Did you catch the big battle between India and Pakistan this weekend? No, not the cricket match, the Twitter battle that ensued when India’s Buzzfeed editor tweeted this:
Now the whole point of Rega Jha’s job is to create a viral buzz but can the 23-year old editor really have thought this through? Rega Jha quickly became the No.1 Indian trend on Twitter, eclipsing the cricketing grudge match she was tweeting about.
Responses ranged from bemusement to outrage to vicious sexist abuse and rape threats. Rega Jha may find that this one tweet defines her career for far too long because in the lexicon of stupid tweets, this was a shining example.
You can’t even call it racist because racially, Pakistanis and Indians are basically the same. Sure there are regional differences but there are Punjabis, Gujratis and Sindhis on both sides of the border. If she had tweeted that Somalians or Norwegians or Russians were better looking than Indians, it still wouldn’t have been right, but that would have been racist. This is simply jingoism of the worst kind.
Leaving aside the monumental hubris of generalizing the beauty of an entire country, this is actually incredibly random. In general, you can’t pass a Punjabi off as a South Indian but are Pakistanis and Indians recognizably different?
An arbitrary line on a map does not make us essentially dissimilar. Grab a random Indian and Pakistani, dress them the same and unless they speak you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell which one is Indian and which one is Pakistani. And the our similarities are not only than skin deep. We share the same history, food and culture. We share the same reverence for joint families and the same idiocy of equating gorapan with beauty. Every sub-continental mother-in-law looks for a tall, slim, fair, long-haired bride for her son – our prejudices know no borders.
From Zubaida Apa's notorious ad to dark and handsome Shahrukh Khan promoting fairness creams, stars on both sides of the border are guilty of equating fairness with beauty and success. Gorgeous dusky actresses like Pakistani Aamina Sheikh and Indian Nandita Das have not managed to make any sort of a dent in the cult of fairness.
The sort of 'hotness' comparisons Jha sparked on Twitter were ludicrous.
It’s useless to trot out Shahrukh or Fawad, Kareena Kapoor or Mahira – although, based on these stars, both India and Pakistan deserve a global reputation for hotness. Comparing Indians and Pakistanis is like comparing Norwegians and Swedes or Somalis and Liberians. We are too ethnically alike to brook comparison.
Like the infamous pre-match firework ad, this is just another attempt to use national rivalry to sell something (in this case Buzzfeed). It’s irresponsible in an age where violent jingoism threatens to engulf us all. We should be celebrating our similarities and looking for common ground. We share much more than just hotness and a love for cricket.