In this era, where almost every one we bump into is looking at the world through a lens, I believe that every one of us is a photographer, shooting and clicking away with our digital cameras and mobile phones and discussing the technical and artistic aspects of what we captured. But I wish all of us could see. By “see”, I don’t mean “look”. Anybody with vision can look but how many of us see?
Have you ever noticed a girl being sexually harassed or verbally abused in public? Have you noticed a man being mugged in an alley? Have you noticed people with absolutely no road sense threaten the lives of all the others on the road? Have you noticed men in authority take advantage of their position? Have you noticed irresponsible teenagers vandalize public property? Have you noticed people with no civic sense, litter? Have you noticed transgender women being abused for who they are? Have you seen anti-social elements cause unnecessary tension in public spaces? How many times have you said NO when you wanted to instead of suppressing that feeling?
Many people think that a well-paid job is all that is required to lead a happy and contented life; money and food help you survive, they do not help you live. I feel very sorry for all those people, for they do not know the happiness of fighting for what they want. They do not know the satisfaction of voicing their opinions. Their hearts do not feel light. Their souls are weighed down by the numerous times they shut down their self-conscience. They have lost themselves as they let everybody else mold them into the indifferent silent spectator they’ve grown to be, sometimes even in their own lives. (Oh wait! That sounds like Reek. Nobody wants to be Reek!)They have never experienced the feeling of being a ruler because they are not rulers in their world. They have settled for something far less than that. They do not know what it feels like, to be admired. They will never understand the pleasure of inspiring many and being loved by many more.
How many times have you fought for what you believe in? You don’t need six pack abs to be a fighter. I believe that bravery is not about physical strength. I respect and admire “Tyrion Lanister” more than “The Hound” and I’m sure most of you will agree with me. (Sorry about the repeated GOT reference, couldn’t help it!) Bravery is about standing up for what you believe in, no matter what the circumstance is or who is at the other end of your index finger. And more importantly, standing up for the right thing, without any disparity at all times, is what makes you a hero. It is very easy to write or easier still to talk about socio-political issues in the comfort of an air conditioned room but what we actually do is the only thing that matters. After numerous arguments, most of us conveniently ignore the problems we discussed, on reaching an intellectual orgasm. We have the attitude of “Something needs to be done” rather than “I will do something about it”. While we wished Batman was real, my friend wanted to be one. This is what differentiates us from him; a small difference with a colossal magnitude. This article is a brief interview with a Batman who wanted to free the crime-ridden Chennai city!!! I know it sounds like a Nolan plot but it’s as real as you and me.
Pages from a Superhero’s journal
You are a very spontaneous person, if I’m not wrong. You do not contemplate the consequences; you just follow your heart at the spur of the moment. I must say, I appreciate and admire you for that. You have filed PIL’s, donated blood, organized blood donation camps, interfered and questioned anti-social behavior, helped the homeless and destitute, admitted strangers in hospitals and paid their hospital bills, stood up for what you believe in; as we waited to see a change, you wanted to be the change. You are a leader. What is your inspiration? What drives you to engage in such philanthropic activities?
From a very early age I’ve seen people around me help the needy. I grew up watching my maternal uncle and other members of my family engage in philanthropic activities. I wouldn’t call it inspiration; that’s what I was exposed to. I copied them when I was young and as I grew up I developed it in my own style.
How do you position yourself in the society?
I am just an ordinary man like anyone else. And that’s what I want to be. But when I come across anti-social behavior I choose to interfere.
In this age when people have become increasingly materialistic and show an indifferent attitude towards their own kith and kin, you reach out to those who are in trouble irrespective of, if you know them or not. Especially because, where we come from, helping somebody is risky business. I’m sure you have managed to make a lot of foes. So what kind of trouble do you get yourself into and how do you handle them?
Of course, they come hand in hand. I have gotten myself into a lot of trouble, some involving the police as well. It’s such a pain. I have paid huge sums as fine for doing their job… for doing what they are supposed to do. Also, revenge is sweet. The anti-social elements I dealt with are definitely not going to keep quiet. A lot of people have tried to harm me physically. I have faced many near death situations. I have suffered a lot, I am suffering a lot and I will continue to suffer a lot for helping people. Someone’s constant prayer is the only thing that has kept me alive, I guess. But it’s worth it.
Who is your moral support?
Nobody. Every single person I know asks me not to indulge in such “unnecessary” activities as they think, it’s none of my business. They advise me to ignore. Some criticize, some are harsh, some call me a rouge; many love me and care for me. But whatever it is, nobody supports what I do. But I can’t watch a girl being sexually assaulted and not do anything about it.
You have attained a dangerously awesome level of freedom, I believe; freedom from stigmas and social constructions, freedom from constant indescribable fear and freedom to follow your dreams and live your life the way you want to. You have chosen your life and everything and everybody in it while many others just dream of it. I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be you! So what does it feel like?
God. I feel like God when I curb wrong-doers… when I stop eve-teasers, rash drivers, drunkards or drug addicts who cause social tension and who are a threat to an otherwise peaceful neighborhood. I feel like I’m in charge. I just can’t ignore. I feel like it’s my duty. You might think that it’s very easy for me to preach something that I do not practice myself; I do not smoke or drink. Drinking and smoking has become a fad and almost a routine in most people’s lives that they are surprised to see a young man who doesn’t. Why don’t I drink? But, why should I drink? I don’t see the point. I feel happy that I do not do something just because everybody else does. It’s just the same; everybody drinks – I don’t, nobody cares – I do. I do not want to follow herd mentality. I want to be me. I help those who can’t help themselves.
What keeps you going?
That moment, when I help a kid or an elderly person cross the road, I feel proud. I get nothing out of it. I do not want fame. The personal satisfaction is far better than anything else that I could get.
What is your message?
Never comment about a girl in a way that makes her uncomfortable. Comments should be healthy and a girl should take it as a compliment and not feel violated. And girls, be brave! You don’t need to put up with nonsense just because you are a girl. Channel your anger in the right direction. Make sure you are in a good position to curb the activities that you think are a nuisance to public in general and women in specific! Do not encourage anybody to booze or smoke. It is not a fad. It just ruins your body. I don’t see why people consume alcohol; I have never seen the point. It’s like tossing your bucks, down the drain. It is useless and is bad for you and for all those around you. If a man is addicted to alcohol, it affects not just him but his entire family that is dependent on him for economic and emotional support. He is going to be a bad influence on his kids and his health complications will be of concern to his family that loves him and cares for his well-being. If we want to create a change in the society, we must start from within. We must try to influence our closest circle first.
Tell me about yourself. What are your goals in life?
I choose to be anonymous. From the time I was a kid, I had many wishes. But none of them were fulfilled. I didn’t even have my own cycle… though I badly wanted one. I have faced many disappointments in my childhood. College was no better. I never wanted to become an engineer but like most other Indian kids I was forced to do engineering as well. I dread those days. That’s when it all began. There were constant tiffs between me and the college management. It usually begins with some inappropriate behavior of the staff. I could not just keep my mouth shut, like all those other kids. Why should I? I was not at fault! This lead on to strikes, followed by suspensions. People never understood that I had nothing personal against anyone. NEVER! It was the abuse, injustice, foul language and the unfair treatment by the staff. Then I graduated, I kept getting into trouble. I was the first one, among my friends to get a job. And I was the first one to lose it. I couldn’t tolerate corruption; I had disputes with many such employers. I lost a couple of jobs. I am taking care of my start-up now and I would like to open a restaurant soon.
Do you have a role-mode? If yes: Who is you role-model and how has she/he influenced you and shaped your life?
Nope. I admire certain qualities in people but no role-models as such. Baghat Singh – for his bravery, Subash Chandra Bose – He stood up for what he believed in. I admire his bravery, patriotism and immense faith in himself, Velu pillai, Prabhakaran – Again, stood up for what he believed in, he was brave, I admire his persistence and his love for his people. He sacrificed almost everything, Veerappan – He was a great human being. Media has projected them wrong. They are not my role models but I admire the life they lead. To live and die for others is not something that all of us would be ready to do. They gave up their lives for what they believed in!
There was an elderly woman you decided to help, and as you were taking her to the hospital, her heart stopped beating as she lay on your lap. This moved you a great deal. While many ungrateful hearts forget the wombs that carried them and the hands that fed them and helped them up every time they fell, you are concerned about everybody including those who are neither related to you nor will be of any help to you. Service to humanity is the best work of life. You’re love for others is unconditional and you care for the elderly. You’re a tough man with a gentle heart; the qualities that make a man a hero. This definitely reflects your upbringing and I take this opportunity to salute your awe-inspiring mother. She is the real hero! A few words about her…
Big words! I’m sure even you would have resisted anti-social behavior if you were stronger. That day, I was pissed at myself for not being able to do anything. I felt helpless. My mom… she loves me and doesn’t want me to get into trouble, just like any other mom. I love her. But this is what I am. I chose to be this way. I hide a lot of things from her that’ll freak her out.
What is the change you hope to see?
I do not want to see anybody causing public nuisance, women should not be harassed, people should follow traffic rules and people who get high should not create a commotion in public spaces. And above all, if you see something like this happen then please don’t choose to ignore.
Unless there is anything else you would like to say, I guess we’ll conclude. Continue to inspire! It was a great pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much, for your precious time and for sharing your insights about life. Hearty wishes, for a long, healthy and happy life!
“You must pretend to be a person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.” – Paulo Coelho
Hoping to see a lot more Dark knights rise!