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Why Shobhaa De deserves to be booed

By Sudhir Bisht
Last updated on: August 10, 2016 23:51 IST

'You can ignore someone's passion, but how can you taunt someone for being obsessed with achieving greatness in her/his chosen field?' asks Sudhir Bisht.

Shobhaa De likes to be known as a 'journalist, columnist, social commentator, opinion-shaper and author of 18 books.' Well, that's what her verified Twitter handle tells us.

I have no quarrel with her in so far as she calls herself a columnist and author of 18 books. I respect her for making money from her readable-and-forgettable books and mumbo jumbo columns. But I do have doubts about accepting her credentials as a social commentator and opinion-shaper.

I would better describe her as a beautifully ageing writer who refuses to hide her crow's feet with Botox. And her columns are popular since most other columnists are either too heavy on intellect or too far removed from matters of public interest.

Shobhaa, with the extra a added to her name, is a social commentator of a somewhat queer type. Sometimes she writes after seeing which way the wind is blowing. And often times she writes contrarian pieces to hog the limelight.

A well-heeled socialite who must remain in circulation to be invited by hyperactive television anchors who must have her on their shows whenever awards are being returned or whenever Salman Khan has a brush with the law.

I don't take her seriously and I know people watch her just to say, 'Oh how gorgeous she looks!' And then we move on. But her one tweet has broken the equation between those who like her face and Madam De.

Let's look at the tweet she sent out on the day I was cutting my 52nd birthday cake.

It reads: 'Goal of Team India at the Olympics: Rio jao. Selfies lo. Khaali haat wapas aao. What a waste of money and opportunity.'

She even got 732 likes for her comment. The tweet isn't an off-the-cuff one. It is the type that will make kitty party women kiss her on the cheek and say, 'Wow Shobhaa, Bindaas you!'

I believe De has gone a bit too far in insulting some of our finest athletes, and there exist good reasons to boo Shobhaa De for her insensitive comment.

The primary reason to do so is that sports in general is an area which only passionate men and women risk taking up as a career, and passion should never be made fun of.

You can ignore someone's passion, but how can you taunt someone for being obsessed with achieving greatness in her/his chosen field?

Sports is among the few professions where young boys and girls venture into because of their supreme love for it. And when I say sports, I exclude cricket which has become more of a religion and hence has lots of money in its very existence.

All the athletes who have gone to represent India in Olympics have qualified by winning world standard criterion for representing their country. They have laboured for years in extraordinary tough conditions.

They have kept their morale high in times of financial difficulties and in times when they trained with inadequate coaching and haphazard living conditions.

Remember that before they came under the patronage of any organised body, many of them were travelling in buses, sleeping in mosquito-infested hostels and surviving on poor nutrition.

The fact that they survived all this to reach Rio in itself calls for some degree of appreciation.

I will not single out any athlete because that would be an injustice to the others, but they all had to start by arguing out with their worried parents who feared that taking sports as an occupation was doomed for good.

The parents feared that their children would toil hard over difficult climes and it is tough to withstand the rigours of athletics only to fall by the wayside, midway in their pursuit of any worthwhile glory.

All the athletes who have gone to Rio are the best India has, for now. So it is natural that only they have the right to represent India in the Olympics. To taunt them for taking selfies is crass.

Winning medals is a matter of real performance. It is not the same as manufacturing followers on Twitter.

Shobhaa De is an opinion-maker for a small section of glitterati that relishes shocking others. She doesn't fit into the image of any real opinion-maker.

Shobhaa De is, of course, a social commentator, but of the wrong kind. She comments not to give her opinion, but to attract counter-comments.

Madam De, you just lost one buyer of your 19th book, that is, if you still have anything new left to tell the world.

Sudhir Bisht, author and columnist, tweets at @sudhir_bisht

Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

Sudhir Bisht
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