“How is it that a 74 year old Gandhian from Ralegan Siddhi has become the youth icon of a nation and not a 41 year old Gandhi?”, was the question posed by journalist, Swapan Dasgupta to Congress stalwart, Mani Shankar Aiyer in a recent NDTV debate. It is a question certainly worth pondering. Just how did this Gandhian, Anna Hazare, manage to garner such public adoration and loyalty that it forced the lethargic hand of the government into submission?
Back in April, when a relatively unknown Anna Hazare took up a fast at Jantar Mantar, the government ignored him. They thought he was yet another social activist audaciously trying to bring about a revolution. So our pragmatic prime minister, Manmohan Singh, dismissed him. Support slowly grew and today he stands proud with a ‘Sense of the House’ agreement with parliament and hungry for more change. It is ironic that a secondary school dropout has successfully brought about ‘Change’ and a realization of ‘Yes We Can!’ to the people, quicker and more efficiently than a Harvard Law graduate who is now the world’s most powerful man!
The younger generation of this country has been conditioned to respond to ultra-fit movie stars, zero waist models and bat wielding heroes. Yet, it is a bespectacled little man from rural India who has captured the hearts of millions in the truest spirit of democracy. Why? What is his secret? He is not outrageously handsome. He is not the face of ad campaigns. He is not a brilliant orator. He was not helped by the media before. He does not have political clout. He does not have millions to spend. Like most activists, He was not known to the larger public.
Just what does he have then? It is simple really. He has one of those things that doesn’t come packaged in every human shipped out by heaven. It is one of those rare qualities that doesn’t hit the media spotlight simply because there’s no ‘value’ in it. It’s quite hard to describe really. Ever body loves him for it. This man who could easily qualify as your uncle if you happen to introduce him so to your friends! His secret – He is a Hero. “Uh…okay.” you just thought. Trivial it may seem. However, it is important to know and understand this. That no matter how corrupt things get, no matter how daunting a challenge may be. People respond to courage. Courage in the face of adversity is one of the most popular story lines in writing lore and there’s a reason why people still read those books. We read great epics and stories of fantastic heroes to our children and it fills them with indescribable joy and hope. Why? We instil a concept of heroism into them, so much so that one day when they grow up and witness a hero in his epic battle, they will believe in them. Secretly, we all want to believe in these stories. We wish they were true. No matter how cynical the world makes you, you still have hope buried deep within you. It’s what makes us human. We bear emotions on our sleeves but choose to keep a tight rein on them. Against British colonialism there was Mahatma Gandhi. Against Apartheid there was Nelson Mandela. Against Racism there was Martin Luther King. And now, against Corruption there is Anna Hazare. Here’s your hero. What are you waiting for?