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RT@india: I, me

What is it about Twitter that causes men like Modi and Tharoor to boast, tattle and scrap; women to blurt it all out? The reasons are prehistoric, writes Samar Halarnkar.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2010 22:47 IST
Samar Halarnkar
Samar Halarnkar
Hindustan Times

I admit it, I’m on Twitter. I’m not sure why. I tweet maybe once in three days, and I’m learning to keep myself busy while my wife smiles and snickers her way through what were once our couple moments, glued to her Blackberry (alas, I gave it to her). The no-mobiles-in-the-bedroom rule has crumbled, and even a cinema offers no relief. When she looks dangerously at you in the middle of a darkened theatre and continues twittering, it’s best to sink into the seat and sulk.

As in Twitter, so in life.

Women appear compelled to tell us what they’re feeling, what they just did. Men tend to be boastful, hide their feelings and appear ever ready for a feud or abuse.

I suppose that’s why Shashi Tharoor, India’s minister of state for Twitter affairs, declared on his feed on Tuesday: “I’ve had enough”, as he carried on his somewhat bizarre twar (Twitter-war) with Indian Premier League (IPL) supremo Lalit Modi, who clearly knew what he was doing when he tweeted the ownership patterns of the Kochi IPL team (implying one of them was obviously Tharoor’s friend Sunanda Pushkar).

If you can limit yourself to 140 characters per message — a hard thing to do for hacks like me who have the luxury of 900 words — Twitter is a brave, sometimes irksome and all-consuming, new world, where you can become a one-person broadcasting corporation, if, of course, enough people are tuning in.

There are probably more people tracking Tharoor than anyone else in India. A month ago, he had around 500,000 followers. Last I checked, that number had crossed 700,000, way ahead of Shah Rukh Khan (iamsrk) with 266,107.

Tharoor’s anti-Modi tweets are making news now, but the former United Nation’s Assistant Secretary General’s lesser known tweets certainly fit the look-at-me male persona.

“Signed an Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement with Planning Minister of Democratic Republic of Congo. Will help Indian investors in DRC,” said the tweet that followed the one declaring war on Modi. The tweet before: “Riyadh Governor Prince Salman is in town. Attended dinner 4 him by Vice-President Hamid Ansari. Momentum of PM’s recent Saudi visit maintained.”

You can discern the self-absorbed tone with king Khan too: “i may soon lose my job as a lover if fighting comes into vogue. somebody stop it. start a society prevention of cruelty to romantic heroes.”

I, me, myself. Twitter is new, but men will be what they always have been since they lived in a cave, pounded their chests and dragged women by the hair. As for women, they seem to flower on Twitter, revealing their wit, wisdom, attitude — and what they are feeling now.

As I write this, I’ve just seen my wife’s latest tweet. “Yawnnnnnnnnn,” it says. Don’t ask. But you see what I mean. Still, she has more than five times as many followers as I do, lapping up her smart-alecky approach to life.

At the cost of sounding sexist, I reckon women can’t help their online garrulousness. In Wednesday’s HT City, actor Gul Panag (of the deep dimples) said she was once addicted to Twitter, “but now if I have nothing to say, I don’t tweet.”

Oh? Well, there she is, saying nothing with six tweets (one about a meeting with an animal husbandry officer in Punjab), sandwiched in my Twitter feed between Anand Mahindra (who tweets about his company’s achievements, no surprise there) and the ubiquitous Tharoor.

SRK’s twittering again.

“100 days on twitter. thanx everyone. saw a 3 month old baby yesterday...seems like i am one on the twitter now. its been a good life so far.”

If SRK’s having a good twitterlife, can Salman Khan be left behind?

Bollywood’s bad boy created his own big bang in the twitterverse on Tuesday in typically laconic fashion. “Arbaaz ne kaha ke tweet kar toh banta hai boss” (I’m unsure how to translate this, so I won’t try).

That was his first tweet with the handle Beingsalmankhan. Here’s the second: “Challo nw, who ever was being me, party over, baju hatto plz.”

Within minutes of his swagger-filled entry, 3,000 people were following Salman (and I thought I was doing all right with my 437 followers in two months). That number climbed to 18,000 in less than 20 hours.

Twitter fuels our innate voyeurism, removes intermediaries like the media and is the first truly online expression of who we are. It’s hard to be someone else in less than 140 characters.


I am unsure what to be on Twitter.

Candid? Er, no. My life is my own. My most exciting confession thus far: buying a motorcycle.

Newsy? Since I am a journalist, I sometimes comment on random events. But, really, I bore even myself.

Brief? That makes sense. I tend to ramble, and twitter has forced some discipline on me.

I am more twittered at than a twitterer. No, I am no fan of Twitter.

Yet, I don’t want to be disconnected. While I sort out my Twitter persona, its seductive appeal has sorted out the reasons why I’m @samar11.

I am on Twitter to see how spats like Modi-Tharoor play out; it’s part of my job. I am on Twitter because I am curious to see how people talk and act in the this-instant life; because I don’t want to be left behind; because, oh well, like all men, I guess I too want to have my say.

But mostly I’m on Twitter, for one believable, somewhat prehistoric reason: to see what my wife is saying.

First Published: Apr 14, 2010 22:42 IST