Polishing the Rough Edges

 In his wonderful short story The Greatest Man in the World, James Thurber has described in his superbly humourous way, the very real dilemma that arises when a hero is ‘flawed’.

The protagonist in the story is Jack Smurch, a young man, an American, who has just successfully completed the astonishing feat of flying solo non-stop around the world.

He becomes the ‘darling of the masses’, but he is unable to behave as a hero ‘should’. He is foul-mouthed and immoral. He swears constantly and is rude to the reporters who try to interview him. He is only interested in making some money out of his feat. His own mother wishes he were dead! 

The ‘authorities’ try to teach him to act in a more refined manner but are unsuccessful. Finally, politicians and journalists, with a nod from the President himself, connive to do away with him by throwing out of a hotel window. 

The ‘tragedy’ is handled superbly- an elaborate solemn funeral is conducted and a monument with a tiny plane carved at its base is set up.  

The nations of the world paid lofty tributes to little Jacky Smurch, America’s greatest hero.
  And all concerned breathe a collective sigh of relief!

It is learnt that former cricketer, Anil Kumble is ready to do an interesting job. He has made a proposal to the BCCI to conduct a personality development programme for players.

Among the topics the programme will address are handling ‘instant success’, self-sufficiency, anti-doping advice and management of finances.

The programme will also make sure that cricketers learn how to speak English, handle the media during press conferences, and conduct themselves in public.

Kumble has discussed this with BCCI officials, and the final decision will be taken soon. 

The decision to conduct such a programme was taken after a series of ugly off-field incidents such as the infamous slapping involving S Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh during IPL I, and the alleged drunken brawl in the West Indies earlier this year.

The programme for the cricketers is to cost the BCCI Rs 2.9 lakh per player. A hefty price indeed to teach players how to behave!


It appears that the programme will be similar to the curriculum of the so-called Finishing schools of earlier years, in western countries . These were usually exclusive private schools where girls were instructed in various cultural and social skills.

The aim was to guide the girls to become accomplished young ladies- in short to “prepare them for marriage”!

There are, it seems, finishing schools here in India too.  And reportedly they are much in demand!

Earlier, the focus was more on etiquette and personality. Now we take a holistic approach which includes everything from health and nutrition, to make-up and social communication,” says Tulsi Bhatia, dean, Good Shepherd Finishing School in OOty.

Priya Warrick runs a finishing school. Earlier her students were young brides-to be.

Today she has politicians who want to smart up their images. “They come to me to brush their PR skills and to learn ways to deal with the masses,” she says. 

One wonders whether she also teaches them to refrain from flinging flower pots and throwing chairs in state assemblies.

But perhaps that is not very important.  In parliament and assemblies, they are merely dealing with fellow politicians and not with voters!



  1. The short story is very apt for the current ‘successful’ Indian players and ‘single hit film’ film stars too! Still, the story made me feel sad!

    This news about Anil Kumble’s Personality Development programme is interesting. Maybe our young players will gain a lot if they go through this training.

    Actress Nutan (one of my favourite actress), attended Finishing school, in Switzerland, it seems. Her mother sent her there because Nutan was a bit clumsy while interacting with others!

    Yes, the photo of the lady politician flinging flower pots, is still in front of my eyes!

    ‘In parliament and assemblies, they are merely dealing with fellow politicians and not with voters!’, thank god!

    I am still smiling, after reading this post, Manju!


    1. Sandhya, James Thurber has written the story in a very neutral manner. After reading it, we are left wondering who exactly is the villian in the story- the aviator who performed the feat but was certainly not an admirable person, or the establishment- the officials and journalists who wanted him to conform to their idea of a hero.

      I still cannot decide!


  2. Nice story. At least that guy had accomplished something no man had to deserve a monument after being ‘disposed off’. Can’t spot any, at least among the politicians, who’s done anything to deserve any more dignity than the flower pots they break?!!

    Kumble, I am sure, knows what he’s doing and will do it with due diligence and dignity. Need many more like him.


    1. Vinodji, since I do not know much about cricket or cricketers, I shall take your word for it re: Kumble. 🙂

      I am surprise, though at the rush, by cricketers as well as politicians, to polish up their personalities. This is supposed to be the age of being yourself and not conforming to stereotypes!


  3. Anil Kumble seems to be doing good work for wildlife too. Finishing schools these days are given a lot of importance. In our times, all we needed to know was taught at home. But I guess, with everything being ‘global’, probably such education needs to be imparted these days by ‘professionals’.


  4. I wonder why cant we except his feat without his behaviour..yes it will good if all accomplished persons have certain culture, but then nobody has everything. And nobody has a right to take life.Can we honour a person who has good impersonal skills and nothing else?..no then we call them hollow people.


  5. I loved this mixed post 🙂 🙂

    Not many was able to handle instant success… all they have to do is just look at Sachin…. he is such a star but still very humble to everybody.. I love that part of him 🙂

    And for politicians.. I just wish they don’t train them with that skill set 🙂 🙂


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