At the age of 20, I had to choose between a post graduation course in English literature and journalism. I attended both the classes to decide on my career option. In his 40-minute class, the English professor repeatedly stated Shakespeare said…, Wordsworth said…, Milton said...
Well, it is not an unusual personality attribute. Celebrated filmmaker John Waters insisted that wanting to be famous is everyone's unspoken desire. Nothing wrong as aspiration drives success and unleashes the hidden potential. As the saying goes, one of the greatest things in life is to have a great ambition. Let me recollect the day in 1977, when Janata Party swept the polls.
The reputed and now defunct magazine ‘The Illustrated Weekly of India’ carried a cover story with an Indian map depicting the election result. My father brought one home. That was the first time I was seeing an English magazine. I and my brother were anxiously glancing through the pages.
In a spontaneous reaction, I uttered “we should write in this”. My enraged brother cautioned me against going overboard without getting a gist of it. He was perhaps right because I was just 13 years old. As providence would have it, my piece was published in the magazine exactly a decade later.
It was the burning desire to prove that my brother had made a judgemental error. ‘When someone else can do it, why can’t I’ was the dictum that governed me and a belief that stays with me till date.However, the overwhelming desire to be famous should not lead to undesirable tendencies as is happening with the current generation that is resorting to acts of extreme behaviour.
The nation pressed the panic button when some school children in Mumbai spotted a group of suspiciously moving pathan suit-attired armed men. The Western Naval Command issued a high state of alert along the Mumbai coast. Worried over a possible 26/11-style terror strike, the elite National Security Guards (NSG) and state police specialised forces were pressed into service.
Subsequent, investigation revealed that the children's account was a hoax and that a 12-year-old girl reportedly spread this to have a shot at fame. The authorities did not punish the child. But, such a cheap prank or a crazy act to become famous can have serious repercussions for the person and the society at large.
Psychological studies revealed that some children attempted self-immolation during the anti-reservation movement merely to grab national spotlight. It was to such an extent that a teenager, who resorted to such an extreme step during those turbulent times, and was on his death-bed told his mother that he wished to see his picture on the front page of newspapers.
Therefore wanting to be famous is nothing wrong. Cracking a joke is also nothing to be found fault with. But, maturity is demanded in such situations. Audacious ambitions may cost us dear. We hear and read reports quite often of young people losing their lives in their craze to take selfies.
Celebrity gauging by media and celebrity chasing by the society are impelling this generation to be famous. But, false celebrity consciousness is deleterious.
American author Leo Braudy in ‘The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History’ observes, "As the world grows more complex, fame promises liberation from powerless anonymity".
The fame epidemic is sweeping across India with social and economic empowerment of people and increasing spread of media projection. Quite often people confuse between ‘being familiar to people around’ and ‘being famous all over’.
But to me familiarity is the social reach while famous is something significantly contributing. This is precisely why some great men and women, for instance Bollywood’s Guru Dutt, who were little known during their life-time, became famous only after their death.
At the same time, being in the company of famous people may either inspire you or sow seeds of an inferiority complex. Avoid being in the latter category as it will sound the death-knell.
I once chaired the inaugural session in the National Convention of Academics and Researchers in information technology in which the late President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was the chief guest. The wonderful scientist appreciated my presentation.
Well, it was not my greatness but an extension of his nobleness and humility. Should I be conceited? Certainly not! I have to learn humility from the man who epitomized it at the pinnacle of glory.
Psychologist Donna Rockwell in ‘Mindfulness in Everyday Life – So You Want to Be Famous? What You Need to Know About Celebrity’ (www.huffingtonpost.in ), points out that the truth is, each of our lives is precious and unique, and we star in the movie of our own creation every moment of every day. Remember Shakespeare’s ‘the world is a stage and we are all actors’?
The society is often oblivious of the other side of fame. But, as a philosopher said, an eagle flies below the hen, but a hen will never fly above the eagle.