Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Five, Six, Seven, Hate!

Dear Voice of Indian Youth,

Congratulations on once again making it to the top trending topics in India. How's the view from up there, Sir?

I know by now a lot of people have wasted their time in trying to explain to you just why rape jokes are tasteless, but I'll add my voice to the cacophony anyway. So here goes.

First of all, get over yourself. Not everything is about you. Stop classifying the world into your fans who have delegated the job of representing their voice to you, and your haters who 'lurk' behind twitter handles, stalking you, waiting to pounce. There's more to people than what they think of you and how they treat you. Nobody came to this world with the sole mission to read your books, or to badger you. You're not the good Badi Bahu in a prime time TV show, and people who say mean things about your books or your columns or your tweets are not jealous Chhoti Bahus who'll go to any extent to make Saasuji frown on you, even if it means (gasp!) pouring a cupful of red chilli powder into your daal makhani.

No, you're a writer, a popular one, and your books are available in the market for less than Rs 100 per copy. This means anyone with Rs 100 in their pocket has access to your thoughts, your ideas, your opinions, your creativity and they are in a position to say stuff about you. Deal with it. And if you can't deal with it, don't write.

Similarly, when you write something on tweeter, any and all of your over 1.8 million followers can and will have an opinion on what you say. Not all opinions will be kind. And many of them can and will share those opinions in the public space, just as easily as you share your enlightened views on the state of the economy. Don't whine.

Now on the matter of your latest foot-in-the-mouth incident. What is so wrong in what you tweeted, you ask (as do some of your supporters). Here's what:


At a time when yet another brutal gang rape has shook the nation, when one of our Godmen has been accused of sexual assault, you merrily used the word as a metaphor for the falling rupee. And when people raised an objection to this - some politely, some not quite - you dubbed them as 'haters' and 'idiots'. Agreed, reactions to your tweet need not have been all malicious. But then, in using the word 'rape',  you weren't exactly trying to be polite, were you? You wanted to elicit some strong reactions, stir some emotion, didn't you? Why are you acting all hurt if some of the reaction is directed at you?

You have the right to Freedom of Speech. But haven't you ever learnt that freedom comes with responsibility? I do not find your use of the word in good taste, but I do recognize your right to use it to convey a strong emotion. Now that you have said what you wanted to say, why not stand your ground? Instead of calling people idiots and haters, why not defend your choice of vocabulary, using any of the various channels at your disposal? Why not make a sustained argument for the necessity of using strong, if offensive vocabulary? Why delete the tweet, and for heaven's sake, did you just use the word 'harmless'?

Please go ahead and explain how that precious tweet of yours would have contributed towards uplifting the economy. Please educate us on how we can 'raise our voices' against the fall of the rupee. Should we hold a candlelight vigil? Should we boycott Mc Donalds? Should we rise in revolution and overthrow the evil government and establish military rule - will that help stabilize the rupee? I'm asking in all earnestness, because I know nuts about Economics and have no idea what I can do to stop the tumbling currency in its tracks.

I hope you have some answers in that brilliant mind of yours. If you don't, the least you can do is acknowledge that your remark was insensitive and apologize. After all, “As an artist you have full freedom to write whatever you want to. However... Should you be exercising the right to hurt people (sic)?” - your words, not mine. You said something to this effect in the context of the Salman Rushdie controversy at a Literary Festival. You were, of course, talking about religious sentiments getting hurt. Are those the only sentiments worth protecting, Mr Writer of the Masses?

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