A few good menOctober 30, 2010
Thanks to the scams and scandals that fill our daily news, you won't read this story in any newpaper.
It happened a week ago in Coimbatore.
A medical conference was taking place. Amongst many others that day, a senior doctor was giving a speech on atherosclerosis. After the speeches were done, the doctors all took a break for tea. As is always the case, medical opinions slowly gave way to friendly banter. In the midst of all this, as various doctors spoke of their families and how they were studying in various continents of the world, one of them asked this doctor about his family.
The doctor gave a wry smile and said 'My son is more into games. He plays cricket.'
Residents who were there later confirmed the thought that crossed all their minds simultaneously : That the kid was some brash guy who was living off his dad's name and earnings, playing in local leagues.
One of the residents asked : 'Does he play for Ranji league ?'
Again a sheepish grin. 'Well, he used to a while back, but not so much these days.'
Seeing the man trying to cover the embarrassment of his obviously spoilt brat, some of the doctors felt sad for the distinguished doctor. It was then that a resident picked up on the clues in front of him and asked the mild mannered doctor who had travelled all the way from Hyderabad to teach his junior colleagues. 'Sir. What is your son's name ?'
The man looked at him and said in that familiar unassuming soft voice that he had passed on to his son "Venkata Sai."
Better known to you and me as VVS Laxman.
It is less than 4 weeks since V.V.S. Laxman, with a bad back and incapable of running, did the impossible and won the game at Mohali against the Aussies. At a time when the Rs 70,000 crore Commonwealth Games had begun, it was his face that dominated the front page of every newspaper the next day and pawned a very enjoyable set of "Laxman-rekha" SMS and Twitter jokes.
But this is no isolated incident. There is no list of the top 10 Test innings which does not feature his 281 against Waugh's men in Eden Gardens all those years ago which many still call 'the best test match ever'.
Mind you, this is not a post to discuss his cricketing skills and start comparisons with the likes of Tendulkar, Bradman, Hadlee or myself ( Cough Cough Wheeze Cough.) This is a post on culture and the kind of behaviour worth emulating.
Nowadays, whenever I read the word 'Indian culture', I cringe inwardly because invariably it is being mouthed off by a bunch of fanatics or religious fossils who use the term as an excuse to either hide their own sins or hurt and blackmail us into submission. And the attitude seeps down across generations obviously, as was visible earlier this month when a 20 year old 'son of the soil' announced his arrival into his Grandpa's Tiger gang by forcing the Mumbai University to remove a novel (which ironically is 19 years old itself ) from the Mumbai University syllabus midterm simply because 'he didn't like it.'
On the other hand, you have the soft spoken gentleman, who rather than resting on his son's laurels, still comes to give talks on health issues to junior residents and prefers not to go around showing off, even though his son is the toast of the nation's cricketing fans this month. It reflects too, in his son's behaviour, because even the Aussies who he has tormented for over a decade now, admit they have never met a nicer, more soft spoken gentleman than V.V.S.Laxman. It is an apt example of not letting success go to their heads.
Both the above families are a part of who we are as Indians : The wild tiger and the serene poet. Both achieve success and adulation through different means. But is success everything ?
Whenever people come complaining to me about being ill-treated by people in a more senior position than themselves, I tell them this :
"People can demand your fear. But they cannot demand your respect. That can only be earned."
There maybe a 1000 articles, celebrating VVS Laxman. But this post is not one of them. This was written with just one aim : to pay respect to a father who taught his son well. Sir, we are proud of the way you've raised your son. We have enough stars in cricket to look up to for every shot in the book, but very few good men whose character we would wish our kids to emulate.
The Australians may fear him but everyone respects him for who he is... and that's more than we can say for some of the next generation cubs of India.