Social Media Buzz

Who is Sonam Gupta and why is social media obsessed with her?

Addressing what the nation wants to know.

Last Friday, while the country reeled from a cash crunch, a group of 60 millennials gathered at a café on Hudson Lane in North Delhi to protect the privacy of a woman. Lawyers, students, photographers, engineers – the millennials had never met the woman, yet they felt passionately about the clarion call from a Facebook page in support of Sonam Gupta.

“Of course I stand with Sonam Gupta, whoever and wherever she is,” said Aastha Kapoor, a lawyer. “I am against the victimisation of any woman.”

At the beginning of 2016, the images of a few currency notes had gone viral on social media, because of the plaintive, yet sullen words, written on the notes in blue ballpoint ink. The words, written in Devanagari, said: “Sonam Gupta bewafa hai.” Sonam Gupta is unfaithful.

In tone, the message resembled the graffiti produced by thousands of jilted lovers and trampled egos across bathroom walls, classroom tables and bus seats in the country – an attempt to make notorious the name of a female who knew what she wanted, that is, not the writer of the complaint.

The meme was forgotten – until November 8, when the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1, 000 notes brought the phrase #SonamGuptaBewafa back into circulation. A brand new Rs 2,000 note appeared online, with the same message inscribed on it – suggesting that both the wilful Sonam Gupta, and her stubborn slanderer, were still around.

On Twitter, users defended the mysterious Gupta, while on Facebook, her disloyalty was decried. A third school of thought, as with most millennial causes, wondered what the fuss was all about.

Evidently, something about the narrative touched a nerve. A media company called The Visual Radio made Snapchat videos from the point of view of Sonam Gupta’s fictional father. It also created a Facebook event to support Gupta, organising a discussion between Gupta’s fictitious father and an actor who plays the writer of the note.

“She represents the frustration of every Indian in today’s time,” said Nishant Verma, one of the actors in TVR’s viral videos. “It has become taboo to honestly talk about the things you care about, things that matter, but luckily people and topics like Sonam Gupta give us the opportunity to talk about them.”

“We just stand for every Sonam Gupta and the likes who are belittled by their rejected aashiques [lovers] who can’t take no for an answer,” said Shrey Chhabra, who essayed the role of a jilted lover at the Facebook event.

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A 22-year-old resident of Bengaluru, who shares her name with the muse behind the meme, said she was hounded by friends, family and strangers who learnt her name, and wanted to know if she was the ostensible unfaithful one.

“Initially, I thought it was fun to become so popular all of a sudden, but now I am not so keen on the fame,” she said. “Will the real Sonam Gupta please stand up and take the spotlight away from me!”

Another Sonam Gupta was invited as the chief guest for the Facebook event I stand For Sonam Gupta.

“I got 500 friend requests after this trend started,” she said. “I went through the random messages and most of them were cheap and all they wanted to know was if I was bewafa (unfaithful). I don’t get it... don’t people have real things in life to worry about?”

A few e-commerce apps and cafes soon began to cash in on the social-media fixation. Raasta, a resto-bar at Hauz Khas Village in Delhi, offered 10% discount and a free dessert for all Sonam Guptas, while The Chatter House, a pub with several outlets in Delhi, offered a Rs 1,000 meal voucher as well as a #SonamGuptaCocktail.

“At a time when everybody is only talking about business losses, cash crunch and our favourite subject of the day is demonetisation, I don’t mind a few such offers coming my way,” said another Sonam Gupta, who had come to enjoy her free beer at the Beer Cafe in Connaught Place.

A Facebook event, slated for January 26, 2017, plans to “organise a million man march against Bewafa Sonam Gupta”, and asks participants to help pass an anti-bewafai (anti-unfaithfulness) bill against Gupta.

At the time of publication, 1,700 Facebook users were interested in the event, with 913 RSVPs. Will the real Sonam Gupta attend?

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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The quirks and perks of travelling with your hard to impress mom

We must admit that the jar of pickle always comes in handy.

A year ago, Priyanka, a 26-year-old banking professional, was packing her light-weight duffel bag for an upcoming international trip. Keen to explore the place, she wanted to travel light and fuss free. It was not meant to be. For Priyanka was travelling with her mother, and that meant carrying at least two extra suitcases packed with odds and ends for any eventuality just short of a nuclear war.

Bothered by the extra suitcases that she had to lug around full of snacks and back-up woollens, Priyanka grew frustrated with her mother. However, one day, while out for some sight-seeing Priyanka and her family were famished but there were no decent restaurants in sight. That’s when her mum’s ‘food bag’ came to the rescue. Full of juice boxes, biscuits and sandwiches, her mother had remembered to pack snacks from the hotel for their day out. Towards the end of the trip, Priyanka was grateful to her mother for all her arrangements, especially the extra bag she carried for Priyanka’s shopping.

Priyanka’s story isn’t an isolated one. We spoke to many people about their mother’s travel quirks and habits and weren’t surprised at some of the themes that were consistent across all the travel memoirs.

Indian mothers are always prepared

“My mom keeps the packed suitcases in the hallway one day before our flight date. She will carry multiple print-outs of the flight tickets because she doesn’t trust smartphone batteries. She also never forgets to carry a medical kit for all sorts of illnesses and allergies”, says Shruti, a 27-year-old professional. When asked if the medical kit was helpful during the trip, she answered “All the time”, in a tone that marvelled at her mother’s clairvoyance.

Some of the many things a mother packs in her travel bags. Source: Google Images
Some of the many things a mother packs in her travel bags. Source: Google Images

Indian mothers love to feel at home, and create the same experience for their family, wherever they are

“My mother has a very strange idea of the kind of food you get in foreign lands, so she always packs multiple packets of khakra and poha for our trips. She also has a habit of carrying her favourite teabags to last the entire trip”, relates Kanchan, a marketing professional who is a frequent international flier often accompanied by her mother. Kanchan’s mother, who is very choosy about her tea, was therefore delighted when she was served a hot cup of garam chai on her recent flight to Frankfurt. She is just like many Indian mothers who love to be reminded of home wherever they are and often strive to organise their hotel rooms to give them the coziness of a home.

Most importantly, Indian mothers are tough, especially when it comes to food

Take for instance, the case of Piyush, who recalls, “We went to this fine dining restaurant and my mother kept quizzing the waiter about the ingredients and the method of preparation of a dish. She believed that once she understood the technique, she would be able to make a better version of the dish just so she could pamper me!”

Indian mothers are extremely particular about food – from the way its cooked, to the way it smells and tastes. Foreign delicacies are only allowed to be consumed if they fulfil all the criteria set by Mom i.e. is it good enough for my children to consume?

An approval from an Indian mother is a testament to great quality and great taste. In recognition of the discerning nature of an Indian mum and as a part of their ‘More Indian Than You Think’ commitment, Lufthansa has tailored their in-flight experiences to surpass even her exacting standards. Greeted with a namaste and served by an Indian crew, the passengers feel right at home as they relish the authentic Indian meals and unwind with a cup of garam chai, the perfect accompaniment to go with a variety of Indian entertainment available in the flight. As Lufthansa’s in-flight offerings show, a big part of the brand is inherently Indian because of its relationship with the country spanning over decades.

To see how Lufthansa has internalised the Indian spirit and become the airline of choice for flyers looking for a great Indian experience, watch the video below.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.