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Friday, July 12, 2024

 Aunty, give some space

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The need for everyone to have their space, even celebrities.

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An actor, I know, was recently telling me how she doesn’t have much privacy because she is a film star and in between shoots preferred keeping to herself in the trailer, drinking her tea or answering phone calls. She said if she stepped out, fans would swoop in on her to take selfies without even asking her first! Better than arguing and wasting precious minutes, she said, she preferred going getting the pic taken.

Actors do realize because of the nature of their profession — the hype around their so- called glamorous life—they are expected to be accessible to the public all the time. But let’s look at it from their point of view before impinging on their space. How tiring it must be for them that they can’t go to an airport or take a flight without being accosted by people who want to chat them up, and further take pix. But I feel even a Deepika Padukone is entitled to her privacy, and be allowed to take a catnap on a flight. I can already hear comments (on my Instagram when this appears) such as — but actors love being in the public eye, or that because they are part of the movie industry their life is for public consumption. But I don’t subscribe to this view, because every human needs space, even a Shahrukh needs to sit quietly sometimes and have a smoke without a dozen cameras taking his pictures. In general, I feel we Indians refuse to demarcate spaces that should remain in the private domain.

In Western countries, we wouldn’t think of pinching a little kid’s cheek (however cute and chubby she is), for fear of a parent reporting us to police. Here, we don’t think twice before carrying a rosy-cheeked kid to our table and stuffing her with biscuits and cake without the parents’ permission.

Even worse, we don’t leave a newborn baby or the mother alone, but will make comments and rude remarks like how the baby is a bit dark and puny like the mother. A new mother is going through several anxieties all at the same time and giving space would be a kinder thing. It is one thing being friendly, but another accosting a parent to ask why her son quit the well-paying IT job to become a stand-up comic or why the daughter despite being a topper is now a Youtuber teaching cooking (not knowing how lucrative that can be, they will even say why has she become a cook?).

Indian relatives, I agree, are caring but I think they need to respect boundaries. Why should that random aunty, go up to a teenager who is already going through angst and peer pressure, to ask why she has put on weight or become so dark (aunties’ constant obsession)? And as we are getting older, why is it that our face and body become public domain? Aging is a difficult process for anyone, without people making comments like, your face looks bloated these days, you’re putting on weight near your hips, or why are you looking so tired? My skin and mood will not be what it was at 25 years, and please allow me space to deal with menopause. When I say space, I’m also talking of physical space. Why are there no respectful distances in queues in banks or cinema theaters in this country? Why must men fall all over you and push you to reach the ticket counter? It's worse when you take a flight.

If airports are packed with passengers speaking loudly on phones, on flights we are literally sitting packed like sardines; so close that our hands, shoulders, and legs all touch one another. What’s more, it’s a veritable chaos when a flight lands and people shove and push, and grab overhead bags to scramble out of the aircraft not respecting anyone else’s space. We can also respect another person’s space in a public arena by not talking loudly over the phone, and keeping some distance from one another. I was amazed to read how the Japanese hardly answer phones while on trains and buses, and when they stand in lines they do so in silence without any chatter or buzzing phones. Here we could write the life history of the person next to us, just from the conversation on the phone, so loudly do they talk about their personal matters. India is an overpopulated country as it is, with a billions of humans.

Let’s keep both physical and mental space private. We could begin with not asking questions that are of no concern to us (like why are you not married or have no “issues”), and second, by giving each other breathing space in public ( airports, buses, streets). And yes, even a Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone need their private moments. They are surely not public property.

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