By Biraj Dixit :
For all the decaying values we tend to be surrounded by, let nobody convince you that true heroes do not exist. -- General Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, (In his foreword for book India’s Most Fearless by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh) Heroism, they say, is all about believing and staying put against adverse conditions both without and within. It is not always about being fearless, but often about not letting fear decide for you. Not for nothing do the sages say, conquering oneself is the far more surmounting than conquering the world. The first speech that you delivered with shaky legs and quivering voice, the first pedal on that wobbly bicycle, the drowning feeling in the big pool or the breathless steps while scaling a mountain, fear was all you had and fear was what you left behind. The thunder of the applause or showers of accolades may or may not follow, but the racing pulse, the thumping heart, the involuntary smile are the claps from within – the most honest one. One must never construe these as forgettable. For, in each of such moments of which life is made of, when one let goes of ordinary, one jumps into the realm of extraordinary - a sentiment worth a thousand lives!
Just like that
When young and naive, I always thought why do most elders keep telling story of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s meeting with Afzal Khan? Yes, it’s a great story. But Maharaj’s life was full of great stories. (My favourite, at that point of time, was sneaking out of Agra in a fruit basket– a real cocking a snook story!) Yet, the pride with which Afzal Khan’s annihilation was narrated, Uff! We all had it byheart and yet it took all of life’s experience to grasp the huge import of it. Now I know better. The elders, having tasted life and all its adversities and fears, perhaps knew what would come handy - An excellent story in fear-management, remaining focused enough to surmount the seemingly unsurmountable adversities, having a plan for all the strong-armed tactics, turning your gracious self into a lion’s paw when needed, and surviving. In his foreword, General Rawat reminds of ‘a lesser-known quote’ by Mahatma Gandhi, “Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.” First requisite for moving in a direction which we so proudly boast of – spirituality, morality, that sentiment which assures us that we are indeed right. And yet the General needs to remind us, reassure us that there are still heroes amid ‘decaying values’. Of course, there are. There must be or else human civilisation would have collapsed. But while civilisation still exists there are ‘decaying values’, a decay brought about by cowardice may be!?!
Cowardice or manifestation of fears that remain unconquered - fear of the unknown, fear of leaving the herd, fear of being alone, fear of chasing a dream least one does get a desired outcome, fear for life and death…, has so much to do with the decaying values that the General spoke about. It is this fearfulness that forces us to look the other way always, to let injustice happen, to bury common sense. We, as a civilisation, have become such veterans at looking the other way that many today summon all their fears and call it common sense. And since fear is the all-pervading sense it has become common and so, is common sense. But where are we heading with our common sense – unto spirituality or decadence? It is a simple matter of choice or more so of holding the nerves. Conquering his fears, a soldier, bears all extremities, fights for the nation which is his, keeps his promises and gains applause of others as well as his own, fortifying his spiritual journey with courage. Somewhere another man gives in to his fear, and keeps looking the other way as injustices and decadence rule the cities and towns which are his. Promises, his common sense tells him, are meant to be broken and applause from within is some fiction, a folk lore.
So, somewhere a soldier lifts the body of dying man, braves inhuman conditions and hostile terrains and rushes to restore his fellow countryman to life and safety. At some other place, a man hit by a vehicle in a big road of a big city and hospitals round the corner, waits for some uncommon sense to prevail among the herd of people taking selfies with his injured body and their own injured souls. A simple choice turns into a chasm of conflicting personalities. A simple choice and a vast gulf between heroism and heroics. A simple choice and a nation standing tall, a simple choice and an injured society. Fearlessness, they say is an inherent trait of the brave. Yet, no child, innocent, uninitiated, fears the fire. All, he sees is a beautiful orange worthy of touch, until someone tells him it is dangerous. All kids, Godsend, are inherently brave, until initiated. We, as a society must think of the ways in which our initiations inspire courage and not fear. Like the General said, let us not be convinced that true heroes do not exist. Let’s keep fear aside and meet one.