How can you claim to be a good human being, or maybe even a human being, unless you have irrefutable proof? See, the times are such that you should immediately record evidence of your 'humanity' on YouTube.
In case you are a little baffled by the preceding declarations, check out the Facebook page of 'actor/director' Varun Pruthi. Of his many accomplishments, one is recording the fact that he is indeed a great human being. And no, he is not making empty claims. He has proof that you cannot refute.
Pruthi took a 5-year-old boy, who lives on a Mumbai street like millions others like him, to a McDonald's store. He fed the child in the outlet and recorded the entire procedure. He later uploaded the video on YouTube with the title 'A 5 Year Old Street Kid Goes To The McDonald's for the First Time'.
No, I didn't watch the video. The intent and the sound of it is repulsive enough.
I stumbled upon it from an Indian Express article on my Twitter feed exhorting people to 'Watch: A 5-year-old child labour goes to McDonald’s for the first time'. The article says, "Actor Varun Pruthi who’s known for his social experiments, took this cute-little child labour, who earns his living by selling pens, to McDonald’s and what happened next will keep haunting you for days."
I can't say if I am terrified by the idea of being 'haunted for days' or I find the act of watching an impoverished street child having a burger in McDonalds to kill time deplorable, but I didn't go ahead and watch the video.
Because unlike the 2,19,324 people who seems to have watched the video since it was uploaded two days back, I find poverty neither fascinating nor something to 'ooh' and 'aahh' over from the comfort of my air-conditioned cubicle. In fact, I find the idea of the video nothing short of obnoxious.
You want to feed a kid? Sure, go ahead! But what do you get out of shooting a video as a five-year-old child, for a fleeting while, gets access to something that he otherwise knows is inaccessible to him? Was he ecstatic? Maybe. Was he afraid? Maybe.
People who have watched the video, how great did it feel to watch a poor, five-year-old boy possibly obsessing over a burger that you and I would barely even bother to finish? Did you go 'aww, poor thing'? Yes, right? Did you tell your colleague, "Oh my god, this sucks. Did you see this?" and forward him the video? Yes, you have. And how exactly, did you help the child in question and millions of other children like him in the process? No way. That child, once he has served a 'I am a do-gooder and I deserve to go viral' person's purpose and has seen you through a slow work day, will go back to begging, working and trying to make a living in a way you or your children would not ever know.
Now read this again and again till you get it: you just exploited a 5-year-old child's miseries to spice up your lunch with a little melodrama. In the process, you have catapulted the person who has shot that exploitative video into internet stardom.
Assuming that Pruthi wanted the child's story to reach more people, weren't there non exploitative ways of doing it? Could he not put up a written post on his Facebook page, without subjecting the unsuspecting child to the prying of eyes of thousands of people at a vulnerable moment? Or perhaps just spoken to him without shooting him when he is offered a burger or is eating it. He could have. But a Facebook post minus the voyeuristic satisfaction of watching a poor child doing something a YouTube user doesn't credit the kid's life with, is hardly stuff that goes viral.
ScoopWhoop has carried the video declaring, "Watching This Child Labourer Eat At McDonald’s For The First Time Will Break Your Heart." Storypick has carried the video saying, "A Poor Kid Goes To McDonald’s For The First Time. His Reaction Will Break Your Heart.".
Obviously, a 'poor kid' in the world of click-bait which livens up the Facebook and Twitter feeds of us middle class Indians, is as exotic as aloo paratha in a Manhattan restaurant. It doesn't matter that much like a TRP-grabbing reality show, we are simply exploiting a young child's emotions only to kill time. Or get popular. Depending on which side of the YouTube video maker-watcher barrier you are.
Indian television has for a while now exploited poverty to be the Nirupa Roy of television and infuse tragedy into the cacophony that passes off as soaps and reality shows. The viral content makers of the country seem to have just woken up to the immense possibility presented before them by India's poor and our economical and emotional distance from them.
It's not unknown to us that India is a nation of voyeurs. That poverty could entertain us, however, is a considerably new discovery.
Updated Date: Feb 19, 2015 11:15:51 IST