Changing Identities

I had a queer dream last night. While it was largely about going somewhere, I remember only a snippet of it. I had carved parabolic lines on dark-brown timber. Someone looked at the curve and said I shouldn’t have used a free hand. And because now that they were curved, I should use a scale and make them straight. For some reason, that did not make sense to me. In my head, I said, “Yes, that’s how I intended it to be,” and then analyzing the damage the scale would have on my free hand I drifted into a change of scene. Whether I made straight lines or not I don’t remember.

I have been following Oscar Pistorius‘ case. When I first read that he shot his girlfriend four times on Valentine’s Day I had no comprehension for a while. I used to be an athlete in school. I loved sprinting and I always looked forward to the school’s annual Sport’s Day. It was my time of the year to be a celebrity and I enjoyed it for the happiness running gave me, not the adulation that came with it. So, when I watched Oscar Pistorius run and beat the hell out of able-bodied competitors, adrenaline and respect surged within me and how! It was momentous for me. A man somewhere in another part of the world had re-installed faith in me that no matter who you are, you can rise above and be a star in your own right. You can accomplish and be content. You can run and be happy. I messaged a school friend who used to run too and asked him to see Pistorius run. A defining moment for runners all over the world that was; when Pistorius ran. Such moments are persuasive of the human ability to outdo whatever has already been done. The rising of a star, of a man who defies norm and wields unseen ability is more reassuring than anything else. The fact that a double amputee can run like the wind and be nonchalant about it on the field is the thing fairy tales are made of. To runners and everyone else in the world, the message it gives is that, “Yes, there is still magic in the world.” I believed in that kind of magic too. Magic that transcends the ordinary and catapults human achievement into a different slot altogether. When I saw Pistorius run, I believed. So, when I read about the alleged murder a week ago, I stopped. The world around me halted for a while. And I recalled Lance Armstrong’s confession on Oprah.

I had been meaning to read Not Without My Bike by Lance Armstrong for a few years. The fact that a book like that existed somewhere, gave me hope. It was right there on the shelf, I used to think. It’s going to be there when I need to seek some courage, I thought. More than a book, it was a metaphor for courage. To challenge the ‘challenge’ they say life is and return victorious was what it stood for. It was a message to all the people in the world who would stop in the face of obstruction and retreat instead of advancing. It could have very well been a myth. Armstrong could have very well been a Greek God. His story could very well been a parable. But it was reality; albeit for some time. Then the accusations came, and some time later came the confession. I remember telling someone inside me, “Please don’t let this be true.” However, it was. The book disappeared from the imagined shelf. I haven’t sought it ever since. I have no ill-feeling towards him. Somewhere, a hero ceased to exist and became an ordinary man with extra-ordinary achievements.

It’s the same with Pistorius. Somehow I placed him too high on the mantel. A man who was untouched by negative. Now, he seems like a legend that could have been, but has become a mortal who has his weaknesses and fears. After all, an admirer can forget that even a hero can fall. But the question is, when he does, what’s the collective impact? Do far-flung dreams die? Do hopes reek? Or do we find someone else to look up to?

The need for a hero is omnipresent. The possibility that there is some one who defies conformity and becomes a person to look up to is enchanting. Every field has one of these heroes. Every one has one of these heroes. Those who go beyond the limits and show the rest of the world how there really are no limits. The fascination of a land where there are no limits is a common quest.

After all, we do not really want to be the person who draws straight lines for a murmur of assent, we want to draw that free-hand sketch.

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2 thoughts on “Changing Identities

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  1. It’s a well written piece. I felt the same when I read about Armstrong. It hurt me even though I’d never followed his exploits on the track. There are great men. Then there are men who aren’t great but achieve the un-achievable. By seeing and being mesmerized by their achievements we forget that they too are men.

    It’s not for nothing that it’s said that what goes high, falls harder. Such men and women are great. But their greatness is not a full circle of their lives. It’s a mere sector to which the greatness belongs. And we, gullible as we are, pretend to ignore the rest of the circle and start believing in only that segment.

    Of course, it’s so easy for me to say this. I react the same when I hear of football players doing cocaine and bribery. We never learn. We, the gullible and weak, humans never will learn without becoming heartless.

    You’ve written it well re. It reflects well on how deep the impact goes.


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