New Delhi: If you wish in the world to advance, your merits you are bound to enhance, you must stir it and stump it, and blow your own trumpet, or trust me, you have not a chance. W.S.Gilbert says, very perceptively
Raj Liberhan, director, India Habitat Centre
Blowing one’s trumpet, according to a Greek legend began in a small sleepy village of those times where one person went about his work of guarding the place, quietly and efficiently, without any fanfare. He held off the onslaught of marauders and continued his duties without ever once talking about it. The village folk, one day honoured him by blowing a bugle in the temple so that all the folk knew of the man’s triumphs.
Cut to the present. Every thing is exaggerated. All around us there is a larger than life phenomena being continuosly fabricated. Sports, politics or business, decibel levels have risen while performance levels have proportionately fallen.
In cricket, fast bowlers breathe fire, batsmen set the stadium Rs.ablaze’ and fielders Rs.shatter’ the wickets with their throws. It’s all happening, as they say, and the crowds are going Rs.wild’. At the end of the game, the loser slaps the winner. One match over, on to the next binge of madness.
In applying for a job, it is no longer an assurance to Rs.remain yours obediently’ and Rs.in your debt will I ever remain’ . Nor does it really lead to getting a favourable nod to your candidature. There are professional CV writers who will script your, until now, anonymous achievements and make it appear as if you have climbed Mount Everest on a weekly basis.. The uniform advice seems to be to Rs.pad up’ and Rs.dress up’ your experience and enlarge your role in the space you occupy in order to make your career zoom.
Indeed, the gimmick has overtaken those who wear uniforms as well. The Rs.ketchup colonel’ episode in the Army ranks is only a recent one in the stories of valour that abound in our realm since the days of the Mahabharata.
One wonders as tojust how much fiction overlays facts in our lives. There is now some doubt on the real heroes of the Longewalla battle, thanks to a retired officer’s delayed recollections of the nearly 37-year old armed engagement with our erstwhile neighbour.
We will soon have some one rewriting the war accounts of the Mahabharata as well and recalling the valour of the Kauravas and why they were the heroes of the epic battle rather than the hitherto righteous, but wily Pandavas. Not surprisingly, at this rate we may even have another set of valorous sagas in the shape of rewritten portions of our history. “Change your past and take pride in your heritage” seems to be the unspoken motto in this entire charade of “hype and hyperbole”.
The media plays its part in “building up” routine occurrences. Inventive copy-writers have to conjureRs.screaming’ headlines to grab the eyeballs of the just-waking up readers. Notwithstanding the effort, interest in hard news is on the wane. The Rs.accomplishments’ of the government of the day, put out in full page newspaper advertisements or advertorials fool nobody.
It is one more but not so subtle method to keep the media owners’ income levels intact. P3 is the new destination of the city’s wannabe stars. Forgettable names with forgettable faces, sucking on baton length cigars and an arm candy in close proximity, dot this much sought after P3scape.
Who socializes with whom and where, is the attention grabbing news of the day. Exaggeration and trivialization appear to go hand in hand in the political and social whirlpool that deftly depreciates honesty and integrity. Network and win-win situations are to be contrived and your ingenuity will then count. In simple English, this means that you should be ready and willing to divide the loot and keep everyone happy.
The quest for fame has overwhelmed the lives of everyone and mediocracy is the new meritocracy. A whole industry has sprung up in image building and goes by the ubiquitous names of public relations. For a fee, agencies will promote your Rs.achievements’ and enhance your profile. (Other enhancements are also available for a price, but that is another kind of image building).
Have no fear if your box of achievements is rather sparse. Over a period of time, these can be Rs.juiced’ up. A few honours and awards will be arranged and glowing tributes will be showered at well organized functions. Your concern for humanity will be buttressed with a well-forged association with an appropriately positioned NGO in the cause and support of sundry victims of circumstances. Behold, a caring and an honoured personality emerges, ready for the big league of power games. The charade can go on till it acquires iconic status, firmly entrenched in the public mind. From here to the holy cow category is just another short step.
Indeed, the noise levels in our world have risen to cacophonies, or should it be transmuted into a caco of the phonies. The melee only gets wilder. Why are we surprised at the road rages, at kids pulling guns on their companions, adults fighting like legislators, policemen raping minors and sportsmen slapping each other. Who can remind us that after the game of chess is over, the kings and the pawns are put into the same box?
Raj Liberhan is director of the India Habitat Centre at New Delhi. Send your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org