Every feelgood story of our times has one reigning plot, much like a Salman Khan movie. You either live a hero or the bubble bursts. That is one thing we can all surmise with 100% certitude in this day and age.
The RTI activist you are donating money to is most probably using it for kharcha paani barring a few random PILs.
The charity owner who promised to fight ‘fascism’ is probably using your hard-earned money on wine and asparagus.
The most vocal male ‘feminist’ #MeToo crusader is usually a sexual predator in real life.
The anti-caste activist probably won’t let his own daughter marry a lower-caste.
And so forth, most public heroes are invariably polar opposites in their private lives, epitomising the vices they claim to battle valiantly.
This natural reality was reflected once again in the Baba Ka Dhaba controversy.
A few weeks ago, Twitterati celebrated with the gusto one would reserve for the roll-out of a successful COVID-19 vaccine after they came together to click selfies at Baba ka Dhaba.
For the uninitiated, Kanta Prasad ran a road-side establishment called Baba Ka Dhaba in Malviya Nagar which hit viral nirvana after a video highlighted the lack of customers at the eatery post COVID-19. Now, even within a month of passing, Kanta Prasad filed a complaint against YouTuber Gaurav Wasand for allegedly ‘misappropriating money raised for him and his wife’.
Prasad told The Indian Express: “I don’t get a lot of customers now; most people come here to take selfies… Earlier I was earning over Rs 10,000 per day, now it’s Rs 3,000-Rs 5,000.”
The complaint claims Wasan deliberately shared his ‘family’s bank details and collected a huge amount as donation’. Wasan has denied the allegations, claiming he shared his bank details because he ‘didn’t want people to harass Baba’.
Meanwhile, some Youtubers have alleged Wasan received close to Rs 20-25 lakh, which he denies.
In many ways, it reminded one of the Deepika Rajawat case, who was held up as a one-woman army in the Kathua rape-murder. Rajawat became a beacon of hope, her V-sign in front of the Supreme Court hailed as a triumph of humanity, intersectionality, feminism and god-knows what else.
Emma ‘Hermione’ Watson tweeted the picture along with a Buzzfeed article, which in its own hyperbolic way, hailed her as a ‘force to reckon with it’.
Rajawat was eventually fired by the victim’s father because in the 110 hearings in which 100 witnesses had been examined, Rajawat turned up only twice, despite appearing in a zillion articles as their lawyer. She claimed she couldn’t attend the case on a “daily basis” because she had many ‘pending cases in Jammu’.
As an interesting aside, the other gentleman clicked with Deepika Singh Rajawat in the viral image – Talib Hussain – was accused of rape in two instances, including one by a JNU student and of domestic violence by his wife.
Then there was Jessica Krug, a white ‘black studies’ professor who channelled her inner Hardik Pandya and pretended to be black, blamed it on ‘mental health issues’ and then ‘begged to be cancelled’.
In fact, most often, whenever one sees an individual vociferously pronouncing a certain set of values, one can surmise that said individual will be pronouncedly against the same set of values in his personal life.
The dilemma lies with us with the way we react to things that go viral.
We just see a minuscule view – a shadow-like Plato’s Man in a Cave – and conclude that it’s reality.
The whole picture – as Hegel liked to put it – is usually in stark contrast.
A blind man touching an elephant’s tail thinks it’s a snake and most of us need to remember this while reacting to something that goes viral.
These incidents are important to keep us moored to the real world.
That we are largely saintly people is a mendacious edifice upon which society is built.
At the core of it, most of us are horrible individuals – venal, self-preserving, tribal, parochial, and fetid.
So, when people start celebrating a random good deed as a triumph of humanity, one always needs a reminder of the cold, cruel world that we actually inhabit.
That the Baba Ka Dhaba YouTuber was allegedly using a poor old man’s misfortune for social media gain and to make money reminds me of the true nature of humanity. That’s who we are and it’s important not to forget it.
Yes it’s cynicism but it’s better than getting taken for a ride because one believes in fantasies.
The milk of human kindness is much like magic realism. It’s a fabulous fictional plot, but rarely the full story.
It’s important to keep oneself anchored to the real nature of the world we live in, as opposed to the imaginary we’d like to inhabit.
Only when we function with the notion that everyone is trying to cheat us that we can be truly free from illusory thoughts that believe in the milk of human kindness.
No one can break your heart if you don’t go around handing it to every snollygoster making false promises.
The problem with illusions of human goodwill is that it turns off, just as the cameras go away. We’d do well to remember that.
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Nirmalya Dutta is the Web Editor of The Free Press Journal. The views expressed are his own.