“Dhoni’s 5-year-old daughter Ziva is getting rape threats after CSK lost IPL match to KKR”

This is the headline that greeted me on Google Discover last evening. Needless to say, I could feel my blood boil after taking one look at this. And the screenshots of these threats were enough to make me feel so enraged, not because this is the first time I am seeing something like this, but because our people have normalized bullying and abusing celebrities and their families online to such an extent that this is only “yet another story”. It has only been 10 days since I wrote a blog in which I had talked about how people think even the cheapest and most obscene and horrific comments under celebrity posts or on their pages are “part and parcel of the game” and something they should be ready to accept since “they reap the benefits of social media for fame”. Yes, let us keep making it sound like no big deal and let faceless assholes keep giving rape and death threats to even little children only because celebrities are “public property”. Tell me, why would anyone, celebrity or not, child or adult, deserve such comments? How is that in any way something to be brushed aside or “taken in stride” as “a normal consequence of being famous”?

While the comments against little Ziva are of the most horrible kind, something that countless female celebrities get on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean that only these kinds of comments incite disgust and anger in me. Every time I see something about Taimur Ali Khan or Aaradhya Bachchan or any kid of a celebrity while scrolling down my social media pages, I see tons of comments making fun of them, abusing them and their parents. And what hits my mind is this – do these jerks even realize that they are talking about little children here? Not that I endorse online bullying or harmful trolls of adults in any way. In fact, I have written multiple times about the unfair treatment that celebrities have to face only because they are public figures and are “supposed to” take it because apparently, we are doing them a favour by buying movie tickets or tickets for a cricket match. That logic in itself is lame because we are not giving them money for no reason, but for a service we avail of – entertainment, whether we like it or not. But to drag their families who have nothing to do with their work or profession into it is taking it to the next level of absurdity. And especially so, when the attack is on these poor kids.

Sure, we have been over-exposed to Taimur Ali Khan from the time he was in his mom’s womb. But in what way is that his or his parents’ fault? They do put up his pictures or videos once in a while on their Instagram handle, like many parents do. I do that too. When we do it, the comments are “Aww”. But they do it, the comments turn extremely bitter, as if they are doing it for fame – as if they need to use their kid for their fame. What kind of stupid logic and double standards is that? And how are they in any way responsible for the nauseating paparazzi culture that has taken over our country in the last decade or so? Yes, when they became celebrities, they knew they would be giving up their normal lives to an extent, they knew they would be scrutinized by public to an extent, they knew they would be famous and maybe they enjoyed the fame too. But to this extent??? I don’t think they ever imagined that and I am sure they do not enjoy it either. Because what is happening right now is a complete violation of their personal and private space. And we only have the “celebrity-hungry” readers or viewers to blame for that. Paparazzi makes it hell for celebrities only because they know it means more readers/viewers and more money.

Even if the comments are jokes, these kids do not deserve that. And certainly not the mean ones. If you have a problem with seeing pap posts about them, your object of anger should not be the little ones who are already being blinded by camera flashes every time they step out and cannot have a normal childhood. It is not their fault that they were born to famous parents, it is definitely not their fault that these stupid vultures mint money by selling their pictures at an age when they do not even understand fame and all that comes with it. It is not their parents’ fault either for not wanting to lock these kids in their houses for fear of the paparazzi. I have seen most celebrity parents trying their best to not lose it and be gracious even when crowded by the vultures and somehow staying calm to make sure their kids do not get scared. Despite all that, these pictures sell like hot cakes, sometimes with the meanest of captions or write-ups. And on top of all this, if you say it is okay to put the blame on these little kids and their parents, for you getting bombarded with their pictures, how is that in any way sensible?

The mean comments shock me sometimes; I just can’t get my head around the fact that people can be so cruel towards children, wishing them ill health and death, poking fun at how they look, comparing them as if they are race horses – the list is too lengthy. All I know is that if you are angry with the paparazzi coverage for these young ones, you should start ignoring such posts so that the “demand” for such pictures goes down at least a little, or you should express your displeasure towards the ones who chase and hunt celebrities. Instead, by viewing all these posts and writing sick comments against some innocent children, you are doing no one a service. You are just being absolute assholes, who think it is your privilege to talk about them whichever way you want – issuing rape threats if their parents do not perform well in cricket matches, issuing death threats if their family members are actors you do not like, passing lewd comments because you find it fun.

For all of this to change, the first thing that should change is our “normalizing evil” culture, that is encouraged even by the most educated, supposedly most civilized people. Until that day, someone else will keep suffering and we will still look at it as hot gossip or juicy Page 3 news.