19 Mar 2012

How Virat Kohli can spare a few blushes, and (possibly) save the world


Time was when a nation was judged by it's heroes. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi all did just as much for national image as they did for their people. Then the navel-gazing, oil-paranoid Nineties happened, and most countries lost the right to claim any kind of heroism at all. The Noughties have somehow brought things full circle, and in these consumerist times, a country is often judged by the brands it's idols endorse. Just as brands are judged by the celebrities that endorse them. So for every retired punk rocker doing serious damage to his credibility by selling insurance on the telly, there's a Gillette or Nike distancing themselves from a philandering Tiger Woods. And just as national heroes once upon a time rebelled against injustice or stood up for those trampled upon, they now kick balls great distances, or compose angsty guitar lullabies. The times they are a-changing, indeed.

Whether or not heroism is a quality attributed too easily today is a debate for another day. I spent much of my day -as did at least a few million other Indians, I suspect- in front of the telly, watching the national cricket team pull off an astounding victory over sworn enemy and perpetual rival, Pakistan. The pace was set by a typically robust start from Sachin Tendulkar, a man who has long been elevated to the status of a cricketing God (is there any other kind?), and sustained marvelously by Virat Kohli, the most promising batsman India has produced since the Fab Four. The 23-year old Kohli is a bonafide youth icon, who has backed up the millions he earns in endorsements with stellar performances for his team(s) time and again.

As the Indian innings was approaching the final quarter, the commentator made an observation about young Kohli that would have made a great riff if he were comically inclined. Looking back on Kohli's celebration on scoring a century, the commentator remarked: "why does he look so angry?" His question sounded so genuine I nearly choked, laughing. It's true, the talented Mr. Kohli does have a fist-pumping, war-waging, thandav-evoking quality to his century celebration, and I have wondered on more than one occasion where he gets all that energy from after batting for so long. I've just never had the energy to contemplate it long enough to arrive at an answer.

The commentator delved a little deeper into Kohli's psyche, musing aloud that it was perhaps a means of staying focused on the team's goal after surpassing a considerable personal milestone, or indicative of the desire and hunger of the younger generation or some such psychobabble. Maybe his parents didn't love him enough, I don't care. I did notice he contrasted Kohli's celebrations to Tendulkar's, a man who has scaled practically every statistical peak that populates the game, and goes about it in muted, dignified fashion. I didn't think it was fair to compare two individuals on what is essentially a personal expression of joy, and I'm still not convinced his theory goes any deeper than "to each his own".

A few minutes after his comment however, an ad came on featuring the man of the moment, Mr. Kohli himself. It was for Fair and Lovely, a much-maligned and much-in-use cosmetic product that promises to lighten the complexion of one's skin. India has long debated the morality (or lack of it) in promoting ''fairness'' of skin   as a (key) determinant of beauty in a country where the majority of the population is dark-skinned. Questions have been raised about whether it is ethical for celebrities to endorse fairness products, and whether these products even work, but the cosmetic industry lobby has always teacupped such storms with a minimum of difficulty.

I wouldn't fault somebody for having a distinctive preference for a sexual partner of a particular complexion (it's as straightforward as preferring blonde to brunette, or tall women to midgets, whatever), but I do feel strongly against establishing one common standard of beauty for a billion people. If nine year olds today feel towards Kohli anything similar to the fanatic devotion I felt towards a then-20-year-old Tendulkar, they're investing a lot on this talented young man - hopes, dreams, aspirations, even life lessons. Tendulkar was the perfect role model - the Doogie Houser of cricket- with his prodigious talent, and his impeccable behavior on and off the field. And in almost twenty two years of professional cricket -and hundreds of advertisements- never have I seen him endorse a product of questionable character.

Tendulkar seems like one of those kids you wouldn't really want to hang out with in school simply because he was too determined and too focused to be fun company. (Would you really want to hang out with Doogie Houser?) Frankly, he's missed out on more than he will ever realize if his squeaky-clean image is entirely true. Kohli on the other hand has- or used to have- a bit of a reputation as a partying type, and I hope he gets his share. I'd never put pants on during off-season if I were him. I do hope however that he chooses wisely when he lends his name and his credibility to consumer goods. The current generation of adolescents don't have to wait for a game or concert to catch their heroes in action - they're constantly hanging on to their every word and action on social networks and cable TV. It'd be a shame if the only lesson a 9-year old fan takes away from someone as successful and driven as Virat Kohli is how far he or she is from the ideal colour spectrum.  Maybe Kohli could bottle his excess anger and offer the world an alternative source of energy instead.

Image sources: V. KohliS. R. Tendulkar


16 comments:

abhilasha said...

I kinda agree wid u.. Its too simple to be a hero... A Facebook page .. A twitter account... Likes... And tweets... And u r a hero.,, but at the same time... These heroes have a short life span.,, we kick them as soon as they stop entertaining... Be it Sachin or anyone ... The entire cricket session was full of swears for Sachin, even after he made the much hyped century still he was cursed... There is no escape.. I am sure Gandhi and Martin Luther must be thanking god not to Be born in the fb age... It's scary...

icyhighs said...

I guess its true that celebrities' movements are monitored more closely, and fame is now more Warholian than ever.
At the same time, it's nice that there's greater accountability for the actions of political leaders, that there's more democracy than used to be.
Same coin, two sides etc.

abhilasha said...

Greater accountability.. U really think so.. I beg to differ... Democracy can't be less of more.. Democracy is simply democracy or no democracy... And that's the irony.. On the name of democracy, I don't know eat we r served wid.. Politician rather then looking for a bigger picture.. Are just keen for thr own interests.. We ll grant u that.. But atleast do something .. Any party coming into picture is completely down graded by the opposition.. Constructive criticism is too passé now.. Anyways, I guess my patriotism is shouting now.. At ease at ease.,,, :)

icyhighs said...

I'm really enjoying this conversation, Abhilasha. I agree in principle that you can't have little or more of democracy - but given the world as it is, I think we'll just have to accept that democracy is a goal more than an actual state of being.

In the last year or so, we've had quite a few revolutions using social media - all of which propelled formerly state-run countries (closer) to democracy.

Or stuff like Slut Walk, or Occupy Wall Street or the Obama presidential campaign - would not really have been possible without Twitter.Facebook etc right.
I'm not very big on social media, but I can see its got it's uses.

Re: politics in India, I'm afraid I'm your typical middle-class Malayalee: blindly pro-Congress, very pro-Nehru dynasty (unless the opposition has a really dynamic alternative)so I wouldn't be much use to you.

abhilasha said...

Me too pro congress and all that... It's bad amongst the worse.. And I am fine wid it.. I ll be honest about the fact that i belong to the rich class of a superbly poor country.. Thgs aren't difficult for me.. Democracy sovereignty are nice big terms dat I really don't care much about., but yeah sitting at the other side it does matter... It matters big time.. And inshallah not just my words but my actions ll speak too.. If not a lot but some difference inll surely make... Zyada ho Gaya kya... I ll translate.. Did I go overboard.... Anyways...
About the revolutions going around... Be it jasmine .. Occupy wall street.. Or any other such thg, I dont know may be I am wrong I somewhere feel that it lacks the soul.,, liking and being a member of the fb community doesn't serve the purpose... And why go towards the west.. Our very own Anna hazard thg.,, apart from the old man who was so curtly stubborn, everyone else had thr personal agenda... Arvind kejriwal a wannabe politician.. Kiran bedi is simply media hungry... Swami ram dev no comments on him... Other film stars accompanying for fame... Other college students flocking the ram Lila maidan to pit a pic on fb... Ki Delhi him bhi Gaye the... Amidst all this candle industry is flourishing...U know its like... U don't feel the real agitation... We have the Corruption and all., we have nO choice but to accept it.. Any developing country is bound to have it... In a mere 15k salary if a govt employee we want him to send his child to the best school best car best house.. Not happening., moreover we font like to stand in a queue ourselves. 100 ruppees and ur wrk is done.. Not a big prize.. Everond is happy... Me making sense .. Don't know.. Justifying corruption... Yeah may be...

icyhighs said...

I'm with you there - it's hard to really give a shit when you're not affected by the corruption, the red tape, the poverty.
It's great that you care. I really want to, but find it's much easier to armchair-philosophize, and live on my own island.

abhilasha said...

Right now.. Even I am simply philosophasing and sitting on my arm chair wid my I phone in my hand and acting too smart about the poverty corruption and everything else.. Sounding too intellectually agitated... Damn damn damn!!! Lemme get back to my books... Tch tch tch!!!!!

icy_highs said...

And you're wearing a Che Guevara teeshirt in your display pic...!

:)

abhilasha said...

Ha ha ha!!!! Icy highs

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Kajal said...

Well said and rightly so.. Easy to become a hero in today's age of marketing. I feel for the millions and trillions of the unsung heros.
Glad to have found you at Indiblogger. Your newest follower and a regular visitor now.
Cheers,
Kajal

icyhighs said...

Cheers Kajal. Good to see you here too, and I'm coming around to check out your blog in a bit.

Play angry Birds said...

Nice blog on Virat Kohali..Thanks great Player

Don Grierson said...

Both are big ambassador of cricket ...Sachin and Virat...

Raj Express said...

nice blog

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