Why do we wait so long to honour our legends?

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K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: We recently saw the veteran thespian Pran getting the Dada Saheb Phalke award for his contribution to Indian cinema over nearly five decades.

As a child I used to think that he must be the meanest and vilest person on earth as I used to see him only as the traditional ‘bad man’ who could do no good. That was until I grew up a little to see him doing some good too in his later movies where someone perhaps thought of transforming his character!

But what all grownups now agree upon is how nice a gentleman he was in his real life whenever he was off the film sets.

While all his fans are very happy that he got his due when he was selected for what is considered the highest and most coveted award of the land in his field, I fail to understand why the honour was bestowed on him so late in his life when the ravages of time and old age have ensured that he can never relish the happiness of the honour in full measure or for long?

When he had stopped acting more than a decade ago and had retired and when we all knew what a magnificent innings he had played, where was the need to wait so long before recognising his contribution to the film industry?

It is not just with Pran that this has happened.

We routinely see many honours being awarded to many very accomplished and talented people long after they can feel fully rewarded for their roles. On many occasions we have seen the person passing away very soon after receiving the honours. And it is not just in our country that this happens.

Even in the case of the Nobel Prize we routinely see that many laureates are given the award years after their contribution to their fields is recognised when they can only totter to the stage in a confused daze supported by others or in wheelchairs.

Is it necessary for us to wait decades before we acknowledge their greatness in a much belated show of magnanimity that holds no meaning for them? I think if we love someone we should say so when it can make the person feel happy. Otherwise what purpose does it serve?

Do think about it.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column for Star of Mysore, where an enlarged version of this piece first appeared)

Photograph: courtesy Press Trust of India