Guys, this appeared in Asian Age, Deccan Chronicle on 28th March. I am bleary- eyed after Dubai, since the flight gets in at a disgusting hour (2.45am). Lots to report from Dismal Dubai - but break ke baad!!
Blog…. and be damned!
It’s come to a sickening point : I blog, therefore, I am! I am hooked. Seriously. I don’t remember the last time I experienced the same sort of rush from writing. And I write, have written, shall continue to write etc etc etc. But, even after reams and reams of the stuff over so many years, blogging has hit the sweet spot like no other medium. It is freeing…. hugely liberating… and entirely satisfying. I asked myself what it is that I so enjoy about blogging. Take a look at the downside – I don’t get paid for it. The reach is fairly limited as compared to newspapers. The comments posted are often vile and abusive. I don’t even know who is abusing me since the senders remain anonymous or hide behind silly names. So, why do I blog? For precisely those reasons. Since nobody is paying me, I can set my own agenda and deadlines. There is zero editorial intervention. And the responses are immediate. It’s a space I control and I like the autonomy that gives me. Plus, I have made some great ‘friends’ – I call them ‘blogdosts. I have no idea who these people are. Chances remain high we may never meet. Their real identities are a mystery. But I’ve discovered I have more in common with these strangers than I do with real ‘friends’ from the real world. My Blogdosts make a lively bunch of sardonic critics who keep me on my toes. They bitch, crib, trash and praise in equal measure. I value their comments because they come minus baggage or prejudice. It is an equal space. A democratic space. And that’s what makes blogging special.
I have several observations on the sort of reactions Bollywood stars generate in the blogosphere. There is a pattern to the reactions which suggests the stars have somebody monitoring blogs and responding to them in an organized fashion. Bollywood is big on blogging, even though the ardent bloggers who set the ball rolling a year or so ago, seem to have run out of words, steam or lost interest. Today, that space has been taken by the likes of Shilpa Shetty, who use it well, even if the syrupy content ( like the Jane Goody g’bye) gets a bit much sometimes. Fans who follow Aamir Khan’s blog will notice how well timed it is. Aamir is the master of timing – even when it comes to mauling SRK, Aamir makes sure it is done at a perfectly calibrated moment that generates enough controversy in the press to push his own movie or affect his rival’s. If a co-blogger (me!), writes about this tactic, several comments get instantly posted , defending Aamir in a civilized, well argued, literate language. All of them sound like Aamir himself. But even a single critical line on SRK will generate a torrent of filthy abuse, cursing several generations of ones kin in graphic detail. Most comments will end with a taunt , “ How much is Aamir paying you…?” The language is crude , rude and strewn with gutter level gaalis. Most of these comments are from Dubai, as is evident from the cross references in them. With Salman Khan, the reactions are equally swift, but childish in the extreme. Like Sallu bhai himself. Even the abuses are kiddish. His fans are most protective about their hero, and I imagine they are as juvenile as their idol. Criticising Mr. Bachchan even mildly, results in an immediate counter attack– directly from him on his own blog. It is well considered, pedantic and stiff. Praise is generally ignored! Akshay Kumar doesn’t bother. Maybe he doesn’t read. The rest don’t matter.
But it is when one posts something negative on Narendra Modi, that the fun begins. Modi obviously employs several people whose job it is to monitor and respond to everything written or said about their leader. His minders send torrents of mail filled with a detailed deconstruction of why some sections of the media are so prejudiced against this guy who has done so much for Gujarat. The arguments go on and on…. and if one analyses the tone , vocabulary and content of the comments, it’s clear they originate from America.Perhaps Modi’s many supporters in the U.S. trawl the web in search of anti –Modi references which are promptly repudiated. That’s the Modi efficiency for you. Raj Thackeray’s critics ( millions of them – going by the response) never tire of sending me hate mail by the bushel. They also bombard my space by posting links to an interview I’d done with Karan Thapar a while ago, which they insist shows me expressing my ‘support’ to Thackeray (utter rubbish!). The last person to generate heat on the blogosphere is, of course the latest brat on the political scene – Varun Gandhi. I came across a Pakistani blog that took him to the cleaners - but in such a witty way. Since he’d been clubbed with Modi (why not?), the blogger from across the border, urged the world to watch out for the new fascist on the block. Interestingly, his comments’ column is filled with entries from outraged young Indians expressing their admiration for Big Mouth Varun and defending his hate speech. Just this morning I received an impassioned defence of this Gandhi, which attacked his critics and put up an argument accusing his Chaachi (you-know-who) of orchestrating the campaign against him. He quoted from her infamous “ Maut ka Saudagar’’ speech and pointed out how it actually worked in Modi’s favour! Said the staunch supporter, “ The same thing can happen for this 28- year- old brave, young politician called Varun. If a Hindu defends his religion, he is called communal. Why is that so? How come it took 16 days after that speech for the cd to surface? Why is the EC picking on Varun when so many other politicians have said far worse things? Varun had the guts to give a voice to what millions of young, patriotic people feel. We are proud to stand behind Varun.” Makes one wonder about the state of ‘hate marketing’ – someone is obviously doing a good job out there!
Then came this message from a blogdost who pointed out that Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s death anniversary ( 23rd March), was totally ignored by the media. He sounded genuinely agitated by that, and understandably so. Wrote this person, “ A hot- blooded, dynamic, aggressive and brave patriot’s martyrdom was overlooked by all, while an irresponsible, crude and arrogant nobody like Varun Gandhi hogged the limelight with his obnoxious utterings. We should be ashamed of ourselves.” Are we??