Every year, or every few months, Indian media tries to create a viral sensation out of unprivileged people. There’s a lot of hype, interviews, tweets and anything and everything imaginable to drive the TRPs up. But in doing so, it often treats them like circus attractions. Here are a few examples.
1. Baba Ka Dhaba
The 80-year-old owner of a small eatery in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar became an internet sensation after a blogger documented his struggles during the pandemic. This led to a viral campaign that was joined by commoners and celebrities alike asking people to go to his food stall, which was a massive success.
Let’s help put their smile back … our neighbour hood vendors need our help to ❤️🙏. https://t.co/X4RNcYOA9w— Suniel Shetty (@SunielVShetty) October 8, 2020
But then, the media did not leave him alone. From constant video bytes to interviews by everyone and their mothers meant Kanta Prasad became a subject of memes, trolls and such. Even if you manage to disassociate all the drama surrounding the man and the alleged misappropriation of funds, the fact remains that Indian media used him as cannon fodder and then when people lost interest, hung him out to dry.
2. Ranu Mondal
Ranu Mondal became an overnight star after her rendition of a Lata Mangeshkar song at the Ranaghat station in West Bengal went viral. What followed was viral campaigns and plethora of interviews, both on TV and on social media, even invitations of conclaves, hosted by the likes of Barkha Dutt and such.
But soon, the pandemic hit, and she vanished from our collective memory. There were reports that she was doing in a poor financial situation and had to move back to her old residence. And you would think after all that circus, we would have someone cover the bitter part of that story!!
3. Budhia Singh
Remember this child prodigy in 2006, at the age of four, ran a gruelling 65 km distance between Puri and Bhubaneswar in a little over seven hours. Surely the boy was an athletic marvel, destined for higher things. Surely, by now, he would have at least been part of an Indian Olympics team.
Well, that was not the case. After the media hype and the million and one interviews and features about the boy’s life, his coach was murdered and that pretty much ended his tryst with running. Indian media actually forgot about him until Manoj Vajpayee came up with a biopic on Singh. Nobody covered the fact that Singh’s mother complained about the state govt hanging them out to dry or the fact that Budhia himself spoke about not having proper nutrition at the sports hostel the government had put him in.
4. Sahdev Dirdo
You know him as the Bachpan Ka Pyaar kid. And he is brilliant at what he does and everyone loves him. The only bad guys here are Indian media and the way they covered this child’s story. He was singing the song every time someone interviewed him and while he didn’t seem that bothered by it, for people slightly older, it was evident that he was being treated as a circus attraction.
5. Bhuban Badyakar
You know him as the Kacha Badam guy. Except you can’t even recall his face and now you are scrolling down to see if I have attached a picture here. LOL! While it wasn’t exactly Indian news that did him injustice, it was actually social media and Instagram influencers who went on dancing to a autotune of that song without giving him any actual credit. I know, the headline says news, but let’s be honest here, there’s not much of a difference between the two in this country anymore.
6. Pradeep Mehra
And in the latest addition to the list of people who didn’t ask for social media virality but got it anyway is Pradeep Mehra, who was recently filmed running at night after finishing his shift at a restaurant where he works. When asked why he was running, Mehra said he was preparing for the army. Great for him but if this wasn’t a scathing indictment of our system then I don’t know what is. Needless to say, everyone from every part of every political spectrum imaginable turned it into something inspiring when all it is, is Poverty Porn.
And then some shameless media channels invited him to the studio and asked him to run there. But that’s what he’s lacking, the ability to run.
As predicted, news channels making him run inside the studio and creating Baba Ka Dhaba moment one more time. It have now became spiritual and moral compulsion of nation to invent one baba ka dhaba moment every year and celebrate festival of ‘kindness’ until the season last. https://t.co/wskPfkZYjS— Anurag Minus Verma (@confusedvichar) March 21, 2022
I am sure, we will keep adding to the list. Indian media does require a regular dose of poverty porn to keep the facade running and create ‘moments’, because what else are we gonna do, journalism? LOL