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.

Play

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.
Sponsored Content  BY 

As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.