Brij Mohan Lall Munjal of Hero Honda Motors has several accolades to his name. They include a host of richly deserved lifetime awards for his contribution to Indian business. As an entrepreneur, he's put India on the world two-wheeler map. He gave Rahul Bajaj a run for his money. He's also somewhat reserved, not one for limelight. If he wanted to, he could have sought and got a greater personal profile. He's avoided it deliberately. That's the impression he conveys when you meet him as well.
Yet, the other night, he was on stage announcing the winners of one of the country's biggest singing competitions. This was live and past midnight. He was looking reasonably energetic. The event was taking place in a suburban Bombay stadium. He gave an appropriate but quick backdrop to the competition. He reeled off the numbers and then went on to announce the results. "And the winner is...," he said..waiting for perhaps 30 seconds or more, knowing the nation was watching spellbound. Then he revealed the name.
He didn't stop there. He said he had followed the competition closely. He even offered words of fatherly consolation to the singer who came second. Something to the effect of him having captured everyone's hearts. Munjal didn't fumble for words as often people in gatherings like this do. Particularly sponsors. Perhaps its the confidence that comes from owning the event. And yet, this was not the indifferent, eyeball focussed sponsor striding in to claim the glory. It was someone who had plugged into the drama, right from the beginning. Or along the way.
All This For A Song ?
All this for a song. We all like heroes. We like to align with some. Because they are underdogs. Or they are good. Or they belong to an economically disadvantaged region. And yet, there is something troubling about such a song and dance. About a song. Sure, it represents something more. The rise of the underprivileged. The tryst with glamour and Bollwyood. For someone who was a civil engineer with the state Public Works Department (PWD), its a long journey. And he's honest. I've heard of PWD employees who hold two jobs.
Despite that, its baffling. Do we like such contests because they are a true representation of people's power. And perhaps hard merit. Because merit or votes do not work elsewhere, or in most places. Like the political process where you're votes don't necessarily swing what you want. Some 55 million SMSs were received. Depending on the double-counting, anywhere between 5 million and 10 million people voted. That's more than 10 per cent of the mobile phone population of the country.
I don't think that many mobile phone owners turn out to vote for politicians. But they do it for aspiring playback singers. Who will not necessarily do better than someone who has not risen through the competition route. Quite the contrary, one feels. At least so far. Kudos to them in any case. They've worked hard to reach where they are. And Munjal ? Well, he deserves the returns for the money he's invested in the programme. And the rest of us ? Could we also find something a little more productive to do ? Like also vote for a better quality of life ?