[December 31, 2022] Since this year is coming to a close, and after more than eight years of blogging, I wondered what I should write about on this last day of 2022. As regular readers know, about six months ago, I shifted focus from senior leadership to pursuing truth. Wherever that led would be a true adventure and more meaningful than posting the many lessons I learned in my military career. I do that too, but less so nowadays.
I thought, hey, I can write about my most popular blog post, why it was so popular, what folks were saying about it, and the meaning the post has to folks. It was easy to get into my leadership blog statistics and ferret out that information. My most popular blog post is:
‘You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!’ – link here
This was no surprise. I had seen it as popular as soon as the article was posted. But the total comments were not that unusual, perhaps the total a little more than average. And the quality of comments was not unique. So what made this blog post so popular, as measured by the number of people who read it? Now that is a great question worth exploring.
Briefly, Gunga Din is a short 84-line poem by Rudyard Kipling (Nobel Prize winner) written from the view of an English soldier in India. The poem is about an Indian water-bearer (a low-status Bhishti) who saves the soldier’s life but is soon shot and killed. In the poem’s final three lines, the British soldier regrets the abuse he dealt to Din and admits that Din is the better man of the two.
So why is this article so popular, although the poem is undoubtedly famous? I believe the reason is twofold.
One, this is the story of the unsung hero; who, despite his lowly position in life (a Bhishti Indian water-bearer) and his flaws, Din stands firm for what he believes in and does so while facing almost certain death (and is eventually killed), being mistreated and abused by the British, and while attending to the wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Only at the end of the poem do we see a British soldier (the poem’s narrator) who realizes that Gunga Din is the better man of the two. This is a hero-meta narrative that we thirst for in our most popular stories.
Two, I think the article appealed to those who empathize with Gunga Din. We can put ourselves into his place in the hot, dangerous battlefield and yet feel that we too can (or should) be able to endure danger as we stand against evil. It means we can appeal to the dangerous and strong man within us, doing our duty, and upholding our lot in life by being responsible to the end.
I end the article with this comment.
Whenever I tell someone, ‘You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!’ it’s a compliment. It will always be a compliment because it is referring to Din, an Indian Bhishti of unexpected character and bravery. So, the next time someone refers to you using this phrase, thank them for the compliment and their insight.
Gunga Din possesses something we all desire and very few possess. He encapsulates the strength of character we all know and want. He is brave in the face of evil.
NOTE: The thumbnail I used for this article is from the 1939 film Gunga Din, starring Cary Grant as British sergeant Archibald Cutter and Sam Jaffe as Gunga Din.
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