Monday, December 4, 2017

When Harry met Meghan




Unlike others, it seems, the Brits  are destined to have all the fun. While we get to suffer electoral stench, they get to celebrate life with all its royal trappings. Royal marriage. Royal baby. Royal anniversary. Repeat. 
It’s like a modern day fairy tale. 
Recently, the Queen and Prince Philip celebrated their 70th marriage anniversary by releasing souvenirs. And even before the celebrations welcoming Kate and William’s third baby could commence, Prince Harry announced his engagement to American actress, Ms Meghan Markle. 

It all began with romance under starry nights in Botswana. When Prince Harry went down on his knees, Ms Meghan broke into an orgasmic, ‘yes’. And the media was flooded with speculations, expectations and celebrations.
No sir, not the divisive caste and religion stories we suffer back home, but real spicy narratives.

It didn’t take long for pen-wielders to dig Meghan’s lineage, her past and her ex-husband. With certain inevitability, the initial stories revolved around the fact that Meghan was divorced. Those who have been Netflix-ed by ‘The Crown’ know how being a divorcee in a royal family can twist traditional knickers. And yet, once the stiff upper lip had swallowed the divorce pill, it was time to go deep into the woods to dig her past – her half brothers, sisters and pictures of her parents. The Daily Mail went ahead and featured a story about how Meghan was ‘made to stuff her bra’ with foam for the American ‘Deal or No Deal’ show she had anchored. 
Finally, the happy union of playboy soldier turned humanitarian Prince with American biracial divorced actress was cheered by the monarchy. 


Spoof Photographer, Alison Jackson posted these lovely pictures before the actual wedding.

The first test for the ‘would be’ bride was to have tea with the Queen and befriend her Corgi’s (over 30 Welsh dogs) who took to Ms Meghan straight away. Ms Markle had made her mark. Thereafter, when the newly engaged couple undertook their first official duty together, the tabloids went in a tizzy reporting how the royal couple couldn’t keep their hands off each other. 

But wait. There’s more to the royal wedding than tabloid level gossip. The wedding is said to push the UK economy by 500 million pounds by boosting tourism and strengthening the US-UK relationship. What Trump and Theresa couldn’t do over talks, Meghan and Harry did by slipping a ring.
A day after the engagement was announced, the ‘Meghan Effect’ was expected to sell bags and apparel worth millions modeled by Meghan, the model. What fun to compare ‘Meghan Effect’ with ‘Kate Effect’ that already accounts for about 200 million pounds a year! 

Better than comparing who goes to a temple how many times, right? 

While our bookies are busy speculating about Gujarat elections (yawn), bookies in the UK are betting their odds against the name of Kate and William’s third baby. Interested? Arthur is going for (10/1), Robert (100/1) and Alice (8/1). 
There are other fun activities too. Speculation is rife over the wedding venue, Meghan’s dress designer, and what Prince George, 4 and Princess Charlotte, 2 will wear. Don’t go bananas, but much before the announcement of the D day, The Telegraph reported, ‘This will be the first royal wedding cake made from bananas.’  


Getty Image



In a fit of idyllic reverie, I am wondering what if Harry met Meghna, an Indian girl? The idea is a bit nutty, but Uff - the possibilities!

Imagine Prince Harry in a sherwani, sitting on a flower bedecked chariot surrounded by dhols of Maharaja Band. Of all the images, Kate in a Ritu Kumar lehnga and Williams in a Sabyasachi kurta dancing to ‘London Thumakda’ is the most riveting snapshot. Given the Indian setting, there would be a customary crisis of a ceremony related misunderstanding. It’s quite possible that a pink turbaned Charles would break into a happy jig with his samdhi to the tune of ‘Le Jayenge, Le Jayenge Dil Wale Dulhaiya Le Jayenge’. Once dinner is served, Kate’s parents would crib about food being too spicy and nothing compared to what they served during William and Kate’s wedding. Later on, Badi Ma Camilla would tu-tut about being given a cheap sari and not a Banarsi. 
 The usual works!
Moreover, Indo-UK ties would boost tourism, people will forget all about pollution and we would be a step closer to Kohinoor. 

Alas, that is not to be. The only Indian connection is that Priyanka Chopra, a good friend of Meghan could be the bridesmaid.

Instagram Image

But I’m holding on to the imagery in an attempt to run away from the ‘yawn-worthy’ narrative back home. Sigh, why don’t we have royals whose weddings and births we can celebrate as one country? I want real ones, loved by all, and not the Shezada and the Shezads.

Image Courtesy here
Spoof Photography via Alison Jackson in the Daily Mail.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Good News Is






Far away from the din and fury of chopping people’s nose and hands, we have some good news. 
Ivanka Trump is coming.
Such a blessing because the political narrative on television has been so cringe-worthy, that you want to cry. But now that the ‘first daughter’ is here to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, we will hear what she wore, how she smiled, and whom she met. A breath of fresh glamorous air. 
Yes, thank you. I’d rather drool over celebrities and feast over my slavish cravings than watch our politicians indulge in an ugly slugfest.

So, now that the beggars of Hyderabad have been dumped in orphanages, Charminar has been given a fresh coat of paint, potholes fixed, Falaknuma Palace given a makeover, searches conducted, fingerprints taken - Hyderabad would love to host Ivanka every month. News is that the Hyderabad police is on a high alert. They have requested people to inform them about any suspicious movement while Ivanka is there. After she leaves, Hyderabad residents can go jump in Hussain Sagar Lake for all they care.

Meanwhile we in moon-crater land Gurgaon are hoping Ivanka ji blesses us with a visit. The pollution scene has improved from ‘severe’ to ‘poor’ category - which is wonderful! As a result, Khattar and Hooda in Haryana are squabbling over the most important issue – who will felicitate Ms World, Manushi Chillar. And Arvind Kejriwal is back to launching books on odd days and reviewing movies on even days. 

Coming back to Ivanka, it all began when Modi ji activated his Trump card by inviting POTUS . Given that ‘Daddy’ was busy holidaying at his exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, he decided to indulge in some Daughter Diplomacy. It’s like you invite your boss to attend your marriage, but he sends his high profile private secretary instead. With a huge bouquet. 
Hopefully Modi ji will refrain from a hugging spree, instead, Sushma ji can clinch her in a motherly embrace. Frankly, by now the jhappies and pappies with Nawaz should have taught us that moments of cleavage are a waste of emotions.
But it doesn’t matter. We are an obsequious lot - as long as there’s white skin and a powerful family name, we are happy to repaint Hyderabad for eleven year old Barron Trump (Son of DonaldTrump) too .

Come Tuesday, and our microphone wielders will fawn over Ivanka’s dress, her smile, and her hour glass figure. Even the Trumpphobes will line up to shake her manicured hands. Of course, we are eager to know if she wore a Dolce & Gabbana or her own label that sells bags, apparel and shoes. And to adduce the meaning behind every extended handshake and twinge of her lips.

Ivanka with her mom Ivana
Image courtesy mydailynews.com

Lest you think otherwise, Ivanka will speak to men and women of all shapes, sizes, colour and religion. Talking about religion, the visit to a mosque is aimed at building bridges with the Islamic world. Yes sir, Rahul and Modi are not the only ones visiting religious places to score political brownies.

But here comes the real shocker. Unlike our dimpled family scion, Ivanka Ji is a qualified graduate in Economics from Wharton. She is so qualified that she decided to work as an unpaid White House employee in the capacity of an advisor to the POTUS. This is nice, given that her dad is so privileged that the first job he ever had to apply for was the president of the United States. According to the US administration, Ivanka is supposed to be her daddy's 'eyes and ears'. That people want her to be her daddy's tweeting fingers is a different matter.


Image from Instagram


When Ivanka’s Wharton classmates were quizzed about her most of them said she was very gracious and dignified. Well, if your mother was a model, poise and grace would be a given. Also the fact that the Ivanka was a model at fourteen and much before her 15th birthday, she featured in Elle magazine along with a campaign for brands like Tommy Hilfiger. 

Now to the family part that will dampen the chances of those who fancy her. The thirty six year old Ivanka has three kids – Arabella, Joseph and Theodore. Oh, and I almost forgot. Arabella can recite poems in Mandarin and name most zoo animals. This is remarkable given that her grandfather told a rally in Indiana that China should not be allowed to ‘rape our country’. Ouch!

 To give the pretty girl her due, calm and focused Ivanka has raised the bar with her gracious demeanour and sensible tweets. 
All said, celebrities like Ivanka should visit us every month. A new city each time. This is the only way our pot holes will be fixed, our security beefed up and our monuments given a makeover. Maybe we will do something about our pollution too. What’s Kate Middleton doing in December? 


Ivanka Trump Donald Trump


Images from here


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why Film Stars Don’t Speak Up?




Yet again, the cast and crew of the film Padmavati are hurtling from turmoil to threats and from controversy to crisis. Whether it’s the sentiments of a community, or celebrities from the neighboring country - the film industry has become a convenient target for  crusty pride honchos. Repeatedly. What remains unchanged is the silence emanating from the Shehensha’s and Badshah’s of Bollywood. 
At the outset, let me say that we have a censor board which will decide the fate of the film. Since we haven't seen the film, no one is in a position to judge the merits of the film. However, what we can do is condemn the open threats of bodily harm being made on television. 
But barring a handful, the Bollywood biggies have decided to stay non-committal.
When asked about the Padmavati row, producer Boney Kapoor on the IFFI red carpet said, "Well, it's not my film."
Lead star of the film, Padmavati, Ranveer Singh refused to comment saying that it is a very sensitive moment and that he had been asked not to say anything.
Also, when actress and censor board member, Vidya Balan was asked why stars shy away from taking a stand, she said that film stars refuse to open up because their views can jeopardize future films and careers of scores associated with the film. 

Truth is, after the uproar over Aamir Khan’s views on intolerance and outrage over PK, the Hindi film industry realized that it is better to zip-up. Forget starring in a movie that allegedly hurts sentiments, acting in a movie that supports a cause also creates negative vibes. 
When Akshay Kumar featured in the movie, ‘Toilet- A Love Story’ based on Prime Ministers Swachh Bharat project he was labelled as Knicker Kumar, a member of chaddi brigade based in Nagpur. When he launched an app to help the families of martyr’s, a senior journalist wrote, ‘Cannot expect much from an actor who opted for Canadian citizenship and talks about patriotism. Like leader, like bhakt. ’ 

We live in times when emotional fans judge every word coming from their favorite star based on their ideological moorings. Which is why, lead actors and popular stars avoid antagonizing fans. At a time when open threats are being issued on television and the state governments are mute spectators, the silence from the biggies is understandable. A Rishi Kapoor can tweet on Indo-Pak relations but a Salman Khan will not. A Shabana Azmi can speak against threats but a Deepika Padukone will not. Crores and careers are at stake.












Looks like everyone loves you if you are apolitical, but the moment you take a stand, you are loathed and ridiculed by those who adored you earlier. Anupam Kher, Hema Malini, Paresh Rawal, Anurag Kashyap, Amitabh Bachchan – there are many who fell from their high pedestal. Gone are the days when Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna and Govinda plunged into politics without stirring a hornet’s nest. 
It is worth recalling how Amitabh Bachchan scalded himself over and over again by flirting with different political parties. From ‘UP main dum hai kyonki jurm yahan kum hai’ to being the Gujarat and Swachh Bharat ambassador, he is perceived as a celebrity who aims to protect his own panama paradise. He is damned if he speaks and damned if he doesn’t.

This brings me to Southern super stars, Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan. The film industry down South is more vocal unlike Bollywood. Both actors have decided to take a plunge after testing political waters for a long time. There is no denying that after Kamal Haasan’s confusing stand on socio-political issues, he is likely to lose a section of fans painstakingly accrued over fifty years. Not everyone is a Jayalalitha or MGR.
Why then are Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth risking their unparalleled, unblemished reputations? Both are hugely popular, have enough money and power to work for the people if they so wish. In fact, Kamal Haasan’s fan clubs known as ‘Narpani Iyyakkam’ are already doing great social work in his home state. 

That said, binary definitions are not the way to judge film actors taking a stand on issues plaguing our society. Most film stars mentioned above did not start their journey seeking fame. They were already famous and accepted. For some, the privileges, adulation and recognition fuelled the desire for more. For others, like Jaya Bachchan and Hema Malini, the urge to protect their turf is so overpowering that they get trapped in the system. Although both are active politicians, we are yet to hear them take a stand on issues. 
Needless to add that when you want to be in the news, public scrutiny becomes your biggest challenge. Foreign trips, bank accounts, land deals, brand campaigns and friendships – all get dissected by fans and political rivals. As a result, most film stars prefer the stigma of conformity than the danger of a controversy.

All said, if the film fraternity doesn’t speak up for their peers, who will? While we may not agree with their politics, we can’t deny that our country needs more doers than talkers. We need Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan to counter the fragmented power hungry factions of the South. We need Aamir and Akshay to walk the talk unlike facebook and twitter fidayeens. 
Despite an earlier call to ban Aamir, the stupendous success of Dangal should embolden the film industry to take a firm stand. Because the only thing shorter than public memory is public enthusiasm. 

Related link : My take on cinematic liberties. Read here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

October Fireworks





At a time when the country was bursting firecrackers, we in Delhi/NCR entertained ourselves with political bombs and news sparklers. The ground spinners (chakris), flower pots (anars) and the rockets played themselves, but with a twist. 

For Rahul fans, the month of October brightened with the news that rocket Rahul would be finally launched as Congress President. Unopposed, of course. Time will tell if he can push the boulder up the mountain but as of now he looks like those red popping strips with symmetric dot like protrusions loaded in a toy pistol. Remember them? You kept pulling the trigger, some went off, some didn’t? Phatak. Phuss. Phuss. Phatak. 





Propelled by the news of his coronation and retweets from Kazakhastan, rocket Rahul landed on Gujarat’s political landscape. He rolled his sleeve and called Modi’s GST, Gabbar Singh Tax without explaining why his party passed the Gabbar-esque bill in the house.

A tweet by Shahsi Tharoor



There is no denying that after DeMo bomb and GST damp squib, the BJP fireworks aren’t as spectacular as last year. Meanwhile, when Modi ji was celebrating Diwali with soldiers, his foot soldier lit a snake tablet (remember saanp ki goliyan? They emit the highest amount of PM 2.5) by denouncing the legendary Taj Mahal. Does the publicity seeking hate monger have any answer to the lovely churches of Goa and Kerala built by the Portugese or the Puducherry landscape so lovingly painted by the French? If we were to question the past of every monument, our inclusive culture and heritage will go up in the smoke of our colonial past. 




Looks like the Delhi CM was not in a mood for any festive revelry. No psychopath bombs, no anarchist bangs and no sparks on television. Total black out. Barring a favourable review of the movie the Secret Superstar and a populist stand on metro fare hike. Allegedly, the Delhi govt threatened to revoke the appointment of DMRC chief on fares but the board refused to give in to political pressure. Just so you know, the last metro fares were hiked in 2009. Moreover, there is no political interference in most countries, like in the UK for instance, it’s the Mayor who decides the fares for the London Underground. Subsidizing a world class service for votes can delay expansion and convert Delhi metro into another local train service. Sigh, you can’t blame the CM. Since there are no farm loan waivers in Delhi, aam-admi appeasement is the only ace up his chequered shirt.
Not to be left behind the Fin Min dropped a reform bomb for recapitalization plan of public sector banks. The Kapil The Sibal called it selling of another dream. Time will tell if this one is a big bang reform or another one that failed to explode. Because fireworks are great but where are trillions coming in from?






Meanwhile the set-jaw spokesperson of the BJP, GVL Narsimha Rao lit a sparkler by questioning the general knowledge of film industry. Rao’s comment by no means was directed at Manoj Tiwari who is a direct descendant of Albert Einstein and Madam Curie. While Kirron Kher and Hema Malini kept quiet, a furious Farhan Akhtar exploded, ‘How dare you Sir?’ 

Talking of Bollywood, Bipasha generated some light and more heat by featuring in a condom advertisement. But nothing is newsworthy unless Twitter trolls give you a hard time. Bipasha trolled for starring in a condom ad, read the headline. In a country with second largest population in the world, its funny why condom ads create such dhamaka.

Image from Pintrest

October was also a month that saw the acquittal of the Talwar couple framed in their daughter Arushis murder. It broke my heart to see them emerge from jail as shutterbugs circled them like vultures with their cliched, ‘Aapko kaisa lag raha hai?’
You know what, sometimes the loudest bang happens when we think fireworks are over. Even as I type, news is that Virat and Anushka may tie the knot in December. And Jab Virat Weds Sejal, perhaps this what Virat would say - You blow my Mind.





Image from here



Friday, October 6, 2017

What About a Man’s Self-Esteem?



Advertising & Media



Alright girls of this world, from Mumbai to Delhi, this time I’m going to bat for the new age urban man. Tell me, should a man be made to bowl under-hand to help a woman score a century? Confused? Stick with me and I will tell you what's on my mind.

So, I am at a lifestyle mall, DT City Centre to be precise, shopping for Diwali gifts. As I browse for gifts, a young lady calls her partner assertively, ‘Listen, get me a trolley.’ The partner, I’m assuming the husband is looking at bath mats but obliges promptly. After a few minutes, she calls him again, ‘Come here, I’m buying these lamps.’ To which he says, ‘Fine baby. Buy whatever you like but can you speak thoda pyar se? People are watching.’
She gives him a quelling look, ‘Who cares?’ and moves towards the payment counter.
Contemplating the same bath mat, I catch the young man’s eye. He gives me a sheepish grin and then follows the love of his life like a puppy.

The above incident made me watch some advertisements closely. If advertising is to be believed, Indian home maker is a confident liberated woman who makes informed choices. She knows which refrigerator has a freezer at the bottom, which insurance policy is best for her family and which water purifier gives sabse shudh paani. She controls the spending habits and takes proactive decisions when it comes to consumer goods, kitchen appliances and home decor. Which is great.

Now look at the new Bosch ad where the wife is washing clothes while her obese, rather clumsy husband is working on a treadmill. When the husband worries about the shape of his shirt to be washed in the washing machine, the wife strikes back very sweetly, ‘Shape shirt ka nahi, kisi aur ka kharab ho raha hai.’ 
Flip the coin. Let’s say, for instance, imagine an advertisement where the chic husband fat shames his wife in a television ad. Distasteful, right?


You think it's much doo-doo about nothing? Perhaps it’s all about the need to make women look good, decisive, and smart while selling household goods. But, but but.  Should this come at the cost of body shaming men? Or making them look like incompetent bumbling dimwits?

Image from here


Take the Haier advertisement about the bottom mounted refrigerator with features of convenience, accessibility and visibility. The husband comes home, assuming late, and remarks cheerfully, ‘Arre wah naya fridge aa gaya, very nice.’
Rather miffed with his coming late, the wife retorts, ‘Fridge to time par aa gaya.’
The husband says, ‘Baby ye kuch ulta nahi hai?
She quips, ‘Ab to ye bhi seedha ho gaya.’
The tagline goes - Aa gaya hai ulte refrigerators ko seedha karne, Haier ka Naya Inspire. 
The jibe is aimed at the husband, of course. The advertiser is motivating women to buy a Haier refrigerator by portraying men as ‘good for nothing’ late comers.




Samsung ad from 2013 where the man is shown as lazy, filthy couch potato

Exercising influence on the female psyche by making them feel good about themselves and their choices is a basic tenet of advertising. My simple point is - why pump a woman’s self-esteem at the cost of making young urban men look like losers? At a time when the urban man is devoting time to his family duties, he needs a more accurate description. Also, when advertisers sell mobile phones, cars or bikes to men, do they make women look lame, worthless and incompetent? Since we keep harping about equality, shouldn’t the same latitude of respect for choices apply to both genders irrespective of the product?

For centuries, our society has placed men on a higher pedestal. It’s a man’s world, goes the cliche. Truth is, most women in rural areas and small towns have little or no say in household decisions when it comes to spending big money. Forget making economic decisions they aren’t even allowed to decide the names of their children. 
But the profile is changing in urban areas where women are independent, educated, informed, and almost the same age as their partners. For advertisers, urban women are a business opportunity. This could be one of the reasons why advertisers feel the need to push the envelope. However, lowering a man’s self esteem to make woman look good is lazy advertising. Even insensitive. Portraying all  husbands and dads as clowns who make it worse for the woman is not an urban reality where most couples work as a team. 

How about making the woman look good without making the man look like an idiot? If you wish to pander to the rising female consumer power, how about giving her positive reasons to buy?

Like the Samsung QLED TV advertisement where the father watches his daughter score a goal and they share an emotional hand gesture. Or the Amazon ad where the wife calls her husband and says, ‘Amazon per naya fridge liya’. To which her husband says cheerfully, ‘Theek hai, theek hai.’ The husband acknowledges the fact that his wife knows what she wants, and that he is happy with her decision. Simple. No questions asked. It’s refreshing, even sweet. What say? 


Friday, September 22, 2017

The Big Fight

Those Were The Days
Image from here


Dogs don’t bite dogs goes the canine dictum.
Doctors don’t bill doctors goes the medical motto.
Journalists don’t expose journalists goes the reporting rule.
But the unsaid went out of the television studios when one news channel decided to do an entire show exposing rival news anchor, Arnab Goswami. 

It all happened when Rajdeep Sardesai discovered an old clip where Arnab Goswami is seen fabricating Rajdeep’s Gujarat riot experience and allegedly narrating it as his own. Rajdeep tweeted, ‘Wow! My friend Arnab claims his car attacked next to CM Res in Guj riots! Truth: he wasn’t covering Ahemdabad riots.’

I heard the clip on Twitter, although it was erased from YouTube adding to the culpability of Arnab. There is no denying that the clip shows Arnab looking like an old coot who never went to war but loves narrating war stories and regaling audiences. Or an avuncular figure who never went hunting but enjoys telling tales about shooting tigers. In all probability, the bombastic anchor went overboard during a club meeting some years ago. 
Sagarika Ghosh, Rajdeep’s wife jumped in by revealing her literary palette and disgust, ‘The pudgy little Billy ‘Bunter with the soprano shriek turns out to be an utterly brazen liar,’ she chirped. 



 By afternoon twitter went in meltdown mode and it was like a virtual war between the Cali Cartel and North Valley Cartel. Those tormented by Arnab’s belligerent, binary debates were more than happy to give it back to him for torturing their ear drums night after night. #ArnabDidIT

If truth be told, my initial thought was - High time someone pricked the righteous bubble encapsulating Arnab. But what made me squirm later was the fact that one channel went ahead and got their jollies by making the crack in the veneer of Arnab Goswami’s righteousness a public spectacle. The twitter shaming was not enough.

For one, there are far bigger issues that can be held against Arnab than an alleged lie narrated many years ago during a club function, the context of which is unknown. Arnab should have been pilloried for his reporter’s insensitivity (recent Ryan International case), for prejudice, for war mongering, for jingoism, for passing theatrical drama off as a sensible debate and also for pronouncing instant verdicts.
Second, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t be the first ones to throw stones in public. Emboldened by twitter support, Rajdeep asked if Arnab would apologize and resign from journalism. Coming from someone who has been embroiled in a so-called public brawl spreading alleged lies and abusive direct messages, the virtuous tweet was a bit tough to swallow. As expected, it became a Left vs Right war of digging dirt and Whataboutism.


Past dinner, the nation was glued to a jaw-jaw, paw-paw, between India’s topmost anchors, once colleagues, and siblings of the same mother (NDTV). All the while, there was no response from the other side barring an undated picture of both boys with a crew that covered the riots.
 As long as it’s not yours, watching dirty laundry being washed in public is fun. Such was the public interest in this duel that media houses realised that digging up dirt on rivals could fetch them more TRPs than their Hindu-Muslim or Cong-BJP TRP tirade. 

No matter what they say, there is no denying that media mavens are threatened by Arnab’s popularity. But the rivalry between Arnab and Rajdeep goes back decades. In his book – 2014, The Election that changed India, Rajdeep gives us a glimpse when he writes, ‘I remember a slim, floppy haired bespectacled youngster visiting my house in the 1990s to enquire about TV opportunities. I had then been a mentor of sorts to him. We worked for a decade and even co-anchored a show. But television news can be maddeningly competitive and a personal relationship can easily descend into slightly troubled professional equation revolving around constant one-upmanship.’ 
Rajdeep also talks about how Arnab snatched the first Rahul Gandhi interview from NDTV. Naturally, snatching an experience after snatching an interview was bound to push the wrong buttons.
Moreover, Arnab has been shouting about the cosy Lutyens club of journalists, some of whom like Vinod Dua, Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai were awarded a Padma Shri in 2008 by the previous government. What if, let's say, Arnab decides to retaliate by airing insider information on Radia tapes, cash for vote scam and clearances for bungalows awarded to his peers?

Personal rivalry and exposes on Social media is a part of the game. Even acceptable. On television, it's not. Let’s face it. Most journalists and media houses have taken positions across the fence. So the high moral perch and the pretext of being apolitical fools no one. Needless to say that the public spectacle on television lowered the media image. If that were at all possible? My fear is the ugly will get uglier. And no one will emerge smelling of roses.





Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Is Social Media making us angry?



Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers




The Times of India newsfeed says: Check out Kareena Kapoor’s killer body transformation in just ten months.
As I zip through the comments, there’s a virtual bitch-fest on. Turns out, almost everyone who hates TOI reads the paper, comments on it and engages on their enlightening threads - Esha Deol and her baby shower, Soha and her baby bump, Taimur and his Swiss vacation.
So X says, ‘Who cares what Kareena does. Why do you think we are interested?’
Y plugs in, ‘Big deal. Who reads toilet paper? You suck.’ 
Z quips, ‘X, you are a hypocrite. Just because she was born in a rich family and you weren’t.’
To which a ‘nationalist’ retorts, ‘Not interested in Love Jihadis who named their unscrupulous offspring after a barbarian.’
Within seconds Kareena’s figure gets political. Extremes get sucked in. ‘Sanghi dumbf**k, so now we have to name our kids according to your 56 inch?’ 

Hello? The article was about an actress and her shapely lady lumps. What happened? Never mind, the toilet paper went laughing all the way to the nearest loo. Bank, I mean. 

Image from here

Which brings me to the moot question: Is the internet making us angry or were we always like this?

Anyone who has interacted on social media knows how vicious our conversations have become. Why does the internet bring out the worst in us? Once upon a time, Twitter was about witty memes, funny hash tags and clever one-liners. Not anymore. Bored of exchanging hearts, smiles and balloons, Facebook conversations are also veering towards the vitriolic mode. 

To begin with, let us accept that the web is turning monologues into dialogues. Social media allows us to converse – to agree or to disagree. When we agree, we simply like, share and move on. But when we disagree, civil discourse flows into murky waters of confrontation and name calling. Disagreement is good, rage is not. But since the conversation is public, how can we come across as a cop out for those reading the jaw-jaw? Silence is akin to defeat. 
Oftentimes, hate is a result of fear. Most hatemongers are attention seeking, insecure people who are fearful of losing what they have – pride, power, influence. Any diverse view threatens their existence. This fear gives rise to anger and confrontation. 

Recently, @GabbbarSingh, a twitter celebrity tweeted, ‘Indian internet hasn’t gone rogue. Just that a forum which was earlier a niche has reached the real India which is racist, misogynist & bigoted.’ 
This may be partially true. Partially, because we know enough number of educated urban-ites who are equally bigoted and intolerant. The shopkeeper from Rampur may abuse in gutter Hindi but the graduate from Bangalore matches it with fu**ing Angrezi finesse. Just that it sounds worse in Hindi for the urbanite. A lot of sarcastic comments come from educated people who use their societal perch to mock the not so privileged. To say that entire real India is racist, misogynist and bigoted would be a sweeping statement.

However, it is also true that the internet has given a voice to those who had no say in our socio-political discourse. A school dropout in Chindwara, a pan-shop owner in Gorakhpur, a jobless youth in Kashmir and a cab driver in Faizabad – all have an opinion. Those who were silent yesterday are all over the internet today. Why, forget engaging with them, we are unlikely to say hello if we meet them in the market. But these are the very people we are having conversations with. 

When a small town frustrated dropout, someone who never saw his mother or sister voice an opinion finds a platform where he can say anything to anyone under a veil of anonymity, he doesn't mind exposing his worst side possible. Abusing powerful men and women, more so women, is liberating for his caged existence. He feels accomplished. Not only does the web allow him to speak his mind, but it also gives him the courage to say things he wouldn’t dare in person. 
Then there is the infamous tyranny of distance. He is in Raipur, you are in Mumbai, how does it matter? Zero consequence. When caught with his pants down, he will delete his abusive comment or suspend his account. And maybe log in again with a pseudonym. On the other hand, if you show the mirror to a reputed journalist or politician, he is likely to call you names and block you. Anger works in different ways with different people.

Most verbal attacks get aggravated because the conversation doesn't happen in real time. Moreover, the veil of the web accentuates arguments. Don’t we brush aside our disagreements when we meet in a social milieu? Hating a tag (Liberal, Bhakt, Congilicker) is easy, not so much a human. 

Talking about labels, it is easy to fall prey to assumptions. Pigeonhole people. Stereotype them. All of this warps our judgement and complicates issues rather than resolving them. People continue believe what they want to. Our truth to them is irrelevant. 
If anything, online conversations tell us that we are all hypocrites of varying degrees with a perceived halo on our heads. Yes, all. Lest we get disheartened, know that the web rage is not exclusive to India. It’s a universal phenomenon. Look how angry the American President is.
 And there’s a long way to go before we can log in to a more tolerant and pleasant social media. Until then it's best to avoid angry conversations and seek real people to converse with. 

Let’s round it up with Kareena.
Bet? Hundred bucks. If the jerk who created online stink about Kareena gets a chance to meet her, he will give anything to catch her glimpse. Who knows, he might even upload a picture with her. To which another angry voice will say, ‘Big deal. Kareena is a sl*t.’ 
Yes, the web exposes our not so pleasant side. Deal with it.