Sushant Singh Rajput walked into my sarkari office twelve years ago
accompanied by his brother-in-law, a senior colleague. A strapping young lad,
with stars in his eyes and that inimitably unique playful smile upon his lips, he
sat shyly as we sipped some coffee. He had been chaperoned into my ambit for
the hour-long rendezvous to receive some career counselling which every 22
year old inevitably needs. I advised him to give his acting dreams the full
throttle and if success came his way, well and good. Otherwise there would
still be time to change course.
The fact that Sushant shone like a beacon on the precarious and dicey
firmament of Bollywood is common knowledge. The fact that he was a
philosopher at heart was little known but is now the stuff of a million social
media posts. What ultimately led him to commit the unthinkable will perhaps
never be known. What is certain is that young achievers like him need care and
counselling along their journey.
The sheer loneliness which comes from having scaled high peaks is perhaps the
most telling factor of all. Even if friends and colleagues provide succour along
the way, intermittently, such dazzling achievers ultimately have to ply a lonely
course. And the glaring spotlight, coupled with oceans of adulation, necessarily
make a young star live in a world all his own. It is implausible that one who
achieves so much so rapidly and is the craze of millions can even think clearly,
unless he makes a monumental effort to do so.
A young Indian cricketer provides another case in point. Having debuted
successfully for the country or even merely for an IPL team, the youngster will
accrue a large fan base and humongous social media following, within no time.
The media would begin hankering for interviews and people in malls would
already be queuing up for selfies with the star. Fame and fortune would have
sprung forth in gushes, seemingly from out of the blue.
Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, two of India’s most talented young cricketers,
blundered majorly on Karan Johar’s widely watched show, when they made
flippant, even pathetic, comments about the fairer sex. But then no one had
apparently taught them the basics of handling the media or the manner in
which to conduct themselves when on television. There have been several
other instances when young players have erred while handling the public at
large. And this, despite the fact that an Indian cricketer, whether male or
female, actually represents a much more structured organisation, in this case,
the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), than does a Bollywood actor.
The same is true of sportspersons from other fields.
Each young achiever, even a suddenly successful entrepreneur, finds it
extremely tough to temper the razzle-dazzle of his success with gravitas and
calmness. The tendency to succumb to the lure of bewitching distractions is a
natural outcome for many. The enhanced frequency of moodiness and several
spurts of anger could also afflict the young achiever in his early years unless he
makes a determined effort to maintain his composure. Once he has attained a
high goal, nothing short of those dizzying heights gives him satisfaction any
Psychology Today magazine lists some indicators that can help others notice if
young achievers have developed a ‘perfectionistic mindset’. These include the
perceived need to top every exam as well as the tendency to consider
themselves as failures if they ever find themselves placed even second or third
in a ranking list. Severe depression and even suicidal tendencies have arisen in
youngsters who constantly aspire for nothing less than numero-uno. They have
not learnt to take the rough with the smooth.
Even superstars with superhuman auras are, at the end of the day, normal
human beings. They are liable to feel the same sense of anxiety and anguish
that a common person will. Whether on top of the world or down in the
dumps, they need people to talk to.
Most people are in dire need of conversations, anyway. We, the people of the
world, need to talk more and listen a lot more. And we need to stare at
screens, a lot less.