When Katrina Kaif posted Instagram videos of herself doing the dishes and sweeping the floor of her house during the coronavirus lockdown, it got a lot of people doing what they do best — comment.
“She’s faking it”, “She probably got the domestic staff to take the videos while she just posed”, “She’s doing it wrong”, “Look at all these Bollywood stars ‘discovering’ ghar ke kaam that we’ve all been doing for years” — these were just some of the comments, on social media and also on my WhatsApp groups.
The funny thing is that many of them employ cooks and cleaners. We too do ghar ke kaam when the staff is on leave. We too have posted photos of ourselves cooking in our own kitchen during the lockdown (#quarantinecooking), and have shared memes about how sweeping and mopping the floor is a great workout and we’re all going to emerge from this lockdown with the perfect summer bod.
Which is why I find it odd that we are so quick to judge someone else for doing exactly those things. Is Katrina Kaif not allowed to do, say or feel the same things that we do, just because she’s wealthy, famous and attractive?
Privilege isn’t bad
The coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown in India have thrown into sharp relief two things. The first is obvious: the chasm between the privileged and the disadvantaged. The second is how quick we are to hate on and judge the privileged — the people who are more or less, for lack of a better term, like us.
Privilege isn’t something to be ashamed of. Most of us spend our lives working really hard, precisely so that we can earn enough to live well. So it seems odd to me that we should spend the rest of our lives pretending we don’t do that, or believing that money and a comfortable life are not important to us. It is bizarre that we grudge someone their privilege, such as Katrina, who has worked extremely hard to earn it.
Being aware of one’s privilege is important, but surely one doesn’t have to explicitly add that caveat to every complaint or grumble that leaves one’s mouth. We aren’t in a contest to see who acknowledges their privilege better, and this constant pressure to virtue-signal and be eternally woke is, frankly, exhausting.
We are allowed to be human, to have wants and cravings, no matter how trivial in the larger scheme of things. If someone’s greatest concern during this lockdown, for example, is that they cannot get their favourite brand of coffee or that they’re out of alcohol, there is absolutely no reason they should be ashamed of saying that, whether to their friends or on social media.
Social media isn’t the final word
This brings me to the question: Why are we so hung up on what someone posts on social media? It is not, and has never been, an accurate indicator of every single thing going on in one’s life or mind. For all we know, that whiny coffee snob may have also donated money to help the migrant labourers and daily wagers whose lives have been turned upside down after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a three-week national lockdown with only four hours notice. For all we know, that celebrity we troll for her dishwashing technique might be supporting her domestic staff’s family. It is also possible that she might not be doing it, but it is not our business to comment on it or judge her.
Katrina, or Malaika Arora (who was also trolled when she posted about cooking a Malabari vegetable stew), or most of the other people posting about their experiences of being in self-quarantine, said nothing rude, patronising or classist in any way when they shared these posts. They were merely sharing their experiences and making the best of what is a difficult situation for all of us. Yes, it is more difficult for some than others, but that doesn’t make one experience more real or more valid than another.
If there is one thing the coronavirus pandemic should be teaching us, it’s empathy. Now is not the time to withhold it.
Views are personal.