This article was originally published on July 4, 2018, but has been republished in light of Virat Kohli’s recent comment telling people not to live in India if they like other countries’ cricketers.
Dear Virat Kohli,
Last month, you posted a video which showed Bollywood actress and your wife, Anushka Sharma, schooling a young man for littering while driving. Inspired by her ‘courage’, you tweeted, “Saw these people throwing garbage on the road & pulled them up rightfully, Lot of people who don’t have the courage to do something like this find it funny… shame.”
Lot of people who don't have the courage to do something like this find it funny. Everything for people nowadays is meme content. Shame.
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) June 16, 2018
Your video obviously spread like forest fire across Twitter, Facebook and even WhatsApp. However, since the day I saw your video, I have not been able to understand what the word ‘courage’ means to you. I believe we, as a society need to introspect on what we have become if we think yelling at strangers and posting videos of it counts as courage.
This probably wasn’t the first time you saw someone throw a plastic packet from a car window. If your intention was to advise him, you could’ve been friendly instead of angry. Several people on Twitter and Instagram perceived your cleanliness drive as an attention-seeking publicity stunt. But you’re one of the most popular cricketers in India and it’s naive to think you need more attention. Instead, it’s worth asking what you do with all the attention you do command.
You have the attention of the Indian media, large conglomerates, even the most powerful man in the country – who posed with you and Sharma at your wedding reception not too long ago; you even tagged him for a pointless fitness challenge. You’re so influential, in fact, that our Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju – who hasn’t said a word against the trolling faced by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj – jumped to your defense when you were trolled online.
If you’d used this attention and influence to call out certain farcical hashtag campaigns that are being passed off as grand initiatives, that, in my opinion, would have been courageous. You could have shown courage by refusing to play for – and take money from – an absconder who looted our public funds. But your conscience didn’t prick you then.
In the West, everyone from Robert Di Nero, JK Rowling, Eminem, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo Di Caprio has publicly voiced disapproval of US President Donald Trump’s policies. Being a sportsperson, you may also know that National Football League is also openly opposing Trump. Lecturing someone on the street isn’t courageous, standing up to injustice and authoritarianism is. Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Swara Bhaskar were victims of abusive trolling in the run-up to Veerey Di Wedding, but neither you nor your wife had the courage to come out in their support.
Lynch mobs have claimed so many lives in ‘New India’ but you haven’t spoken against them yet. I understand that you’re a cricketer and you have nothing to do with politics, but not every athlete invites the PM to his wedding reception, tags him in fitness challenges or publicly applauds him for his ‘Khelo India’ initiative. If you share such a good rapport with Modi that he wishes you on your birthday, you should show some courage and ask him to unfollow the Twitter trolls who abuse and issue rape threats to women on a daily basis. You have the chance to use your star power in a meaningful way.
Politics aside, those who live in luxurious apartments may find it easy to forget that Mumbai is one of the most polluted cities on the planet, and with the monsoon approaching, things will get a lot worse. I urge you to post another video, this time of you and Sharma lecturing Shiv Sena leaders and Mumbai’s municipal commissioner on the importance of dealing with the city’s overflowing garbage dumps.
It takes courage to stand up and speak against the ones in power, the ones who hold high offices. If you someday decide to use your privilege and raise your voice against any of these issues, that would really be courageous.
Vivashwan Singh is studying political science, history and English from Christ University, Bengaluru.
Featured image credit: Reuters