Is this our social media destiny – vicious fake news or pictures of Taimur Ali Khan?
Parents all over India can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
According to a TimesNow headline, Saif Ali Khan has shared “how he and Kareena Kapoor keep Taimur Ali Khan grounded despite the constant media attention”.
Thank goodness. Taimur Ali Khan, not even two, might be barely off the ground himself. But the media headline lets us know how his parents are keeping him grounded already.
But then the media also reports cheerily that the little “munchkin” (which seems to be the favoured nickname for him) has “even started responding to the camera. He gets equally happy to spot the shutterbugs and delights them with his innocent voice”. There’s a whole article out there about the how the “super adorable baby boy” waved to the paparazzi and said “bye”.
Move over kitten videos. The real catnip is here. And he comes with star pedigree. With generations of Bollywood stardom behind him, Taimur Ali Khan is just made for going viral in an age of social media. He already has dozens of fan pages with tens of thousands of followers at the age of two. He marks a great leap forward from the other dozens of star kids and their Instagram pages.
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What’s truly head-spinning is that trapped in the media’s hall of mirrors, it’s hard to tell what’s real anymore. The paparazzi surround young Taimur, snapping his every playdate and then CNN asks his father about the challenges of raising a child in the media spotlight. The media giveth and the media taketh away. And then the media maketh news out of what it giveth and what it taketh away.
Traditionally, political leaders like presidents and prime ministers have tried to keep their children outside the media fishbowl. They may not have always succeeded but they tried valiantly to give their kids as normal a childhood as possible. After all, the parents chose the limelight, the child did not. But it’s not easy to avoid the camera glare. Chelsea Clinton was mocked for her frizzy hair and braces and a tabloid asked, “Why are Democrats’ daughters so ugly?” The Bush twins were busted for underage drinking prompting cheeky headlines like “Jenna and Tonic”. A Republican Party communications director admonished Barack Obama’s daughters, aged 13 and 16, for their expressions and their outfits at the annual presidential turkey pardon ritual. “Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar,” Elizabeth Lauten wrote. And she was roundly ticked off for it. Donald Trump’s son Barron came in for some social media ridicule as well.
But all that attention is about media baring its fangs. When it comes to young Taimur, the media is just showing its sweet tooth. All the time.
“Taimur’s day out just got cuter and we can’t get our eyes off him.”
“Taimur Khan saying hi to paparazzi is the cutest thing you will see today.”
“Taimur Ali Khan and Inaaya Naumi Kemmu’s play date is adorable.”
“Taimur Ali Khan flashes his dazzling smile as he accompanies mommy Kareena to aunt Karisma Kapoor’s house.”
And just giving up on even trying to make it sound like news – “Just some photos of Taimur Ali Khan looking like the cutest baby ever.”
All sugar and spice, but that does not mean it can’t be injurious to health. This is not entertainment news. This is entertainment mush. I have some sympathy for those whose job it is to turn this regurgitated baby food into news. At least those presidential children were old enough to do things like order margaritas with a fake ID or blow smoke rings. At Taimur’s age, they just toddle. They are not meant to do anything that should be remotely interesting to anyone except doting parents and grandparents.
Who are these photographers documenting Taimur’s playdates? Who are these reporters churning out breathless articles? Are their brains turning to mush as we speak?
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An unscientific survey of Taimur-related articles has revealed that there are a few golden rules for covering the “munchkin”. Preferred adjectives include: adorable, cute, cutest. Choice phrases include “bundle of cuteness”, “cute as a button”. When it comes to Junior Nawab there can never be too much cute in one article.
He dresses in “cool causals”. If you are feeling very cutesy you can call him “Little Tim” or just “T” as in “T has the celeb gene for sure and we adore how well he handles it” (Umm, at the risk of repeating myself, he is not quite two). The media follows his haircuts, his holidays, and of course couture at Ganesh Chaturthi – ivory kurta with little baby blue blooms along the sleeves and collar.
We can’t even!
Is this our social media destiny? To either drown in a cesspool of vicious toxic troll hate doling out rape threats and trying to provoke riots with fake news or overdose on slices of synthetic Taimur sweetie-pie?
One wishes young Taimur well. Soon the cameras that crowd him will not feel as adorable as he enters the terrible twos. Will he be allowed to have a tantrum outside the media glow? And if the cameras are banished could that feel like going cold turkey for a child raised on the red carpet? But this is not about how Taimur Ali Khan’s parents should be raising him. It’s not that his parents aren’t aware. Saif Ali Khan has said that it becomes difficult to instil moral values and family values into kids who grow up with constant media attention. This is really about our unhealthy and prurient interest in a child not yet two. Why are the paparazzi even stationed on the Taimur Ali Khan beat, crowding his childhood?
By the way, there’s someone in all this that nobody seems to notice much. Taimur’s nanny, dressed in white, pops up in so many of those pictures. There seems to be little curiosity about her. And she’s rarely, if ever, smiling in the photographs. “If you notice, even his nanny seems less grumpy than usual today,” writes BollywoodLife.
All I can say is thank God for the “grumpy nanny”. At least someone seems immune to the sugar overdose that is exposing our news cavity.
The author is a social commentator and writer.
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