We don’t need another hero…

Last week I travelled about 20 kms to the suburbs. I sat in the back seat for less than an hour. In that short time all I remember seeing out of the window is portraits, portraits and more portraits.

I saw politicians, super stars, local chiefs,  all smiling benovelently at me from their painted glories.

The sheer number of faces overwhelmed me. 

Why is there so much hero-worship in this part of the world?

Each of them is a cult figure and have thousands of followers.

And in each of the follower’s mind their idol can do no wrong. They’re perfect, superhuman and is as capable of miracles as God himself.

My very  few brushes with very few celebrities have left me with the same reaction everytime.

They’re so much like us. 

What I mean is they’re as human as the rest of us; with likes and dislikes, problems, fetishes,  family, and well, lives.

Yet when we see only their projected images from a distance, we form a larger than life image of a person and build their characters in our minds. We feed our aspirations and dreams to that image and live our lives through them. 

We rejoice in their victories and cry for their losses.

But do we stop with that?

We become obsessed.

We camp at their gates for just a glimpse of the demi-god…

We wait for hours in their paths, so we can thrust our babies in their hands to name them…

We set fire to ourselves when the idol is faced with adversaries…

We neglect our own bodies, our loves, our careers, our lives…

What do we get in return?

A general nod in our direction when we stand among hundreds?

A brief pinching of the baby’s cheek when he/she says the first name which comes on their minds?

A short condolence note to our family after the funeral?

I suppose the root cause of  this whole thing is lack of confidence in oneself. 

We’re not good enough. We’re not capable of anything on our own. We’re nothing without our idol.

Whom do we blame for this?

Our educational system?

Our politicians for snuffing out the empowerments of the individual, so an average citizen can never think on his own?

Our own lethargy?

Our fatalistic collective consciousness?



Long live the Republic.


PS: A bit too serious, I know… But had to get it out my system!!



  1. February 5, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Great post. I think its also because we all expect to do great things, but do not, and its just awe at someone who’s done it. Or, in cases of TN politicians/actors who are treated as demi-gods, its the whole ‘hope’ issue and the mass appeal.

    My comment is not very clear. sorry!

    🙂 Thanx!! And I understand you perfectly. No worries!

  2. buddy said,

    February 5, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    believe it or not..I use a particular poster of a politician as a landmark in Chennai. To get to my aunt’s home, I must turn on that street. The poster changes every 5 years (i think u now know who-who) but its location doesn’t! Very handy it is for me!
    You forgot to add religion also. as an obsession.
    Apologies for making a long messy comment

    Thanx for pointing that out! And don’t apologise!! I don’t think its messy at all!! 🙂

  3. Padmanabhan said,

    February 5, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I dont actually have a problem with hero worship and all that, but these people decorating the posters in TN are nowhere near what one can consider a Hero. What happens in TN is not hero worship, its rogue worship, which is what I find disgusting.

    So true. Real heroes don’t command cut-outs!

  4. Pradeep said,

    February 6, 2009 at 12:19 am

    I am actually for hero worship. I agree that things like self-immolation are a bit too much, but hero worship as such isn’t wrong.
    IMO, it is much better than going to a temple, say Tirupathi and standing in line for several hours knowing that you will not even get a general nod in your direction. My hero (say Rajini or Kamal) has given me more happiness in life than anybody else, save for my family and close friends. He never stabs me in the back. Every day of his life is spent in making me (not only me) happy, though it leads to him leading a rich lifestyle.
    I can at least see my hero, watch him laugh watch him cry, watch him lose and cry when he does and watch him win and can rejoice when he does.
    If doing this is wrong, what do you call those people who spend hours/days standing in front of a temple waiting to catch a glimpse of the hero who exists only in their imagination?
    And they do that only because doing so will please their “ommachi” and he will improve their lives. At least, hero worship is selfless. When I pray for Sachin to score a century, I do so because it will make a billion people happy. It will make me happy. I don’t have any hidden gain in it. That prayer is not selfish.

    PS: I do not recall any living person (even Jesus or Prophet) who gave happiness to so many people in their life times. When a Sachin or an Amitabh or a Rajini can do that, why is he not better than a God?

    Yeah, what you say is absolutely true for entertainers. But what happiness do our politicians give us?!!
    And I’m for hero-worship too when it evokes positive change in people. I’m only against it when it promotes low self esteem in the masses and raises a single person to totally unnatural and false heights!

  5. Pradeep said,

    February 6, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Forgot to add, I am not a hero worshipper. Was just playing devil’s advocate. 😛

    I should have guessed! For a minute I believed you!!

  6. Pradeep said,

    February 6, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Yesterday, I received an email forward from a friend. It had a local Tamil politician smiling on a poster. The text on the poster said “thennindhiyavin Obama” .:D

    😀 Good one!

  7. February 11, 2009 at 4:16 am

    Idolizing someone is in our Indian gene. No wonder we have 3 million gods and don’t mind adding to the list! *sings ‘It Happens Only In India’!!

    Haha!! 🙂

  8. kusublakki said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Well…This may seem restated after reading all the previous comments, but god is man made and people worship him, the few who choose to go against that get ridiculed more often than not…
    And to me hero worship is similar to that…the difference being that I dont believe in worshipping living people at all, which is probably why i get ticked off by thing like amitabh bachan temple!
    There’s no reasoning to it, no way to stop it…so either go with the flow, or sit back and watch it in amusement!
    And one more thing…i don’t think that worshiping anything is a result of a lack of self confidence. rather its about a lack of power for a common man to do anything. Hence we put out all our hopes on the few who gain power and recognition, and when they do what we cannot we start worshiping them.
    And sorry for the long comment 🙂

    Hey, don’t apologise for long comments! You’ve presented a very interesting point of view. But I feel the common man is powerless only because he thinks so!
    A temple for Amitabh?! I haven’t heard that one! 🙂

  9. Adithya said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:08 am

    I sometimes feel the hero has more to win and at the same time more to lose than the worshipers. Because that is exactly why he is worshiped as a hero. Like everyone said, we need someone to pin our hopes too, and we need someone to vent out too, so we have a hero. He is probably all we want to be but cannot. A hero to throw our brickbats to because he can take it. And the garlands when we are happy.

    All these arguments go for heroes in the world of sports and entertainment. About your conundrum regarding why politicians are worshiped, don’t even worry about it. I am sure Kamal, Rajini cut outs were by the fan clubs. They earned it. The politicians posters would have been put up by themselves. That’s an ego trip. Not hero worship. We don’t have to worry about ego trip.

    And to end the argument, if there is one person who deserves the hero tag, it’s Sachin Tendulkar. Not Tata, or Ambani or someone who put India on the global front but Sachin. Because the joy he brings to the people is unmatched. No one has ever done that and I don’t think anyone ever will. Oh, such unity!

    Yes! The personalities from sports and entertainment are true heroes! But the politicians’ manipulation of the masses really gets me! But again, as u pointed out its an ego trip!

    I’m quite clueless about cricket! I know Sachin, but growing up in a household where I had to even breathe silently when cricket was on TV, I developed a strong dislike for the game!!!

  10. Adithya said,

    February 12, 2009 at 1:19 am

    And you should see Hrithik Roshan in a scene in Luck By Chance where he is sitting inside a car with windows raised and a bunch of kids come running to him. It was beautiful.

  11. Pradeep said,

    February 14, 2009 at 1:32 am


    Sachin…I know I know.

  12. Adithya said,

    February 18, 2009 at 2:35 am


    The thenindhyavin Obama is not local politician. It was actor Vijay. LOL you didn’t notice?

  13. Mahesh said,

    March 31, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Hi Padmaja,
    I happened to pass through you blog and found the post. sorry i m commenting after a long time the post has been made .Good article to kindle some thoughts. I agree with many points you said.
    But the hero worship and cut-outs for politicians is an absolute waste and it is out of sheer sycofancy than anything else. As many people who have commented earleier, in the case of entertainers and sports stars it is acceptable to some extent. They provide the masses some self-confidence and morale boosting through their off-screen persona(like Rajini) and through their movies(super-hero kinda movies).
    Take for instance in my case. Whenever I see a Rajini movie (Annamalai, Baasha etc.) you really get a lot self-confidence and morale boosting although we know that what the hero did in the movie is not really possible. Even in off-screen, looking at the way he is now, how he cultivated himself from being a angry, spoilt youth to a successful icon that he is today and other things about him he atleast serves as a good role model for the youth. But about politicians, most of the cutouts for them is out of sycophancy and their need to impress their “thalaivars”.
    But it is true icons like Abdul Kalam, Jayprakash Narain, Mother Teresa who truly deserve hero worship than anyone else.
    Sorry for a very long post.

    Hey, thanx for dropping by. And don’t worry about the length of your comment… 🙂
    I am totally cool with hero worship as long as it is aspirational like a Rajni or a Sachin…
    But cannot stand the politicians using it to exploit people, esp. the uneducated…

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