When Javed Akhtar insulted our wrestlers, I was reminded of this story

I have a great respect for poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, despite his failings such as his double standards on freedom of speech. However, I lost much of it when he chose to use terms like ‘hardly literate’ and ‘trolls’ to refer to wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt and Phogat sisters. There was arrogance of the elite written all over it. He did it to humiliate them.

This reminded me of an old story:

Once a king gets lost in the forest, and while wandering comes across a blind sage. He touches the sage’s feet and asks him the path to the capital. The Sage tells him, “My dear king, first your soldier came and asked the same question, then your general and now you are asking me!”

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Amused, the king inquires how, despite being blind, the sage was able to figure out their identities. The sage responds by saying that the earlier voices had contempt and arrogance, whereas his voice has politeness. Their voices relayed their inferiority complex and insecurities.

Javed Akhtar’s tweet also betrayed this.

Remember that Akhtar’s tweet was provocative. It pricked the pride of the wrestlers. Dan Gabl, retired American Olympic wrestler and head coach, had once said, “More enduringly than any other sport, wrestling teaches self-control and pride. Some have wrestled without great skill – none have wrestled without pride.”

But instead of descending in a mudslinging contest, Yogeshwar Dutt responded with a Kabir’s couplet. Phogat Sisters too never used similar language for the poet.

Javed Akhtar’s and our wrestlers’ respective tweets proved about their own characters and mettle, rather than each other’s. And this round went to the wrestlers, no doubt.

Self-control apparently is better ingrained by practicing a life of self-discipline than by spending your life writing about it. Words here were new but the sound is too familiar to miss. Familiar because it has always been with us. From 2014’s ‘Chaiwala’ barb to 2017’s ‘illiterate’ epithet – condescension has been our constant companion.

Education which helps to destroy one’s ego is knowledge. Education which builds snobbery is a mere gathering of facts. But we live in times where educational qualification is one more tool to draw the line – that line which separates us from them. The line which separates free thinkers entitled to free speech from the ones who are merely trolls. It is this demarcation which is used to silence our Yogeshwar Dutt’s and Phogat sisters. The underlying insecurities are too apparent to miss…

A saying in Hindi goes विद्या विनय देती है और शिक्षा घमंड! (Knowledge gives humility & education gives arrogance). Education gives you a livelihood but does not teach you how to lead a life. If formal education could guarantee civility, ISIS would not have any engineers or doctors.

The above incident seems innocuous but the stench of ridicule tells a long story. Even a casual reflection on the above incident will tell us who is wise and who is merely educated. Our society will be better served if we discard celebrating arrogance of the elite in favour of equanimity shown by illiterates.

“When your last breath arrives, Grammar can do nothing.” ― Adi Shankaracarya


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