Investing all that time in yourself is a far more meaningful thing to do.
I watch helplessly as the world shreds and probes the Life of acclaimed singer Suchitra Kumar. Her husband, who is an actor and stand-up comedian, is a close friend. Despite his fervent appeal that Suchi be left alone, as she is going through an emotionally challenging phase, the Twitterati and the Page 3 media junta are dissecting the lady’s online activity and behavior. They call it #suchileaks! WhatsApp forwards are simply propagating unfounded information – sheer nonsense, that’s truly avoidable! A few of the couple’s colleagues in the entertainment industry are being uncharitable adding to the media frenzy. Here’s a situation, I believe, that can happen to any of us. Someone’s going through an emotional catharsis. And avoidable content is emerging from her Twitter handle. The family says they are trying to make sense of this. There’s a theory too that her account could have been hacked. Where is the need to rush and pronounce judgment on this? Why engage in frivolous commentary?
When I look at the #suchileaks drama, and society’s response to it, particularly on social media, I can only say that it is sadly reflective of how much our culture has degenerated. Just because we have access to social media platforms, just because we have an opinion on a matter, must we rush to put it out there? Critique is ok. But look at what we are doing, consider how we are behaving. We almost always only criticize, often without any rationale; we chastise, we ridicule, we mock, and what’s most vulgar, we pass judgment ruthlessly. If you sit back and reflect calmly you may perhaps agree with me here. If we invest the amount of time, that we waste on obsessing over the lives of other people, on ourselves, we would not just make progress by being more productive at whatever we work on, we will be happier!
If there ever is anything sinful in Life, it has to be this despicable act of judging others. Unfortunately our society is steeped in this sin, it in fact thrives on it! Most judgment these days happens on social media and almost all the time it is never based on facts or evidence. It is driven by baseless opinion and an angst to prove to the world that you too exist. For instance, if you didn’t post a comment on what you think of Suchi, the moment #suchileaks surfaced, why would anyone even look at your Tweet or post? Or if you didn’t leverage Suchi’s emotional turmoil and give her an ignominious epithet, how can you stay relevant in the dog-eat-dog marketplace?
But there is hope. If each of us can make a small beginning. Clearly, what our world urgently needs is global heartwarming. So, each of us must cultivate understanding and compassion and learn to drop the urge to judge others. We can do this if we can pause and ruminate before making online utterances, specifically in contexts concerning others – not just of celebrities, of anyone. We may like to ask ourselves: is it the truth, is my opinion in the matter relevant, isn’t offering the opinion avoidable; when uttered, will my comment be fair to all concerned, is my Life going to be any better because I commented on this subject or person? I have been employing these questions every single time I have a craving to share an opinion. To be sure, I too have opinions, almost on everything – and everyone – around me. But when I chew over my opinion and subject them to these questions, I find my opinion dissolving. It is a beautiful process – an avoidable urge to judge, opinionate or comment arises and then I throw the questions at that urge and the urge simply capitulates and disappears. Try it! It works!!
I believe the biggest value that choosing to be non-judgmental delivers is time. When we stop obsessing over others’ lives, we have a lot more time to reflect on our own. And it is only through continuously investing in yourself that you can live a fuller, meaningful, happier Life!
Learn to be non-judgmental and un-opinionated – especially if you don’t know the full story.
I didn’t quite want to write a post on Kabali. Already there is so much virtual real estate in social media that’s consumed by the pre- and post-release frenzy over the movie. But my friend Bishwanath Ghosh’s (BG) column in today’s Hindu Melange titled “Why Rajnikanth Rocks” got me thinking.
BG points out that the greatness of Rajnikanth lies in the fact that the man separates himself from his work and resultant superstardom. “He is perhaps the only actor in the country who takes his work — and not himself — seriously,” writes BG. And almost anyone who knows anything about Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, the man, will agree that BG is bang on there. I have met Rajnikanth as a journalist when I was working for India Today more than 25 years ago. From what I hear of him from people who know him closely now, he hasn’t changed at all from the impression I have of him – simple, humble, genuinely amazed by how insanely popular he is and never considering himself to be an actor of substance at all. In fact, in a pre-release interview that Kabali’s director Pa.Ranjith gave Vishal Menon of The Hindu, Ranjith says that Rajnikanth often told him this: “I am not at all an actor.” So, in the wake of who Rajnikanth really is, and how he treats his superstardom, I believe, the frenzied pre- and post-release reactions to Kabali, tell us more about ourselves than serve as a denouement of the movie’s fate at the box office.
The #nerruppuda hashtag changing to #verruppuda, #kaduppuda, #serruppuda, or whatever, tells the story of a virulent audience response after first-day first-show viewings. But that’s the way audiences are worldwide. As Rajesh Khanna would often famously quote from the Kishore Kumar song (Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Anand Bakshi) from his own film Roti (1974): ‘Yeh Jo Public Hai, Yeh Sab Jaanti Hai’. As we all know audiences have little respect or patience for the processes and the emotions behind any creative work. And, in an instant gratification environment, marketers, who want to milk anything and everything, are quick to build hype even over fluffy offering. This past month everyone – from Air Asia to jewelers to Uber to pickle brands – has been milking Rajnikanth’s popularity. Now, there’s nothing wrong with marketing. But to expect a product to live up to marketing hype is always a tall ask. A movie is but a director’s way of telling a story. Some may like it. Some may not like it. To passionately associate with an actor, and make him or her a star or superstar, and unceremoniously disassociate and dump him or her later, is every fan’s birthright. But let’s pause for a moment to ask ourselves this question: What are you and I really doing here? You are saying that if someone is this way or that way then I like that person. And if that person does not live up to my expectation of him or her, I don’t want to have anything to do with him or her. So, essentially, it is what you expect that has begun to matter. Not who this person, that you claim you are a fan of, really is and what he or she wants.
I am not holding a brief for Rajnikanth here. I am not even saying what is the right way or what is the wrong way of being a fan or a superstar. All I am saying is that let’s not rush to judge people without having been in their shoes.
To be sure, none of us knows what it means to be Rajnikanth. Or for that matter what it means to be a Virat Kohli today. We don’t know what it means to carry the burden of having to live up to the expectations of millions of customers or fans – every single time you step up to do something, or simply, go to work! At the end of the day, what a Rajnikanth does is, he works for a living – it is a business like any other. And Kabali is a product like any other movie is. If the product is bad, like some sections of the audience are reporting it is, then we must simply remember the age old wisdom that “no amount of good advertising can sell a bad product.” But the product being bad does not necessarily mean its makers don’t have good intentions or that they have no talent or potential. Besides, we have a right as consumers to reject a product if it does not appeal to us. But let us stop with this. Let us not pass judgment – the unkindest comment I read somewhere is that “Soundarya is intent on making her father (Rajnikanth) bankrupt” – or opinionate on what kind of films Rajnikanth must act in or what characters he must play. The shooting-from-the-hip attitude we are seeing on display on social media over the past 24 hours is an important reminder for all of us to revisit a significant principle of intelligent living: In situations where we know little about a person or the space they work in or the Life they lead, passing judgment or opinionating, is totally avoidable.
Just as you work for joy and profits, so does someone like Rajnikanth or Pa.Ranjith. The most ideal situation is when someone can get both joy and profits out of what they are doing. And sometimes, as in the movies business, even if the audiences reject the product, the people who made it may have enjoyed the process of creation. We will never know. Because we are neither Rajnikanth nor Pa.Ranjith. So, the best we can do is to watch the movie, if we really want to, we can like it or dislike it, and move on. Let’s not pass judgment on people whose lives we have not lived and so whose lives we can never understand.
PS: I am not a fan of Rajnikanth, the Superstar, but I believe he is a great actor and a greater human being!