Monday, 31 October 2011

Be strong, be different

Pritish Nandy
30 October 2011, 02:59 PM IST
I like Dhoni. He is a no nonsense guy and, like Kapil Dev and Saurav Ganguly before him, a fine leader of men. He is as dignified in defeat as in victory. He was unfazed when England ignominiously crushed us recently, and the Indian team (fresh from winning the World Cup) became the butt of all jokes. He came back and led India to a spectacular 5-0 win in the one-day series against the same England, just to prove cricket isn’t only about winning. It’s a game where defeat teaches you your best lessons so that you can go back and beat the hell out of your tormenters.

But what I like most about Dhoni are two other things. One: He speaks little and always to the point. His game talks for him. His decisions, inexplicable and flawed at times, are never defended, rarely argued over. He simply sets things right the next time. More important, he never plays to the gallery and has no desire to be anointed God, neither by his fans nor fawning sponsors. He remains that ticket checker in Kharagpur station who got lucky and made good. And that precisely is his charm. Neither fame nor money has been able to spoil him. In fact, if you watch his ads, you will figure how ill at ease he is before the camera. He’s a man best left alone. To play the game he’s best at.

Dhoni sums it all up in his new ad when he says, “Zindagi mein kuch karna hai to large chhodo, kuch alag karo yaar.” Great lines those, in response to a campaign by a rival brand which exhorted us to Make it Large. Yes, you are right. It’s the same campaign that drew a spoof from UB showing a fake Harbhajan getting whacked by his father for making ball bearings the size of gym balls at his father’s factory and asking if he had made it large. Another spoof has just appeared featuring a fake Saif as the Chhote Nawab who despite all the pomp and regalia never quite makes it large, as the real nawab.

Dhoni’s right. Any idiot can make it large. All you need is pots of money. The more money you have, the more you can go for scale. The less you need to depend on thinking new, thinking smart. Clever guys, on the other hand, put their indelible stamp on history and show us that innovation is at the heart of all success, not size. Henry Ford could have easily built the world’s biggest bicycle plant. Instead, he launched the car. Steve Jobs spent the best years of his life, not in making Apple the biggest in computers, but in enlarging the domain space and bringing out with the world’s smartest music, phone and communication devices. That’s the constant challenge before clever men and women. To think smart. Not big.

But big is what seduces us. It starts, as usual, with the stupidest claim of all. Every schoolboy boasts to others in the locker room: Mine is bigger than yours. Even though every scholar of sex, from Vatsyayan to Havelock Ellis has repeatedly reiterated that size has nothing to do with being a great lover. In fact, big is a joke among the smarter sex. It is never as important as it is made out to be. It is those who can’t afford the best who go for size. The only real yardstick is excellence, how good you are in what you do. And the less you talk about it, the more likely are others to acknowledge it.

Picasso was not a great painter because he painted large canvases. Chaplin wasn’t great because he made big films. Mozart was not a great musician because he composed large symphonies. Tagore was not a great poet because he wrote epics. You can't compare the achievements of Boeing and Airbus with the ingenuity of the Wright brothers. Or the achievements of Nokia and Blackberry with the genius of Guglielmo Marconi. All real achievers think new. Not big. That’s why Dhoni’s advice, even though it’s in an ad where one brand is spoofing the other, finds so much resonance. “Zindagi mein kuch karna hai to large chhodo, kuch alag karo yaar.”  

That’s why Dhoni is so special.

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