Greatness, Personified

Second of October is a special day in India. It is famous for two reasons: one, it is a national holiday, and we pray that it falls on a Monday / Tuesday or on a Thursday / Friday. Allows us to create long weekends off a single holiday. Two, we have to ensure we buy alcohol on the first of October. Our friendly neighbourhood wine shop sends us reminders on the 1st. I am not sure, but, I believe the concept of a “dry-day” is unique to India.

While we seem to be preoccupied with these two factors of this particular holiday, the real reason for this holiday is that we celebrate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Few people know it, but it also happened to be the birthday of our second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Born 35 years after Gandhi, he was a staunch follower of Gandhi and his principles. There’s a conspiracy theory surrounding LBS’s death, and it seems to be the focus of his life (funny, that the circumstances of a person’s death should be the focus of his life), there’s more to his life. Discover. Research. Explore.

Some things are constant in most Indian cities and towns. Especially when it comes to the name of major roads and streets. Almost every town and city in the country has an MG Road, LBS Marg (Marg, is Hindi for road) and SV Road. There are a few Tilak roads, but they are never abbreviated as KGT or LGT Road. Mumbai, of course has CST. The airport is CST, the train terminus is CST, and in days to come, many more locations will be CST-ified. The CST-ification of Mumbai calls for another post. For now, on this august day, let it be either MG or LBS.

As a late-sixties and early-seventies junkie, I regret being unborn during this period. I am glad to be alive and kicking in this renaissance of the early 2000s, but I wish I was there. Take my two strong interests—history and photography, and you will know why I wanted to be alive then. Of course, history would seem irrelevant, because I would be in it but it was a great time for photographers. Thankfully, I have access to archives that show me the moment I would have experienced, but I would have done it so differently. And, I would have enjoyed my self to no end. Sigh, the era of black & white and your own developing room.

I do not want to get into the relevance of MKG or LBS in these times, I have no view on that. Depending on what you read, they are or not relevant. Most posts and articles that talk of relevance are comment baits. A wise man and I were having a conversation, long time ago. I respected him much, and expressed a desire to be like him.

He smiled, and said, all that is good of me, feel free to be, all that is not, try not to be.

I don’t believe that MKG or LBS ever sought to be great; greatness was thrust upon them in classic Shakespearean manner. We seek and create idols and Gods so that we can use, abuse and discard them to our convenience. Seth Godin’s Book – Tribes, comes to mind. The tag line for the book is: “We need you to lead us”

History is dynamic, she said a few hours ago before she concluded her short visit to the city; it changes places. I met her for the first time ever, although I have known her for a while. One person’s history is another man’s current affairs.

I’ve always known that, but I have never been able to say it, so beautifully.

The Young Tune

There’ll be articles galore, which we will very easily ignore on this day. Some will focus on the popular notion of why today is a national holiday, some will vie to bulldoze attention for our second PM. They will make you question why 2nd October isn’t an LBS day, often blanketed with the guilt of how little you know of that man. Greatness of any human is how you perceive that human, not about how much is written about that person. Unless you have an opinion about what greatness is, you will never discover the greatness in any human being. As years pass and what was once current affairs becomes history, remember, naming roads and transport buildings never made those people great. Roads and building were named after them because they were great.

But it will be never enough for you to know that these were great people, just because there were roads and buildings named after them. They were great for a reason.

You will have to discover why they were great.

Perhaps, in that discovery, you will discover your own greatness.

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