Pick your Role Model; Ape it till you Make it

by | Jul 1, 2020

Human beings learn best by imitating others. Children pick up their language, manners and basic etiquettes by observance. The whole idea of saints living in society is to have the presence of live models of divine virtues amongst the people of the world. Places of worship are meant to be islands of serenity and peace in the hustle-bustle of human transactions. And there is a strong tradition of in Indian society followed by all major religions, where people learn from each other. 

During my student days at the GB Pant University, there used to be a weekly magazine JS (Junior Statesman). They would provide a full-page photograph of a celebrity and I would collect them. I can recall posters of Garry Sobers, Bobby Fischer, Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Gavaskar, Vijay Amritraj adorning ‘my wall’ in the shared hostel room. I would feel that there was something good radiating out of these posters. The idea of meeting these people in flesh and blood never even crossed my mind. They were ‘somewhere up and away,’ from my mundane world.

And then, these ‘idols’ started turning into human beings. Arun Shourie and Dr. Raja Ramanna came to the University and I was enthralled by their talks. When Gopal Das ‘Neeraj’ came and recited his poetry and song, it was surreal. In 1982, I relocated to Hyderabad. I was sitting in the small library of the Defence Research & Development Laboratory that was called Technical Information Centre (TIC), when I had a cursory look at Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. “He will be our new Director,” someone said in a hushed tone. I could feel some force pulling me towards him but aware of my low position, I dared not even wish him. 

The Biography page and Journal section of my website speak of the many great people I have met. Some who are not there, for want of a photograph with them, include Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, R.K. Laxman, Sir V.S. Naipaul, Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, A.R. Rahman and a host of business leaders, whom I am now going to mention. Recently, my elder son, Aseem, asked me, “Dad, tell me about the framework of your success – how do you define it, map it.” He then defined success as money as well as the good done to the world. 

I decided to recall the people I had met in person. Fifteen people with more than 1-billion-dollar worth were listed. Ratan Tata, John Chambers (Cisco, USA), Chung Mong-koo (Hyundai, South Korea), A.C. Barman (Dabur), Azim Premji,N.R. Narayana Murthy, Anil Ambani, Sajjan Jindal, Mahesh Patel, Ramalinga Raju (Satyam Computers), GVK Reddy, Dr K. Anji Reddy, Venugopal Dhoot (Videocon), Noorul Ameen Mohamed Ishack (Qualitas, Malaysia), and Govindbhai Dholakiya (SRK Diamonds).  

Aseem asked me five questions: (1) Who amongst them did I consider an inspiration for people; (2) Who an aspiring MBA must choose as a role model; (3) Who could have done differently (4) Whose student one should become for life; and finally, (5) Who should be his own role model, in my opinion? 

My answers were spontaneous. Ratan Tata is inspirational, John Chambers is the success that every young MBA must look up to, Ramalinga Raju could have done differently, Azim Premji’s life is worth emulating and my son should make Narayan Murthy his role model.  “What about you?” he asked me. “Could you see beyond Dr Kalam in your life?” 

Only your children can dissect you with such neat and deep precision. Dr Kalam was not my role model. I could never imagine doing what he did. For me, following his instructions and accomplishing the tasks he assigned to me was all that mattered. And yes, I found Dr Varghese Kurian beyond Dr Kalam and perhaps my role model. If ‘Amul’ could have been replicated in other areas, India would not have sunk into an economic rut.

What makes someone your role model? The answer is you, yourself. Your role model is basically ‘your own’ definition of what you want to be, where you would like to reach, and what qualities you would like to develop, personally and professionally. Your role model, whoever you pick, is defined by how you embody the qualities of integrity, optimism, hope, determination, and compassion. 

The role model you choose for yourself is a person exemplifying what is important to you, and he/she in turn inspires you to put forth the effort to improve and create things that will make a difference. In your low moments, when you feel lazy, tired, or just plain annoyed, you think of your role model and are motivated to start working again.

So, choose your role model – a living person, whoever you want it to be. Make it public, on your FB page, computer screen, everywhere, and start imitating this person. There is an English saying, “Fake it till you make it.” The idea is that by imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize these qualities in his/her real life. So, by having a role model, you are not only making a statement about what you want to do with your life but are also elevating your consciousness to a higher level. 

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41 Comments

  1. Sir, I remember an education technique for students while reading this blog post. It is known as scaffolding, a method which is using and helping students to understand the concepts in clear of a particular subject or topic of study.”So I think ape mentors are like scaffolding.” “Ignited mind” is one of the best reading books for the inspiration anyone wants in their pursuit of life. It was published in the year 2002; before this book” Wings of Fire” came out, it was also a truly inspirational and motivational one for the persons in all walk of life. Another book “I too had a dream” is also good reading for all people, which published in 2005. These visionary leader’s life storybooks transformed the ordinary mind of people on a large scale with definite purpose and vision and to vivify readers positions on the aspect of life. Live life as true being and pick out good virtues from good leaders for the best intellect only is the soulfulness of these role models and their books. Thank you. God bless.

  2. Arun, I generally understand the views expressed by you. Role models are great in shaping your path and inspiring you. On the flip side they end up limiting you to a certain mold if you try to follow them to closely. That to me is scary. What you usually see are the achievements of people. The larger than life image that gets created. Nothing is wrong with being larger than life. But, that puts enormous burden on someone who tries to emulate them.

    Famous saying- You cannot judge a fish by its inability to fly.

    Each person has to carve out ones own path sometimes with guidance from others. Humans are wired to navigate the world well if only they listen to their internal guidance system. We keep denying that. We end up blunting that instinct by listening to the externals. We end up over conditioning ourselves with the way others have done it.

    That’s opportunity lost … Billion times… Colossal loss to the humanity.

    You follow the role models because you wish to be great like them. OK, find what you are good at and you love to do. Practice it for 10,000 hours. You will become great at it. Better than most. ( Malcom Galdwell’s theory in his book “Outliers”) The big names mentioned in the article all did that. And they did it far more than 10,000 hours. I wish I knew this secret while I was in the college.

    Arun, you followed it. You write so well. You have written bools. You have designed systems in rockets. People seek your advice. I am sure your son sees this too.

  3. One of the most apt and needed advice in current times. So well put, Sir.

    As a parent, I feel, we must walk the talk for our children. We must tweak on ourselves to be worthy to emulate. All our advice and guidance would probably bear more fruit if we are able to prepare our selves as our own role models.

    Thanks once again for a fantastic and insightful article

  4. With fusion of modern science and ancient wisdom, you made a thought provoking blog on picking up Role Model, Prof Tiwariji !

    Through the ages persons endowed with ennobling values are considered worthy of emulation and adored as Role Models for elevating human consciousness and the saga continues.

  5. Hari Om Sir

    Thank you for sharing the concept of emulating a role model. It is very nice to know of the different great ones whom you have met in life and also whom you look upto.

    Your qualities too sir have been inspiring to so many and many look up to you as a role model as well.

    Interestingly, the Gita too speaks about this in the 3rd chapter where Krishna speaks about king Janaka as an example that is worth following.

    However he did not highlight the role model for his mighty empire or prosperity or impact to the people but rather for his own behavioral traits that are exemplary

    King Janaka and the rest attained perfection
    Only through works and liberated action
    Detached actions for the sake of the world are best
    This is said to be the true Yogic way by the wisest.3.20

    Whatever actions the best amongst men perform
    The other men seek to imitate
    Whatever standard he sets as the norm
    That the world tries to follow and emulate.3.21

    And finally Krishna gives his own example too which ultimately to me implies that I must set Krishna’s way of life as a role model to imitate.

    However this is not so easy and by his grace, i have been fortunate to find him in my guru whom I try to emulate and try to be a good disciple. Many times I fall but I can always look up to rise again each time.

    It sometimes doesn’t matter if we reach the level of the role model, though each aspirant must aim to surpass his role model because the process itself will lead to the transformation of the follower

  6. Arun what a refreshing and apt subject for the current times! As you have said role model has to be someone who embodies integrity, optimism,hope determination and compassion. It has to be someone who shows you a path when you are struggling to find a way forward.

    Personally I tend to believe in multiple role models. While we can get inspired by great lives we need to find our role models in people who we interact with.

    I also believe that we should live up to becoming a role model for our children the best we can. Our important life decisions should be guided by this simple principle.

  7. Reading your thoughts on this subject made great reading. Guru poornima has just gone by. I was reminded of Lord Dattatreya, which has a strong bearing on your thoughtful message. The story of Dattatreya illustrates how we can learn from the smallest of creatures around us, if only we stop to observe.Once, while wandering happily in the forest, Dattatreya met a King named Yadu, who asked him the secret of his happiness and the name of his guru. He replied, “The Self alone is my guru. Yet, I have learned from twenty-four other individuals and objects. So they, too, are my gurus.” Dattatreya then mentioned the names of his twenty-four Gurus and spoke of the wisdom that he had learned from each:

    1. Earth: Patience and doing good to others
    2. Water: Purity
    3. Air: To be without attachment while moving with many people
    4. Fire: To glow with the splendor of Self-knowledge and austerity
    5. Sky: That the Self is all-pervading and yet it has no contact with any object
    6. Moon: That the Self is always perfect and changeless and it is only the limiting adjuncts that cast shadows over it
    7. Sun: Just as a sun, reflected in various pots of water, appears as many, so also God appears different because of the embodiment caused by the reflection of the mind
    8. Pigeons: I once saw a pair of pigeons with their young ones. A fowler spread a net and caught the young birds. The mother pigeon was so attached to her babies that she fell into the net and was caught. I learned that attachment is the root cause of earthly bondage
    9. Python: The python does not move about for its food. It remains contented with whatever it gets, lying in one place. I learned to be contented with whatever I get to eat
    10. Ocean: Just as the ocean remains unmoved, even though hundreds of rivers flow into it, so also the wise man should remain unmoved amid all the various temptations and troubles
    11. Moth: To control the sense of sight and to fix the mind on the Self, is the lesson I learned from the moth
    12. Black Bee: I take a little food from one house and a little from another house and thus appease my hunger. I am not a burden on the householder. This I learned from the black bee which gathers honey from various flowers.
    13. Bees: Bees collect honey with great trouble, but a hunter comes along and takes the honey away easily. From this I learned that it is useless to hoard things
    14. Elephant: The male elephant, blinded by lust, falls into a pit covered with grass, even at the sight of a female elephant. Therefore, one should destroy lust
    15. Deer: The deer is enticed and trapped by the hunter through its love of music. Therefore, one should never listen to only the music of the soul and not for sensory gratification
    16. Fish: Just as a fish that is covetous of food, falls an easy victim to the bait, so also the man who is greedy for food loses his independence and gets ruined
    17. Dancing Girl: There was a dancing girl named Pingala. One night, being tired of looking for a client, she had to be content with a sound sleep. I learned from this fallen woman the lesson that the abandonment of hope leads to contentment
    18. Raven: A raven picked up a piece of flesh. It was pursued and beaten by other birds. It dropped the piece of flesh and attained peace and rest. From this I learned that people undergo all sorts of troubles and miseries when he runs after sensual pleasures and that become as happy as the bird when they abandon them
    19. Child: The child that drinks mother’s milk is free from all cares, worries and anxieties, and is always cheerful. I learned the virtue of cheerfulness from the child
    20. Maiden: The maiden was husking paddy. Her bangles made much noise and there were people around. To silence the bangles, she removed them one by one. When she had only one, it did not make any noise, and she was happy. I learned from the maiden that living among many can create discord, disturbance, dispute and quarrel. Even between two people there might be unnecessary words or strife. So, the ascetic should remain alone in solitude
    21. Serpent: A serpent does not build its own hole. It dwells in the holes dug out by others. Even so, an ascetic should not build a home for himself. He should live in a temple or a cave built by others
    22. Arrow-maker: I learned from the arrow-maker the quality of intense concentration of mind
    23. Spider: The spider pours out of its mouth long threads and weaves them into cobwebs. Sometimes, it gets itself entangled in the net of its own making. Humans too make nets of their own ideas and get entangled in it. The wise man should, therefore, abandon all worldly thoughts and think only of Brahman
    24. Beetle: The beetle catches a worm, puts it in its nest and stings it. The poor worm, always fearing the return of the beetle and its sting, thinks constantly of the beetle and becomes a beetle itself. I learned from the beetle and the worm to turn myself into the Self by contemplating constantly on It; thus I must give up all attachment to the body to attain Moksha or liberation.

    Dattatreya’s enlightening words inspired the king to lead a life of austerity and meditation on the Self. A long haul for most of us. but there it is….

  8. Jay Swaminarayan Tewari Sir, As with all your other articles, this one is so very relevant in the current times that we are living in. On one hand, there are people who feel so entitled that they can barely see beyond themselves. On the other hand you have people who are struggling with the rapid changes that are occurring globally and are literally at wit’s ends to face the subsequent uncertainties that follow these changes.

    Thus, having a role model becomes so very important. It is not as if what is happening today is unique to our times. The world has always been in a constant state of flux. The scale might be varying. But people by and large have had to contend with changes since time. What we observe is the people who have been really adept at coping with these changes to the extent of in fact utilizing them as an opportunity to grow and advance have more than often been the one’s who have had a role model to emulate.

    Arjuna came through the Mahabharata with flying colors, (despite nearly having a nervous breakdown at the start of the war) was mainly because his role model was his Guru Lord Krishna. Every individual consciously or sub consciously has a role model. The individuals progress and trajectory is largely determined by who s/he chooses to emulate. Role models have a deep influence on an individual’s psyche. One wants to walk, talk, dress, think, act as the person s/he wants to be. Thus, it is so imperative to chose one’s role model wisely.

    Bhagwaan Swaminarayan says in the Vachnamrut, that one has the seeds of both regress and progress within oneself. These seeds are nurtured by the kind of environment one chooses for oneself. If one is lost in the external nonsense (read mainstream media), one is nurturing the tree of stupidity within and is going to reap such fruits, Similarly if one keeps focusing on the Virtues that are around, while attending to sage counsel and conduct within his/her dealings, one will be nurturing the seeds of Virtue, Hope and Love within, and will thus reap a healthy harvest.

    To that extent Bhagwaan Swaminarayan says that if one has a God realized Sage as one’s role model, as one’s Guru, that Saint will lead one to the Divinity that is within each one. For that one has to be in total commune with the Saint. Bhagwaan Swaminarayan says that one is born to realize that one is neither the Body, Mind or the Intellect, but One is a Pure Soul (Brahm), and the final evolution is to be in the service of the SuperSoul (ParaBrahm) To achieve He advises…”Nirantar manan karto sato Brahm no sang kare toh te Brahm no gun e jeev ne vishe aave”…meaning by constantly remaining in company of the God realized Saint, one develops the virtues of the God realized Saint…One understands that each one is a Soul having a human experience, and each Soul is the seat of the Divine.

    Brahmswarup Pramukh Swami Maharaj was one such Saint and at this point of time Brahmswarup Mahant Swami Maharaj is such a Saint. There can never be a BIGGER Role Model than a God realized Saint. Thank you Sirji for such enlightening articles, which really influence one towards the Higher Good that exists in the entire Creation. Jay Swaminarayan 🙂

  9. What a heart touching great share Arun Sir! Totally agree with you on role model what you have said in the article. However, I do not have any role model as such, but can say definitely that I learn a lot from many people from Dr A PJ Abdul Kalam to my physics teacher, my mother, my aunt who was my teacher and the list is long.

    Very apt words of wisdom, I must say. Also I want to dictate one point from the article that “Fake it till you make it” it’s very well known strategy and can be helpful in initial learning very well but ultimately you are the one who could change and put yourself on height.

  10. Role model holds an important place in shaping your life and its well said that what qualities we want in ourselves leads us to select our role model. Definition of the role model keeps on changing as we grow and understand our surrounding, although it begins with our home. When I was kid my role model was my mom who used to take care of all of us, she will be ready with things before I ask for them. Then my maths teachers and so on ……. But yes, following someone is like setting goals to what you want to achieve. Today, I feel someone who is balancing her work life and personal life and have a happy and healthy state of mind is my role model.

  11. A very relevant article Sir, especially in today’s times. Individualism is possibly becoming the order of the day and character of a person, that they are unable to see anything beyond themselves, leave alone having someone as a “Role Model”. It is very important that one has an “eye” to see good in everyone before they can really think of having a Role Model. No one person can perfectly fit into that space but to begin with we can emulate someone based on certain attributes that attract you to them without your knowledge (very important in my view), probably just like the way Sir, you said that there was a force pulling you towards Dr Kalam Sir.

    Personally Sir, I have a slightly different take on having someone as a role model. To me a role model should make me ponder of acquiring an attribute that I did not visualize as an important one because of my lack of understanding. So if we really chose to have role model, we first have to accept that there is lot that we do not know (from within) and the quest to keep improving yourself must be both in thought and action. In my span of life so far, there are many people from whom I have learnt things and many more from whom I learnt of how not to be. In a way the definition of a role model comes from both these datasets. Both are equally important because at the end of the day you are answerable only to your own conscious.

  12. Respected sir, Good informative article.
    I am role model for myself and take inspiration from my failures.

  13. Dear Professor Tiwari, Your conclusion on roles model is exactly what I believe – the ideal mentor is “you” as a compassionate, empathetic person that strives to improve the lives of others. It is not, for example the head of a company or an actor. It is not a scientist or a writer or someone that is exceedingly clever with number or words. These are the ways our society has taught us to evaluate power structures and achievements driven by a primal blend of biology and evolution. Yes, there are those once in a generation people that do something so unusually clever that it redefines our world. But generally, those that we place on pedestals are no more gifted than anyone else, at least when it comes to talent or insight, and are on that “platform” because of combination of timing, luck, perseverance and sometimes dishonesty.

    I have met a few inspirational people in my life but almost none of them are in the headlines or run corporations. They are those among us that silently achieve and had a butterfly effect because of it. And their superpower could be a gift as simple as knowing how to bring love to a person that needs it. As Freeman Dyson so elegantly described in one of his many insightful writings, the world is filled with frogs and birds. The birds see the horizon and the world as it could be. The frogs see the world as the beauty of a flower and their local environment. Combine the two and you have your role model. Add compassion and empathy along the way and you have your mentor.

  14. When I was studying in the U.S., my role model was the people who have actualized the values of American life and have “made it” according to the standards of their people. I realized that I if must realize the American dream, there is no short cut. Furthermore, role models must extend beyond their limitations as individuals and become unifying principles for a people, symbols of the inherent potential in each and every member of the community they represent. That is where indeed the greatness of American society is secured.

    My circumstances brought me back to India, but my American dream is still intact. My role model remains a man who “made it” in the system. There might be so many defects in any system but the fact that it functions as a system point out to some characteristics which are good to emulate and practice. So, I see role model as a collective noun, created by each individual as his/her future self. When I am commenting upon your blog, I see you as my Role Model who is nudging people to think and express.

  15. I believe many of us are running after what will ‘We get’ after becoming so and so rather than can ‘We create’. This is unhealthy for us to grow. We have only become goal oriented and merely do we believe and trust the process that goes in. We may not be able to do as good as the other one is doing, but are we doing our best..that is the question.

    Rather than replicating someone why not be the best version of ourselves. Let’s not compete, let’s create.. The best of ourselves. For this to achieve we need devotion. People living in a palace can feel miserable all the time.

    In nutshell, what we possess isn’t important, what we experience definitely is. Let’s learn and evolve from our own fair share of daily experience. Let our tomorrow be better and more successful than our today. Model yourself to define your upcoming role which should definitely be a level up than the previous one.

  16. Arunji, you have this almost offhand knack of throwing up some idea or thought that takes us into deep contemplation! Imitation is indeed an essential learning tool, whether for hunting/gathering skills of earliest societies or agriculture/ animal husbandry (or even factory or office work) of latter day societies. Ape-ing and role models play an important role but they are most relevant in picking such skills, techniques or methods and there would be different role models for different skill sets.

    Even for our most meaningful journeys, or seeking, of our self or the godhead, there are the sages and masters who can be role models to get one started on the path of self-realisation, but it is eventually one’s own path that one has to create & tread upon to realise our imprisioned splendour.

    Experiential learning, by meditation and a quality of awareness in the case of our consciousness or of the external world from the inputs of our senses, is the best teacher I feel. Even if we miss learning at first, the universe has a way of repeating the lessons till we do.

    The key learnings from gurus and preceptors are from their teachings and not imitation. I do think of imitation as limitation, as John Mason says. It stops us from being the unique person we are and from becoming our limitless possibility. An eclectic approach will stand us in good stead. There are as many paths as there are seekers. We are all originals and should guard from becoming copies.

  17. In these times, it is becoming harder to find role models who will not disappoint. If we look for a guru or role model, we meed to be careful to look for integrity and honesty along with inspiration.

    For writing, my role model might be Ernest Hemingway, whose prose and stories were authentic and laudable — more so than his lifestyle. There are so few in these times, if any, whose integrity and accomplishments could match those of the great Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

  18. What an excellent write up! Dear Sir. In a period of every 15 days , We all regular reader of your blog gets diverse, deep, decisive, diligent, insight from vast experience of yours. Dear sir , Life disciplines us human being , Many subject at a various stage of life and each subjects have many chapters , Depending upon our interest and Goal , We can have many role models.

    The topic of blog “Pick your Role Model; Ape it till you Make it” is key element in achieving success while imitating one’s roles model. I also believe just by knowing success of a achiever we should not pick her/him as a role model rather we should focus on process of becoming her/him.

    Some time many / few characteristic of a person makes him/her role model for other . Let me categorically mention that you are not my Role model .But as a long time reader of yours , many characteristic of you i always Imbibe & imitates . Sir we all knows how highest regards you have for Dr APJ Abdul Kalam , But you mentioned in blog ” He was not your Role Model ” This is one among many characteristic ” courage & clarity” in you, I try to imbibe .Few others There is picture of your with your son eating food , on your FB timeline .Do visit it & Observe expression on both’s faces.First time you replied me on FB , is Answer to question of your university enrollment number (Point is you still remember then).

    Dear sir many things i learned from My Grand Father, My Mother / Father and Brother are worth imitating . On 11 May 2011 , I Got the opportunity to attend Dr Kalam’s Lecture at Vigyan Bhawan on National Technology day , Where he told respect and make your mother happy , And his words about Integrity and many thing made me to imitate. Dear Sir the last line, “So, by having a role model, you are not only making a statement about what you want to do with your life but are also elevating your consciousness to a higher level,” worth remembering always.

  19. The list of people you have known and met is awesome. What an amazing privilege you have had! Who is your role model is a question asked by many, mostly to youngsters. In our lifetime we tend to admire and appreciate certain people for what they are and stand for. We are in awe of a few for various reasons and they constantly give us renewed strength to chase our goals, to not give up on our aims and desires and motivate us into better ongoing performance. One such person who has motivated and still influencing thousands of lives is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, whose life story is more than just a good read for generations to come. He demonstrated so clearly the type of men we need more of in this world. It is a life marked by hard work, passion, service and eternal honour all for the glory of India.

    For more than two decades, I have had the privilege of playing my part in all of Dr. Kalam’s endeavours and I got to meet his inspirational colleagues and friends who worked tirelessly to make dreams come true and you are one of them Arun. I’m reminded of Dr. Kalam’s interactions with children and youth. He had the unique ability to offer encouragement, hope and support anytime to anybody. Who we look upto as our role models are an interpretation of who we are. Many find it extraordinary how strongly Dr. Kalam believed in his vision and how he would not allow himself to be demoralised by setbacks. Knowing that he is a role model for future leaders gives me hope for the future.

    Let’s take the time to celebrate people who have impacted our lives. Let’s seek to be humans who are worth celebrating.

  20. Thank you for a write-up on an important topic, Dr Tiwari; — this one ignited several thoughts! Why a role model; what makes for a role model; who should the younger generations choose as role model? Last, but not least, how should we shape ourselves to be role models?

    As you said, a role model is someone who embodies what you want to be personally and professionally. They are important because they motivate you in your low moments to ‘rise and shine’.

    I observed my parents acting appropriately in all familial, social and work-related/intellectual roles and situations — while maintaining a cheerful, confident and light-hearted attitude. I’m glad and grateful for the middle-class values they imbibed in us. They are my consistent role models in this lifetime.

    Then there were `fleeting role models’ all through life — depending on the `role’ I was then playing. In fact, I admired and learnt some thing from each person I came across — grandparents, teachers, sibling, aunts, uncles, friends, colleagues.

    From the elderly, I like to learn about their disciplines, routines, traditions followed…and patience, and to navigate life’s ups and downs taking everything in their stride. From the ordinary folk, I learn resilience and to quickly adapt. From children, the ability to speak the distilled truth straight from the heart, and forgiving and forgetting!

    In general though, a role model for me would need to be a composite of: an exterior that’s cheerful, genial, dignified, and unswayed by any extremes; They must have withstood real adversity(s) in life; found their source of strength and used its tools to stay afloat, and be alive and kicking. And they must be fulfilling all duties/roles with the necessary hard work, dedication and determination. A tall order! Yet, one does come across such people, and one looks up to them.

    Someone remarkable, who embodied all qualities of an ideal human being was Dr K Sivananda Murty of Bheemunipatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

    His life can be called blemishless — professionally as a government servant, as well as in the roles of householder, a family man, a host, citizen of the country, one who followed Indian traditions knowing fully the science behind them.

    He had an amazing sense of humour, deep knowledge on any subject, excellent command over language, and genuine compassion. But the Peace that he was — as well as his appropriateness of thought, word, action and intention in every situation and relationship — gave him a highly magnetic personality!

    He was of a very high spiritual stature. But that aside, just his life and routine are worth emulating in totality, one just felt. He emphasised “Aryan living” and one guesses his life and routine exemplified that. Each day, I hope to — and try to — adopt one tiny bit from his life.

  21. Very inspiring and worth imitating advise Arunji. Particularly for youngsters wishing to do well in life. There must be a role model and better still a mentor, (if you are lucky to have one). Successful people must volunteer to be mentors for bright young people as part of their social responsibility.

    Young generation has tremendous potential and energy to carry the world into the future, but their efforts need to be directed in the right direction. There is no use just blindly liking Cricketers and Bollywood stars. One needs to decide on the personal Goals in life and choose their Heroes accordingly.

    It is a very good habit to read autobiographies of Great people from various walks of life and learn from them and emulate in your own personal life by adapting to your scenario. Your blog and other writings elsewhere do the same job and keep inspiring people.

  22. Sir, your blog has become a telepathy channel for me. Only the other day travelling from Surat to Mumbai, as one of my frequent trips, I was wondering about absence of Role Models in modern times and this article arrived.

    I feel Role models originate from a demand for them. They emerge as a result of a general dissatisfaction within a community and as a reassurance when its people wonder, “Is that all there is? Is that all that we can be?” They put to rest insecurities about a group’s potential to succeed in society, and they actively lead its members to the fulfillment of that potential.

    Without a role model, a dissatisfied group’s breadth of vision is severed, obliterating its brightest and highest point. The possibilities are no longer endless but severely constrained. Conversely, a community with no need for a role model is secure with itself. It needs no symbol to look up to as a realization of its goals, for the group itself has already achieved the. There is no demand for a role model, and hence there is none. I got my answer!

  23. There are different types of role models. As a student my role models were teachers such as William Nesbit Chambers at Washington University, Isaiah Frank at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and James Casner at Harvard Law School (the role model for Professor Kingsfield, the famous professor in the movie, The Paper Chase). Great teachers hopefully see something special in you and give you positive career goals and objectives.

    As a lawyer lobbyist my role model was Thomas Hale Boggs, my partner at the law firm Patton Boggs, generally considered to be the premier lobbyist in the top lobbying firm in Washington, DC. He taught me how Washington, DC operates. As a combination man of words, man of action my model was Allen Weinstein, President of the Center for Democracy and later Director of the National Archives, my partner is many diplomatic missions around the world. As a politician my role model has always been Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, whose skill sets encompassed diplomacy horticulture, architecture, and education (as the founder of the University of Virginia). Positive role models are essential, but it is also important that you should be a positive role model for others.

  24. A refreshing and intense read, sir. The idea of having a living role model is practical and precious. The lovers of this blog would not face any cognitive load as far as choosing a role model for mastering the craft of writing is concerned. All the blogs posted here are worth rereading. However, this one is worth a reread every fortnight. It may be most relevant to the younger lot; those in the 60+ age bracket can relate to, relive and appreciate it differently. Those who knew you at Pantnagar University can connect even more. The portrait within the camera’s frame and the blog’s text forms a fantastic monolith.

    Building upon the idea of having a living and imitable role model allows us to have more than one role model. A close examination of elders in the neighbourhood, family and friends provides for others. It would also indicate those who could have done differently. There is additional value in having a living examplar whom you can watch and get inspiration on a day to day basis.

    I discovered another inspiration in the neighbourhood during my rehabilitation exercises after aortic valve replacement in 2016. An older man in his late eighties with spine support in his back was seen daily on my morning walks; I wished him when our trails crossed. Later while I graduated to doing open Gym exercises, I saw him there too, now his spine support was gone. I was inquisitive but did not muster enough courage to intrude his privacy. Once during exercises, he stopped me and told me to correct my body movement. Instead of feeling offended, I welcomed his suggestion.

    Soon Sh. Vishvamiter Rihin became my exercise mentor and buddy at the open gym; in the beginning, he was doing more pushups than me. He has a background of training commandos for the armed forces at the prestigious Khadagvasla Academy. Sh.Vishvamiter is very proud of not missing his physical exercise sessions for the last 35 years. The only exception being a few days when he broke L2 bone of his spine while a car hit him from the back or when stents in his heart were placed. He was back to his morning walk and exercise sessions as soon as his prescribed physiotherapy sessions were over. Two stents in his heart do not come in the way of his vigorous exercises.

    It is not physical strength but the ability and skill to relax in between exercises that makes him do more pushups. He also advised me to meditate every morning and watch the difference. I never imagined that just respectfully wishing him while we crossed our morning walks would be so rewarding.

    Now COVID has forced us to exercise separately, yet seeing someone in the nineties moving all 206 bones, sweating it out alone is an inspiration. Yes, he has improved upon his walking posture further.

    Humans excel in many aspects; this blog provoked me to search out for more inspirations and discovering them in my extended family, colleagues and their parents. Those who could have done differently would also be found.

    Finally, thanking our (shared) role model on mastering the art and craft of good writing professor Arun Tiwari. Please keep inspiring us with your bright ideas and themes until we make it.

  25. No single person can be an embodiment of all the virtues. One can be inspired by different persons for different virtues. No human being is infallible. When a role model falls from grace, it hurts most. In my view, one should create his/her own virtual role model embodying virtues that inspire him/her. When facing a dilemma, one should look at this virtual role model and its virtues and decide on the right path to be taken.
    I have been inspired by several persons in my life of 72 years. If I have to name one person, who I could call as my role model, would be late Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri, the ex Prime Minister of India.

  26. Namo Namah Arunji.. Interesting new topic this time. Wonderful thought of “ape it till you make it”.. As the saying goes शिवो भूत्वा शिवं यजेत – The best way to worship Shiva is to be one like him..

    Arunji, do you feel there is also a problem with new generation in terms of identifying the right role models. Blindly aping the tollywood/bollywood/hollywood stars or some international sports players or pop musicians (who may themselves have their own lives completely messed up) without any contextual relevance seem to be taking lot from the newer generation on confused paths. Will be good if sometime there can be an follow-up article on what kind of role-models deserved to be aped / followed to make the best out of this life..

  27. An excellent article Prof. Tiwari! One that again causes the reader to think and reflect. I believe that who one admires and chooses as a ‘role model’ changes over the course of a person’s life as he/she matures.

    As a young MBA, I would say after reading “Art of the Deal”, that Donald Trump was my ‘role model’. But that was clearly guided by the fact he was rich. Every young MBA wants to be rich, right? If I had the vision to realize this business person may become President of the U.S. I may have followed him more closely over the years.

    When I co-founded Advanced Display Systems in 1992 with Dr. Bao-gang Wu (Nuclear physics & liquid crystal physics), I learned to admire Dr. Wu for his great technological innovations and desire to do good for society by inventing great things. I recall him saying once “God made the world fair – with technology we can beat the big guys”. Hearing that from an atheist was interesting, but the message was clear and has driven me since. Dr. Wu retired to Beijing in 2002; I fortunately had an opportunity to visit him in 2017 there.

    Finally, I wish I had the wisdom at a younger age to realize the wonderful man my father was. I strive to be more like him. He was incredibly kind to all people and loved the Lord up until his death on his 100th. birthday.

  28. If one needs answers of many of his own question, he may not get those in the article, but he will certainly pick up the techniques of finding those. The very common question is who should be our role model? The author nicely pointed out that it’s you, only who can choose role model because you know what you want to do and how you want to do. The best is the explanation how one’s ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude raises one’s conscience level.

  29. An excellent and feel good article sir. I feel there isn’t just one role model in our lives. We pick up things from childhood, and our version of a role model just keeps evolving as we age. Inspiration can be taken from number of people despite age, qualification, work, also not just from people who are successful, but failed too. Failures can be real models too. It is all the about the traits that we choose, that would make us feel better, want to do better. The qualities that we would want to possess in order to become the best version of ourselves.

    If I had to pick one, it would be my great grandmother, Vunnava Lakshmi Bai. She fought tirelessly for women’s empowerment. She believed that women need to be independent, and that women are capable of many things beyond household duties. She co founded an educational institution, Sri Sarada Niketan for young girls. She created such positive impact in the lives of people. I sincerely hope, I get to do that, make a difference.

  30. Dear Arun, You have touched a very important aspect of life in your write-up this time. Human being is the only creature who has to be taught and trained by parents, gurus, guardians, friends, colleagues, coworkers, superiors……whole life we yearn to learn. Our personality, thinking is acquired one. Other creatures learn by themselves, nature has programmed like this. A calf learns swimming naturally, no training required but human baby has to be taught and trained in swimming.

    While in SBI, we had a very strong and efficient training system for employees. Training imparted focused on sharing of knowledge, skill development and amendment in attitude. The attitude is the most important aspect of a person’s personality. I was mesmerised by the courage and fearlessness of one of my chairman Honorable R K Talwar. What a upright Banker he was. His resolve to do righteous influenced me deeply. Till date he remains my Role Model and in tough times, I still take inspiration from his simple but principled behavior.

    Construction of a person’s personality is affected by the events one has faced in his/her life. All of us knowingly or unknowingly choose our role model while we grow up. Role model may be a celebrity or a successful person or a colleague who has casted his/her shadow on you. And sometimes it may be more than one. Who you choose as your role model will certainly depend on your attitude.

    ‘Only your children can dissect you with such neat and deep precision.’ You have expressed the experience so accurately and immaculately. Yes, it is very much true, because they know you closely and want to learn from you. You are writing your fortnightly write-ups so well; it elevates thinking to a higher level. My dear friend! Continue your pious and sincere work. Wish you Good luck in your endeavours.

  31. To ape is an innate quality a human aquires to imbibe the traits, personality and even learnt and observed behaviour in trying to become what he wants to. Thus a role model is created and a cult around these aspirations gets crystallized to create a halo around the role model by sea of followers that gets grown to its zenith. At the end of the day what is imbibed and achieved in self determines the future how he is going to bloom.

    Role models are necessary, but improving one’s self to position himself as a better citizen contributing to the growith of society and its values is the need. India Today at cross roads needs more role models to inspire to lead this world. In titreya Upanishad…it is said… “Subeejam Sukhetre Jayate Samoadhyate”.

  32. Several role models have been a source of inspiration and influence in my life. Arun Ji, you have named many of them in your blog. The life work of people like Verghese Kurien, APJ Abdul Kalam, M.S. Swaminathan,N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, Fazle Hasan Abed (BRAC), Muhammad Yunus, K. Anji Reddy etc. will continue to influence young people in years to come.

    At local level, our parents and teachers serve as important role models for us. Since we can observe their lives, habits and thought process from a close distance, they leave a deep imprint on our lives. In turn, we as parents, teachers and mentors have opportunity to serve as role models for young people.

  33. Thank you Sir for sharing this wonderful and heart touching article. Everyone needs a role model in their life. Someone they can look upto and decide their paths and take decisions inspired by the decisions taken by them.

    I have been motivated by various people in all phases of life, be it someone involved in business, teaching, serving or spirituality. But only one person has inspired me to achieve and work towards what I aspire to be.

    My grandfather (Mr. H.C. Mathur), was a wonderful person. He had the determination, faith, capability and the courage to dream differently. Having lost his parents at a very tender age, he started selling newspapers in order to educate himself. He performed his duties with utmost sincerity and was proud of himself being a self made man. His entire life story taught me 3 things – Dare to dream differently and tread on the path less taken, have faith and work sincerely and never desire for more than what is required in terms of necessities.

    If i could, I would go back in time and make him write his own biography. And as you rightly said, I will fake it till I make it. I will fake the way I think and function in order to mirror his thinking, his determination and perseverance.

  34. Pick your role model…it left me in tears. Need I say more but I shall for it talks about two ‘people’ I admire the most. V. Kurien runs through the tapestry of my professional life like a thread sewn into it. Within days of joining The Times of India in Ahmedabad as a reporter in 1973, I was assigned Kurien as a ‘beat’ to regularly cover and monitor. In half a century of journalism I have never been overawed by the high and mighty but Kurien is a love-affair that has not ended even after his mortal remains were confined to the flames.

    Kuriens and Kalams do not pass away. They lie embalmed in the history of their defining country. I covered him to the very end. He was not merely the father of the milk revolution in India, he was a numero uno national builder and a true fakir-friend of the poor of Hindustan. A lovely coincidence was that my longest and most personal interaction with Dr Kalam took place at IRMA where Kurien had invited him to deliver the convocation address. Imagine talking to the two personas one admires the most together!

    Any Indian-child or charlatan – who gets to touch anything that either of the two may have merely looked at endearingly, is blessed. We are honoured that they walked our part of the earth. I remember once accompanying a lady colleague to interview Mrs Kurien. To a question whether she had any regrets in life, Mrs Kurien gave a very touching answer. “Yes, one. I wish i were a cow, my husband would have spent more time with me.”

    You got me emotional Arun!

  35. Tiwariji, I totally enjoyed this article. What a wonderful process it is, to meet all these inspiring people and collect their experience and incorporate into your own life. And I totally agree when you said that we are our own role models.

    I also feel that at these role models are milestones in our progress and not the end destination. I have felt that we look up to someone and try and improve ourselves. At one point we see that we are nearly there and look up to someone else. Don’t you think?

    Especially in Surgery, where the entire system runs on the basis of mentor ship, we do look up to our stars time and again.

  36. Arun Bhai sab, It is great getting reminded of the days passed and multiple conversations with you! Your blog reminds me of one of the long discussion with you during our trip to Bhutan about my mentor in life, Dr B.L. Talwar, Professor of surgery, in Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

    A great human being whom I respected the most after my mother! He is an embodiment of dedication to profession, truthfulness, kindness to patient irrespective of any other factor! I tried all my life to imitate him for his qualities of – “do the best as he/she has come to you with trust to get the best out of you with pain and suffering, and you will never be wrong if you treat him/her as you do to your kin.”

    Whether I was successful in ‘Aping’ him to fulfil my desire of following my lifetime ‘hero’ or not can only be decided by none other than my patient/s! Life is like a relay race and I’m not sure whether I passed on the torch to the next generation or not but I honestly tried!

  37. Indeed you have well explained the importance and significance of Role Model . In young age , a person may have a Sports Person , Film Star , Writer , Painter so on and so forth as Role Model. My experience over time evolved as I was is Coonoor, Ooty for 5 years, just after marriage and the honour of being neighbour of Field Marshall Sam Bahadur Manekshaw. I was mesmerised by his Simplicity, Energy, Hope, Integrity and Honesty. Till date he remains my Role Model and in tough times, I still take inspiration from recalling his Persona.

  38. Amazing article sir, especially in this time. For me my role-model is my father (Shri Narendra Kumar Tiwari). I have seen me how he always maintained his composure in every situation. He always wanted to be a teacher but due to family problems (he lost his parents and PhD guide within 1 year) but he never showed that thing throughout his life (how he missed teaching) and chose to join government job. We belong to middle class family were money is a major problem but he always tried to help needy people without bothering anything. I feel that if I get his wisdom definitely I will feel that my life is successful. For me success is not about money, knowledge even popularity but what legacy we have started as an individual. If I try to impact someone’s life in a good way then definitely I will feel myself lucky and I have learned this from my father.

    He never took bribe and after his retirement when some officer told him to bribe to process his files of pension and PF fund he denied and which results into no pension and PF money for more than 1.5 years. He never compromised with his belief and thoughts. One day when I asked from him why is doing this he just told me that “We are educated people and its our duty to maintain its sanity” and by not taking bribe and not supporting bribe is expected from us (its not unnatural, although society have made this like that). He always told me to follow “Hope for the best and ready for the worst”. Thus, for me he is my role model and I will follow my own path in life but will try to follow the wisdom given by my father. He is my hero.

  39. Thank you very much for a welcome change by your refreshing blog today. It is so very important to have someone we can look up to and aspire to be like, a person who embodies the success and happiness, personal characteristics, behaviors, and mannerisms we hope to someday see within ourselves and have others notice within us. Unfortunately such people are not many at present.

    So, I have this idea of having a anti-role model and not to be like it. It may sound strange or counterintuitive at first but having an anti-role model in your life can be a good thing. Seeing people in frail health even during their youth, broken families, unemployment, and addictions turning good people into wreckage can be a strong motivator to live a simple and uncluttered life.

  40. Excellent and most needed article. I am learning from my son that being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. The lockout period helped me immensely to learn that often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living, they forget to make a life.

    But a father must not become a mother, which is a very different role. Child needs both. A father has to be a, a distant authority figure who can never be pleased. Otherwise, how will children ever understand the concept of God?

  41. Sir, The lack of positive role models has turned much of today’s youth into disrespectful, lazy, spoilt, ambition-lacking. Instead of improving their day-today lives by following good examples, we have glorified film stars, sports people and politicians marketed as role models instead of engineers, scientists, medical doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants and lawyers fighting for justice for the poor and powerless, who hardly get attention. Everyone wants power, riches and fame without any idea of hard work and struggle to get there. Your photo reminded me of the purity and simplicity of Allahabad University, where I graduated.

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