All of us need role models regardless of our age. They teach us how to aspire; how to dream; they show us that we can all push beyond boundaries that have been set by our conditioning - what I personally call disablers, mental lakshman rekhas never meant to be crossed. They are the explorers, the mavericks, the mentors who lead the way acros the horizon.
When I was a young (school going) boy - one of my many role models was a flamboyant, handsome Pilot – actually, my friend’s uncle with a larger than life, superstar lifestyle and an equally commanding persona. In those days, flying was an expensive luxury and as a jet-setting sucessful NRI Pilot, he was truly international. Though considerably elder to me by many years, we shared a deep connect and endless stories of far off lands, luxurious chic hotels, exotic foods, beautiful woman, high-tech gadgets and tons of money. He was the nearest example of a living James Bond in my life. And like Sean Connery, he showed unconfident, plain vanilla boys like me that ugly ducklings have potential too.
After I joined college, my friend relocated. Yet I continued to be in touch with his high-flying uncle though but we drifted after a couple of months. Many years later, I met him once again at a pricey restaurant in Bombay a few weeks before his rather sudden death. An alcohol lover, Jack Daniels was his waterloo. He held court in the centre of the room seated in a large patrician chair. There were food crumbs on his lap and his once rock-solid handshake was now weak and feeble. He was no more a pilot; yet he barked orders in an domineering voice and alarmed everyone. Suddenly my childhood superman had become a frail old man, bad tempered, crabby and egocentric. I spent almost an hour with him though, listening to his life downhill and how he messed it all. At least, he was honest.
On my way back from the restaurant, I kept thinking about him. He was still a wonderful man, I could still see that winning spark in him but was as flawed as the rest of us, and I had simply outgrown him.
After all, role models only serve a useful purpose for as long as you need them; they fire you in the right direction, showing you that anything is possible. They can kick start us into the realms of the impossible and can be used much like the goddess archetypes who have been lost to antiquity in the West but remain constant and awesome in other cultures. They may be outrageous, seditious and not necessarily nice, but role models and childhood heroes play a valuable part in all our lives. And that’s something which is truly inestimable.