Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Common man: a silent spectator of marching time

Abraham Lincoln once said “God must love the common man, he made so many of them”. All of us hear so much about this “Aam Aadmi” but I wonder who really this common man is?

Writers and film makers have shown us different faces of ‘common man’. R. K. Laxman sketched ‘The Common Man’ for over a half of a century in Times of India, This Dhoti clad old man    silently witnessed all the action and represented the aspirations, fears and conflicts of the average Indian. Anusha Rizvi wrote and directed “Peepli Live” which showed another version of common man in form of Budhiya Manikpuri, the hapless farmer, who finds himself considering suicide as an escape from the debt trap. This film was inspired from a classic of Frank Capra named meet John doe where a common unemployed man portrayed by legendary Gary cooper announces to commit suicide to make story for the media. In the film ‘The Wednesday’, we saw an heartening transformation of common man in form of Naseerudin Shah who decides to cleanse the system and single handedly eliminates four most wanted terrorists in a methodical way. (Click here for a clip uploaded by me ). Now, which face of that is a reality is a mystery that needs to be resolved?

This common man who is deprived of any connection to system and those in power ,  is used as currency by our politicians who weep crocodile tears for him but never really bother to alleviate his misery. Is there anything more to this faceless entity , that is used as a ladder to climb to the top and when apex is reached people forget all the steps they trampled under the feet. Emptiness and hunger of common man has been the route to prosperity for many but sadly the common man has remained empty and hungry.

Kaleidoscope of extremities has all the colors but which one is really prominent is really a puzzle. Isn’t it surprising that a man who, in premises of his house is a compassionate father, a caring brother and a sensitive husband becomes part a faceless mob that is prepared to throw stones and even take life of many who are just like him. That same person in comfort of his cozy drawing room condemns apartheid in Africa, talks about global village and ‘one universe’ but when he enters the polling booth transforms into a fanatic and votes on the basis of cast and religion. Moved by the misery and state of affairs around him he sometimes shouts slogans and swears to remove corruption from root but when he attains power he becomes the part of same corrupt structure and sets himself free by putting all the blame on social and political system. Truly amazing that when this axe enters the forest, one of the trees can always identify that, 'The handle was one of us'. This double faced hypocrisy is all around, isn’t it surprising that,
How a minority
Reaching majority,
Seizing authority,
Hates a minority!

In my humble opinion, common man is nothing more than a term that has no connection with social or financial status of persons. Everyone who lives his life solely on convenience without any firm principle and values is ‘just common’ nothing more than part of herd. Such persons just punch in the clock; no excitement, no enthusiasm, no creativity. This burn out comes because of lack of individualism and thought. Such a person treads blindly on path of faith and such Faith is a terribly powerful thing -- to have and to lose. It has sent men into battle for centuries, it has ripped families’ apart, driven wedges through friendships and has made us to choose run of the mill sort people of no character as our leaders.

 There is something in each one of us which can set us apart from common, there is fire in each one of us but its purpose and intensity is different. Every man who thinks ,experiments and questions   rather than just hears, reads and believes is uncommon .The need of hour is to find a purpose for one’s life and embark upon it to transform from ordinary to exceptional.

Why are you here, on this earth? That is one question every individually needs to answer to one self.  But in seeking to answer this question, keep in mind the words of Sir Lawrence Olivier, who said: "If you truly want to change your world, my friend, you must change your thinking.”


  1. i wonder if the common man is really to be blamed.. What if i were born poor, had no opportunity to education, no resources, no encouragement..Wouldn't i be forced to be a 'common' man too?

    Wouldn't survival become my prime requirement instead of intellect or creativity?

    Secondly, people are people all through the world. They have their own weaknesses.Gandhiji had said; " Hate the wrong not the wrong man." In terms of psychology, everybody has a superego, ego and id. It's easy to criticize but not everybody is capable of realizing and correcting their own mistakes.It requires intelligence and most people are happy not using their brains..

    Spirituality is all about finding self, and getting rid of our greed and desires by going deep within. But this world functions on a materialistic plane which is only an illusion. Everybody realises it, sooner or later. Osho says;" Rich is the man whose heart is filled with joy. Money is merely manmade."

    "To bring about a change , we must be the change that we want to see." -M.K.Gandhi

  2. Megha , At the outset I thank you for your comment and for expressing your viewpoint.
    At no point of time blame is laid on anybody for anything and as I have clearly mentioned in my post, To quote “In my humble opinion, common man is nothing more than a term that has no connection with social or financial status of persons. Everyone who lives his life solely on convenience without any firm principle and values is ‘just common’ nothing more than part of herd.” See , if we accept your logic that people are deprived and poor are only common then everyone who is privileged should be virtuous , uncommon and capable of thought. Both of us know that it is not the case. Only the person who has will moral courage and ability to stand on principles is uncommon. We have one Anna Hazare in 122 crore and he was not born privileged.
    Regarding spirituality and psychological influences I have written many times on the same blog I can refer you to one of the post to clarify my stand on that http://balanisunil.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-are-we-way-we-are.html
    Welcome to my blog and i hope you will continue to share your opinion on posts ....and Megha, your sketches are truly really nice.

  3. Thank you so much for the encouragement..

    For now, I'm convinced with your point to quite some extent.

    But for some reason, I always feel there's something extraordinary about being ordinary. Maybe I'll figure that out some day. :D

    Will surely give it a read. :)

  4. Have written something in this regard. Would like to know what is your perspective on this.

    "Is extraordinary truly extraordinary or an extrapolation of ordinary? No, I cannot sing like Lata Mangeshkar. She must be extraordinarily gifted. Should I,the ordinary, seek to be the extraordinary and choose to be discontented throughout life?

    Can the extraordinary survive without the admiration of the ordinary? Is it not extraordinary to be happy and blissful like the ordinary? Should life be taken too seriously? Is a radical change really needed? Little changes on each one's part might create a sustainable huge difference in days to come.

    After all,death is the ultimate truth of life. And hence, life boils down to happiness…So what if happiness means ambition for the extraordinary and peace for the ordinary?

    A farmer may be ordinary but isn’t his task of growing food as extraordinary as a scientist sitting in his lab and deriving equations ? Aren’t both working hard. One mentally, other physically?

    The scientist was surely gifted with an uncommon intelligence by God’s grace. The farmer, born in a farmer’s family, again by God’s grace, probably knew how to grow grains better. He might have been a genius of his own accord. But who noticed ? Did he not deserve an applause as well?

    Who decides what is ‘common’? Are we referring to the herd mentality here? Well then that makes the Army men the common men.They walk in batches. Are we referring to people without moral standards ? Well then maybe, Hitler was a common man; and so are all the ‘great’ corrupt leaders all around the globe whom we idolize so much. Why do we think they are uncommon? When we say ‘common’ are we referring to people who follow all the rules obediently and like their lives simple? What’s wrong in that? What makes the ever so famous Cleopatra’s life any better?

    An uncommon man cannot survive without a common man. Anna Hazare and Mahatma Gandhi stood out.. not because they were uncommon, but because the mob supported them. They respected the common. They mobilised the power of the common. The common gave them the tag of the extraordinary.The people called Gandhi 'Mahatma' because he stood for them.

    The uncommon must try and do something for the common. The privileged should learn to give to the underprivileged. Not in a sense of altruism or arrogance but because God made some people capable of it.

    Everybody happens to be equal in the eyes of God. All we can aim to be is good humans and try our best to make this world a better place to be in by whatever lies in our capacity.."

  5. Alright, here I put my view point on everything that you have asked.
    Extra ordinary is not an entity, extra ordinary are traits and qualities, extraordinary is way of thinking, extraordinary is outlook to life and it indeed, is expansion of ordinary .No two persons in this world can be identical so it is not wise to aspire to be somebody, one should try to best of one’s ability to reach the trait one admires in some other person. Can Lata mangeshkar make sketches like you? I doubt, can she play like Sachin Tendulkar? She cannot. Now does that mean she is ordinary?
    Extraordinary does not long for any admiration or recognition. Someone is not good just because others are bad. Yes, happiness is the purpose of life but then, what happiness is? True happiness is contentment that comes from satisfaction of achieving the purpose that one has set for one’s life. One should not take oneself seriously and become too obsessed with himself but you will agree that if life ends, deeds end, so one cannot afford to be casual with life. Only fundamental change that is needed lies in defining one’s objective of life rather than just going through the motions and circles of day and night. Is a person with ambition never at peace? Then, why should we stick to the thought that only ignorance brings bliss. This whole misbelieve, that if there are no questions, there are no answers needed and one can always be peaceful, in my opinion is escapism.
    Anyone who does his or her job sincerely needs to be applauded and I have always maintained that it is not correct to say that a soldier is a patriot and farmer is not. It is not wise to think that a famous scientist is intellectual and unknown poet is not. Regarding being applauded, I think, we see things in water tight compartments so to us soldier looks patriot and farmer run of the mill. No matter what the profession is, it is the amount of commitment that one puts into it that sets extraordinary apart from ordinary. People those who can think always appreciate this and people who just live with images, continue to appreciate compartments on the basis of profession.
    No one decides about who is common and who is not. Let us not confuse the word uncommon with famous. There are many people who for their small deeds appear like a hero to me. Other day I saw a hawker selling vegetables that left his cart aside and took the hand of an old lady and helped her cross the busy road for me he was a hero. A person who turns off the street light that has remained on in daytime is uncommon. A person who cares a little bit about nature and environment and does something for the cleanliness of Community Park and does not keep on harping about lack of government initiative is uncommon.
    There is a lot of difference between the word man and human, not every man and woman is human. Man is body and if a compassionate soul occupies that body he or she is human. Man is common human is uncommon.
    Two core thought that I had in my mind were the exploitation of herd mentality of people who have risen to position of power, this use of common man as political currency bothers me. Secondly, lack of thought in people, I am a teacher and it saddens me that students read , hear and see but they do not think, they do not attempt to find answers because no stimulus generates questions in them , they go through the motions thinking just to roll from one day from another is happiness , to make merry for them is purpose of life.

  6. contd.......I am firmly a believer of individual freedom and if they think that is the way it is then it is correct for them I am no one to dictate a way of life to them but find it bothering because the core problem today is lack of good citizens who can think beyond themselves.
    Megha, I appreciate and thank you from bottom of my heart for putting forward your thoughts that have given me so much to think and has really broadened my vision. For me you are very extraordinary because in my four years of blogging no one has ever given me so much to think about my thoughts.
    Lastly, I am only putting my opinion and my version of truth that I experience. What I mean by this sentence is explained in detail in one of my earlier post. http://balanisunil.blogspot.com/2009/11/fallacies-of-intellectual-extremism.html.

    1. Thank u so much..Even I loved your blog. Your insight into things is very correct, deep and unbiased..and I'm glad you have shared your views so clearly with amazing storylines and examples. I myself have gained quite a lot going through them.

      What you say is right. Uncommon is the man with uncommon integrity and courage. Whether or not he/she is acknowledged.Uncommon is the man who can stand up to his conviction and do his job with passion, not get swayed by greed or lust.

      Politics is a dirty game.It is a quest for power. And power corrupts.So i guess Abraham Lincoln got it wrong when he said, “God must love the common man, he made so many of them”. Who knows who is common and who is uncommon? It's only those little acts, little gestures in times of need which make a man stand out.

      Everybody wants a shortcut to success. But extraordinary are the people who strive for it. Like they say," It's not about the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog."

      My point is, why to be pessimistic? Why to look at the gloomy side of the picture? Each should be left to his own. The ones who are ready to give it a fight will pick up the slightest clue and become better humans, and the ones who are okay with mediocrity will anyway, never learn; not because they can't_ but because they either lack the willpower or the motivation.Or maybe they lack the understanding.

      All we can do is to do our part well..And keep sharing our thoughts with the world. Who knows who gets benefited out of it?

      Rest is better left to God. :)

  7. Thanks Megha, for appreciation.
    you are right that politics has become a dirty game mostly because of involvement of people who have little integrity How correct was Herbert Hoover who said “When we are sick, we want an uncommon doctor; when we have a construction job to do, we want an uncommon engineer, and when we are at war, we want an uncommon general. It is only when we get into politics that we are satisfied with the common man.”

    Thanks for all the inputs and for evaluating things in such an analytically way and for taking time out comment and discuss the issue at length.

  8. lol ..how true!

    Infact it's usually a common man who is so crazy about power.

    Extraordinary people like Anna Hazare and M.K Gandhi hardly want to join politics. They are happier fulfilling a higher purpose. :)

    And the other capable intellectuals are happier with their piece of mind than get into mudslinging.

    Hope things change in days to come...And more and more righteous people join administration and politics.

  9. Yes, you are right ... the 'common man' is a misnomer, a figment of someone's or a group’s imagination - in order to create a stereotype and a mindset. We hardly come across that kind of 'common man' in India or anywhere else for that matter.

    It is said that the 'common man' – the 'aam aadmi' is suffering due to this person or that 'system' or even due to the shenanigans of politicians and black marketers, or even the corrupt policemen, or for that matter anybody who is out to fleece him. Lets look at what this holier-than-thou and long-suffering bechara 'common man' does in real life. Littering, peeing, making a nuisance everywhere, talking loudly, honking unnecessarily, a terrible lack of civic sense, his behaviour in queues and in a traffic jam, being foul mouthed, at work: rumour mongering, back biting, harassing – people weaker than him, be it his subordinates or wife, "eve-teasing", demanding dowry, torture and bride burning, infanticide and female foetacide, drunken brawl, ogling, staying silent when he should raise his voice or protest, defacing our national monuments and heritage sites, a lack of interest in cultivating good habits and even wanting to learn about one's culture and heritage, and in turn passing it on to the next generation, cheap songs and item numbers played as loudly as possible through numerous loudspeakers even during a puja and break and disco dance in front of the idols...

    The list is endless, really. Of what is in the hands of the so-called 'common man' or 'aam aadmi' and what that’ pious and long-suffering’ creature actually does.

    P.S. I read this post last week itself but was unable to post a response until now. My apologies for the delay...

  10. @Roshmi, Truly common are deeds not man, Somehow we have failed to develop rational minds who have a strong self correction mechanism to decide about wrong and right , we have followers who just follow like a herd of sheep, . That is the reason persons become important and issues are marginalized. The process has to start specially to restructure our primary education where inquisitive mind is encouraged and not shunned and education becomes more than mugging up what teacher says.
    P.S :- No issue about the delay, your opinion means a lot to me.

  11. A whole new definition of Common man..
    What I feel is that there is no black n white when it comes to humans and their actions... we can never exactly prove wat is ryt n wat is wrong... most of the times its Grey..

    An awesome take on very common topic..
    n I really appreciate your constant feedback n visits :)

  12. All that is in our hand is try to be better humans who do their best to make better society, and as a human there is more than just passing years that one needs to live for.

  13. @vinita....you are right ...but How ?Even a rolling stone thinks it is moving forward...

  14. check your spam, m unable to see my last comment here !!

    1. Jyoti,
      My blog is not moderated so comments appear directly. However stat analysis showed notification that you posted a comment few days ago . surprisingly It did not show in blog or mail.May I request you to please re-post, if you can ,so that I know your viewpoint on this.

  15. "Common man" I guess the most exploited term in human history.
    Every single day ppl like u and me, and ppl far greater than u and me speak and do n number things about this common man.. yet its condition is still the same...

    Reasons... so many :P
    as u said efforts are not focused and properly channeled.. they r random and therefore most of the times prove meaningless.
    I agree with your point is that first changes should be brought within... but being a human we have natural propensity of expecting things from others first :D

    Enjoyed your post on the most common topic " Common man".

    1. isn't it ironical that the only person we can change in this whole world is our own self and it is generally the hardest thing to do... common man is just a term exploited by few to reach the apex ....these lines say it all that can be said about them....

      ये बन्दे-मातरम का गीत गाते हैं सुबह उठकर
      मगर बाज़ार में चीज़ों का दुगुना दाम कर देंगे
      सदन में घूस देकर बच गई कुर्सी तो देखोगे
      वो अगली योजना में घूसखोरी आम कर देंगे

      Thanks for comment and encouragement...

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  17. hey !!!
    long time
    no new posts >??
    hoping that everything is fine at your end !!

  18. @jyoti
    I am doing fine...just don't feel like writing anything.....thanks for asking...

  19. Almost 6 months ... and no new posts?!! Why??

    PS: This layout is better than the earlier one.

  20. @ Roshmi ... Honestly I did not even realize that it has been six months ...It is just that most of the ideas that come in mind get shared and debated on social networking sites like fb so blog has got the back seat....Happy that you liked the layout ...thanks for everything...keep in touch :-)

  21. True. But FB is not for posterity; if you know what I mean :) so, better to feed the blog regularly. At least once or twice a month, what say?

    1. @Roshmi...hmmm....you are right on that....will try ..thanks :-)


Your viewpoint will definitely give it wider perspective


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