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What price fame? Pritish Nandy

Iquite like Barack Obama. I must confess though that his
predecessor, the much disliked George W Bush was infinitely friendlier
towards India. I am surprised Indians dislike Bush so much even though
he stuck his neck out to do things for India that no American
president had ever done, including the much loved Bill Clinton. Obama
is like Clinton: very friendly, very charming, but never quite with
us. So Pakistan is back to getting billions of dollars worth of aid,
and the latest weapons, while India struggles to be heard on Capitol
Hill even though Manmohan Singh risked his government to see the
nuclear deal go through.

No, this is not about Obama and the politics of this subcontinent.
It’s about his amazing qualities, largely undiscovered as yet, that
have just won him the Nobel Peace Prize within 37 weeks of becoming
the president of the US. Nominations for the Nobel closed within a
week of his entering the White House and unless the wonderful people
in the jury were so prescient that they could anticipate Obama would
one day make history, i simply can’t figure out how they chose him,
and why. In fact, the poor guy has still done nothing to deserve the
award.

You must also realise that the guys in Oslo are very picky. They
didn’t think Gandhi was good enough for the Nobel Peace Prize even
though he was acclaimed as the last century’s most powerful apostle of
peace. What’s more, he actually did a few interesting things like
using non-violence as a weapon in our freedom struggle, a struggle he
so successfully concluded. Since he wasn’t considered adequate, i
assume the committee’s standards are very exacting.

This leads me to a question that has often bothered me. What
constitutes fame? Why are people famous? What are their achievements
that inspire us to remember them? After all, there are many good men
and women who we have so easily forgotten despite their not
inconsiderable successes.

There are people who do great things and become famous. There are
others who gain notoriety and become famous. There is the third kind
who do nothing at all and become famous. They are like Paris Hilton,
famous for the sake of being famous. Fame, in our time, has acquired a
strange fleeting quality. Last week’s famous person is in this week’s
kachra bin.

Part of it is due to our attention deficit syndrome. No one has
the patience any more to remember anything. Part of it is also due to
the fact that people are no longer famous for their actual
achievements. They are famous because they have hired the right
specialists to manage their public image. Some successes are now even
buyable. Honorary doctorates can be acquired today from some of the
most prestigious institutions. All you have to do is tap into the
right connection, make a donation, and it’s yours. Can you blame
people for being cynical? Anything can be fixed today. Reviews,
ratings, awards, prizes, honours.

Even deserving people have to work much harder at being famous. I
know amazing people who are hungry for recognition and will do
anything for it. I don’t blame them. There’s so much clutter that
unless they are noticed, their accomplishments, however remarkable, go
unsung. So images are constantly airbrushed. Faces are botoxed. Bodies
are cosmetically redesigned every few days. Writers, musicians,
philosophers, TV anchors, yoga gurus, singers, painters, businessmen,
spiritual leaders are all being sold on the same premise as we sell
movie stars, cricketers, soccer heroes, tattoo artists and
hairstylists. So it’s not surprising that we have stopped taking fame
seriously. Yet the funny thing is that we can’t live without it
either. Imagine how boring the world would be without famous people
and their infamous quirks!

As for Obama, poor guy, he must be seriously embarrassed. Someone
down the line must have worked a little too hard on the Nobel Prize
guys.

The writer is a media entrepreneur.

Times Of India Delhi    Oct 13, 2009  Page: 16

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Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 12:10 am  Comments (1)  
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