Indians who inspired and entertained us

People

Indians who  inspired and entertained us

Saina Nehwal: A middle class couple invest the last bit of their faith and savings to train their daughter in badminton — a sport they were passionate about in their own youth but had to give up to meet life where it lay. The gifted little girl overcomes a difficult childhood to go forth and win several times over for India where it matters most — the international arena. And there is reason to believe the best is yet to come. We love this hero’s fable because we love old-fashioned blockbusters. But there is also some reassurance in the fact that a similar sounding Sania’s perseverance paying off isn’t a one off anymore in a land governed by authorities who know a little about celebrating their players, but nothing about rearing or respecting them.  

Nisha Susan: Yet another assault by self-appointed moral police in Mangalore prompted Nisha, a young journalist living by herself in Delhi, to set up a facebook group asking women to send pink chadhis to hardliners as a mark of protest.  The response was unprecedented. This wasn’t about our right to drink beer or go out on Valentine’s day anymore, it was indignation that has been bubbling under for a while at how shallow the waters of ‘liberation’ run for women even today. The campaign established the potential of the internet revolution before Iran erupted on twitter. Symbols have a way of influencing public consciousness more than any rhetoric, and Gandhi knew this when he pulled out his charkha. Nisha’s symbol of choice, clearly from another era and in keeping with her high taste for dark humour, succeeded in making the Ram Sene cower eventually. But not before she had been through her share of hell for speaking out. The important thing is she stuck it out. And that she knows that the problem at hand is much greater than her little act of protest could address.  

Irom Sharmila: Irom was in her 20s when she started a fast unto death demanding the removal of AFSPA from Manipur in the year 2000. Over nearly a decade of fasting she has been imprisoned, harassed, force-fed but mostly ignored by the state.  Earlier this year as news broke of fake encounters in Manipur yet again and widespread protests erupted, Irom’s peaceful resistance shone through the indiscriminate chaos. It is her bounden duty, she says, for she has no other means. The state is still in no mood to listen. But if we don’t consider now the hope and courage of an ordinary girl who has taken upon herself a fight that we cannot seem to accommodate in our teeming millions, we never will. And while that might not come in the way of anything in our mainland of promise, each one of us will be directly responsible for the impending death of her dream.  

Basharat Peer: Peer made his way up from a tiny village in Kashmir to the hallowed halls of literary fame, through stints in Delhi and New York, all at an enviably young age. But that is not the significance of his story. Not content with filling the regular columns reserved for Kashmir in the sidelines of press, he wrote a book to explain what it means to be a Kashmiri. Curfewed Night is brave, raw, restrained, comprehensive, honest, intensely personal and profoundly moving. A gift of a book for a people largely unaware of what exactly goes on in it’s name in the Valley. A call to tell the tales that must be told at any cost. And testimony to the unfathomable spirit and power of journalism done right.  

Anurag Kashyap: Anurag embodies the spirit of anti-establishment in the romantic-rebellion-of-youth sort of way. And he has felt the heat of burning up clichés alright. For years his films that challenged the micro Bollywood and the macro social systems fought hard against censorship, moneybags and critics to find their place. Embittered and torn, Kashyap kept dragging his feet out of misfortune, spurred on by that most irrational love for cinema. Finally in 2009 came Dev D, the once in a way masterpiece that conquers it all, and makes it all worthwhile. Up next was Gulaal; hardly in step with it’s predecessor’s glory, but a rare breed of Bollywood film nonetheless — the noble failure. That Girl In Yellow Boots, his next, nearing completion is a small film that promises to prove, films cannot just be different, they can also be made differently. Amen, we say then, and gloat vicariously whistling the anthems he gave us in music. It is easy to love him for showing us how it can be done. But it’s also important to note how he has never compromised the politics of his art .  

Sachin Tendulkar: They tried to write Him off last year. This year He broke more records than they could set. Everything in the world has changed in the last two decades, except Tendulkar. And what greatness is to mortals, immortality to Gods. There are idols that make you want to achieve things, and then there is Tendulkar who holds that rare power to make you tremble with joy and leave you wanting nothing more. He has no trappings of human legends to contradict the godliness either. Only divine calm, grace and certitude. Tendulkar-worship is the closest India will ever come to monotheism. It is the closest we are to having a pan-national story in these fragmented times. And it is the simplest way to wear that complex identity — Being Indian.  
 
Rahul Gandhi: “First they laugh at you, then they ignore you, then they fight you, then you win,” said Gandhi. Much bandied words that have an unusual resonance in the life of another Gandhi who is shaping the Indian National Congress anew more than half a century later. Rahul had very little time to prove he is more than his parent’s son, and he has done it. The architect and face of many victories of a resurgent party, he claimed 2009 as his own as the star of the general elections that left the country feeling buoyant. His accomplishments so far aren’t extraordinary but he has won the hearts, even the unrelenting ones. And we are as a country mostly heart. Something about the boy feels right. He has the potential to set things right. But more importantly he has the potential to make the youth look toward politics as a lucrative tool to negotiate with the future. So far all he might have delivered is hope. But then that is all we need to go on.

Aatish Taseer: A reactionary letter from the father he had hardly known incited Aatish into travelling through Islamic lands in search of the identity that he could not easily inherit. This major international debut is not a seminal study of modern Islam in any way. And that is what makes it significant. Stranger is constructed out of the confidence and honesty that can immortalize youth in creation. It opens up new possibilities in Indian non-fiction that is still to emerge from the shadow of our fiction giants. The personal and the political merge in Taseer’s narrative to humanize history as it is taking shape. And it is in the magic of this twilight that the world appears differently from its newsprint staple. India is not a part of his travels, but reveals itself poignantly through the traveller. Individual quests of this order can shape the stories we tell and the stories we tell will shape the future. Stranger’s insight isn’t unprecedented but it’s gift of quest is valuable. 

Khurram Parvez: As a young man growing up in Indian administered Kashmir, Khurram felt the indignation of a people subjugated in their own land first hand. Most young people around him were taking to arms to feel counted. A handful of others, were getting out to join the global rat race for material comforts. He made the difficult decision to take the road less travelled by dedicating his life to democratic engagement with the system that is allegedly perpetrating the worst human rights atrocities in the region. Together with a small group of concerned citizens today he runs the International People’s Tribunal On Justice and Human Rights in Indian Administered Kashmir. In 2004, while monitoring elections in the state his vehicle was blown up in an attack that killed his colleague and cost him his leg. But his work didn’t stop. After years of research and investigations, the IPTK has just filed it’s report on mass graves in Kashmir earlier this month. It is a shocking piece of evidence that must be heeded, so the path of peaceful struggle can be justified. But inorder to heed, one must first understand the plea behind this evidence. Khurram’s fight is not simply for justice, it is a fight for freedom. And his willingness to debate, despite a deep sense of hurt, exemplary.

Jarnail Singh: The home minister keen to talk about his POA against terror skirted his question on the 1984 Sikh massacre. He threw his shoe. Soon Jarnail would regret his chosen act of protest and lose his job in the wake of mounting political pressures. But the more crucial question is what drives a right-minded, responsible, respectable senior journalist to such basic an act of frustration? Its been 25 years since ‘a big tree fell and the earth shook’, as Rajiv Gandhi wouldv’e put it. Much has been written, said and debated by commissions, activists, writers and the media. But no action has ever been taken against the guilty. The CBI’s clean chit to Tytler and his impending election in the oncoming polls, might have been the proverbial last straw for this man who witnessed the pogrom in his teenage. The furor that ensued, scared the UPA about its prospects enough to strike Tytler’s name off the list. This happy end could have neatly wrapped this story up. If only one could forget that justice is still not close at hand. And that it took the hurling of a shoe to notch up a tiny victory despite all the democratic efforts put in by the country’s concerned citizens for years. 

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