In 1984, when Indira Gandhi died, my mother, all of 24, a year older than I am now, burst into tears at her office.
Last month when Rajesh Khanna passed away, my parents listened to his songs for two days non-stop and my father told me stories, with a touch of reverence in his voice, of how he was a great actor and how girls would swoon whenever he came on screen.
In the world of TV, Marilyn Monroe’s death has a bunch of secretaries sniffling in Season two of Mad Men.
I cannot remember a time when the death of any celebrity has made me cry and I really doubt it’s possible. M.F. Hussain, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, all tragic stories, but they had me reaching for my phone to check twitter faster than for a box of tissues.
I worry for us sometimes, I really do.
Does my generation have any heroes that we truly admire and worship? On Small Fry, till last week, we’ve had a tribute column and while we are extremely passionate about J.K. Rowling or Jerry Pinto or Amitav Ghosh, actual tears for them seem ridiculous.
We don’t know them. We admire them, we aspire to be like them, we love them too (enough to start some pretty awful arguments to defend them), yes.
The Death of a popular figure now means RIP hashtags on twitter followed by #toosoon jokes.
At the risk of sounding cold hearted or disrespectful, I have to say, I don’t care enough. I feel a little bad but then I move on to my own problems. Either it’s because we have become really practical (‘C’mon. I didn’t really know this person’) or nobody in recent times has commanded the attention of a nation that way (by that way, I mean a good way. Anna Hazare jokes don’t count).
‘Sensations’ like Madonna or Britney Spears or Oprah; all last for some time. Celebrities come and go, TV shows, movies all end and we find new things to obsess over. And maybe, that is all you can hope for now. A short time in the spotlight, a tribute in New Yorker or a special half an hour slot on a TV channel. No heroes last forever.