I was at the Bangalore airport recently. It was an early morning flight out and I had left home at an unholy hour. After the Security Check, I wheeled my luggage around looking for a comfortable seat, chose one away from the crowd and settled down. It was from a distance that I first spotted her. She was stunningly beautiful. I had seen her many years ago on the silver screen. She had been very famous and had commanded a great screen presence. In those days, she was known to be extremely arrogant and rude. Her co-stars were intimidated by her and she was known to cut her peers down to size both in real life and in reel life - on the editing table. She had been linked to some hero or the other scandals erupted once every few months. She stayed at the top for a long time and became a public figure. Eventually, to the dismay of many fans, she married an aging film producer, putting all speculations and heart flutters to rest. From where I was sitting, I had a panoramic view. She was walking towards our section. Draped in an elegant blue cotton saree, she walked with swan-like grace. She was accompanied by two women on either side. They were ordinary-looking women, a comparison that set off her beauty and grace even more. The two women were constantly whispering to her and she was nodding and smiling. As they neared our section, the two women took turns to embrace her and wave her goodbye. Suddenly, she was all alone. A piece of luggage could have helped lend her company but she had none. With the Boarding Pass in her hand, she looked around, walked towards the row of chairs and settled down on one of the chairs facing the crowd. She was looking around at people. She had been a public figure and my sense was that she was checking if people recognized her. She would quickly sweep the crowd with her eyes, her eyes refusing to settle at any area in particular. Disappointed, she would repeat this process again and again and again. I felt she was silently screaming for attention. But alas, on that day, the crowd comprised young geeks, glued to their laptops. No one recognized her. Her time was clearly over. It set me thinking. Today, with movies and 24-hour television channels, numerous stars are being catapulted to fame. Soaps are full of attractive women, well groomed men and chubby children. With so much competition, it is a traffic jam on the road to fame. With a short career shelf-life, I wonder what happens to such people - tasting extreme fame and attention, becoming fleeting celebrities and public figures and then suddenly facing oblivion for no fault of theirs. How do they handle the downslide? Not everyone is able to manage the trough well. We have heard stories of alcohol, drugs, depression, and suicide. In comparison, we are ordinary mortals with private lives. No one takes interest in us. No one is interested in knowing who visits us or who we meet. We are not hounded by the paparazzi. We don't have to be like the animals in the zoo always on show. We roam the city streets, shop in bustling bazaars, eat off the street, enjoy movies in crowded movie halls, and hang out anywhere we please. We sit in libraries, meet other ordinary mortals in cafes, and walk the beaches. We have the freedom to be ourselves no masks, no burden of expectations, no make-believe, and no deceptions. Being an ordinary mortal sets us free it is the freedom to lead a private life. Sometimes, not having something is a precious gift. Let us enjoy this gift to the fullest and get in touch with who we really are unique individuals with a life to call our own.
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