Indian – Now & Then

We are the children of a generation that discovered the internet, the mobile phone, constant connection, smart phones and super fast and sleek computers. We lived in an age where telephone calls to friends were carefully monitored, where calling a friend was mostly standing outside their house and shouting out for them, cricket was played out in the streets and parents didn’t even spare us a second look if we went home covered in mud and scratches.

Much of these remain nostalgic moments of childhood. These were days when you weren’t overloaded with information. When every comment made by a public persona was not dissected by the media and several other people.

Perhaps this was why when we were asked ‘who is your role model’ our answers were quite limited.

We were asked this question when we were in high school. The guys, almost unanimously, answered “Sachin Tendulkar”

Tendulkar was the golden boy of the middle class family. He showed us how to dream and that it could perhaps be possible for a normal, talented boy from a middle class family to make it big. And we thought he stayed steady on his feet in and out of the field. 

Parents approved of the young man. He was quiet, traditional and an excellent son. He did not party wildly, he respected his parents and there were no stories about his flings with numerous women who crossed his path. Perhaps much of those times will remain buried as he turned more golden. 

The girls were a little more limited for choice. Kiran Bedi was the only non-Bollywood woman who was famous and she wasn’t particularly glamorous. So after a little fidgeting, the serious ones would scornfully talk about Ms. Bedi, while the rest of the women chose Sushmita Sen.

Sushmita Sen had just been crowned Miss Universe. Vibrant, vivacious and confident, she was the woman every girl wanted to be. We didn’t particularly understand what made her so attractive… but the aura was what we all wanted. 

A decade later, all these personalities have been dissected and the halo has dimmed.

Sachin’s escapades with the Ferrari, sponsorships by Reliance and entering politics… Sushmita’s bouts of alcoholism, and Ms. Bedi’s little skirmish during the Anna Hazare campaign. 

I was disturbed at the age of 14 that our choices were limited to only film stars. Make believe people. Of course, Sen seemed more real than most of them… but she was still in the movie and model lot. But a decade later, I am more disturbed to see that our choices haven’t improved.

Young boys still harp about Sachin, or Sehwag or Dhoni – all in the realm of cricket. Young women aspire to be one of the numerous stick thin women appearing in the posters on various walls. The other female personalities in limelight… umm, let’s not talk about them.

I am not really sure why this came into my mind tonight. But as I hear about Modi’s speech at a Delhi college, about our possible ministers, political games, scandals and more… I wonder how much we have changed. 

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