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John's guest column

Courtesy :IndiaFM
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Okay, I may sound like a grandpa when I say this but I think the most important thing for the youth today is education. It gives you the power to choose between right and wrong. It teaches you the value of humility. That's what I tell everyone, be it in my old college (Jai Hind in Mumbai) when they sometimes ask me to address the students, or an admirer. It's something my father taught me-after my BA in economics, I did an MBA with specialisation in marketing and worked in Enterprise Nexus for two years. The experience made me cautious for life, some would even say miserly. Even now, I may travel business class but I still wait three days to bag the perfect deal. I still balance my accounts with my chartered accountant. I still... ... think Re 1 is 100 paise.

And why not? Not too long ago, I was earning Rs 13,800 a month. If I didn't report to work on time at 9 a.m. for three days in a month, a half-day's salary was deducted. It would cut me to the quick.

So, when I see the hunger in someone's eyes for stardom, for making it big, I want to tell them: yes it's good, be hungry. There are so many things one can aspire to be-singers, business leaders, newsreaders, actors. Shows like Indian Idol and Nach Baliye have added fuel to fire. Everyone now wants to be famous. And remember, those who say they don't are lying. Everyone wants their name to be whispered when they walk through a corridor. So go out there, be a rock star or a scientist. Do what you really want to.

But, I would urge everyone to also be aware. This is important because certain things cannot be changed overnight. So now, when it is said that I have become a star, I really do not feel disconnected from reality. All my friends are those I had made in kindergarten in Bombay Scottish School. They are now in Australia, Singapore, the US and Dubai. They have nothing to do with the (film) industry and I imbibe a lot from them-it keeps me politically and socially aware. It helps that my pastime is to watch the news and read it.

 Remember, intelligence shows. You won't be embarrassed in any social circle if you are able to hold your own in any conversation. Second, always be prepared. Do your homework. For instance, when I take on an advertisement campaign, I look at the product category. I see whether it fits my profile. When I choose a movie, I try to do the best I can, given that I don't have the comfort of the best director or the best production house. I go by my gut. Yet, the Indian audience is so forgiving-it forgets the bad work and remembers only the good. Look at me. I am not the world's best actor. Nor do I have the world's greatest body. Yet, here I am.

Third, remember to respect your seniors. It could be an old person crossing the road or the teacher in your classroom. And yes, stay healthy, eat well, do your exercises. There are no short cuts to looking good. Keep your life simple. And be grateful. Today's audience can see you for what you are. They don't see you only in the movies or on television. They see you with your girlfriend, with your parents, sometimes they even see you in hospital. It's something I am always aware of. You cannot fool them. They can gauge when you shake their hand to make an impression and when you do it because you want to reach out. I can wear dark glasses and surround myself with bodyguards. But I choose not to. I choose to smile back. I choose not to walk away.

Forgive me for using a motorcycling metaphor. But remember, it's not only about the bike. You have to care about the road on which you are travelling, as well. Wear your helmet, do something about the potholes on the road and, please, observe traffic rules.

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