Moments Winging By...|Apr 13, 2003 6:33 AM| by:

Revamping Headlines

Kalpana Chawla is a name we are all familiar with today. And yet, in January of 2003, a couple of months ago, there were few who knew who she was. Now, not only do we know her, but her entire family, her neighbours, her passions, her favourite colours. We know which school she went to and have even met the teachers that taught her.
Cynics would term it a case of extreme publicity while the moderates would brush it aside as a symptom of our times.  I label it as good news gone wrong.
Why do we know so much about someone who was a stranger in our lives till just a while ago?
Why is it that a person has to leave this world, in order for us to recognize his or her potential and contribution to the progress of this earth in whatever domain?
Why is it that only those who were interested in Space affairs and general knowledge quizzes knew who Kalpana was and not the rest of us?
If a Galileo or a Keats was recognized posthumously because the world wasn’t ready to accept their ideas, that’s a different matter for the earth was still unprepared for such genius. But Kalpana’s situation is different. She was neither a rebel nor did the world shun her effort. But its pointless to raise people on a pedestal after they have left their body and not show any overt or enthusiastic appreciation while they are living in flesh and blood.  And that’s probably the reason why there is so much disillusionment about what potential this country and her people truly profess, what talent and skill, what intellect and creativity.

But that’s not all. Take a small NGO or even just an individual working quietly in his corner of Garhwal, planting ten saplings a week just so that in a century from now those saplings will be towering tress holding his corner together and saving it from slipping in the rain. There are innumerable such individuals and some work singularly while others group up and do work on a larger scale. But we have no idea who they are. Instead we do know names that make it to the glamour pages of tabloids or else those who have specific areas of interest may just relate so and so to the Chipko movement or some dam or some revolutionary technical breakthrough.

If the children know nothing about the likes of a Kalpana Chawla while she is alive then how are they to relate to her at all? True that all our role models  can’t possibly be our contemporaries but at the same time those who are currently excelling can certainly provide a lot of encouragement as living examples, simply exhibiting that a thing can be done, not just in their own professional circles but for anyone who is willing to take that extra step in order to succeed.  Our own President is a case example – read Wings of Fire and come face to face with a man who has struggled from his earliest days and today occupies the highest position in our country. And yet, this book would not have sold as much were it not for him having become the President.

Pay the tributes. Pay them in time. Pay them in bold print.

What we don’t realize is the amount of negative and worthless news we feed on every day. Open the papers and you’ll find every story stained with pain, reflecting on a continuing depredation of the human being. That news is perhaps required as well and may have a purpose but imagine our minds that so willingly accept this kind of negativity doled out daily without once craving or simply questioning the occurrence of things that are the very contrary – news that fill us with a sense of joy and pride… and an enthusiasm to live. Putting happy stories on the front page doesn’t mean escaping from the wrath of adversities – it simply means a change in our own priorities.

Be it that man in the shadows planting his saplings or a budding astronaut, the determination and the foresight is what counts – the rapist and the scamming politician do not and can not be rated as above these people, getting their names into everyone’s head first thing in the morning. Unknown to us, such depressing news saps the very energy out of us, making it seem as if there is really no goodness in the world, no hope for Man. Our people, our children, need encouragement and lots of it. They need reassurance that this country has given them a place, a mind, a heart, a will, and if they use it they can have the whole world. But more importantly they need to know that this world can become theirs while they are very much alive. And, even though I speak of it as something pertaining to India, in truth, it applies to each and every inch of this planet we call earth.

Kalpana unknowingly has left behind this realization for me and I hope for a day when others like her will be known way before they have to leave us, so that we can have adequate time to express our gratitude to them for doing what they do, and to learn from them, to be inspired by them, so that the chain never ends.