February 7, 2017

Why I root for the underdog?


It's one of the rare times that I find myself plonked before the idiot box, eager to watch yet another episode of  The Indian Idol. Good music and movies have the power to keep me glued, though. As the episode progresses, I feel my cheeks moisten with salty droplets that have ambushed their way out. While soulful renditions more often than not get me teary-eyed, this time it was the personal stories of the contestants that triggered an emotional response; the show shenanigans of playing melancholic background scores and deliberate freezing of expressions notwithstanding.

It's touching to listen to stories about modest upbringing, financial struggles, and the courage to dream despite or perhaps due to adverse circumstances. The fact that talent can get its due even if one is not from a privileged background makes a perfect poster for inspiration, hope, and motivation. Such real stories serve as lessons for someone who is ready to give up on the brink of success just because the last mile is most arduous and one wishes for that godfather that can make the final journey easier.

There's something about the journey of underdogs that does not fail to touch a chord with me. When someone least expected to win makes unprecedented progress, challenges the crowd favourites, and sometimes even pulls off a stupendous upset to become numero uno, I cannot help but applaud and nod in awe. (The important caveat being that the win is purely based on merit). I'm sure it's not just me who feels so because this feel-good factor has been milked quite a bit by the film industry. Needless to add, films based on such a premise hold a special place in my heart.

As a person who has, at best, been an average achiever, it's easy to see why I identify with parts of an underdog's life. I like to imagine that I'm no different from that person on stage or that protagonist in the cinema who wins despite all odds. At such times I allow myself to dream big; dreams about experiencing the satisfaction of having reached my full potential, finding my true calling and being on the path I was always meant to be on.

A late bloomer in life, I've questioned my capabilities at every stage. I've looked at schoolmates and college mates glide past me with surety and confidence while I wondered about what I wanted to do in life. With every step forward, there were several taken backward. Yet, it's been a decent climb for me, as I realize today.

The struggle in my case has always been an internal one. I could never see myself win. Actually, I've been more afraid of success than of failure. I fear not being able to replicate a win. I prefer to remain an underdog because then I have no pressure of fulfilling expectations. If I win, it's a bonus but if I lose, it isn't really a surprise and I don't have to explain. And, so I root for underdogs in the outside world and for the self in my heart.

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