Why Indians Think It's Okay To Grief-Shame Sonam Kapoor And Janhvi

You may scoff at the trolls, but every Indian, at some point or the other, has grief-shamed someone or the other.

Actress Sonam Kapoor’s wedding proved to be every bit the Bollywood spectacle we expected it to be.

There were designer lehengas.

There were the mandatory pout selfies.

And of course there was a very happy Anil Kapoor !

And giving them all competition, were the trolls.  Her support for the Kathua rape victim triggered trolls to ‘boycott’ her wedding, you see.   The trolls also deemed it  fit to remind the Kapoor family of Sridevi’s untimely death.

Why, you ask?

Because we Indians have some sanskar and we believe that bullying people into mourning is the best way to deal with grief.

Sonam drew flak for having a lavish wedding within two months of her aunt’s death in Dubai.  Even Srivdevi’s daughter Janhvi  Kapoor wasn’t spared the poisonous fangs of social media’s moral police as they chastised her for dancing at her cousin’s wedding. Earlier she was mocked for celebrating her birthday soon after Sridevi’s death.

Sonam Kapoor and Anand Ahuja at their wedding reception

Sonam Kapoor and Anand Ahuja at their wedding reception
(Photo: Instagram/ @bridals.pk)

You may scoff at the trolls, but every Indian, at some point or the other, has grief-shamed someone or the other. Let’s face it, we have a rather problematic relationship with death and the rituals that follow a death. As soon as a death hits a family, those most affected by it are made to live through several days of ritualistic grieving – restrictions on food habits and movement. While it is usually done to honour the dead and for the community to tell that the family isn’t alone in their grief, often the mourning period is designed to remind you of your loss. Even after the period is over, you are supposed to behave in a somber way.  Any hint of you remotely enjoying, or even having a decent day would immediately raise questions about your love for the person you just lost.

I remember how I coaxed my friend to join Durga puja celebration after she had lost her mother. At first she was not comfortable with the idea of going pandal hopping right after her mother’s death. When we insisted, she relented but took great care in keeping the matter as discreet as possible. Since the dress code was sari, she made sure she quietly sneaked out of the house so that no one could pop an uncomfortable question. Her mother’s death had a life-altering impact on her. Yet, she felt she was answerable to people who would go back to their normal lives after the mourning period was over.

Janhvi Kapoor insta pic

If we had a choice, we would never want to lose the people we love. But when we do, should we not at least be left alone to decide our mode and mechanisms of dealing with it? We might want to return to work sooner than people would expect us to, we might hold back our tears and reserve it for a later date when all the relatives are gone, we might want to take a trip to the mountains to come to terms with the loss, or go out with close friends just to feel normal. Why should our actions be monitored and measured to see if they meet respectable standards of grieving. The loss is never the society’s, or the extended family’s.  The loss is always personal.  And so should the healing be.

When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg started dating a co-worker within ten months of being widowed she was called “a garbage whore” and  “one classy lady” for “already sharing fluids with a new guy”.  In an interview to The Guardian, Sandberg, who was left totally devastated and suffered from self- confidence issues after the death of her husband Dave Goldberg, said: “I think I’m helping people remember that dating, for those who want to do it, is part of moving forward, and it is option B. If I could I would only date Dave. I made that choice. I just had that taken away from me.”  That she had to even justify her decisions in itself is cruel.

The last thing the people who are not directly affected by a death in our life want is for us to heal.  We have romanticized grief following a death to such a point that one is expected to stop being normal and just be sad.  When we expect a 21-year old girl grappling with her mother’s death to make a public spectacle of her grief by not doing all the things that a 21-year old is supposed to do, we need to really rewire the way we look at death and grieving.