Shweta Salve recently made headlines when newspapers reported her stealing a pair of diamond earrings from a friend’s house. Salve has since proclaimed her innocence and has been defended publicly by friends and family.
This is not the first time a celebrity has been accused of petty theft. Hollywood actress Winona Ryder was convicted on shoplifting charges and perennial trouble maker Lindsay Lohan has also faced accusations of stealing. So what is it that prompts the rich and famous to steal?
“The simplest answer would be kleptomania,” explains Dr Anjali Chhabria, psychologist. “This disease doesn’t restrict itself to classes, it affects both rich and poor.” Chhabria reminds that celebrities are humans and are prone to the same problems as everyone else. “I once had a rich client reveal that she used to steal jewellery from her sis-in-law,” reveals Dr Seema Hingorrany. “It is important to recognise that these people are not thieves, they just have a problem too strong to control.”
Kleptomania may be explained as an uncontrollable desire to steal, even if one can afford or doesn’t need the item. It is usually the result of a troubled childhood or deep-seated issues.
“The most important thing is for them to admit that they have a problem. They can resort to therapy to stop themselves between the urge and the impulse to steal.”
Chhabria also points out substance abuse may play a role in some cases. “In Mumbai, a high lifestyle means easy access to addictive substances. And when people are in this altered state, they cannot control their impulses. They may later realize their mistake,” she says.
Both psychologists also agree that stealing may also be a thrilling game. “Many people do it for the thrill of it. They also want to see if they can get away with it,” explains Hingorrany. “They go through a phase of feeling guilty, but that doesn’t last too long.”
She reveals that in some cases, the person even gives the victim expensive gifts to compensate for the guilt they feel. “In most cases, it is a habit and needs to be corrected. And with therapy, it is also curable,” emphasis Chhabria.