Thursday, February 9, 2017

No Theme for a Dream

There are moments when I miss being crazy about someone, something. Anything. It’s not that the Dil doesn’t dhak dhak. It does. But it just doesn’t say dhak-dhak-go.

I’m talking about fandom. Not being a fan of any celebrity or a team, I’m clueless about what being an avid fan is. And I’m not exactly proud of it, heavens no. I mean, I’ve seen my son save money to go to Europe to watch Arsenal play. And I know of friends who will happily endure hail and sun to watch their favourite star. 

What then, could be the reason for this cold detachment? Is it because my Leo smugness stops me from being starry eyed? Or is it genetic? 

There are, of course, reasons for doubting my genes. As a teen, I remember the excitement when Hema Malini was shooting in the vicinity. When giggly friends flashed their autograph books, I succumbed to peer-pressure. Eighties was a time when most men would do anything to get a glimpse of ‘dream girl’. So the following day, when dad was getting ready for work, I tried my luck, “Papa, Hema Malini is shooting close by. Don’t you want to meet her?” 
To which he said, “Why should I meet her? She can come and meet me if she wants.” 
I thought he was joking. But he added solemnly, “But only over the weekend.” 

As I huddle across a bonfire of memories, I’m reminded of meeting Rajiv Gandhi at Vigyan Bhawan and Vinod Khanna at an airport. While other girls etched the moment in Kodak, I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to push my way to get a picture. 
This is not to say my childhood was devoid of silly crushes and heartthrobs. Like regular teens, there were posters of movie stars and sportsmen for they joined the dots between dreams, hopes and aspirations. Yet, for some reason, adulation in all its waxing and waning shades lurked only in the shadows. 

Cut to present. We are watching Australian Open on television. The husband is cheering for Federer, the son for Nadal. When Federer wins the first set, the young man goes into a shell. The tension is palpable. If Federer wins, we go out for dinner declares the senior. Why not go out for dinner regardless of the outcome, I say. Since I want peace to win, I repeat, ‘Haha we are here to watch good tennis, both are equally good, both deserve to win….blah blah’. There is glacial silence. So I say I’m kidding, I have my favourite too. But I won’t tell. I look more sheepish than sheep. Finally when Federer wins the line call and the trophy, the young man finds refuge in his room. No dinner for me, he mutters. And the senior FedEx fan is happy for the entire state of Haryana. 
So much for good tennis.

Why get emotionally involved with someone you’ve never met? I really couldn’t care less if Salman goes scot-free, behind the bars or fathers a new baby Kardashian. I really couldn’t care less if Raees crosses Dangal’s earnings, does better than Sultan or wins an Oscar. All I want is a good movie or a great game. No heartbreaks, no heartaches.
That said, Indians are perhaps the most emotionally involved fans in the whole wide world. Priyanka Chopra confirmed this in her recent 3076th interview with an American talk show host. Above all, a South Indian fan is the very definition of the word ‘fan’. Nowhere in the world do hundreds of people die of shock when their idol dies. The rest of the world, including Justin Bieber fans can never dream of constructing his temple or tearing his posters if he names his baby Taimur.
Whatever it is, look at the bright side. If you are not a Jabra fan, you never have to get stuck in a stampede when SRK waives at you from the Rajdhani. You never have to skip dinner because your favorite team lost a nail-biter- unless it’s India. On second thoughts, eat less, why skip? And you never have to suffer a panic attack when you see your muse in flesh and blood.

It’s final. As I wobble into antiquity, I’m not running after anyone. Not that it matters, or they care, but if ShahRukh or Salman and Federer or Nadal want to drop in for a cup of tea, they are welcome home. But only over a weekend. After ten, before eight.

Image Courtesy:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Jodi No 1

Given that Bade Miyan and Chote Miyan in UP have been replaced by Ek Aur Ek Gyarah, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav appeared before the press in colour coordinated kurtas and jackets. Both Yuva, both Yuvraj. Same to same. But Akhilesh's is bigger than Rahul's. The nose that is.
Common', if apples and oranges are sold from the same political shop, who can resist comparing. Anyway, if you missed the presser, here is what happened.

The Prince bereft of a kingdom pretended to be a political pro. Flashing his dimples, he kept blabbering about his Sangam with the rebel Prince. The Dostana on display was hard to miss. Wait. Focus. Stop thinking about Jhon Abraham’s toned man lumps in yellow shorts. I’m not implying anything. It was Rahul who called this Sangam an alliance of hearts. Whatever that means. Go figure.

Rahul also mentioned Ganga Jamuna Sarawati, but I don’t know who was Ganga, who was Jamuna, and who was Saraswati. Unless Mayawati ji was also planning to wash hands in behti Ganga to cleanse UP of divisive forces. But Akhilesh clarified that he can’t give space to Behenji because “she takes up too much space”. “Even her symbol is elephant,” said Pinocchio. Oops, so impolite, that!

Haath Mera Saathi but Haathi Not Mera Saathi? 

When pen wielders and mic munchers reminded Rahul of his past,  he said, “History is not static, it keeps changing." Phew!! Wonder why he makes these ho hum statements.
Many are still making sense of the Aloo Ki Factory that he plans to install at the speed of Escape Velocity to Empower Women. Phrases of the kind Rahul ji serves us are as precious as Arvind Kejriwal’s movie reviews and Amar Sins phone sex with Bips.

So AkhiRa or RaAkhi, whichever way you want to look at, are being promoted as UP ke Ladke. Good. Whatever it takes to stop Modi from winning the Dangal. UP, a state bigger than most countries needs deserving boys and not the UP ke ladke jinse galti ho jati hai. For all we know or care, Rahul may be lip synching this duet with Akhilesh but the song was originally sung by – Dimple and Dimple. I mean dimpled Priyanka Gandhi and Dimple Yadav, UP ki bahurani. That Priyanka communicated with Dimple was acknowledged by none other than Ahmad Patel. 
 Priyanka Gandhi and Dimple Yadav, they say, are the architects of this Hum Saath Saath Hain act. Which, actually is a tacit admission of the failure of Rahul’s leadership.

The BJP can put on a brave face, but Jai-Veeru bonhomie is likely to give Thakur some sleepless nights. Given that BJP has neither a credible CM face nor ground work to show, it won’t be easy to get votes on the basis of their Sultan and his promises. For all my support for the PM, narrow chauvinistic pounding by his MLAs where Hindu women are asked to pop quintuplets to beat the minorities is not necessarily an election winner. The anxiety was evident when Mr Katiyar said that if Congress had Priyanka, the BJP too had many pretty faces like Kirron Kher. 
Well, ahem. Dimple for dimple. Let the men folk decide. I said nothing.

It’s amusing how Priyanka Gandhi emerges in crisp cottons during UP elections like Rekha does in gold Kanjeevaram during Filmfare awards. Many are calling Priyanka’s resemblance with Indira Gandhi a trump card. Really? It's like saying Robert Vadra should sing because he resembles Freddie Mercury.  
Anyway, now that Priyanka has emerged on the political minefield, can Vadra bomb be far behind? Despite his cases, Vadra ji could have been an asset for his wife, but what to do? Sirjee is a little short in the humility department.

 If Akhilesh and Rahul are able to Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Shivpal Yadav may have to say Sorry Bhai, and Raees Amar Singh might be Airlift-ed back to UK.

May the Kaabil team win.

Watch the PC here

Image Courtesy: ABP Live,

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Break the Cycle

I have spent last few weeks visiting places, talking to strangers, playing with kids and meeting relatives I never knew I had. With my brother and his family in India, it was a family re-union of sorts. Missed birthdays, milestone anniversaries, ignored achievements - we celebrated them all. And you know what? Away from newspaper, TV, Facebook and Twitter, life was actually good. Vibrant, warm and mostly peaceful. 

While packing bags for our first day trip, I noticed that the kids in the group were focussed on stuffing their chargers, gadgets and wires. The rules had to be set. Contemplating trouble, I lectured, “Since family time is precious, let’s use our phones sparingly. No chatting, no Facebook and no watching movies. Minimum use of phone. Is that clear, everybody?” 

With a sly smile on his lips, the son asked, “The rules apply to all. Right mom?” 

“Yes, everybody,” I snorted. 

If I could read minds, the three teen faces were perhaps saying, ‘Oh puhleeze…these adults, I tell you, they set up rules specifically to torture us. And then they go on and on about how we will understand when we are their age….’ Thankfully there were no counter questions, just silent murmurs of protest.

As for me, what can I say? Setting a good example for children takes a toll on middle ages. Forget middle age, even Dadi Ma was anxious about missing her ladies chat.

Anyway, once we were not obliged to post comments, know who checked in where, and react to who said what, there were places to discover, people to chat with, restaurants to explore and a disregard for WiFi. It was a relaxed vacation against which a happening virtual life registered as a distraction. 

The husband, many a times, has tried to feed me with his well meaning nuggets. Read more, write less. Observe more, react less. Limit your time on Twitter. But the idea of a life away from virtual world seemed too old fashioned to be relevant. What does he know? He hasn’t checked his Facebook in a month. And Twitter is as alien to him as getting his eyebrows done.

This is not to say that temptation didn’t knock. Almost all of us cheated in between morning dumps and car sojourns. However, towards the end of the second week the virtual world had lost some of its charm. The teens were not fixated on looking at screens and the adults were not obsessed about what the world was doing.

Needless to say, I spent the happiest two weeks of 2016. But, once family members flew back to respective destinations virtual world beckoned in all its glory. The demons began raising their heads. ‘You haven’t written a blog post in 2017, what are you doing dammit? Writing defines you. What are you if not a writer? Do you even know what’s happening on Twitter? You missed reading other blog posts and now no one will read you’.

After the first week of 2017, I was back in the arms of WiFi, albeit in my new enlightened state. Limit and optimize. There was little point stressing about every opinion in the Twitterverse. Most voices, after all, shout in their ideological wells. Why engage with those who refuse to listen to diverse views. Moreover, most outrage on Twitter was over trivial stuff. Name of a celebrity baby. Dress of a cricketer’s wife. Any tweet by Barkha or Rajdeep was equally effective. Whichever side I flipped, the mirror had cracks. People were getting personal and petty over trivial issues. Those who were miffed with Aamir earlier were writing rave reviews of Dangal. Those who twisted knickers over Fawad Khan in ADHM were oblivious to the presence of Ali Zafar in Dear Zindagi. And those who batted for Fawad Khan were muted over threats to a kid from the valley. 
Almost all of us were sinning, albeit differently.

And while writing is what defines me, no one was waiting for my posts to make their life fulfilling. They were simply being nice when they said they enjoyed reading what I write.
Besides, look at the irony.  While we itch to share our pictures with 500 odd friends, we don’t even want to meet a majority of those who like them. But, but, but. All said, my Facebook friends whom I met via blogging have enhanced my life and in helped me grow as a person. I cherish them more than any ideology, political parrty or politician. 

The truth is that social media came into existence to relax, connect and express. Not to distract, addict and exhaust. Snatch a moment, go out for a lunch and say hello to the close ones in real time. As they say, there is a difference between practicing what you preach and preaching only after you have practiced. You can’t blame me for not practicing. Let's see how long I remain in my enlightened state.

Image Courtesy: Here

Friday, December 9, 2016

Mapping Thoughts

Interviews, they say, are like first dates. What you say counts, awkwardness can occur and results are unpredictable.

What exactly brings me to interviews? A day after the demise of J Jayalalitha, social media was awash with several interviews of the AIADMK chief. In one interview with Karan Thapar, Jaya appears visibly cagey, reclusive and non-committal. When Thapar bids adieu and says, “It was pleasure talking to you,” Jayalalitha quips, “I must say it wasn’t a pleasure talking to you, Namaste.” She promptly folds her hands, removes the microphone and walks out. 

While Karan keeps a straight face and a half embarrassed smile, it must have been a setback for someone with an impenetrable air of being the ultimate anchor with contemptuous confidence. Given his experience of making people squirm, Karan knew where and how to tap for answers. And yet, he faltered. Perhaps, in over-trying to be a tough task master his rapid fire turned out to be as futile as a pistol without bullets. For all his direct salvos, there was one answer from Jaya – “I completely deny it.”

Then we saw another interview where Jayalalitha is singing ‘Aa Ja Sanam Madhur Chandni Me Hum’ with Ageless Garewal. What’s more, she’s talking about her teen crushes. Which is understandable because when one is answering questions coming from someone whose face is botoxed into everlasting bliss, it’s easy to drop the guard. As expected, Simi’s gentle prodding exposed Jaya’s vulnerable side, giving us a rare glimpse of her insecurities. It is endearing when Jayalalitha tells us how she used to hold her mother’s sari before going to sleep.

Given that Simi is as harmless as a kitten and Karan a Devil’s Advocate, the respective outcomes were expected. It all depends on who is interviewing whom. Journalists, moreover, are a prisoner of their image. More so, when their show is called Hard Talk or Seedhi Baat. Or Devil’s Advocate. 

Which brings me to another memorable tete-a-tete. 

Women empowerment. 
Just as ‘Tequila shots’ remind me of Priyanka Chopra's interview with Ellen Degeneres, ‘women empowerment’ reminds me of Rahul’s interview with Arnab. That RaGa has not had any sit down thereafter, says it all. 

Moving on to Modi, our PM isn’t fond of answering questions either. Monologues over dialogues. Arnab, in his interview with Modi did nothing to puncture the air of righteousness and solemnity as he does with other guests.

If Arnab had Modi, Rajdeep had Sonia. And if Arnab's interview with Modi was tame, Rajdeep’s with Sonia was lame. In a recent interview touted as the ‘Interview of the decade’ Rajdeep discussed what Sonia felt when she first met Indira Gandhi. In fact, he just stopped short of talking about their cooking escapades. If the brief was to stay away from personal and controversial, the outcome was as engrossing as watching the grass grow. 

Talking of Indian chat shows, how can we forget Aap Ki Adalat by Rajat Sharma. Looks real, grills hard, and entertains admirably. Audience claps, Rajat Sharma gets a Padma Bhushan. Everyone is happy.

Happiness brings me to another Karan who is not a Thapar. 

Away from the stench of politics, Koffee with Karan froths with filmy gossip, adult banter and feel-good bonhomie. There are moments when your eyes pop out because you haven’t heard jokes about unbuttoning, crotch gazing and gay play acting on desi television. If this piques your interest, go watch Twinkle Khanna’s episode.

I don’t know about you, but as a silly teen I used to fantasize about being a celebrity who gives interviews left, right and centre. Today, I can’t imagine myself in the hot seat. Not that anyone’s interested, but asking questions is so much easier than answering them. Imagine, for instance, Karan Thapar demanding menacingly, “Do you think demonetization is a right step?” Being a radical middle kind of a person, I’d perhaps get caught in my own ‘on-the-other-hand’ kind of long winded explanations. Give me KJo over KTha and I will be happy to rate the Khans in order of my preference.

All said, the magic of spoken word is far reaching that the mundane written word. How many of us remember a memorable print interview? The lovely Katherine Hepburn once said, ‘Death will be a great relief, no more interviews.’ I’m sure, somewhere up in the sky Jayalalitha would agree.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dear Zindagi

The Furniture Shop

I am the kind of movie watcher who waits for Facebook updates and ‘word-of-mouth’ reviews before venturing into a cinema hall. I convince myself that the movie is worth standing in a queue to pee during interval, worth adding adipose form buttered popcorn and worth tolerating kiddo kicks on the rear of my seat.

But there was a problem. Dear Zindagi was emitting mixed signals. Some said it was a memorable movie, others said it was one boring psychotherapy session. And yet, I mustered enough courage to enter the cinema hall to revel in the sweat and farts of fellow movie watchers. Mixed bag, again. Seated in the last row, I saved myself from kiddo kicks. But the fatty next to me ensured that his wobbly bottom brushed past my nose as he trundled out of the row for a piddle.

Lights off. Fade in. The movie begins.
‘Aaa, aaa aaa…. Kya Karoon Hai Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ ditty plays with the credits.

Far away from the perspective of a middle aged, much married Sridevi in English Vinglish, Gauri Shinde portrays the mental conflict of a young urban girl, Alia Bhatt. It’s a simple story. And simplest stories are hardest to tell. No song and dance. No highs and lows. No car chase and no villain bashing. And no life altering journeys.

First up, it’s the screenplay. It's almost non-existent. The first half of the movie meanders like a river with a languorous urban rhythm. The role of Kiara, played by Alia Bhatt plays musical chairs with her love life. Like many young girls, her heart does a flip flop. It says ‘yes’ but she says ‘No’. When a vacant chair presents itself, she refuses to sit but when the chair gets occupied, she wants to sit.  Her dilemma neither engages, nor entertains. Actually, the film goes nowhere.
While Alia is muddled up, her friends appear sorted. They tell her to not mix professional with personal but our baby gets a rash every time her boyfriend tries to bare his heart and every time she receives a call from her parents.
An hour into the movie and I’m unable to grasp the enormity of Alia's problem.The director disappoints but Alia holds me back. Even in the utter craziness of her acts (hurling a stone at boy in love), Alia’s glowing freshness doesn’t let me leave the cinema hall.

Things perk up past interval. Shah Rukh as doctor Suave Rukh Khan lights up the screen with his understated charm. Dressed in linen pants and a blazer, he exudes an air of confidence in contrast to Alia’s youthful impetuosity. When he speaks you feel his honesty, his intensity. As a psychiatrist, SRK is a man of few words but what he says or does propels the movie.
Enter Ali Zafar as a new chair (read boyfriend) in Alia’s life. I never thought Ali Zafar could look so drool worthy or sing as beautifully as he does in this movie. It’s a short cameo but he makes his presence felt as a very eye catching chair.
This is when Alia Bhatt bares her heart. And yet her issues fail to moisten my eyes (believe me, I cry easily). However, I do want to cuddle the girl looking for love.
 For me the shortcomings were a limp script and the absence of witty dialogues.It appears as if the director is justifying Alia's crankiness by going into her unconvincing past. Why would any parent not reply to their daughter's letters? 
The highlight is undoubtedly, brilliant acting by sassy Alia and suave Shah Rukh Khan. That some nuggets of wisdom are presented in a subtle manner adds to the flavour.

Anyway, if you think I’m being harsh on the movie, let me tell you it has nothing to do with the fact that Alia Bhatt’s maid in the movie is called Alka. In fact, she was absolutely adorable. 

Finally, we have a Queen moment. The protagonist achieves her dreams not because of the men, erm...chair's in her life but without them.Thanks to Dr Suave Rukh Khan for gently untangling the knots. The lesson? Parents are human too. Little point placing them on a pedestal and judging them.

The verdict? Mixed bag, again. No memorable watch this - just a pleasant forgetable movie. An eye pleasing furniture shop with some catchy chairs. If you love Alia's effervescence and SRK's understated charm, go watch it. Else, wait for it to grace your television.

Image Courtesy: From here
Image courtesy: From here

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Money, Money, Money

At a time when the country was debating dinner choices, PM Modi’s announcement on demon-etization tightened the purse strings of one billion people. In a flash, a penny saved was a penny earned. Which politician, in his right senses upsets his core vote bank of traders, businessmen and the middle class? But the formidable risk taker called Modi (remember his unscheduled Pak stop?) indulged in a calculated gamble. In fifteen minutes flat, Modi did what Anil Kapoor did in 24 hours in the movie Nayak.

Wait, don’t run away, I’m not going to plague you with economic lecturebaazi. Relax, I’m mathematically challenged. Moreover, enough opinion makers have cashed in their chips by presenting different sides of the coin.

As for me, the first thing I did was to scurry towards my drawer and check for the 500s and the 1000 rupee notes. It’s rather embarrassing, but all I had was ten 500 rupee notes. For once, I was laughing all the way to the bank.
In the aftermath of Modi’s gambit, we witnessed Pied Piper grade queues outside banks. As the tide ebbed, those who were swimming naked were exposed.
The following day, Hashim, my carpenter tells me that he had saved 15 lakhs for the marriage of his three daughters. No marriage can be performed in less than five lakhs, he says. It’s strange, how we give into societal pressures. We must be the world’s most hypocritical people. Else how does one explain the desire to curb corruption on one hand and the display of lavish weddings on the other? We condemn corruption but are in awe of its dividends.
The lack of communication from the government led Hashim to believe that all his savings were bust, barring 2.5 lakhs. I tried to tell him that the money in his account was not going anywhere but he wasn't convinced. I persisted, “They clearly said so on the television news. Don’t you listen to the news?”
“Who believes TV didi? They say one thing today, another tomorrow.”

I didn’t feel like giving up. “I write for magazines and newspapers, I know.” To which he said, “But my local MLA said all my money is gone. He also gave me cash to deposit in my account in lieu of helping me with my daughter’s marriage later.”

Suddenly, I was reminded of the ABBA song, Money Money Money. It’s a rich man’s world.

Though most daily wagers, farmers and vendors were suffering, they gave Modi a blank cheque, calling the idea a masterstroke. However, many questioned the methods and implementation.
It was telling that the common man stood patiently in serpentine queues, but a united opposition protested. ‘A penny for your thoughts Mr Modi’, they said. ‘We will not let you survive on blood money.’ Chipping in, Akhilesh Yadav said black money helps in tiding off recession and put his money where his party’s mouth was. Of course, there is no need to bet your bottom dollar on whether most of them were worried about the common man or their own political future.

The truth is that neither absolute approval nor absolute rebuttal makes for a rational debate. What is amusing however is that the taxman with hitherto doubtful credentials has been given the stick!

I hope as hell that mathematician Modi is able to solve this complex economic equation after what the nation has gone through. As they say, money doesn’t grow on trees. So the ghost of demon-etization will hover for six months to one year, but once it’s gone, the real proof of the risk taker Modi will be tested when he reforms election funding. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Good is Bacterial, Great is Viral

The story unfolded like a fairy tale. But with a twist. This time it was not about a princess, but a young boy. Oblivious of his looks, the boy earned his living by selling tea, fruit and vegetables at a Sunday bazaar. He had no phone and did not know how to read or write. And yet, he dreamt of helping his poor parents. One day a fairy clicked his picture and posted it on Instagram. The picture captured the imagination of the world. The hot chaiwala morphed into a cool model. He appeared on television, graced magazine covers, bagged modeling contracts and walked the ramp. Dizzying, isn’t it?

Welcome to a world where one picture holds the potential to change the story.

This is what happened to eighteen year old Arshad Ali Khan, an ethnic Pashtun in neighboring Pakistan. Neither reason nor logic applied to the mass hysteria that followed. His picture was shared more than 30, 000 times. Lucky chap, for none of his seventeen siblings had such fortune. Yes, 17. Deal with it.

Arshad, however, was unfazed. “I came to know this morning that I am very good looking,” he said. I don’t know if his charm resided in his innocence or blue eyes, but what I know is that he was a buttered toast for social media.

Don’t we just love social media? Every tweet and update is a tribute to ingenuity. Once the topic goes viral, we feverishly engage in outsmarting each other until the virus is eliminated. So, for some Arshad became Pakistan’s latest nuclear weapon and for others - a dove. If one wanted to ‘make tea, not war’, another tweeted, “A chai wala from Pakistan is now famous on Indian social media. This is truly aMan kee aasha.”

And then there were angry birds who love rivalry. Hand on heart I’ve never heard such comparisons. “My Chaiwala is more handsome than your Shah Rukh Khan,” chirped a pretty little thing. Really? Okay kiddo. We will talk when your Khan wins the ‘Koffee with Karan’ hamper for a fourth straight time.

Another abiding feature of social media is the ‘like mentality’ - an unsaid social media compulsion. You like what your friends do. Dosti ki khatir. Obliged by social media, smitten girls flocked ARK’s tea stall to click pictures. With full make-up and blow dried hair, they pouted and posed. It was a matter of ‘like and death’. Oh, common, be fair. Who clicks selfies with a chaiwala unless he was a PM or a social media sensation? 
Thereafter, all the chatter segued into some talk about reverse objectification. For once it was the girls who were lusting after a good looking boy. Thank heavens for the fact that women refrain from specifics, even if it’s locker room talk. Girls went as far as becoming a chai addict and dreaming of being served some ‘kadak’ chai. That’s it.

Just when I thought that the storm in the tea cup had subsided, I saw a tweet from a cute little sparrow in heat. ‘Arshad, will you marry me?’ Dear girls from Islamabad to Moradabad, sorry to burst your steaming hot bubble. The Chaiwala may be your cupcake but how long can you look at him? What if you want to discuss demonetization and carbon emission?

Regardless, the objectification charge was silly. Meaningless actually. After all, the camera was simply a catalyst in a win-win situation.

But wait. Let’s get serious. Arshad Ali Khan is not the only viral sensation. The stupefied picture of a Syrian child, Omran sitting alone in an ambulance comes to mind. Likewise, the haunting picture of Aylan Kurdi, a drowned toddler. Far away from Instagram and way before Twitter, the 1984 portrait of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan Girl’s piercing eyes had shaken our soul. Perhaps it was those intense eyes - a tapestry of tragedy and pools of grief. Come to think of it, her image was etched in our memory without the clutches of social media - no re-tweets, no likes and no shares.

For positive tales like Arshad, social media can be a fairy Godmother. But the only thing shorter than public memory is public attention. Overnight fame can provide a fillip to a muse or a cause, but it does little to change stories. What exactly are we doing for other Omrans being rescued from the rubble? Is our heart bleeding for the Afghan Girl  who was arrested in Pakistan for forging national identity card? 

Yes, we love the Chaiwala’s rags to riches story. In fact we love fairy tales - not because they tell us about monsters but because they tell us that monsters can be overcome. That there is hope. Compassion. But social media is fickle and news ephemeral. And yet, if viral images help a cause or a muse, it is a welcome part of digital times. We are ready with our likes, shares and re-tweets. 

Image Courtesy: Image from here
Also in Diplomacy& Beyond