In a scene from the movie Superman Returns, Lois Lane is seen discussing an article she wrote, titled- “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman” for which she won the Pulitzer Prize.
One of the bigger problems with the picture was the fact that Superman had been away. The filmmakers seem to have got caught up with the idea of what would happen if there was a Superman and if he did go away for a prolonged period. The answer of course would have been “It’ll be the end of the world”. So Clark Kent had to return. In the next scene, he comes back to Metropolis, suitcase in hand, walks in to the Daily Planet and gets his old job back –Journalism. Next, on his first day he changes into Superman and saves a plane that is about to crash. This idea injected me with an innocent notion that whenever monsters keep ripping through our city tearing it apart, taking down our ancient walls, its rickety stairways, there will always be a superman to save our world from falling down. When complex things will be piled up on the top of the world, when one strike will break all beauty, nature, love and music into unfixable pieces, there’ll be a superhero coming to save us. This idea kept me intrigued to the screen in my leathery seat where I kept thinking to myself that no one would able to take our world down. As I grew into an adult and realized that all those interesting and intellectually stimulating moments of my childhood had been nothing but a farce – I cried uncontrollably. Not because I realized that there is no superhero in my world. But because – ‘it’ll be the end of the world’.
India, our very own motherland, is a land of opportunities. Opportunities are yours to take. So I had to come in terms with the realization that everyone can have their own superhero – He could be the guy who managed to book your Tatkal ticket. He could be the officer who didn’t accept the bribe you had to pay. It could be your friend asking you to stand up for the national anthem before a Shah Rukh Khan movie. It could be JIO on your 4G phone. It could also be a feeling – Like that feeling of being able to withdraw your own cash from the bank. He could be the man who gave you your last name. But in times like these, where every second person you meet proclaims to be a superman, directly or indirectly – I had to write this article – “Why India needs a ‘Superman’ ?“. If I am able to win the Pulitzer prize or not is an irrelevant discussion here because in the end I’ll be giving it away cause of remarkably growing intolerance in the country and suppression of dissent. But what matters is that in these times of turmoil each one is their own Superman. The guy from the Anti- Romeo squad who thrashed a couple in the name of moral policing, he felt like a Superman. Superman could be a group of people beating Nigerians shouting “Go back from my country” and it could even be the guy who tells a fellow countryman to “Move to Pakistan”. Superman could be a liberal after the UP elections. He could be that Delhi guy coming out of his Lamborghini, setting his aviators, with a Gold Gym subscription whining “Tu janta hai mera baap kaun hai?” Superman could be a whiny left, a boring centre, and a scary right.
What is important to understand is that these individual Supermen are not alone anywhere any more. Nowhere in the malls, theatres and restaurants can they be guaranteed a degree of refinement. Never have the kind of Indians been so empowered, and so affluent. Thus, our very own original Superman, one from Krypton, has lost its charm and value. I believe in times like these, it’s important that he comes out of the closet. Coming back to the plot- Why India needs Superman? Superman is a man of virtue and righteousness- He’d have never accepted police beating students – bright, energetic and filled with the urge to contribute to the domain of knowledge. He would have denied the narrative that has been built over the past years that a lot of people believe: all academics are left-wing intellectuals who brainwash students. These students then become Naxalites or secret spies who plot ways to destroy the country. Superman would have been a bodyguard to Umar Khalid for the Ramjas seminar. I know, he would not believe what some people desperately wants you to believe – “Why do you want to study what is wrong with society?” “Why are these people studying about tribal people in India?” and so on. Just know, if there would have been our superman, there wouldn’t have been any Kanhaiya or Umar or Sheela or even Hardik Patel. In case of genuine Love Jihads – Superman would be the court of law. No harassment no bribe no honor killings. All statistics about sheer water crisis, global warming and farmer suicides would come at stall. Superman would be a non-vegetarian hero. He knows if I like Mutton Roghan Josh, it’s my choice and if you crave for Methi Matar Malai at 2 am, it’s yours for taking. I believe UP’s meat breakdown would have been different. The best part – There would never be saffronization of the country. It could be blue – The colour of his underwear or Red – The colour of his cape and also Lal Salaam! Who would bring an end to growing suppression of dissent, to the intolerance, to extremism? Who would complete the construction of Ram Mandir in just less than 24 hours, entirely? Superman! Oh and the beauty of equity – “A left DU student: Help, Najeeb is lost!” “Government: Did anyone hear that? “Student: Help, please!” – (Pulls open shirt and has Superman shirt underneath) Superman is here!!” He then becomes a valiant moral underdog whose purpose is to fight the evil giant – The government.
There would be so much of unused tax payer’s money in the government’s account – So much that the government might need another account in another Swiss country. None of it for the statue of Shivaji or Sardar Patel or Mayawati’s elephants or Nehru or Gandhi – Just one – Superman, with ‘God’ embedded on his heart. No train accidents, no derailing. No threat to the LGBT community, no supreme leader, no statesman, no surgical strikes, no distortion of history.
But, how would you address a Superman fanatic? Would they still be called Bhakts or do you have a better name? I believe India needs a superman to bring humour for our countrymen. We need to laugh a lot, our comedians need space for that matter – What better than a guy roaming around your streets in a shiny red underwear on top of his trousers? Even our writers could write copiously about his condition and his powerful wicked foes without any threat of a ban.
Let us, the wanderers realize, sooner or later, that we desperately need a Superman, because others have their own which is so dangerous that its keeping our man away for a prolonged period. You know what that does to a world? It takes away a Pulitzer Prize and marks the end of the world. In a transformed India, where democracy is not a righteous device any more but a very good conductor of human flaws, we have increasingly come under various political and social pressures. It’s time to understand that it’s not your role to ask someone to stand for the national anthem. We’ll keep a man for that – Considering the recent outrage and compassion with regard to movements like ‘Pinjra Tod’ revolving around pro- feminism debates – India might also need a Superwoman. But that underwear would be too gross and inappropriate on top. How about a Superwoman in a Burkha? I guess that will also mark the end of the ISIS. Think about it – This is one way to do something substantial for your country today; this is one way of being patriotic!
(Shikhar Shrivastava resides in an 11 x 11 hostel room of the Hidayatullah National Law University Raipur. He works for the state government and identifies himself as a full-time writer and a part-time savior of dissent)