Arrogance Punished

Last week as they were burning down an effigy of Ravana in my neighbourhood, I was wondering about this man who is seen as the embodiment of evil in much of India, even if he is worshipped in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and in several other places, including by many here in India itself. A particular trait of this giant made me connect dots with John Lennon, the leader of The Beatles, the English music band that rocked the world and changed it forever in the 1960s. That would be arrogance. A tragic flaw common to both musicians, not forgetting that apart from being a scholar and an able king, Ravana was an ace veena player.

Two heads are not always better than one

“Two heads are better than one” is a proverb we learnt early in life. But is that always the case? Even if the two heads are sick? In that case, by an extension of thought, Ravana, who had 10 heads, should have been 10 times smarter than anyone with one head. But Rama outsmarted and eliminated him. A body of thought also believes scores of curses killed Ravana, and it was he who invited death upon himself. That could be because of his famous arrogance, which had ticked so many people off. Think of this song from Insaniyat (1955), with the 10-headed giant strutting about, singing these lines:

Main Ravana Lanka Naresh

Mere dus hain sees

Mere bus mein dharti aur paataal

Hai chaho dhaam mera hi naam

Meri takkar le kiski majaal

(Manna Dey, Rafi/Rajinder Krishan/C Ramchandra)

“I am Jesus Christ”  

Many music aficionados know that The Beatles are the highest selling artists in the history of music. Their singles, albums and music videos have sold more than anyone else’s. While estimates vary, the number of Beatles records, CDs and digital downloads bought range anywhere between 300 and 600 million units. Whew!

For people who were around in the 1960s, the Beatles were everywhere, and so was their music. The hysteria that accompanied them during that decade can hardly be imagined by those that didn’t live in those times. With so much uncontrolled excitement around them, they were mobbed everywhere they went. The smallest twitch of their eyes became sensational news. It is no wonder then that they started getting feelings of megalomania. Particularly infected was John Lennon, let’s see that now.

Fifty years ago, in 1968, Lennon called his teammates for a breaking news kind of announcement. With gravitas, he told them, “I have something very important to tell you. I am Jesus Christ. I am back again”.  He proceeded to tell his small audience that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. The other members looked at each other. They had heard such hubris from him before, and they would hear it from him in the coming years again. But on those occasions he would be talking to the Press. This was more intimate. They asked for a break. After the break, Lennon did not mention the subject.

John Lennon had first made such waves in an interview in early 1966. “We are more popular than Jesus” he had said, arguing that rock music was here to stay, even as Christianity was in terminal decline. Later, in his 1970 song, God, here are parts of what he sang: ”I don’t believe in Bible…I don’t believe in Jesus…I just believe in me”. Somebody shot John Lennon dead in 1980.

History has taught us many cases of arrogance, which has rarely gone unpunished. Julius Caesar was assassinated in March 44BC, and Adolf Hitler committed suicide in April 1945, only because his arrest, trial and punishment were imminent. Poetry has offered examples as well. Shelley wrote a sonnet called Ozymandias, the name of an arrogant king:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

But now the arrogant man’s statue was dismembered and found in a desert somewhere.

Cinema is not far behind, not at all. In the opening scenes of BR Chopra’s film Waqt (1965), Balraj Sahni was a dry-fruits businessman high on arrogance, since apart from his own arms, he now had three sons who would take the commerce forward. But presently a huge earthquake visited them, and in a matter of minutes, he was brought down to zilch, his sons separated from each other and the parents.

That is why Shakeel, advising against excessive egotism while pitching for humility, wrote this:

Laakhon yahaan shaan apni dikhaate hue aaye

Dum bhar ke liye naach gaye dhoop mein saaye

Wo bhool gaye the ke ye duniya hai saraaye

Aata hai koi subah to jaata hai koi shaam

Insaan bano…

(Rafi/Naushad/Baiju Bawra, 1952)

To guard against punishment is why so many songs tell us to be modest, dump that arrogance. Maghroor na ho apne muqaddar pe o naadaan, Allah ki nazron mein baraabar hain sab insaan (Rafi/Asad Bhopali/Chitragupt/Insaaf, 1956) is one of them.  Maati ke putle itna na kar tu gumaan is another. It is from Sheroo (1957), the crew being Kaif Irfani/Rafi/Madan Mohan. That is why we have poetry such as Aasmaan pe udne waale mitti mein mil jaayega, Qasmen waade pyaar wafa sab baaten hain baaton ka kya (Indeevar/Manna Dey/Kalyanji-Anandji/Upkar, 1967).

Arrogance is different from vanity. In the latter, the focus is on one’s looks and appearance. These songs would fit the bill of vanity: Main bahaaron ki natkhat raani, saari duniya hai mujhpe deewaani (Asha/Hasrat/Shankar-Jaikishan/Boot Polish, 1953), Mujhe dekh chaand sharmaaye ghata tham jaaye, main nikloon to kahe haaye zamaana kahe haaye (Lata/Indeevar/Kalyanji-Anandji/Samrat Chandragupta, 1958) and Nazar bacha ke chale gaye wo warna ghaayal kar deta (Rafi/Hasrat/Shankar-Jaikishan/Dil Tera Deewana, 1962). The focus is on looks. In arrogance, it’s about power and influence in a non-cosmetic way.

Here are some songs that take us on the road of arrogance, in the opening lines themselves: Hum hain to chaand aur taare, jahaan ke ye rangeen nazaare (Mukesh, chorus/Hasrat/Shankar-Jaikishan/Main Nashe Mein Hoon, 1959), Main hoon mast madaari, bina teer dil ghaayal kar doon aisa main hoon shikaari (Mukesh, Lata/Pt Madhur/Kalyanji-Anandji/Madari, 1959), Hum jab chalen to ye jahaan jhoome (Rafi, chorus/Sahir/Usha Khanna/Hum Hindustani, 1960), Hai aag hamaare seene mein hum aag se khelte jaate hai, Takraate hain jo is taaqat se wo mitti mein mil jaate hain (Geeta, Mahendra, Mukesh, Lata, Manna Dey/Shailendra/Shankar-Jaikishan/Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, 1960), Haseenon ke jalwe pareshaan rehte agar hum na hote (Manna Dey, Sudha, Asha, Rafi/Sahir/Roshan/Babar, 1960), Jab tak hum hain, hum hi hum hain, Koi naheen duniya mein apne siwa (Rafi/Shakeel/Ravi/Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, 1963), Aji hum se bach ke kahaan jaiyega, jahaan jaiyega humen paaiyega (Rafi/Hasrat/Shankar-Jaikishan/Arzoo, 1965).

All that lasers in on the fact that if arrogant people put a little culture into their lives, they wouldn’t end up as they often do. Reading about Julius Caesar and Ozymandias can tell us where not to go. Listening to messages in songs is a wonderful way to learn to behave with justifiable pride that keeps some distance from arrogance. Sadly though, such people are so much into themselves, they have no time for appreciating literature or music. They end up the poorer for it.


Originally published on 28 October 2018 in DNA Jaipur page 13

Featured image: from Hai aag hamaare seene mein


8 Replies to “Arrogance Punished”

  1. What a free-wheeling, prolific and thought-provoking write-up, Manek bhai! I wonder whether a small contributory addition from my end would be in fitness of the things! भला करने वाले, भलाई किये जा, बुराई के बदले, दुआएं दिये जा …… GHAR SANSAR (1958) – S. H. Bihari – Ravi.

  2. Another masterpiece, Manek. The subject is very interesting. The arrogant have no social skills, as they are centred only on themselves. They perhaps forget that they need the world to spin around them to survive. And the world does realize their arrogance and bring them to justice.

    Your choice of songs from HF M on arrogance are so pointed. John Lennon was perhaps the leader of an arrogant bunch of musicians.

  3. Thanks, Manek Sir. This really added taste and flavour to my Sunday brunch as always. Loved it.

    I feel, ‘Arrogance’ is the most abominable quality that can be found in any person. Arrogant people are generally ‘I’- Specialists, but they have a very narrow vision. Corporate surveys show that the most common reason why an employee leaves a job, is mostly to get away from an arrogant boss. Similarly, most common ground for divorces is an arrogant spouse. Sometimes, the employee prefers to overstay at work to avoid an arrogant wife at home. Behind every suppressed man is an arrogant woman. The converse is also true, sometimes.

    Politicians are generally susceptible to this malady of arrogance. The VIP (Very Impudent People) culture is not something that can be eradicated easily. Film stars and Sportsmen are also not immune to this epidemic. For some actors, an air of arrogance enhances the star value. For eg. when Raaj Kumar addressed himself in plural (‘Hum wo hain’, ‘Hum ye hain’), the rest of lesser ‘Hum’s applauded. During those times, bigwigs got away with lot of arrogance, because the media was not glaring at them continuously. Nowadays, any inadvertent slip of tongue, they have to explain their arrogance to Arrogant Goswami, oh sorry, Arnab Goswami, who is always ‘arrogant-than-thou’ in debates. He says always, ‘It’s my debate and I will speak … (and I will let you speak if you agree with me’).

    Big B has no other option other than to remain utterly humble 24×7 probably even when he sleeps (snoring is impolite, you know), as he has risen up to such a stature, from where he is visible all the time to everybody. So he is either really utterly humble, or he is a damn good actor 24×7. But the fact remains that even today, wherever he stands in Bollywood, ‘Line wahinse shuru hota hai’. Poor Sachin Tendulkar can’t even sound arrogant even if he wishes, because his weak voice would not let him. But any skipper of any Cricket Team is privileged to be little arrogant especially after a win, when he can chew gum in front of the mike and say, ‘Well, the boys played well’ etc. as if he is the only grown-up man in the team.

    As for the songs, I was always delighted, when one of the humblest persons who had graced this earth, Mohammed Rafi Saab was probably compelled by the lyricist to sing few ‘arrogant’ lines now and then, such as:
    Ham se jo baazi le kar jaaye
    Hai koi aisa saamane aaye
    Saari duniya mein apani jayakaar
    Yahaan ke ham hain raaj kumaar …

    Sorry, Just my thoughts which probably I wrote thoughtlessly. I may be wrong, but generally ‘HUM hamesha sahi kehte hain!’. (Just kidding. Hope Arnab does’nt summon me for his talk-show!)

    1. “Sorry, Just my thoughts which probably I wrote thoughtlessly. I may be wrong, but generally ‘HUM hamesha sahi kehte hain!’. (Just kidding. Hope Arnab does’nt summon me for his talk-show!) ” He he he Nathan, if Arnab calls you, you’ll be a celebrity overnight 🙂

  4. Only Egotists have EGOS and King-size at that-Manek

    However everyone of them in the annals of human history have bit the dust.
    Even in the Animal Kingdom, we have watched on numerous Wildlife channels- the strong and the arrogant being beaten by a stronger foe.

    And why go far away, in our daily life we see roadside goondas boasting about their fiefdom,only to succumb to someone superior.
    Don’t we have Dawood, who once ruled Bombay, hiding in Karachi like a worm, being afraid to face the law of his motherland.

    But the most heinous kind are the POLITICIANS of India and until they are taught the lesson of their life by someone , they go on brandishing their weapon of ARROGANCE.

    Dilip Apte

    1. Politicians, I agree, the worst kind of people I guess, with a low opinion ranking worldwide Dilip 🙂

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