that is a close cousin of Jugaad is `setting’.

One of the most widely admired role models we have is none other than, the Masterblaster, Icon for the country, Mr Sachin Tendulkar. I am unsure if you ask people why he is their role model they will be unable to answer that question. But he is regarded as a role model nonetheless. Please do examine his conduct. He has been a huge success on the cricket field however off it, I am sorry to say, he is responsible for much Jugaad and setting. First example of this was taking a Ferrari as fees from Fiat for endorsing Fiats products. Then claiming duty exemptions as he was a sportsman. He then sold the car at a huge profit which resulted from the duty exemption. Now he has moved into his new house for which there is no Occupation Certificate. This is done without so much as a by your leave. Ironically, the Municipal Authorities, instead of penalising him for having done so and thereby setting an example, are bending over backwards to exempt/reduce the penalty.

Amitabh Bachchan is another who is viewed as a role model. His dabbling with politics during the time of Rajiv Gandhi was viewed as participation for ulterior motives. Lately his attempts of being classified as a farmer, hanging out with the likes of Amar Singh and even Anil Ambani are probably tainted. They say Bachchan was helped during his financial crisis by Amar Singh, who now wastes away in Tihar jail for some more serious Jugaad that he is alleged to have indulged in! Even Anil Ambani has a whole host of his Senior Executives currently in jail for the 3G Jugaad. Would Amitabh Bachchan’s involvement with Amar Singh and Ambani have some elements of Jugaad too or was that pure friendship? Honestly, I cannot put my finger on it.

Come to think of it, who are role models for us Indians? Cricketers come to mind, a couple of Bollywood actors, come to mind, probably Anna Hazare and a smattering of businessmen. No Bachendri Pal the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest, no war heroes and certainly no sportsmen other than maybe a stray footballer. Businessmen as role models are few and far between. Politicians? Nope. Is there really anyone with a mega personality and mega values, principles and commitment whom we Indian can look up to as role models? Men of valour, integrity and courage, raw physical courage and heroism. Do we really know the difference between role models and celebrities? Have we lost the plot like they seem to in have done Britain in identifying role models or did we really not have anybody to look up to post the giants during India’s Independence struggle?

Why don’t you readers put on your thinking caps and make suggestions on an Indian role model?

1 comment:

  1. You could be one...and I am sure you are for a few.

    Again it keeps me thinking why o why you stay in this country where you were born unfortunately, where you worked, where you established yo assets your wealth ??? why could you not do it in some other country.

    weather the lokpal bill or not, support anna or not. if you get a chance do visit his village