Every child has a hero, and every hero needs a child. It is easier to appear heroic to a child, and the child keeps the hero safe in a corner of its growing mind. You generally do not grow up to worship your childhood hero. You begin to see more. You begin to see through. You may not be vocal, you may not even be conscious, but the hero of your childhood is never the same in adulthood, that is if you grow up.
My hero had the clichéd thousand faces, each one morphing into another, at every phase of my life. I lost my hero not when I grew out of childhood, but when I did not need one. I had a phantom childhood, while my son had an asterix childhood. There wasn’t anything ghostly or ghastly in my childhood just as how there weren’t anything starry in my son’s childhood. These were the comic themes of two generations, the Lee Falk creation and Uderzo’s art.
Being a child in late 1950s and erly 1960s, MGR had to be, by default my hero. As I grew, he was replaced even by Karunanidhi! Over the years my heroes changed. For no logical reason JFK was one, and for logical ones Nehru was another. Vivekananda, Marx, Freud, Bharathi, Kannadasan, Jayakanthan and many others happened to hold the exalted position of a hero in my mind. It all went on till the innate narcissistic nihilistic nature started adoring the mirror! But then this is not an autobiographical thrust on an unsuspecting and uncaring reader. It is a reflection.
Heroes need us. Without applause, nothing is heroic. But, why do we need heroes? I just happened to read Nandini Chandra’s book on AmarChitaKatha, and realized what had happened all along. There were heroes. Were they also `the’ villains? If the heroes are projections of the golden aura of the author, who are the villains? If valor is mind’s indignation at injustice to self or its perceptions then, is anger not a disappointment of the self at the self?
Why do heroes appear on the mindscape?
Stories are always told. Grandmothers learnt from their grandmothers and tell with the hope that their grandkids will learn the same stories. With grandmothers not finding space anymore with grandchildren, comics and storybooks become necessary. This is where we have to watch out. Heroes can be easily created in the minds of children.
A child’s hero is full of admirable qualities, he does not give up easily, he is not seen sleeping or eating, shaving or shouting at his wife, he need not be shown the progress report; he will not be an unavoidable reality like the father of the child. Generally the dad is the first hero, but he shouts at times, even beats at times. Therefore he is easily substituted by the awesome persona of the hero whose fantasy relationship is thoroughly at will and optional. Heroes are picked up from fables. Even cinema-heroes are picked for their astounding valor, skills and charm. And, then what happens?The child tries to emulate the hero.
Imagine the plight of children before the TV boom! If they wanted to emulate the mythic hero narrated by grandmothers, they would have had to paint themselves blue in India. But a child grows up, though at times the nation does not. You know for sure at a certain age that Rama and Krishna were interesting characters. I am sure even Advani knows that his vote-vault ram is not viridian in tint. I am sure he has grown up. But a smart leader grows up quick enough to see to it that his followers do not grow up. Now we have `leaders` who tell stories. These stories create the new myths. New heroes and new values form the new narratives. These narratives become the cultural imprints of a civilization that pretends to be global.
Heroes are fantasies that we can summon at will and pretend to role-play to cheat ourselves out of disappointments and incapacities. If the model mind-toy is of sterner stuff, we can actually gain some strength temporarily.
More on the theme later.