BENGALURU: Cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul face suspensions from the Indian team, not for on-field action, but for their comments on Koffee With Karan. In case you’re unaware of the show, I must congratulate you. You have a busy, fulfilling life.
Koffee With Karan is not a show where Nobel laureates are invited to discuss world problems. Pandya’s comments on the show didn’t go down well with Twitterati and the Cricket Board sent them a show cause notice.
While it’s true that cricketers must be role models, there must be a cut-off age to become a role model. Twenty-five seems young. At 25, forget being a role model, I was struggling with my roll number.
The pressure of a role model begins early in life. Our mythology is full of exemplary characters. Our gods and sometimes even demons are considered role models. I grew up in a boarding gurukul and the same was expected of my teachers too. This was back when teachers could hit students. When Maths classes were wrestling matches and the teacher won the Championship Belt every year.
Parents feel the pressure too. My father struggled with a tobacco habit and went to great lengths to hide it from me. But I could smell it off his shirt and knew that the stains on his teeth were not remains of gajar halwa!
The same holds for our celebrities too. Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid are great but will never be accorded the reverence that Sachin Tendulkar receives. The same goes for Rajinikanth, who is loved as much for his off-screen personality as his roles on screen.
I have only faced the role-model pressure once in my life. I am not married, neither have I contributed to the country’s population, so there’s no internal pressure to be a role model. But I felt it at one point in my life - after my Masters, when I joined as a school teacher in Kurnool.
Even though I was contracted through a private company, I was given the respect (and fear) of a regular teacher. Living up to the role of a teacher was daunting. As a teacher, I was expected to be punctual, soft-spoken and disciplined.
I did not possess those qualities even as a student, how was I supposed to pull it off? On occasions like Teachers Day, when students give teachers flowers, the responsibility seemed suffocating. I found myself questioning my daily activities. If I littered on the road, I would retrace my steps and pick it up. To have a smoke, I had to cross the road, put myself at the mercy of trucks by crossing the highway, and walk another 100 meters into the darkness.
When I finally quit the job, it wasn’t due to the work. I had no tangible targets, but I was expected to shape the future generation – Sorry saar! You’re looking at the wrong candidate. I quickly went back to being a writer and complaining about the world. Being a role model is a hard job. Pandya should know better!
(The author is a writer and comedian).