“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Afshana looks for heroes – tragic or otherwise – in a land of sycophants

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women’s College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

Of Shakespearean heroes and the heroes of this age

A hanging picture
on my wall;
A tattered image
of passing soul;
Not a calendar
The portrait of a
Frozen dream.
It looks so shabby;
immensely awful.
Garlanded by cobwebs,
Dust wraps it.
The unsightliness lingers
But the moments of pain
Seem to wane.
I remember
the melancholy strain,
of sweet music and
lost loves in
days long past.
All stands crystallized
In my memory;
The smell and warmth
Of lineage,
I am part of it,
A strand in the
Tapestry of time;
Intertwined with everything
That happened to portrait
I stand here, in front of it;
I am forever changed
Never to be same,
So is it!

What is the fate of Tragic Heroes? It is said that ‘they meet an untimely and unexpected end’. They turn into tattered images, wrapped by the dust of past, everlastingly.

In literature, there are a number of tragic heroes who met a downfall because of a “tragic flaw” (hamartia) in their character. The Shakespearean tragic heroes from Brutus to Hamlet to Macbeth became the sufferers of their own excesses or self-deception. They were doomed to fail due to some error of judgment or frailty. The tapestry of time weaved a poignant adversity around them. Fading from an icon to iota, they faced an inexorable decline, though Shakespeare accentuates and maintains their nobility to the end.

Down the first-rate lit to humdrum life, we spot many tragic heroes around. More so in Kashmir, where people trail the path to downfall quite easily. We have a super tragic hero like Sheikh Abdullah who made a ‘history of sorts’ to be narrated to our generations very pathetically. The book ‘Sheikh Abdullah: The Tragic Hero of Kashmir’ by old hand journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea seems to be just a small window that provides a peep into Sheikh’s downfall to obscurity. Calling it a “profoundly disturbing book” may not justify the basic tragedy that this oversized tragic hero wrought not only for himself but for the whole Kashmir.

So, there are tragic heroes who jeopardize not only themselves. They invoke wrath for others as well. Their fall is a colossal one that brings down a lot more along with, shaking the national destinies. The leaders of Kashmir have a record of committing ‘tragic errors’, unintentionally or otherwise, many a times.

Paradoxically, such of our tragic heroes have never realized the impact of their irremediable blunders which the tragic heroes are eventually known for otherwise. It sounds sadly strange.

In our apolitical environs, there too is a manifestation of tragic heroes. We see men of tall claims and towering profile, perpetrating the worst kind of culture that involves all types of misconduct. In fact, it’s their masked misconduct that afterwards fails to salvage their projected reputation.

We also have tragic heroes who are swindled to make tragic flaws. Incognizant of the machinations of miserable minds surrounding them, they are led into baffling situations, only to end up making grave errors of verdict. Their stature meets a tragic downer. They lose their individuality and identity, cutting a sorry figure forever.

Of course, we all perform on the stage of life. However, all of us do not enact as a tragic hero. It is not even possible. We play different roles. The main character of Tragic Hero is to be played by some. And those are the ones who have a potential for greatness, but are equally prone to making great mistakes. They are the ‘heroes’ of the nation, the society, the home and the institution, predisposed to draw a blank. It is not just a fluke that they earn the title of a ‘hero’ and end up as a ‘zero’. It has a genesis of its own. The Law of Nature that intervenes to smash the bogus idols of such heroes to smithereens.

The commonplace characters also are not excused of a tragic end. In their own way, they play the roles which occasionally guide them to disgrace and discomfiture. It is irrational to let them off the hook, for they too are mortals. Nonetheless, what makes a big difference is the measure and magnitude of tragic end, its upshot on individual as well as collective level.

There is a rigorous but subtle reenactment of tragedy in our daily life. Tragic heroes, non-heroes, or anti-heroes, whatever, we all ultimately chance on our own tragic end.

There is a patriotic Brutus around; an uncertain Hamlet; a power lusty Macbeth; an obsessive Antony; a conceited Lear; and many others who are becoming the victim of their own flaws.

Tragic is the end of ‘heroes’. So is the end of rest of the actors.
The stage is alive, the drama is on…