Hardik Pandya Might Become a Better Celebrity, But it’ll Take More than Our Outrage to Change Him

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Hardik Pandya Might Become a Better Celebrity, But it’ll Take More than Our Outrage to Change Him

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Ihad no idea who Hardik Pandya was until I saw the shredded remains of a reputation he might have had splattered all over my Twitter timeline. As I acquainted myself with this enigma, I learnt that he had done the unthinkable. Pandya forgot to wear the mask of the liberal sophisticate when he made his debut on the now infamous Koffee With Karan couch. I didn’t even have to watch the episode – and now I can’t, considering it’s been pulled off by Hotstar – to know that for Pandya, women are trophies meant to be picked up from nightclubs after he’s done with the fourth shot of the night. And then, like a dutiful son, proudly brags about his conquests to his parents. The only upshot is that Rani Mukherjee wasn’t lurking in the background in her neon-coloured glasses so Pandya’s mother was spared from being accused of raising a first-grade asshole.

It’s not difficult to pinpoint the cause behind this eruption: Pandya mistook a chat show that airs on national television for the privacy of a locker room. He didn’t realise that the trash-talking, sleaze boy personality that he was trying to project on Koffee With Karan would end up covering him in bile that Twitter would throw up in copious quantities. The unprecedented online backlash against his statements even alerted the BCCI to issue a show-cause notice to both the cricketers. They’ve now been suspended pending an inquiry into their comments.

Look, I’m not suggesting that Pandya didn’t deserve the outcry. Most Indian men pretend to be clueless that their attitude toward women are demeaning and regressive until they’re named and shamed. And Pandya is evidently cut from the same cloth.

I understand Twitter’s hearty appetite for a good lynch. But I am also well-aware of its hypocrisy. When protesting voices turn into a mob with the world and their aunts chiming in with their own two cents about the fault in Pandya’s stars, it doesn’t take long for it to be reduced to tamasha. Since the tamasha must continue for at least a few days, the mob gets busy churning out jokes and memes at Pandya’s expense. It throws in a dollop of scathing denouncements and then waits patiently for Pandya to transform – seemingly overnight – into a respectful bloke that women want to take home to share gobhi parathas with their parents. While they are waiting for Pandya to transition from frog to prince, the ever-burgeoning club of hypocrites find someone else to attack. And the cycle repeats itself all over again.

Since the tamasha must continue for at least a few days, the mob gets busy churning out jokes and memes at Pandya’s expense.

But in all this deserved outrage, can we take a moment to admit that most of us have multiple personas – and that we tend to reserve the polished, politically correct one that always makes the right noises for the world at large? Pandya’s fault was that he revealed the-high-on-testosterone-macho-dude that shares bobs and vagine clips in his all-male WhatsApp group to the world. Instead of the version where he is a gentleman who respects the game too much to admit to being a womaniser. But here’s what I want to know: Will our aggressive outrage on social media alter attitudes of men like Pandya?

I don’t suppose a backlash like this will make 50-year-old French writer Yann Moix capable of loving women in their 50s. He will still chase 25-year-old women for their extraordinary bodies. I don’t even envision Pandya realising the need for introspection either, even after his non-apology apologies. Men like Pandya and Moix are simply by-products of decades of patriarchy that has always seen women as somebody’s property – not somebody. And they will continue to air their dirty mindsets in private even after their public censuring.

But what this backlash will assist in is the birth of the pretend-woke boy, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. He will make the right noises, cheer for feminism, use the right hashtags, and will become a social media darling. And the gullible fall for this trick every single time until they discover that he is the man he pretends to hate – the one who treats women with disdain. Remember the #MeToo movement when all of us collectively wailed “He too?” every time our favourite liberal intellectual artiste was exposed as a sexual predator? Remember the deluded men who were more than happy to shame predatory behaviour until they were called out by their victims?

When was the last time you confronted the classist, racist, misogynist in you?

They’re not the alone. All of us are victims of delusion as well.

As you take it upon yourself to draw a line for Pandya’s behaviour, tell me something: When was the last time you confronted the classist, racist, misogynist in you? Did your internalised misogyny make you cringe when you smirked at the girl who flashes too much cleavage and hooks up with a new man every week? The greatest classist drama plays our every day in our homes with our hired helps. But, we’re ready to forgive that and not a cricketer who happened to put his foot in his mouth under the arclights.

If you happened to answer “Yes” to these above questions, congratulations, you are a figment of someone’s idealist imagination. And if you didn’t, then thank you, and also can we finally agree that none of us is the model of exemplary behaviour that we seek to project on social media or the outside world?

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