While Delhi and other parts of the country choke under the pall of severe air pollution, many on the Internet seem to have found an easy target to release their exasperation - Priyanka Chopra.
Many would remember the uproar Chopra caused earlier in the year when a photo of her smoking along with Nick Jonas on a yacht went viral on social media. Chopra, who suffers from asthma and has previously been vocal against the bursting of crackers on Diwali was mercilessly trolled for the photo. Hordes of belligerent netizens asked the Dostana actor to quit smoking if she wanted to cure her asthma instead of lecturing others to not burst crackers on Diwali.
The same trolls are back today to troll the actor who on Sunday took to social media to post a selfie of herself in a mask, on Instagram. Chopra, who is in Delhi shooting for her upcoming project 'The White Tiger' wrote in her caption, "It’s so hard to shoot here (Delhi) right now that I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live here under these conditions. We r blessed with air purifiers and masks. Pray for the homeless. Be safe everyone".
"Angry" netizens, many of whom may actively contribute to increasing air pollution in various ways themselves (Yes, driving cars, using ACs causes pollution too), instantly crucified Chopra for her post.
Take a look at some of the memes and comments currently doing the rounds on Twitter.
Priyanka Chopra: pic.twitter.com/ksRBPQaiNc
— Saurabh Mavjekar (@SaurabhMavjekar) November 4, 2019
— Ravi Chauhan (@Ravichauhan_3) November 4, 2019
सिगरेट पीकर फेफड़े काले कर लिए पर दिल्ली से हज़ार किलोमीटर पहले ही मुह पर मास्क लगा कर फोटो डाल दी ।
— Yatin Pal (@YatinPal4) November 4, 2019
Pic 1: पैसे ख़र्च करने के बाद मेहनत करके सिगरेट का धुंआ मुँह से लेते हुए।
Pic 2: फ्री में मिल रहे 10 सिगरेट का धुंआ नाक से लेने का विरोध करते हुए।
ये क्या मज़ाक हैं मोहतरमा pic.twitter.com/9XNsiL00MD
— Govind Hindu (@govindhindu56) November 3, 2019
The trolling reveals certain aspects of the trolls' psyche: denial of climate crisis, hypocrisy and attempts to gaslight women celebrities, even if they are just stating the obvious.
Trolls happily forget that smoking is not a crime, neither is it illegal. And foremost, it is a personal CHOICE, healthy or not. Whether Chopra should be smoking or not despite being a vocal asthmatic is another debate. However, to troll her for expressing concerns about pollution in Delhi is not just an attempt to gaslight the actor but also an easy way out for climate change and pollution deniers (Yes, India has them too).
These are the people who take up arms the second someone suggests curbing crackers on Diwali. They invoke religious rights, secularism, freedom of choice and every other distraction and 'whataboutery' in the book to justify their actions. They trend #CrackersWaliDiwali and defend their stand as 'freedom of expression'. On Diwali evening, Air Quality Index in several corners of Delhi reached its maximum level of 999. No amount of smoking by Priyanka Chopra or other smokers combined could lead to that kind of spike within a few hours.
(In case you did not know, stepping out in Delhi air as of now is equal to smoking over 20 cigarettes a day, so is anyone a non-smoker anymore?)
But the reaction to Chopra's masked photo underscores something even more puerile than denial: hypocrisy.
It is hypocrisy to allow tobacco brands to exist with legal and political impunity while slamming individuals who smoke. It is hypocrisy to elect governments that repeatedly exhibit a failure to commit to environmentalism while trolling others for smoking.
Instead of hating on an actor for her personal choices, citizens, especially Delhiites should perhaps question politicians, irrespective of whether they smoke or not. While Chopra as an actor feels like a representative of the Indian population (and she is with regard to her own profession), in reality, she as no role to play in formulating anti-pollution laws and strategies for the country or implementing them.
She is not a public servant and is within all her rights to smoke while also complain about the government and pollution. Because if she doesn't have a right to complain, neither do air-conditioner owners, car drivers, Netflix enthusiasts and rice eaters since all these things can be in some way connected to an increase in air pollution.
While citizens choke, governments at the state and central level are involved in an all-too-familiar blame game. Would it not serve our respiratory systems better if we pinpoint accountability where it belongs?
Instead of engaging in borderline 'sanskari' harping on a photo of an actor, maybe Indians would serve their respiratory systems better by asking some real questions:
Why is the ban on unregulated industrial processes and construction not strictly implemented?
Why don't governments invest more in afforestation?
Why are governments unable to address continued stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab?
Is Delhi government's Odd-even scheme an efficient answer to reducing vehicular emissions in Delhi?
But no, you just want to hate on PeeCee.