Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Superheroes

For a nation with centuries of tradition in plays, stories and legends, curiously there are no stories of superheroes in India. Stories of characters like Robin Hood, Superman and masked superheroes are not part of our cultural narratives.

And why,indeed, do you need superheroes when you have a God who can cross a sub-continent and an ocean while carrying a mountain, a God, who as a young boy, lifted a mountain with his pinkie, a warrior who fought entire armies single-handedly and yet in the midst of the battle-field could discuss the subtleties of philosophical thought, a prince who renounced his kingdom and would be remembered for centuries as the 'Light of Asia', a monk who crossed the oceans to spread the message of uncompromising non-dualism to the materialistic West and was greeted as a conquering hero when he returned to his motherland ?

For centuries, India has ignored political power and wealth as metrics for measuring  greatness. And now, as we race in our efforts to imitate the West, we have newspapers bringing out supplements on the most expensive gadgets that can be purchased, some of which provide pricing only on request. Magazines  have cover stories on the richest men in the country, imitating the Forbes Billionaires list, and film actors are being feted as saviours of a society with which they barely come into contact. Television channels are in a race to the bottom for dumbing down shows. The country's largest telecommunication service provider offers the voice of a porn star as a ringtone in a contest.

And yet in spite of this society that revels in superfluous achievements, there are people who stand out as beacons. People who refuse to pay a bribe, people who work to preserve our environment, people who work on making systemic changes in a venal system, people who are able to wield technological tools to save our heritage, entrepreneurs who reject crony capitalism as a path to success, people who can help the poorest of the poor break the cycle of poverty through education.

These are our Superheroes.