Paromita Vohra: Baharaon phool barsao

By  Paromita Vohra | Mumbai | Posted  28-May-2017


Illustration/Ravi Jadhav

You know that purple zinnia? Daisy? Whatever - the purple flower on Facebook? Last year, when it briefly appeared I never knew what it stood for. Nor did I need to. It was so pretty. Best of all, clicking on it on the phone did not just result in a demure purple addition to the button bar, but a full flower shower. Milaad, I confess. I hit that purple flower button every chance I got.

Then, just like that it was gone. Being the stoic type, I accepted it. So imagine my delight earlier this month when I woke up to find the button back. I immediately resumed my indiscriminately joyful use of it.

This time, I found, however, that there was a substantial contingent of purple flower haters, their updates dripping with scorn. Why? Because, it stood for gratitude or grateful.

Now, this did confuse me. I feel roughly the same way about that other popular part of digital lingo: blessed. Stay blessed. Feel blessed. Teacher loves me best, I mean, blessed. Would an enthusiastic use of the grateful button, mean a blessed button was round the corner? Perhaps symbolized by a cherubic angel? No. Nahin. This was too much to contemplate and I had to lie down at the thought.

What makes "grateful" and "blessed" so suspect? They are means of new age humblebrag. You know, like, people who are very rich, very good looking, with partners who look like the models in realistic advertisements posting images of themselves in boho dress, in their hipster Goa home with peasants-with-trust-fund-look, yaniki, distressed furniture, holding a soy-almond-goji berry drink saying: "so grateful for this little home, this sweet boy/girl and nature's gifts." They may be grateful - who wouldn't and shouldn't be grateful for wealth, beauty and love? - but the declaration of gratitude is really an invitation to envy and be sighed over. Never the bridesmaid, always the bride.

Used this way, words like gratitude and blessed, allow people to simultaneously show off and disguise structural privilege. People partaking of and displaying beauty, comfort and almond milk by virtue of their wealth and birth, yaniki class and caste, pretend this is just god's blessings, a matter of luck, and being fortunate instead of inheriting fortunes. Even when they commiserate with someone, it becomes an occasion to point to their own good fortune – my heart goes out to you and I'm so grateful I still have my parents/health/job/driver.

Abbe yaar. I agree. That's off-putting.

On the other hand, should we allow a term like gratitude - a counting of one's blessings, a genuine joy at the sharing of love, the pleasure of seeing someone's photographs or writings, feeling lucky to have friends and comrades on the bumpy road of life - to be completely appropriated by BoBos, yaniki Boring Bohemians? That's a bit like letting fundamentalists take away your relationship with religion or spirituality.

Later, I came to know the flower was only for Mother's Day week. Come on, you're not going to tell us mothers are they only people we can be grateful for or to. What about dads, friends, colleagues and Shah Rukh Khan?

So, I'd be glad to have a chance to reclaim "grateful". The purple flower is gone again, but if it were brought back, I'd be ever so, um, grateful.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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