Of Celebrities and Soft Targets

Over the last few weeks, every news and conversation has revolved around the pandemic. But amidst shortage of medical facilities and growing Covid fatalities, some headlines have shocked me. Like the PM addressing rallies and praising the large gathering, the Mahakumbh in Haridwar going ahead, and the prestigious Central Vista project taking off.

I looked for prime time panel discussions, op-eds and social media commentary questioning these moves. There were few and from known sources. Our media merely reported facts and when the foreign media criticized it, our people got offended. “Don’t interfere in our internal matters” was the collective response, which quickly and conveniently changed as soon as their leaders announced financial aid.

No sooner had the condemning of these acts gathered momentum, the government agencies got to work and the standard operating procedure was set in motion. This involved shifting focus from the government to other soft targets placed specifically for this purpose, celebrities! Bollywood actors were called out for posting photos of anything that’s not related to Covid, for sending virtual hugs instead of cheques, and (surprise!) the BCCI was attacked for continuing with IPL.

In India, actors and sportspersons have always been held to a higher standard than the rest. They are “expected” to step up and speak up at crucial points in time. Not that those who do so are lauded. Instead, their intentions are challenged. When Akshay Kumar donated money to Gautam Gambhir’s NGO, he was accused of being a BJP servant since he only cared for Delhiites. When Abhishek Bachchan shared some kind words, he was asked to do more (read money). Salman Khan’s pledge to provide food for front-line workers was called a publicity stunt since his film’s about to release. Australian cricketer Pat Cummins’ donation led to Virat Kohli and other Indian players being trolled for not following suit.

People seem to have forgotten that they all have been doing their bit over the last one year and they are currently doing what they know best as well, i.e. cricketers are playing cricket and giving the nation some sense of normalcy. But alas! How can they continue to participate in the “glamorous and cash-rich” IPL when the common man is suffering? So what if the tournament is being held behind closed doors and inside bio bubbles making these players the most secure section of the population at this moment? So what if this is one of the few businesses that are keeping the wheels of economy turning? That discontinuing IPL will not make any positive difference to the current situation, instead take away the one source of joy and relief that people have, is totally lost on the armchair critics. Perhaps they’re waiting for some more celebrities to commit suicide due to depression to discuss the importance of mental health again.

You’ll also notice that the expectations from these men and women are rather superficial – donate money or Tweet gyaan. It’ll simply take an announcement that BCCI is making a donation from the IPL earnings to stop the wagging tongues.

Lest we forget, the success of these actors and cricketers is their own. Whether it’s BCCI or Salman Khan, they can choose to spend the money they’ve earned in any manner they see fit. They don’t owe us an explanation. The other guy (he-who-must-be-named), however, is in that position because we put him there. The money that’s being used to “redesign” Delhi and win elections is ours and we need it now more than ever. He definitely owes us an explanation and I dare all to redirect their questions towards the real perpetrators. If you can’t, at least don’t add to the negativity and misery. Keep calm and enjoy the IPL.

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