What do Rahul Gandhi, cricketer Jos Buttler and football player Raheem Sterling have in common? They are victims of the invasive nature of social media and the total absence of privacy that now dictates celebrity status. If you and I had to live like this we would kill ourselves. Yet, most of us believe this hounding is a fair tax on the fact that you are famous. Ergo, you are public property so take your lumps.
Take Rahul and his unknowingly recorded comment of 'bizarre' in reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's yoga calisthenics. In the great cosmic sense it isn't much. In a nation fraught with problems, how is this an issue of great debate? Not one of us goes 24 hours without saying things about people, including our friends and loved ones which we'd be mortified to hear replayed in another context.
The comments are mild in comparison to Rahul's tedious torrent of hostility against Modi and of absolutely no consequence or importance. Why would anyone make such an issue of this type of off-the-cuff remark, which all of us probably make a dozen times a day? Especially when India is facing larger issues such as poverty, disease, hunger, corruption, and injustice.
These trifles have become an Indian obsession and obliterate genuine Fourth Estate efforts to focus public attention on matters of import. When this sort of non-news gains greater traction than the fallout for India from a petulant and grumpy American president Donald Trump aiming his vitriol at us, then you know something is terribly wrong.
Take Buttler. We have unending footage of cricketers digging their noses, biting their nails, correcting their guards, hawking, scratching their backsides, spitting and even being 'shot' through glass windows when they are changing clothes. If any of these videos were taken in a work space or office, the 'victim' would scream blue murder. Any of us would be deeply offended and file a lawsuit.
Against this travesty, combined with the semi silent profanities that cricketers hurl, even sitting down in committee to discuss the "Buttler issue" is a cruel joke. There are bigger fish to fry than tiny little writing on the top of his bat using the now so sanitized 'f' word that no one even sees as an expletive these days (depending on how it is pronounced it has over 400 meanings).
Yet, having fanned the flames, we suddenly get righteous and pious about silly little actions. Sterling is receiving flak for a tattoo of a gun on his leg. The ink of a gun commemorates his murdered father and represents the way he shoots with his right foot, but the England player is being attacked for 'glamourising gang culture'. Because he is black, he is now a bad guy. Would the same hold good for Wayne Rooney? Stereotyping players encourages racism and not all the signs in the world can stop it if the mindset stays the same.
Since everyone wants to be heard and social media is now a runaway horse, we have disgruntled retired servicemen moaning about their lot, politicians mumbling bias and prejudice, critics vilifying individuals out of tangible personal hatred and knee-jerk responses from celebs creating chaos and hurt followed by regret and apology. Michelin chef Atul Kochhar, who was recently booted from his job for an indiscreet tweet on religion in a quick moment of irritation is a prime example of people who do not think before they leap into 280-characters.
It is so easy to make the jump from what you privately think to going public with that indiscretion and then regretting it with horror at leisure. The privacy issue is going to get worse as fake news is joined by trivial matters and has become our staple diet fed to us by instant abbreviated channels of communication.