Sharing Vinod Khanna's hospital picture was wrong

All of us need to dig deep inside and ask ourselves where our collective conscience has disappeared.

 |  4-minute read |   07-04-2017
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This morning, as I woke up and checked my phone, a family group on WhatsApp had a message with a picture.

It said "can u identify this famous cine star-cum-politician....?"

He is Vinod Khanna...

Suffering from advanced stage of urinary bladder cancer (sic)

The picture was of a visibly unwell and weak Khanna embracing his wife Kavita and a young gentleman, who I assume is his son or a family member.

My first reaction was of disgust and anger and I shot off a message saying it was sad that anyone would leak such a private photo when someone was suffering. I knew the image would go viral. Within minutes I got the same message on two other groups, and I knew it would be on digital media next, or perhaps it already was.

All day I have bristled. I have wondered when we lost all moral compunction as a society. About how we would feel if this were our father or a close relative or friend’s father. The gentleman is in a hospital tunic without even his lowers on, and yet that has not deterred so many people from forwarding and sharing the photo.

Even if someone has not shared it on WhatsApp, but commented "Get Well Soon" on social media, they should know that each time they comment online it means the story appears on the feed of every friend they have and that’s how the multiplier effect kicks in.

I think it’s absolutely disgusting and deplorable. It’s voyeurism to another level. A pathetic level, where everything is an unabashed free-for-all.

It’s easy to sit on judgment and blame the media. I’ve been on the other side of the fence, and the fact is, this is the news people want to see and read. When people start to forward something on WhatsApp and it goes viral, you know there is reader interest, and media - like most other industries - is also governed by the law of demand and supply.

khanna-embed_040717013638.jpg When people start to forward something on WhatsApp and it goes viral, you know there is reader interest, and the media - like most other industries - is also governed by the law of demand and supply. Photo: India Today

It gives people what they want. In return, it gets page views and TRPs, and that’s how it works. So while it’s great to point fingers and say the fault lies with the media and they should exercise self-censorship, the fact is, all of us need to dig deep inside and ask ourselves where our collective conscience has disappeared.

I’ve had very close family members battle cancer. And to be sensitive, I shall not even name them. All I will say is that you see them at their most vulnerable and you don’t even want to talk about it, let alone have people come to meet them.

Of course, reduced immunity is a real worry, which is why I can only assume that this picture was clicked by a relative or close friend who obviously shared it with somebody who showed no sense of discretion. And keeping in mind the public profile the person has, a family member should have stepped in and put their foot down when the said photo was being clicked.

Unfortunately, this is neither the first nor will it be the last instance. Actor Alia Bhatt’s sister Shaheen recently posted about how insensitive we have become as a society when she saw pictures being shared of a grieving Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and family when the actor recently lost her father.

Shaheen’s message was: “The insensitivity of it all is mind boggling... Death is traumatic enough without pictures of you at your most broken being circulated all over social media...”

She urged for some lines to be drawn, and made a very valid point.

In 2015, Amitabh Bachchan took to social media to write about how he was disgusted with fans clicking selfies when he was attending the funeral of a close friend in Delhi. He wrote, “My dear friend passed away suddenly... was chatting and suddenly gone!! Fragility of life... Went for the cremation to Delhi... at the cremation, people taking mobile pics and "selfies"... DISGUSTING!! They have no respect for the dead and no respect for the living that come to pay their respects to the dead!!"

How callous and insensitive have we become? But, where someone gets killed because he is suspected to have beef inside his home, or another gets killed because he is mistaken to be a cow-smuggler, asking to respect someone’s privacy when they are unwell and vulnerable seems to be asking for way too much.

(Editor's note: DailyO has a piece which carries the Vinod Khanna picture.) 

Also read: Heart-wrenching to see Vinod Khanna undergoing treatment in a hospital

Writer

Geetika Sasan Bhandari Geetika Sasan Bhandari @geetika_sb

The writer is a former deputy editor, India Today Digital.

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