When I think of a superhero, I imagine a tall, muscular man with a strong jaw and righteous face. I think of a sleek, athletic, agile woman with lush hair and a face worthy of a beauty pageant crown. They move gracefully without ever having tripped over the flying cape around their shoulders, strong enough to carry the weight of the world. Trouble arises, they dive in, supernatural powers at full, whip up the bad guy and his mercenaries as they emerge out of a plume of smoke, their hair untouched, their skin glowing without a trace of dirt, their clothes unwrinkled and a beautiful smile, with all thirty two set of teeth gleaming white; to a cheering crowd. Yet, here I am, already having scratched my chin sore while simply pressing buttons on my keyboard.
As kids, we grew up cheering to this same image of stark perfection. We threw themed parties and raced across rooms in our flying caps, though not without tripping, as we envisioned ourselves to be one of the heroes. Somehow, those brightly colored costumes gave us the conviction, that we too could be perfect, we too could save the world, or better yet, change it. But as we grew up, a head full of expectations and a heart full of desires, our not so perfect world stood to break down all the dreams we had of a secret life with a flying cape. Reality seemed much bleaker without an action themed song playing in the background, in fact, it almost seemed mundane. Reality was gulping a cup of coffee in the morning to jeer your body awake, reality meant opening up our laptops and setting up our desks as these actions become second nature, reality was going about the same routine work, each day, day after day. To top it all, it did not mean we spring up from our beds with perfect smiles or dewy skin, rather it meant droopy eyes and snoozed alarms, scattered hair and tired limbs.
Soon, these dreams and our heroes became labelled as figments of fantasy, and our desire to change the world, unrealistic; as hefty books, assignments and laptop keys replace our art book doodles and crayons.
But is changing the world really as revolutionary as it sounds? Is it just fighting off the villains, warding off our enemies, going on covert missions, and always emerging victorious? As I look around myself, I see that more often than not, the opposite is true. I see students staying up all night collecting resources to help others during the pandemic with bags under their eyes, I see people feeding the poor in the scorching sun, with tanned skin and messy hair, I see doctors and nurses helping people in need with blotched hands and tired limbs, I see people volunteering at old age homes, their eyes deep-set with laugh lines, I see people marching in numbers for just causes with wide smiles despite their wrinkled clothes; and I see no perfection in these unsung heroes, but I do see a fire for change, for victory, through these small acts. I understand what it means when people say not all heroes where capes and I finally realize exactly why they do not need to.
By VIDHI BATRA / JUNE, 2021