There are times when things change faster than one could imagine. In such times, the only explanation one can offer is to quote the immortal words of the great Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, the resident patron saint of a few of us, “new sh*t has come to light.” A few days ago, Milind Soman ceased to be cool because in his autobiography, Made in India: A Memoir, the former supermodel, shared his experience of attending a neighbourhood Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Shakha for a couple of years as a young boy.
The RSS connection
In addition to being one of India’s best-known models, Soman was also a former international level swimmer, who won the senior men’s title at the national swimming championship for four consecutive years between 1984-87 and completed the Ironman challenge in his first attempt at the age of 50. Considered one of the most difficult one day sporting events in the world, Soman at 50, swam 3.86 km, cycled 180 km and then ran a 42 km marathon in a little over 15 hours. In most countries, Soman would be nothing less than a role-model of sorts but found himself roasted at the hands of the so-called liberals, who discarded him became of some social reality from his boyhood.
Milind Soman ceased to be cool because he shared his experience of attending a neighbourhood Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Shakha as a young boy, in his autobiography, Made in India: A Memoir. (Photo: Facebook/ @MilindRunning)
For Milind Soman, being a part of an RSS shakha was “a very Shivaji Park thing" for young Bombay boys of the mid-1970s. He added that it was mostly all games and exercises and nothing religious. Soman’s time at the shakha, in his words, was a “completely positive experience,” and the people there helped him understand how to be disciplined, obedient, listen to, and respect elders.
Hearing Soman talk about how he is “baffled” today when he reads all the subversive, communal propaganda the media attributes to RSS shakhas should give a hint about the difference between an idea and an ideology. Just a few days ago, the ‘hottie’ Milind was a poster-boy for nearly everything that the RSS could never be. After all, Milind Soman was the kind of person that no one in the right minds would associate with RSS for he was the one who had (in)famously posed nude with his then-girlfriend, Madhu Sapre, for an advertisement for a footwear brand.
A mind of their own
Those who now ascribe the tag of an ideologue to Soman, and that too retrospectively, could, in fact, themselves be what they accuse him of. It’s not Soman but the ones reacting to him so vehemently that appear ideologues because they seem driven by an agenda than the truth. Political ideology of celebrities is not a newly cultivated phenomenon. In the 1950s, the trio of Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, and Raj Kapoor famously embodied some facet of the spirit of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru in both their on and off-screen personas. Nargis Dutt, nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress, publicly chastised the legendary Satyajit Ray for exporting India’s poverty. During the Emergency, actors like Dev Anand, Kishore Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha, and a few others suffered the wrath of Congress party. The then Information & Broadcasting Minister Vidya Charan Shukla banned their films and songs from All India Radio and Doordarshan for not adhering to the government’s diktats.
After Indira Gandhi’s return in 1980, the late Feroz Khan dedicated his film Qurbani to the living memory of the ‘prince’ Sanjay Gandhi, whom he had never met, and bowed before the ‘mother’ of the nation, Indira Gandhi.
Personal vs political
The outpouring of heartbreak in l’affaire Soman brings to mind how a similar sense of let down was felt by some after actor Ranganathan Madhavan replied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet urging those of some stature in public life to convince people to vote in more significant numbers. Although Milind Soman has not given any hint that he subscribes to any ideology, be it RSS or something else, but even if did, that’s his right.
However, for some reason, everyone is suddenly convinced that standing for something ‘right’ or ‘left’ is more important than having enough sense to choose between ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ What is more unfortunate is how it’s now near impossible to get some to understand certain things, when their entire existence seems to depend on them not understanding something or letting a contrarian thought to exist.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)