Saturday 23 May 2015

Being Human

Discussions about the Salman Khan verdict and the after effects continued on media, social media, around coffee tables and on the elevators for couple of weeks. Friends and fans of Salman Khan are happy that he has got off the hook for now and hope the higher courts will give him a lesser punishment, if at all they find him having done any serious offence. A large number of sensitive and morally outraged citizens disapprove of the way Salman and his fans have reacted to the verdict and celebrated the victory in the lower court. They think that while Salman has done lot of charity through his ‘Being Human’ Trust, his actions project himself less than human.

There were enough articles, debates and TV Talk shows on the legality and morality of the event and the after-events. I leave the legality and morality to the experts.

Is Salman Khan not ‘being human’?

Let us look at what is really meant by being human. Human beings are inherently imperfect, occasionally rational, mostly self-interested, at times, magnanimous, often biased, influenced by immediate environments, close relatives and friends, and connected more to one’s own tribe, community, religion, profession or club. Most humans are well intentioned but often unable to match intentions with speech, nor speech with actions. In short, human being is a bundle of paradoxes, but not always good or bad but most often somewhere in between and often both.

Salman Khan is no different. He is no angel. He is just being human. And his fans too are just humans. Some of us expect him to suddenly shed his self interest just like he would do with his shirt. There lies the problem! It is more of an expectation issue rather than reality issue.

It is not that human beings started behaving like this after WhatsApp got acquired by Facebook! Ever since human life started on planet earth this is how they behaved. Even in our great epics- religious and others- human characters are depicted mostly selfish, wily, frail, deceitful, remorseful after the event and get back to normal life sooner than later. And to break the monotony of this negative picture, occasionally some ideal men, women or angels were sprinkled among the huge crowd of ordinary human beings. Some with an intention to save the world of all evil and some with the immediate task of destroying a dominant demonic man, woman or creature so that it becomes a lesson for the rest and they behave better. Yet for most humans, lessons in morality are no better than lessons in history and geography. While history repeats geography becomes history.

Some of us still have the faint hope that truth shall win. Let that optimism drive the world.

In modern times we have the government, police and the judiciary- all emerging from the same mass of human beings-to check the excesses of society. How can we expect full justice, fairness and equitable treatment from our representatives when we practise all these according to convenience and personal advantage? Hardly anyone deserves all these in return to one’s own behavior. Yet we all expect the rest of the world to act with moral uprightness, fairness and kindness.

The more socially recognizable a person the greater the expectations on him or her! Celebrities are no greater human beings than any one of us. We made them celebrities, supermen and super-women. Treat them just as any one of us and that is the first level of empathy. We all want to mask our human failings and tend to cling to the heroes and heroines of real life or reel life. Everyone wants a selfie with the great men and women and wants only the bright side of the picture!

‘Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.’ – Albert Camus 

Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Salman Khan. I haven’t seen any of his movies at least in the last 10 years. However, I am being human like him, his victims, his fans and his critics!  


  1. Dear JJ,
    Very insightful thoughts!

    Apart from what you mentioned, Human beings (in my opinion) do not know what they want!

    As the saying goes
    "As a rule man is a fool,
    He wants hot when it is cold,
    he wants cold when it is hot,
    always wanting what is not!"

    Contrary to Salman Khan, take the example of Satyan founder 'Ramalinga Raju'.
    He went ahead and confessed to certain things. Are we happy ? Do we give him a second chance?

    I was reading the 'Speaking Tree' section of TOI today, in which there is a quote:
    "What do you think, would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds?" - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    Probably this adds to the 'paradox' that you speak about.

    PS: I am also not a fan of Salman :-)

  2. Appreciate your comments, Raju. You are very right.