How many times has it happened to you that someone catapulted a bow of criticism towards you and it went right through, piercing your heart; and left it bleeding? It happens, right? It happens to all of us. It happens at work, at school, at college; basically anywhere and you are left wondering, maybe they are right; maybe I am not good enough.
So I live with my dad and it’s like a ritual for us to binge watch a movie every night together. And consequently, one day, we happened to watch a Bollywood movie called PADMAN , directed and written by R.Balki and featuring Akshay Kumar. This movie was inspired by the life of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham from a small village and tries to depict his journey as a man who was determined to protect his wife, but nevertheless it was laden by moral criticism and societal prejudices. This article is not a movie review but I must admit that the movie is actually a good watch if you pay attention to the hidden lessons that it has to provide. On that note, let’s jump to the real reason that prompted me to write this article for you.
As the movie progresses, Laxmi, the protagonist, is found to be serving as a manservant in a professor’s house in order to gain knowledge for his endeavor to make a Pad-making machine. The professor knows about Laxmi’s plans and one day engages in a dialogue with him. The conversation, a rather disheartening one, goes something like this:
Professor: So you want to make a Pad-making machine right?
Laxmi: Yes sir..(confused..)
Professor(while showing an online video): Buy this machine and make pads!!
Professor(sarcastically): oh some IIT , MIT graduates have put their hard-work and intelligence on stake to design this machine for people like you! It hardly costs some crores..
Laxmi(bewildered): Some crores….?
Professor(sarcastically): Oh yes.. but I’m sure it’s nothing for you. With such noble thoughts of yours, you will get this machine for free.
Laxmi frowns with embarrassment.
Professor: Oh Laxmi, if you want to protect your woman then work hard , earn more money and BUY her a pad. BE A MAN NOT A FOOL(with conviction).
This scene made me wonder ;how often, it happens ,to us in our lives. We are surrounded by people and advertisements that try to remind us why we are not good enough and what we lack. Someone will always tell you, you’re too old for this; too dark to wear this color; too dumb to study this subject and the list goes on. And the sad part about this is that a lot of people give in to these situations. They believe the nay-sayers and make the mistake of not believing in themselves, convinced, that maybe the people are right because they are obviously more learned and have more experience of the world. They give into the societal narratives that state that only Ivy league graduates or rich or beautiful or intelligent people are somehow better beings and the others are just ordinary and should accept their fate of remaining ordinary. That intelligence is found only in textbooks. That you can’t accomplish something because hey! you can’t do it because you don’t have the so-called means! But often times we forget to realize that these doctrines and experiences are subjective and an outcome of certain circumstances and that we can change them and men have been changing them since the cognitive revolution.
So yeah, if you are ever caught in a situation like this where nobody believes in you then remind yourself of some great people who have done it in the past without having the so called means. For instance, Ramanujan, the greatest mathematician had no formal training in Mathematics but he still made substantial contribution to the field. There are a lot of people who have excelled in fields even when they did not have a formal training in that field. Remind yourself that if you want to do something, you can do it. And you will excel in that niche if you put your mind to it. Don’t let your thoughts get clouded by words of discouragement and hostile reality. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities because otherwise no one else will. There is a Japanese saying that goes like.. Don’t say discouraging words to yourself as the warrior within gets disheartened by them.
Another thing that caught my attention was the professor. Why did he discourage Laxmi? He could do so because perhaps he thought of himself as better than Laxmi in some ways as he was a well educated man who was also successful by society’s standards and that Laxmi was not educated and hence according to him could not take on this project. This made me wonder why as humans we strive to be better than others and not ourselves? Why should one have more money than thy neighbor or be the smartest in the room or the fastest or the prettiest or or or…? I cannot fathom the reasons for these desires but I do know that when we make someone feel special and motivate them in every situation it just feels… so… right.!!