If there is anything I struggle to understand more than the convoluted structure of relationships in the Indrani Mukerjea case, it is how the hell did Rahul Roy become the spokesperson of celebrities? He has somehow, because I see him on Times Now, whenever there is some celebrity-related outrage, and I wonder if it’s because he has a body double like Saddam Hussain, or whether it was because he had a song in Naughty Boy which went “Iske kabhi room main taake, to uske bedroom main jhaanke, kabhi kaheen durbeen lagake, kabhi kaheen parda hatake” that he is considered to be knowledgeable on celebrity scandals. Whatever it be, the great man, brave as he was in Sapne Sajan Ke to make love in a tabela with well-hung horses prancing about, himself does not sound too convinced, repeating ad nauseam “In my twenty five years as a celebrity” as if trying desperately to convince himself of his fame.
What’s a disappointment even bigger than his presence is that he does not say anything scandalous or insightful. Not that I want to pick on just him. The phalanx of Botox that Times Now has assembled are as placid, uttering obviousities like “when you are in a committed relationship you should be honest ” and the rare gem like ” I don’t support this murder”. With no one to shout down, and not even a pretense of a “debate”, even Arnab is muted, and he drones on and on about the same thing, trying desperately to create excitement through the use of hushed tones and flaming graphics, like a polite woman feigning orgasm for the satisfaction of her partner.
This leaves me of course the second most disappointed man watching the whole tamasha, the first being of course Hardik Patel, (he insists you call him Sardar Hardik, which I think is distressing for multiple reasons) who must be feeling very flaccid and soft, at the way he has been stroked away from the headlines.
Again it’s not as if Arnab Goswami is not trying. There is a lot you can accuse him of but never of not trying. He first gives the bromide that “We do not want to speculate”, with the honest tone of a first-timer saying “Will just put the tip in”, and then five seconds later, he is throwing the floor open for “speculations”. Maybe the stress of keeping up the pretense of journalistic ethics with the need to keep the audience reeled in is what’s creating this dissonance, the “wet sari syndrome” of the 2010s, you want to show but you can’t, and that’s just such a buzzkill. In comparison, print is doing a better job so far with the salacious aspects of the scandal and kudos to them for it.
I know I know. The media is out of hand. Trial by media. Intrusive. Scandal-mongering. Unfounded allegations. Character assassination. Yeah yeah. You are all outraged about it.
But you are tuning in aren’t you? You are like wringing your hand, and tweeting ‘How can they do this’ but you still ain’t changing your channel.
Because you want this. Accept it and move on. Cause I do.
Here’s the reason.
We as a society are obsessed by the lives of others. Not poor people of course, they could kill themselves for all we care for.
But rich. Yeah. Super-rich. Even better.
The reason is schadenfreude. While aspiring to the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, we still hate them for it. Because their lives put into stark contrast the misery of ours, of being pushed aside while those flying first class step forward, of sweaty rides in grimy traffic while a Mercedes breezes past in a VIP lane, of being stuck in a job doing the same thing day in and day out while they enjoy frequent vacations in chateaus and villas. The only way we can feel good is to tell ourselves that we are like this because we are better, because after all only the pure suffer, and that only if we loosened our morals and did the unspeakables, we could be like them and that even though they are living a life we envy, inside they are all unhappy and tormented and drunk and deviant. If you don’t understand what I am seeing, take a look at any Manoj Kumar movie. Or this.
Is Mukherjea couple’s relationship the present & future of marriage as an institution among porn loving elites in India?
— Madhu Kishwar (@madhukishwar) August 27, 2015
The Mukerjeas and the Boras are comforting because they confirm our worst stereotypes of the rich and the powerful, being straight out of the pages of the most lurid Harold Robbins, of the heartless social climber femme fatale and the somewhat dim, rich husband, and the mysterious man, and dark family secrets. Every horrible thing that comes out from this sordid affair secretly delights us, though we keep knitting, happy in our little revenge, Madame Defarge-like, claiming to be disgusted and shocked.
When I was growing up, I used to eavesdrop on adult conversations. A lot. The topic of “high-society” perversions came up from time to time, not that anything remotely sleazy would happen in good middle-class families unless of course Western culture. What got stuck in my mind, from among these many overheard conversations, was the word “swapping”. For me “swapping” meant exchanging duplicates of Thums Up caps in the hope of getting a Thums Up Mini Bat or a Thums Up Mini Ball or action flickers (none of which I ever got by the way). However I was not so naive that I could not figure out there was something innately sinful about it.
“These high-society people come with their wives to these parties”, I remember one aunty whispering with round eyes of terror, who then lowered her voice even further to say “and leave with other wives”. What she said subsequently was drowned out in “Chi chis” and “E baba”s and “Eo ki howe?” (Can such things happen?). I didn’t understand what was so wrong about the concept of course. I mean I go to school with one friend, and come back with another, and if it was so wrong, why did my parents allow me?
It was only later, much later in life, when I saw Ajnabee that I understood, together with password policies followed in Swiss Banks, what the word “swapping” meant.
As I went through life, progressing from one social circle to another, I realized that in none of them is swapping even a topic of conversation, forget other forms of Western deviance. They talk about mortgages rates, and DSLR cameras, and lemon scones, and it fills me with clammy cold-handed panic, because I know, I am still in the band of the virtuous middle-class, and despite my desire to ascend socially, I am not anywhere close to where I really want to be.
And possibly never will.
So frustrated at my own inability to be evil, I sink back into the couch, dally around with my humble dinner of rice and a protein, and roll my eyes at the debauchery of those porn-loving degenerates that have sold their soul to the Westernized Devils.
All the while pretending not to see them puckering their lips through the screen, mocking me back.