A bitter-sweet encounter with my cricketing idol and life thereafter
I RUBBED MY EYES IN DISBELIEF. It was indeed my 'hero'. I had been collecting his photographs and articles, splashed in all the dailies for over a decade now. His cricketing and writing exploits were well known, and my room was a dedication to his 'glorious' life. As I saw him look somewhat lost across the street, I grabbed my chance to extol my love for him. My mind was racing through a thousand things that I could tell him. After all I was his 'greatest' fan. As I ran across panting and huffing, I introduced myself rather bashfully. Without giving me even half a smile, and only pretending to acknowledge me, he hurriedly looked in all directions. "Can I help you?" I volunteered. "I need a taxi, can you call me one?" In a moment, I dashed back with a 'cool cab'. However I saw him speed off in another one and before we could muse over those nail-biting cricket climaxes, the hard-hitting articles, and all the wonderful, heart-wrenching moments, he was gone. 
As I strained my eyes to keep trail of the taxi, the deluge of Mumbai traffic soon consumed it. I sank on a bench nearby overwhelmed by this once in a lifetime 'darsana' of the cricket legend, my worshippable hero. However soon, the painful reality did dawn upon me that I meant nothing to him, and he couldn't care less for my euphoria. I was indeed 'insignificant', and the reciprocation I desired so badly from him wasn't coming. 
Years later as I was shopping in the Indian supermarket of spirituality, I chanced upon a flyer that announced, "Discover the most special person …….. You". I couldn't help contrasting this and similar other propaganda, with my earlier painful experience, where I was dismissed as of no consequence. 
All ads, bill boards, product covers, movies etc., leave us with a feeling that we are indeed the centre of the universe, and the world's at 'my fingertip'. Reality however throws up unpleasant surprises, and there are let downs, certainly at odds with the tall claims of the ad companies. These occur quite too often to be dismissed as pessimist's excuses. Meanwhile we march on, hoping that the next encounter with the 'real' world will turn things our way, and give us the much needed 'special' feeling, and the 'reel' world's there to keep us optimistic and positive. As we feed our consciousness with these self centred and deceiving media images, we search for those moments and look for relationships that will massage our ego. Unfortunately none care for our ego as much as they do for their own. A natural fallout of bloating ego clashes is distrust and clashes, vindicated by the spiralling domestic and social violence. The result is a far cry from the desperate reciprocation we are craving for. In most cases relationships turn sour, and separation and divorces become common. 
This desperate search for self worth also leads many to seek a spiritual path, as evident by the booming 'spiritual' business in India. However most of these sects only bolster our self obsession by encouraging us to believe that we are 'god'. The gurus also conjure up attractive phrases and synonyms for 'god' such as 'Love', 'Fun and Joy', 'Peace and beauty' etc., the kind that would put the best ad writers to shame. Through word jugglery, silent meditation and breath control exercises which at best keep the body fit, we are physically comforted. Riding on this new found sentimental plane, we announce- life's incomplete without spirituality. A few manage to see through this sham that goes on in the name of spirituality, and a deep feeling of betrayal by the myriad gurus haunts them forever. 
A few years after the disappointing encounter with my hero, I became a Hare Krsna devotee and heard in the classes, that God, Krsna is the most special person and we are indeed 'insignificant' in relation to God and the cosmos. Besides, all the heroes of this material world are also simply names, to be soon washed away by the waves of time. Recalling my teenage tryst with one such hero, I felt how true the Krsna conscious philosophy was. 
However many are appalled at this bold declaration by the Hare Krsna's because this reality is precisely what they try to forget. A thief or an escapist, when confronted and exposed is only sorry and angry. Similarly the harsh reality of this world, as revealed in the scriptures, unsettles the die hard whose ambitions are confined to enjoying this mortal world. 
A closer look at the Krsna conscious teachings reveals the position of every living entity as not simply inconsequential but also simultaneously 'special'. We are all parts and parcels of God, Krsna, and our constitutional position is to serve the Supreme, all loving Lord. This service not only fills our heart with a level of happiness that transcends ordinary bodily pleasures, but also reinstates us in our special position. Each soul has a unique relationship with Krsna in the spiritual world, which is our original home. Although we are tiny and insignificant compared to the Lord, yet through the process of loving devotional service, a devotee can conquer even the Supreme Lord. 
Srila Prabhupada cites the example of a finger which is insignificant when separated from the body. However when connected to the hand, it has a special place. A screw when separated from the machine is useless but when reconnected enjoys a unique function. Meanwhile separated from the Lord, no hero worship can actually make our lives significant, just as a fish out of water cannot be lured by T.V, music or Coca Cola. He needs to be back in water to feel special. Simila rly in a loving relationship with God alone, we can be blissful. Besides, prayerful contemplation on our insignificance compared to the all great Lord and His numerous servants, makes us humble. This humility softens our heart and captures Krsna's heart. In stark contrast to superstar adulation in this world, where even the most passionate enthusiasts are left high and dry, a spiritual approach based on humility and service transforms unknown servants to glorious recipients of Lord's love and mercy. 
As opposed to modern heroes who may never care to know how much their fans love them, Krsna, being present in the heart as the Supersoul is cognizant of our smallest desire, and also ever ready to reciprocate with our longing to love Him. In fact, Krsna is more eager to receive us in his loving embrace than we are, to feel the warmth of His presence in our lives. 
It's goodbye then to a tragic life in a hypocritical and pretentious 'all's well' world. It's time to live in a world centred on service to the great, rather than seek to be great. It's this attitude that conquers the 'great'. As a response to our service, Krsna floods our heart with spiritual joy. Not surprising then that for all the charges of painting a gloomy picture of the world, it's the Hare Krsna's who are bright faced and happy. 
I wonder about the heroes I was leaving behind to join the Hare Krsna's. If I am 'insignificant', so is a cricket champion, who a few years down the line will be bereft of all the media glare, and if fortunate, may avoid a disgraceful omission from the squad for about of poor performance. The plight of beauty queens, macho men, and political messiahs is no different. The most sensational heart throbs of the 80's are unsung today, and replaced by a new bunch of attractive faces, only to be soon followed by another fresh set. 
Daily new heroes fill up the television screens, bill boards, and covers of leading magazines, and the country goes gaga over them. Meanwhile more young men and women are going crazy to follow these stars and etch their names in the flying pages of history. Precious human energy is thus wasted in vigorously pursuing ephemeral goals. Interestingly, our neighbour, China, the most populous nation in the world, has no clue about cricket or Bollywood, and its one billion plus citizens are busy with their own heroes. Seeing this maddened rat race, therefore, I often wonder, "Is this endeavour really worth it?" 
Vraja Bihari Dasa, MBA, serves full-time at ISKCON Mumbai, and teaches Krsna consciousness to students in various colleges.