The Titans are falling, one by one. In recent years, several gigantic personalities, the latest one being Vinod Khanna, have left us for their heavenly abodes. Some megastars have, in a way, been a part of our very existence but have departed in a quick succession.
Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Manna Dey, Nanda, Sadhana, Suchitra Sen, Feroz Khan, to name a few, left us in recent years, leaving behind an immense void in Bollywood.
The legendary Amitabh Bachchan has been writing with sensitivity and emotion about his former co-stars who have been leaving the firmament.
His latest blog post is on Vinod Khanna and includes tales of how Khanna would offer Bachchan a ride in his car, and generally look after the tall gangling new comer, since the former was an already established star in the early 1970s. Bachchan’s post on Khanna includes a telling tribute - “No one walked the way he did...no one had the presence he had in a crowded room...no one could lighten up the surroundings he was in, like him...no one.”
The mutual respect that such towering figures have for each other and the warmth which they exude in each other’s company inspires their followers to act likewise. It is not easy to be a renowned celebrity, and be unable to partake of the plethora of flavours that life offers the ordinary individual. Thus, going out for a walk or run can be a project for a film star or sports star, as we can well imagine.
And when the time comes for them to be treated for ailments that are bound to beset each human being in his or her later years, celebrities find themselves being scrutinised by public glare, even on their hospital beds. Privacy has never been an easily attainable domain for them, but at the closing stages of life, when the curtain is about to come down, they surely deserve some.
Thus, society at large and the media in particular would do well to exercise restraint and grace in posting pictures of such icons in states of frail health, or of anyone else actually. Updates and brief reports of an ailing beloved star’s medical condition should suffice.
Another important lesson for us mere mortals to learn from some champions is - how to tackle illness with fortitude and grace. The most inspiring story is that of Arthur Ashe who, in 1975, became the first black player to win the Wimbledon. Years later, when he became terminally ill, he received fan mail from across the world, wondering why he was the one to be afflicted so critically by the disease. Ashe famously responded by stating that when he was the one to win the Wimbledon from amongst millions of tennis players, thousands of them professionals, and when he held the coveted trophy aloft giddily at the hallowed centre court, he never asked God, “Why me?” What right did he have in his moment of despair to ask the Lord, “Why me?”
As I write these lines, typing away at my laptop, seated in a popular cafe, with the younger world zipping around me, I realise that the sooner we learn the true lesson of life, the better. The moment we stop asking “Why me?” whenever something goes wrong, we are elevated to an entirely different level of subsistence.
The real champions of life are the ones who can hold their own in the face of adversity and not crib constantly about being down in the dumps. Life is a roller coaster, but even when its final chapters are being unfurled, as they must be one day, it is a sense of thankfulness which keeps us aloft.
Langston Hughes said, “Life is for the living, death is for the dead. Let life be like music, and death a note unsaid...”
Mark Twain, of course, had the most erudite way of putting things in perspective. He said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time...”
Indeed, while we watch our idols leave the stage in sequence, we would do well to live life just as fulsomely as they have done.