Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Page Three .....

Newspapers today have separate supplements that highlight folks , whose sole concern is probably to stay in the public eye. While newspapers in my younger days were thinner , less glamorous, and more mindful of what they published, I have often wondered how this so called market for gossip and celebrity circuit got built up.  

It could be something they say, or something they are wearing, and sometimes even something they are eating or drinking, which probably cost you and me the next EMI on something. 

And there are actually professional types  they hire to do this.   
    It seems  there exist people called publicists, who , for a price, make it their business to inform all and sundry , the minutest activity and other details about their client,  even stooping so low as to hint at things , that the general public might speculate upon gleefully  and swallow. 

Long long time ago, which is like 54 years ago, our family visited New Delhi around Christmas. There used to be a public darbar  by  Panditji  at Teen Murti, every weekday morning, where you simply went in, stood in line, and he came down and mingled, and met folks. Lots of school and college students with their teachers,  folks from rural areas, local folks, and tourists.  As students we read about him, the freedom struggle, and looked up to the government, and I still have an enlarged portrait of our entire family with him, on my wall.  My younger brother decided to present the flowers we took with us, I had none, and so I plucked the flox outside Teen Murti gates, and clutched them .  :-)    No security, no whistles or leaping sniffing dogs, and he accepted them along with my red Santa Claus brooch which I unpinned, to give him. He put his arms across our shoulders and my brother and I walked a bit with him. It kind of confirmed what we had heard. He loved kids. And we've believed in Children's Day, more as something that was true rather than a vote catching gesture .  

We didn’t know then that a word called “celebrity” existed.  And sometimes I even wonder why they exist today.
Today, I guess folks are obsessed with celebrities in India, because, secretly, they , the celebrities,  do what you could not. 

So a  guy who specializes in taking off his shirt at the slightest perturbation, and dances   with his hands hooked into his belt, displaying his abs, is a celebrity.   He drives recklessly, cars you only dream of, and has accidents. He is treated with kid gloves by the cops, he dances at their functions, and he is excused from court appearances because "he is shooting".   His entire family defends him, and all his girlfriends are glamorous and famous.   You, of the wrong U-turn that caught the attention of the cops, can you do that? 

Another guy , high up and powerful, kind of rubs it in, when he walks in the midst of 8 security  Black Cats,  his hands folded ,  a flunkey carrying his phones,  and people applaud, and bend to touch his feet. Some even tie shoelaces for him.   Someone in the background does all his dirty work; he calls himself a servant of the people, and moves one step higher.  Can you do that?  Forget servant of the people.  You barely manage to be a servant in your own house, with your grueling work schedule. And when was the last time you moved one step higher ?

Then there are folks from abroad, mainly movie and TV artists/singers.  Hype is built up about where they will stay, eat, party, and travel. Dishes are named after something they ate or nibbled . ( Did anyone even name a Khichdi after you ? )   There are security types who do sanitizing of places before these folks arrive.  Today celebrity waving is an alternate career option for some folks.   You stand at the airport, scream and shout out their name, possibly even faint, all at the rate of Rs 100 an hour.  And you hope that you accidentally get to see Aishwarya Rai or Yuvraj  Singh on the side.    Paying  people to pay people to wave at you.  Can you do that?

Folks with  Z-plus security.   Policemen in double digits, inspectors, jeeps, and Black Cats accompany you, even if you visit a kindergarten. Or even if you are out at unearthly hours.  Traffic stops for you,  potholes fill up, sirens wail, you race ahead on the wrong side of the road, and even then you reach everywhere half an hour late.   Can you, of  the  8:12 double fast Churchgate local train, do that?

Then there are  those , whose sole work is to attend social functions,  sometimes with varying partners, but always in clothes that indicate fabric famine, and even antigravity effects. They are  always ready to purchase ordinary looking things at  outlandish prices for charity , and dine on food where you eat Vada Pav   and call it “Pomme de terre avec pav”, and say "Vada Pav-lova" which means "I love Vada Pav".  Everything costs more than your family expenses for 6 months (and counting),  and the papers go gaga over   clothes, and partners.   You, who worry  about  Dosas at the Udupi  now costing 50  Rs , can you do that?

There are those who comment.  In  words and actions.  Trainee celebrities, who appear on  television  and  try and outsmart others  in their inability to express a  fullstop.  These folks, tie black ribbons, hold candle marches and lead walks with serious  expressions , dark glasses, they  hold hands  and form chains.   (It must be mentioned, that some of these people, to their credit, also run marathons, where every kilometer they do is paid for by some company as charity, and actually helps a deserving cause).     Forget candles, and banners, the last time you held a hand out, did the bus or rickshaw stop?   Forget marathons, does anyone pay you as you run from the bus stop to platform no 2 to catch your train, day after day?   Can you do that?

No ?  That's why the system has celebrities. So you can aspire to things. Which you may never get. 

 And you thought  that a son in IT, and a tall, fair, home loving, beautiful daughter-in-law also in IT, and a choreographed sangeet at your daughter's wedding , as folks clicked and posted on FB using Iphone 5  was the ultimate ? 

Think again.  



  1. You Suranga-ji are one of the best writers I have play with words and this one is really lovely..

    Seriously, 8.12 churchgate local and worried about dosas costing rs. 50 in udipis..ahahahah :) thats me for sure :):)

  2. Times have changed and so has the mind set.54 years is too long a time to rewind.
    In my opinion,what you have stated started with generation of after 1980 and worsened after 2004. Those in their 30s see the most materialistic world,corrupt politician,100 cr club,FB.
    I can only feel sorry....we have lost our basic values of life

  3. I remember the picture of three of you with Panditji. I think you used to have it in your living room then!

    Just the other day, we 'saw' Salman!Black cat commandos and a huge entourage. What took me by surprise was the number of people running after him with their cells to get a photo! This was a few minutes after Hari Prasad Chourasia had walked towards the gate without being recognized by most people.

    Also, once we had a quiet man walking towards the check-in and were surprised to see it was Ratan Tata so unassuming!

  4. A long time has gone by... sure a bigger change of stance .

  5. First time visitor :) very nice blog ! And, thoroughly enjoyed your piece.

  6. Ha ha ha !!!! :D :D Awesome :D

    1. for a long time there were so few celebrities ! but now... there is a plethora of them eh ! :D But seriously I just loved your post... the play with words.. awesome ! and gee... I dont even have a Iphone nor did I have an orchestrated dance or anything in my or my bro's wedding... I really need to look at the mirror !!!!!

  7. Enjoyed reading your post!

    And no, I cannot do any of these things... that's why I'm celebrity obsessed (not really). hah