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.
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!