I was touched to observe Mohamed Zakariyya receive the President's lifetime award for public service on Maldives last Republic day. He was my friend in health, and of life-long dedication to the health service of this Nation. His was the pioneering days when the dreaded diseases of Maldives were rampant and logistics was extremely difficult when small sailing vessels were the only conveyance available to commute among the dispersed islands of our nation. He was one of those pioneers. He is a true local hero - unsung until that day perhaps.
It is not uncommon for heroes to emerge from the bottom of society's rungs. In fact most of the time, it is ordinary people in ordinary situations that rise to being the hero. Rarely is the true hero from the stock of human beings at the top. There is no reason to be a hero when there is no need to be a hero or when there is no cause dire enough to engage in. It's out of the stresses of life that the imperative to change emerges into the mind of the hero to be and supplies the mental energy to go ahead on a difficult journey. Yet, when one has achieved hero-hood there is nowhere else to go than to sink down. Many heroes linger in the limelight for a while - some short and some long - depending on the effort made by the hero to remain relevant. Yet for the different pinnacles each reaches, the hero's journey treks a similar path. It is always an afflicted and disdained individual that moves through life and meets the hardships that imparts the resilience to that persevering mind. Along the way the hero to be meets a mentor who provides the wisdom and skill to move beyond the problems faced into the vista of solutions. With the inspiration imbibed, the perpetrator moves to hero-hood. Yet, this pole position is hard to keep for long.
The moment a great feat is achieved its attendant feelings of glory and satisfaction begin to pale and the downward slide begins. As in the example of the hero who reaches the summit of a great mountain, there is no path but down. Sometimes lingering there becomes for many the next objective even when everyone has stopped looking. Being up there is no more of an achievement but many persist to keep being up there when everyone has stopped looking to him in admiration. So the hero’s path is from there to help others chart that path to glory. It is when the hero stops to allow others from being heroes that society ceases to exude its exuberance and its effervescence and life becomes stale. For the essence of life is renewal. Even heroes need to be regenerated for society to keep the cycle going.
Heroic deeds or rising to being a hero may be fueled by varying mental agendas; the right frame of mind is necessary to nurture the heroes of tomorrow by the hero of today being the role model. Good intentions that seek the good for society make for good hero-hood, and bad one also gain fame in what we may call infamy – and yes, some see them as heroes too. Those who exhort others to goodness and progress that will chart the future of life are the ones we need; not those whose hero-hood is used as block to the path of other's progress -- just to linger longer and bask in the glory that is the top. Life is a cycle and life is dynamic. This is also true for heroes. Each brings a flicker of brilliance to illuminate life's path so that others can be shown the way forward. For this, heroes must be of the kind that show good example. Those heroes on billboards and those that warm the seats of high positions of authority must see this edict of goodness to be their guiding principle that will transform others to goodness too. Such behaviour will keep the brilliance of the hero-hood lasting and sustaining even when other heroes take to the summit. We must nurture the heroes that give hope to our young people to be the heroes of tomorrow. That is the essence of nation building. That is the thought that must shine in everyone’s mind on this our National Day.