“Weekend with Ramesh” is a television programme aired every weekend on Zee Kannada, a regional channel that caters to the Kannada speaking population of India and abroad. The programme has won millions of hearts over the last few years spanning 3 years of successful programming. It’s a programme that celebrates the life and successes of Kannada speaking (Kannadiga) celebrities including film actors, directors and often theater personalities, businessmen and people from other professions. The format found instant success as it gave a glimpse of the lives of the people the general public loves.

Last month, Rakshith Shetty, a relatively new actor, director and producer in the Kannada film industr, was brought in as the guest. Twitter fans of “rival” stars Yash trolled Rakshith Shetty, questioning his eligibility to be featured on a show that celebrates success through struggle. Rakshith’s fans replied in kind, but that’s irrelevant here. What’s relevant is the word ‘struggle’.

What’s success without struggles? What should be considered as struggle? These are some questions that popped up in my mind when I read about the tussle between the fanclubs. After having watched three seasons of the show, and listening to close to 50 different people sharing the stories behind their successes, I tried gauging the perception of people as to who struggled most and who truly deserved to be there on that seat.

The general perception is that true struggle consists of poverty, physical, mental or sexual abuse, orphaned children, starvation in one form or the other. While it’s not necessary for every struggler to go through these ordeals, but at least one of these ordeals is enough to tag a person as someone who has ‘struggled a lot’ to get there.

Another way to interpret this perception is that people think a person belonging to a well established family or from a stable upper middle class / rich background don’t have to struggle because of their appetite for risks or because of they are ‘born with a silver spoon’ and are M-powered.

Rakshit Shetty comes from a stable middle class background and hasn’t seen poverty. He hasn’t seen starvation in his quest for success. He hasn’t slept in a bus station or a train station trying to become an actor.  He was a software engineer before he turned to acting. But how fair would it be to discredit his enormous success in the film industry? He became an overnight sensation when his third movie Simple Aag Ondh Love Story became a blockbuster. He won a Karnataka State Award for First Film by A Director for his movie Ulidavaru Kandante. But, it wasn’t a rosy path for him. His first two films flopped. He had to wait for 3 years to see a hit. Most aspirants don’t get a chance in movies and those who do return home after their first failure.

Struggle means different things for different people. For Umashree, raising her two kids as a single mother, after being thrown out by her husband and family, while trying to gain foothold in the theater was a struggle. For B Jayashree, living up to the name of her grandfather Gubbi Veeranna, a pioneer of Kannada theater, after going through sexual abuse by step-father, domestic violence by a drunkard husband, raising a girl child as a single mother by weaving wired baskets is a struggle. Actor Sudeep’s persistence in waiting for close to 5 years before seeing his first big blockbuster while being written off by the industry many a times, is a struggle for him. For a businessman like Vijay Sankeshwar, getting out of his comfort zones and challenging himself time and again to eventually establish a 1700 Crore logistics empire – going from 1 truck to 4500 trucks in 30 years – is a struggle. And for Mukesh Ambani, someone who didn’t have to do much to inherit one of the world’s largest business conglomerate, the story of building his business empire into a mammoth double the size of what he inherited from his father is going to have many a struggle in it.

I too am a struggler. I have struggled to fix my life, to get me out of my depression, to reduce 10 kilos in two months, to rebuild a broken relationship with my parents – to eventually reach a state where I am able to confidently blog about it. All these things had once kept me away from not just blogging, but also from a social life.

Struggle is not subjective, someone’s efforts shouldn’t be classified as struggle or not, based on your perception of struggle. A person’s success shouldn’t be discredited based on that person’s background. Next time when you downplay someone’s success, think twice. Every person has to fight her way up, one way or the other.

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