The last open letter to writers of open letters
Open letters are quite a rage now. In this column, Sonal Kalra talks about how people have resorted to writing open letters on a social media platform and then wait for hours for it to go viral. Read on...lifestyle Updated: Dec 14, 2014 16:34 IST
My dear intelligent and outraged friends,
Before I begin, allow me to bow down at no less than 90 degrees in reverence towards your exceptional ability with words and your supreme confidence in deciding our opinions for us. Also, let me seek forgiveness in advance. I don't really know how to write open letters.
In my school days, open letters were the ones that only got written in the answer sheets, and started with us 'begging to state something with due respect'; mostly the fact that we collectively had loose motions since morning and would thus be unable to attend school. And that we should be granted leave and be duly obliged in the process. We also never forgot to thank in anticipation of being granted that leave, because, you know, the entire class in a state of loose motions can be a scary proposition for the teacher to consider otherwise.
Outraged hona toh hamein theek se aata hi nahi tha. Specially when it came to social issues affecting our lives, protesting meant actually taking part in a juloos or jalsa and raising slogans loudly. Most lazy bums wouldn't bother, so we'd only read about this remotely expressed outrage in the newspapers.
Now, my fellow enlightened beings, we have been blessed with the opportunity to take part in an e-juloos. It starts with one of you getting angry about something that you feel everyone must get angry about, and writing an open letter on a social media platform. The participants of the e-juloos also have it easy. Naare nahi lagaane ka, simply share karne ka. If the outrage is too much, they'll add a 'must read' caption over it, otherwise they would just like and share. Then wait for a few hours, and when two and a half of your own Facebook friends have shared it, turn around and say with a smirk 'dekha, viral ho gaya hai mera letter.'
"I don't really know how to write open letters," says Sonal Kalra
Now, you get ready to give TV interviews about why you got so angry that you decided that everyone in general deserved to read the contents of your angry letter seemingly addressed to someone in particular. You will also get requests for interviews by newspapers and online news sites. Zyada kaam toh hamaare paas vaise hi hota nahi hai, and what makes for better news than an outraged open letter going viral. Soon enough, another intelligent being will write an open letter in response to your open letter, and then the e-juloos janta will diligently get into sharing that one, and media will turn their cameras and microphones on the responder.
In this lovely process, what gets thrown about like a ping pong ball is the opinion of a not-so-intelligent lay person like me, which keeps shifting with every new open letter. I get adequately outraged by reading one, then I get de-outraged by reading a response, then I get outraged again by the media report, and then I log out and bang my head on the wall.
Recently, the curious case of Rohtak sisters confused the daylights out of me. Many of you first wrote open letters glorifying the belt-beating skills of the bravehearts. I got tremendously outraged. Then many of you wrote open letters about the seeming misleading of public sentiments because the girls apparently turned out to be serial boy beaters. Then I had to get de-outraged, not sure of what to trust. Phir, the absolutely sickening rape-in-the-cab happened in the Capital. Ex-VJ Shenaz Treasurywala wrote a heart wrenching open letter, describing the plight of unsafe women, and demanding from Salman Khan and the country's Prime minister, among others, that rapists be killed.
I was completely moved by her letter, getting angrier and angrier, identifying with every relatable personal incident of harassment she narrated. I took an active part in the e-juloos that followed, and shared her letter on every platform with much outrage. And then the next morning, the front page of entertainment newspapers carried a paid-for announcement of her new film getting released this weekend. What followed was an onslaught of open letters about how her open letter was a well-timed promotional act.
I de-outraged (is there even a word like that?). You know what, I don't even care whether Shenaz's letter was a PR gimmick or not, as long as the contents of her letter prompted me to think, but what got compromised in the process is my sense of what to trust. This whole attack of open letters one after the other, each trying to swing my opinion into a different direction is, very frankly, getting on my nerves.
We are over-exploiting our emotions to such an extent on social media that soon we may lose all our good sense of what to get genuinely outraged about and what not. Can you guys, for the sake of my little-left sanity, take a break and not write these angry open letters for a while? Just for a little while. I'm desperately trying to find something I've lost. My own true opinion about things.
Thank you in anticipation.
A not-so-intelligent, not-so-outraged common person.
*Sonal Kalra is planning to write a postcard to PM Modi on New Year. Oh no, but that would make it an open letter.
Note: Mail her only closed letters at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.