First came the letter from Amitabh Bachchan to his granddaughters. Now come the letters by Farhan Akhtar and Mary Kom addressed to their respective children. While Bachchan's dealt with patriarchy, Akhtar's deals with rape and Mary Kom's deals with molestation, gender issues and being a northeastern woman in India.
What is common to them?
They deal with the problems of patriarchy, consent and how women are treated in India. Both very important topics for women in India. They are also all very well written.
So why am I uncomfortable with it?
Because they are all part of campaigns.
One has been part of a closet marketing campaign for a film, the second is one by a newspaper to exhibit a social conscience. In the case of the newspaper, it piggybacks on the stardust of the writers. It's not just about what they're saying, it's about the fact that they've got a big celebrity to say it.
Celebrities have a larger platform than most to influence, stand up for a cause and bring the spotlight to issues that might deserve it. But to waste it on random marketing campaigns that are designed for little apart from promoting either a product or their own celebrity status they only ruin the credibility of their own voices for when it might be relevant in the future.
Let's not forget India has a dismal record on many fronts when it comes to gender equality. We have a low sex ratio, poor enforcement of women's rights, little sex education in school and an entertainment industry that has been guilty of perpetrating some of the worst notions on love and sex.
Akhtar does address some of these issues in his piece. Kom also addresses the subject of molestation and having a husband who stays at home to ensure she doesn't have to give up her career.
But remember, none of these pieces will go to the larger audience they deserve to. They cater to an English-reading audience, and are directed at the urban fans the celebrities already have. They will be shared on social media till the next viral sensation comes along. There will be no more discussion on the issues that have been raked up, it ends with the last full stop of their columns.
And then there's the worst bit about all these open letters. The roping in of the children or grandchildren. You shouldn't have to rope in your progeny into a campaign to make a point. Addressing it to your children is convenient, it absolves the reader of any responsibility and gives it an emotional twist to a piece merely to make it more acceptable for social media.
Akhtar or Kom's arguments on the issues they raise are no less relevant if they aren't addressed to their children. If anything they should be addressed to the people of the country that they're hoping to influence, because they're really the ones that might need to change.