Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Piety personified

Sachin Tendulkar turned the ball down to square-leg for a single to complete his 35th Test hundred and surpass Sunil Gavaskar's record for the most number of Test centuries. Even before he completed the run he leapt up, punched the air in delight, kissed his bat and pointed it towards heaven to thank his father and shed some emotional tears….

Later, addressing the press, he said, “ What is important is that the team must win. I have never been after personal records”.

The hell he wasn’t. Then, why the wild punching in the air and the tears and the bat pointing upward?

Not to take anything away from the great man, but surely a guy who has scored 35 centuries will not be accused of blowing his own trumpet if he were to simply say, “ I did it. I am proud of myself”? The problem is that heroes like Tendulkar are expected to make pious proclamations. They feel compelled to state only what they think they ought to say, rather than what they really want to say. Result: Politically correct, motherhood statements smelling of apple pie and dripping with honey and false modesty.

Of course, politicians have made 'false modesty' such a fine art. If you ask L.K.Advani if he has aspirations of becoming the next Prime Minister of India, he will not say truthfully, “Do I want to be the PM? You bet. I have waited long enough”. He will instead tell you “that in his long political career he has never sought any higher posting, but he has never shirked any responsibility either and that he would view the assignment as yet another opportunity to serve the people”. Yawn. And it will get faithfully reported. Verbatim. And consumed.

The CEO of a company who says, “ We want to delight our customers. After all they are the ones who pay our salaries” is actually muttering internally that “ these slimy bloodsuckers who masquerade as our customers not only squeeze us on price, they also delay our payment and, on top of that, expect 24 x 7 service from us. The nerve! What they need is a sound kick on the backside”. Obviously, he can’t state this; he can’t even admit to his wife or his psychiatrist that he entertains such thoughts, but it’s there at the back of his mind. Constantly.

I just read a statement attributed to a Tamil actor by name Vijay. Reacting to a news item that some fans had erected an idol of the actor and had worshipped it by pouring 100 litres of milk over it, he pontificated, “ When so many Tamil mothers languish and struggle to find the money to buy a single glass of milk for their infants, it is not proper to waste so much money and milk on my idol .If you are really my fans, please don’t do it”. Touching. Makes one’s hair stand on its end. What he must have been actually thinking was “ I care a damn if you build an idol or pour tanker-loads of milk over it, so long as you morons muster up just enough sense to queue up at the theatres and patronize my shows”.

Some years back, Mad magazine used to carry a feature, “ When they say this, they actually mean this “ and give the subtext and behind-the-scenes- facts on some of the statements made by politicians, businessmen, etc. I don’t know if the magazine is still around and if it still carries this feature. But, it would be a good idea to start a desi edition. There won’t be any dearth of ‘statements’ to dissect and bring to view the real intent. The nation could do with a generous dose of humour.
Update : More pious statements coming into the studio.
Sachin, in an interview to India Today : "It is not correct to say that I spend more time shooting for my commercials than on the cricket ground. Life of a cricketer is short. Money is not that important. Runs are.
Amitabh Bachchan, to Prannoy Roy on being elected Indian of the Year by NDTV viewers : I am quite self-conscious . I feel very humble. I don't know what to say.....
Kapil dev, in Outlook magazine, on who his heroes are : Nelson Mandela; he spent 27 years in prison...
More piety , 24-01-06: Rahul Gandhi at the Congress plenary session at Hyderabad when party workers went down on their knees, prostrated before him and pleaded with him to join the CWC :, " No, I am not ready yet. I want to work hard and earn the position."
Also, by Rahul Gandhi at same session, " The national flag is my religion". Hear, hear.

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