Nation of hotheads
Breathless after #JusticeForSushantSinghRajput one twitter handle hashtagged, just to cover all bases, #ChineseAttack #BlackLivesMatter #KunalKamraRoast. Sorry, #Sushi.
How to trend on Twitter? Easy. Here is Indian Twitterati's favourite bhelpuri formula:
Take any subject that's trending.
Spew gaalis at whoever you can think of.
Add every hashtag you can think of.
Create groupies of like-minded Twitterati.
Add generous dose of patriotism.
Add right wing sentiments, preferably of the hurt variety.
Bas, you'll have millions of followers and be trending forever.
Clearly, India is a nation of hotheads. They need a regular fix with new enemies to take down daily. Last Sunday, it was Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput trending, who unfortunately died of a suicide. There was no suicide note. Yet, social media, especially Twitter, was agog with wild speculation on the reasons he took his life.
Somebody suggested he died of nepotism. Doctors, please note new cause of death. Immediately, someone else suggested Karan Johar did not give him plum roles, and therefore was incredibly mean. Somebody else said yes, that's how the 'Bollywood gang' treated a poor 'outsider' like Sushant, who in seconds, became everybody's favourite #Sushi. In minutes, Twitterati armies were grouped around hashtags like #nepotisminbollywood #Karanjohargang. In a few more seconds, #JusticeForSushantSinghRajput became #boycottkaranjohargangmovie, and shortly after, #boycottbollywood. What? Boycott the entire Bollywood film industry because one actor committed suicide? But, if you argue with common sense, rationality and minimum knowledge, you can never belong to the trending hashtag brigade, you'll be taunted, called Unkal or Aunty, and left to die. #boycottbollywood will trend. Never mind if that also means boycotting Kangana Ranaut, High Priestess and Sole Proprietor of Outsiderhood, who will scratch out the eyes and much else of anyone who wanders on her turf. (A loyal fan tweeted: "She is bravest girl in industry, she INSULTS Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone, says mai inki waat laga dungi," making it clear in all caps why she was her fan.)
Lists swiftly went out, of Karan Johar's forthcoming films to boycott. By evening, there was "The dialogue writer of (Karan Johar's) Takht is a Hindu Hater. Spread this." Aha! Right wing, tick. That left patriotism, and there was a chance to demonstrate Indian-style patriotism the very next day.
On June 15, the Chinese army killed at least 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan, eastern Ladakh. Twitterati howled with hashtags like #IndiaWillPunishChina #BanChineseProducts #BanChineseServices. One patriotic chap roared, "Our India government needs to take a firm decision on banning Chinese products and services. We don't want anything which has blood of our soldiers."
Great idea. Someone did a quick check of figures by Gateway House, which showed that Chinese FDI in India is $6.2 billion, but has outsize impact because of its tech penetration, including the wildly popular app TikTok, owned by ByteDance, Xiaomi handsets and Huawei routers, apart from Chinese coups like the $1.1 billion acquisition of Gland Pharma by Fosun. Moreover, Chinese giants like Alibaba, ByteDance and Tencent have funded 92 Indian start-ups, including Ola, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, Swiggy, Zomato, Big Basket, Paytm.com, Oyo and Byju's, many of whose services are popular with middle and upper class India, while lower middle class India has long been addicted to Chinese maal from A-Z, including Ganesh murtis. As somebody added meekly, "It's too much thinking Sir…they started boycotting noodles, Chinese food, maximum punishment to China." W-o-h bhi Indian-made Chinese noodles.
Meanwhile, another Twitter handle hashtagged, just to cover all bases, #ChineseAttack #BlackLivesMatter #KunalKamraRoast. Sorry, #Sushi.
Meenakshi Shedde is India and South Asia Delegate to the Berlin International Film Festival, National Award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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