Long live poverty

Poverty is a pet theme for politicians acpoverty_wideweb__430x387ross the world. Intellectuals use it for their survival.

Bachi Karkaria writes in The Times of India, 24 April 2009,

Imelda Marcos once pronounced that she had to live so extravagantly ‘because the poor need to look up from their slums and see a star’. She may
have ended up as a black hole with fancy shoes, but what she expressed so crassly had always been a fact. In ancient Rome, that diversion was the circus Games for the impoverished plebs. In the present, it is Page Three for the middle-class masses.

But all this has turned downside up. Everyone is lapping up sordid slumdog sagas with the rapt attention formerly reserved for the glam-sham of business princes, Bolllywoodcesses and botoxed Queenies. On the Gawk Quotient, the bustierati is being jostled out by the busteerati. It’s the new version of ‘upliftment of the poor’.

Take the reported sale of Rubina-Latika. Prime time, Page 1, cyber chatter and penthouse indignation all focused on it. True, there was so much buzz because the story sprang from a sting operation by a gora tabloid; it’s unlikely that there would have been the same fuss had it merely oozed out of a self-righteous expose in the Indian Express.

Truer still, the Rubina sale released as much adrenalin as a top-brands Sale not because it involved just any slum kid whose ilk is routinely bought and sold without the daiquiri divas getting their thongs in a twist. It was about the child who had walked the Oscars red carpet o a greater dazzle of flash bulbs than Abhi-Ash at Cannes.

On day one, more reporters and TV crew were deployed at Rubina’s Garib Nagar bustee than at a Gandhi/Advani rally. Mercifully, the IPL managed to salvage some of the glitzzat of conventional celebrity. A respectable number of TRPs did accrue to Preity, Shah Rukh and Neeta Ambani.

Are we hurtling into a role reversal of gawker and gawked-at? Is this the dawning of the Age of Reverse Celebrity? Or is it the narrowing of the gap between the haves and the have-nots in a perverse mutation of Garibi Hatao. Consider these four factors.

One, the tale of Rafiq Qureshi trying to hawk his Cinderella to the highest bidder should sound familiar enough to the merchants of the plush matrimonial market. Also to the greedy parents who relentlessly turn their little kids into circus bears on t.v shows. Indeed, the rich should have no trouble recognising Greed as Life’s Principal Driver, even if they don’t deign to identify with this story’s ‘Fake Sheikh’, Authentic Arab, or Cad Dad.

Two, the shrewd Mr Qureshi has taught business barons a sharp lesson in market capitalisation, cashing in on the brand equity of his overnight asset. Little Rubina too seems to have quickly acquired the insouciant savvy which hallmarks rich brats, thus doubling her innate street-smartness. She has tasted blood big-time, so why shouldn’t she sashay into the luxurious future her beloved abba-jaan had planned for her? Inshallah, it may not have a sinister aftermath.

Three, if the rich have always arrogated special concessions to themselves, the parentally challenged Mr Qureshi doesn’t see why he should be flayed for flouting the rule book. “I’m poor,” he said, without even bothering to whine. And the minister ostensibly in charge of protecting the country’s children seemed to agree when she pronounced on national TV that we should not presume to condemn the ethics of the poor from the comfort of our air-conditioned spaces.

And finally, take the catfight between Rubina’s step and biological mothers. It sounded salaciously similar to the concurrent one between Adnan Sami’s estranged wife, Sabah Galadari, and Pooja Bedi. Right down to the fact that the slum photograph showed a Muni disrobed by a screeching Khurshid, while, according to Pooja’s police complaint, Sabah had bared her breasts as she hysterically accused the actress of having an affair with her husband.

Mubarak ho, the rich-poor gap has been bridged.

It is time to stop weeping over rich poor gap and maximise the benefits for all. Eradicating poverty is a day dream. As long as the competitive world survives poverty will thrive.


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