People expect their heroes to be perfect. But I draw inspiration from the imperfect heroes; the ones who stumble and fall, but then get up and try, again and again.
It must have been the year 2000, when I found myself falling for the beauty of Formula 1. I waxed eloquent on the names I knew then. But it was a friend, who told me to watch Ayrton Senna race. I downloaded every video I could find, instantly stunned by the art and passion in his driving. I found myself wishing I had started watching F-1 earlier, just so I could have seen him race when he was alive. And yet, through it all, I could never bring myself to watch his final race, at Imola on May 1.
It took me two years to be able to do that; to sit down one night and watch the Imola race. It broke my heart. But today, I don’t want to talk about Imola. I don’t want to remember those details. Instead, I want to remember a man who lived life, truly lived. How many of us can say that?
“Fear is part of people’s life. Some of them don’t know how to face it, others — where I include myself — learn coexisting with it or face it, not as a negative thing, but like a autoprotection sensation”
Later, in 2005 as a part of a writing assignment at the University of Iowa, I wrote an article on Senna, interviewing his fans around the world. I know now that was just an excuse. In so many ways, I was trying to connect with people around the world who knew him as I know him. They are the ones who know why Senna fans always laugh when it rains on F1 Sunday. They are the ones who understand that smile when we talk of 1993 in Donington, and why I say I draw strength and inspiration from the 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix.
I wasn’t disappointed. I exchanged emails with Luis Rivadeneira, a civil engineer from Guatemala who said, “Senna to me is the greatest driver of all times, one who won races with second class cars, one who always fought even if he didn’t have the chance to win, one who taught us a different way to see life.”
Viviane Marinho, a schoolteacher from Sao Paolo wrote, “He was special, with all that passion for what he did. You loved him or you hated him, there was no in-between. He was not only a ‘driver’ or some other anodyne sportsman, who only wants to make money and be the anodyne ‘nice guy’ who everybody likes and whom the Powers That Be pat on the head.”
And then, there was Maria Curzi from Argentina who said, “He was and is and will be the mirror I always see to know if what I am doing is right or wrong.”
Senna will always mean different things to different people. He is like that. For me, he is an inspiration, my hero, who always followed his heart. It never mattered what people said or did. He raced with a passion and he lived with passion. He followed his dreams and he never gave up.
More than anything else, he is perhaps, one of the reasons why I started this blog. Because, as I struggled to understand what I wanted from life and from myself, I realized what my dreams were. He gave me courage to venture down a scary path.