In praise of the second best
Share this on

In praise of the second best

Over the last couple of days I have been listening to some second best musical groups. The occasion came because the Durja Puja committee in our colony could not afford the crème de la crème of Bollywood or Tollywood and I stayed put and did not venture to other bigger budget Pandals.

Not everyone in the family thought that the decision – to listen to these music bands – was a wise one. Often it was a half team that we fielded in the evenings. Mostly, the music was not particularly inspiring and there were occasions when I almost wanted to walk out well before self imposed personal curfew set in.

An argument that I worked out in the mind titled the scale in deciding to stay back. ‘I was no Bob Woordard, Khuswant Singh or any other ‘celebrity’ scribe – but if I expected people to read me then, I should also at least listen to wannabe stars’. Moreover, I am no Beckett, but if the audience in that hall last December had not cheered my arrival on stage, would I have been inspired to write again?

Unless listeners offer encouragement how can talent reach its true potential? For the best to exist the second best must be appreciated – if only to keep the frontrunners on the heels.

Second bests are not losers. But they risk ending up being flagged as a mediocre if talent is not encouraged.

The ‘best’ are often creations of the market, at times undeserving and owe their position to other connections and considerations. This vicious clique can be broken – or at least ‘outsiders can break in periodically if challengers get a nod or two of appreciation.

Traditionally, parents motivate their children to be winners. Their own aspirations are often funneled into the child’s mind. Success is the only goal and only a rare parent prepares a child on how to cope with failure or defeat.

Thanks to TV game shows, defeat makes for a good TRP moment. Tears flow and ensure a freeze on the ‘remote’ and the audience stays riveted.

Still, defeats in sports – in the field or in TV studios – are easier to cope with and we are yet to have documented long term impact. There are greater complications with academic failure. Every year during the examination season these complications are manifest either as tragic headlines in newspapers or as in sensationally narrated tragic VOs on news channels.

Society must respect the second best and convey to them that they have a legitimate space. They have a clear role to play in every facet of life – be it the arts, academics, sports or even politics. After all, in a democracy not everyone will make a good prime minister and every prime minister will not make a good supportive leader in a political party.

Perfection will always be an elusive human goal. This, as a wag said – was why erasers continue to be made. Or why the Backspace button exists on the keyboard. Amen.