Kailash Satyarthi is to Malala Yousafzai as Mandolin Shrinivas is to Michael Jackson

Till yesterday, I hadn’t heard of #KailashSatyarthi. But there was a lot I knew about Malala – from articles in the Indian press and interviews and news features on national and even regional television channels, not to speak of global media resources. There was a recent news report that an Indian textbook publisher had even included a chapter on Malala Yousafzai in their recent publication.

While I am as much an admirer of Malala as many others around the world, I cannot help wondering what it is in the Indian psyche that prevents us from admiring our own with equal zeal. Why were so many millions of Indians like me unaware of Kailash Satyarthi and his three decades of dedicated work for the cause he believes in? Why did the media wake us up to this gem in our midst only yesterday?

Take the case of #MandolinShrinivas, a prodigy and a person whom India ought to be proud of for his sterling accomplishments as a virtuoso and as a human being. His untimely demise got no more than a passing ticker on most national English channels, while regional channels made a slightly better attempt. The print media paid lip service, perhaps somewhat more generously. In contrast, the media went berserk when Michael Jackson died, also young, probably around the same age as our own Mandolin Shrinivas.

Why does Michael Jackson matter more to us than Mandolin Shrinivas? Perhaps, our psyche as a nation is still afflicted by our historical subjugation to foreign powers. We can appreciate things, including our own [be it people or culture or anything] only once those ‘better’ than ourselves have given their stamp of approval. Remember: At least a couple of #BharatRatnas were conferred after the recipients had become Nobel laureates!! It wouldn’t come as a surprise if we do the same this time round, and deign to consider Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi worthy of being conferred a Bharat Ratna.

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