Some are born great
While the rest strive hard and achieve greatness.
This oft repeated quote has been quoted to the realm of being cliché.
What defines greatness?
There have been several scores of empires and countless number of kings. But even with the literary license to thrill, very few kings have been suffixed as "the great". That 'A' lister series include Alexander, Ashoka, Akbar with an 'odd' Napolean thrown into the mix. Victorious expeditions and royal blood apart they couldn't have been a more diverse mix of personalities. But yet the common thread that ties them all is that they were all accepted and confirmed as 'the greatest'. So, the historical evidence concludes those who win major battles and are victorious in their conquests as great. But so was Genghis Khan, Timur and Hitler!! Mentioning any of them in admiration leave alone calling them as great would invite censure. It leads to believe probably the inference from the evidence wasn't quite right.
World over, there is one common parameter that confirms greatness. Its the impact that one leaves on people, when that personality breathes their last. Gandhi('s),Nehru,Annadurai,MGR's funeral processions have had record turnout. Such was/is his charisma that there are scores of people who still believe MGR is alive and some even worship him as god. Surprisingly all of the above had as many supporters as detractors. They all had political legacy as common ground, fenced by controversies. Every single major city in India has a LBS marg or road or avenue. But very few people remember that diminutive Indian- Lal Bhadhur Shastri. He could've rivalled the fame of the rest had he survived a few more years. Probably good health is another factor that plays a key role in achieving greatness? Maybe. Also one needs good PR machinery to spread the word. Could being media savvy be another clinching attribute in current scenario to achieve greatness? Quite possible. But media being well known for its attention deficit disorder syndrome, will that trait sustain for long? Maybe no. When some politicos die, the rampage and ruckus created by their rowdy followers are the sole reason why some of them are even remembered. Those fanatics ensured a place in the notoriety hall of shame for their leaders. Do you need goons to be famous? Don't think so.
In summary, to achieve greatness, one has to wage wars, be politically strong, have good health and be media savvy. Is this the formulae for being great?
Consider a man who donates regularly for good causes. He would be remembered by those beneficiaries as noble for a reasonable while.
One who serves his parents well, will be blessed by them.
One who is in harmony with his neighbours, will be mourned by them on his demise.
One who entertains people will be cherished by his fans.
What did this man do to deserve such a response on his death? How did he manage to touch so many peoples lives who unequivocally consider him as great?
He was a scientist known for exploding bombs and creating nukes which are not even in the same pin-code of peace, rather being objects of destruction and war. Agreed he was a teacher who later became president which is not without precedent either. We even celebrate that precedent/president's birthday as teacher's day (without quite knowing the significance is a different story). In times when crowd gathering is becoming an industry in itself, thriving on the going rates of liquor and briyani, Why do people from all walks of life, skipping their day's wage, queue up in hot sun to pay homage to this man. To sum up his profile, he was a very humble person, noted scientist/teacher who became the Indian president. Is that the reason for his greatness? I guess not.
He did some thing more - giving hope and courage.
He gave hope to those economically backward kids, selling paper to win their daily bread, the wings to dream. He gave hope to those from the land's end of a huge nation to sit on the throne of its highest office. He gave courage to his peers to achieve projects without begging for foreign assistance. He sowed the seeds of quest for knowledge in his students encouraging them to think big and push the horizons.
The way in which he carried himself when alive, reflected in the response for his death. No vehicles were burned. No shops were ransacked. No communal tensions. Yet the entire nation cried for his departed soul. His was a death any person would envy for and a life everyone should strive to adapt.
APJ Abdul Kalam didn't discover the formula for greatness. He let his life be the formula for those who wish to have a crack at being great.
He wasn't born great.
He didnt strive for greatness.
Yet greatness adorned his feet like for no one else.
Rest in Peace noble sir.