Aisam and Faha's separation carnival: The blame lies with us
Pakistani tennis star Aisamul Haq Qureshi and his wife Faha Akmal Makhdum decide to separate having failed to develop an understanding between each other over the course of their eight-month marriage.
First thought: Aisam, the tennis dude, loves milk (no pun intended).
Second thought: Eight months! Who the hell walks away from a marriage in just eight months and that too in Pakistan?
Third thought: Something scandalous must have happened. Must find out what.
I felt pretty ashamed at my personal train of thought when I first heard of Aisam and Faha’s separation, but once I went online to see what the media coverage was like; well, let’s just say I felt like I was cruising on a moral high ground that Jinnah would definitely have been proud off.
The Pakistani news media is accused of many things; poor standards, terrible reporting, poor grasp of the concept of what breaking news actually means, its inability to properly edit blogs, but a superfluous amount of sensitivity isn't one of these things.
The breakdown of any marriage is a sad event. Most people would agree that it is very personal, and something that should remain between the parties involved, free of any salacious speculation. However, it doesn't help matters when instead of merely reporting the event or simply ignoring it, the media decides to make a carnival out of it, rendering it preposterous with sound effects that dramatise every little thing and headlines like "Aisam aur Faha ki jori nakam!" (Aisam and Faha fail as a couple).
The goal here appears to be 'strive to extract as much perverse pleasure from the event by maximising tabloid value'; anything that attracts viewership like locusts is fair game. As long as it doesn't peeve the good people at Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) ofcourse.
One wonders if the middle management of news organisations were ever accorded the same lack of privacy, and their own personal lives were analysed with the same microscopic precision, would they be so cavalier? How would they feel if their personal tragedies were reported with the same level of glee? It’s easy to say that celebrities themselves encourage the media’s attention, but it isn't quite that simple. Really, it isn't.
Do all sports stars, models, actors or anyone granted some minuscule vestige of celebrity status automatically forgo their right to personal privacy? Must their highs and lows be recorded, analysed and disseminated to the teeming masses at a pace that would put Aisam’s serves to shame? Isn't there any point, any at all, where we just gracefully butt out of their lives?
At what point does someone become famous enough, that we feel entitled to an unrestricted access to their personal lives?
I am sure that none of us, baring those who are attention hungry, would enjoy such intrusion in our private lives. After all, no one wants to beat their own drum about their divorce, break-up or whatever else they are going through.
Having said all that, one of the things that struck me about the “breaking news” reports, was the impressive amount of footage available on Aisam and Faha’s nuptials from the previous year. If celebrities (aspiring or otherwise) gladly grant the media access to their most intimate moments/spectacles, can or to be piercingly honest, should one really feel any real sympathy for them? Did their dreams of becoming famous hold too true?
At some level, it is we, the consumers of media news that are to blame for this sudden uprise of the gossip girl element of papparazi’ing our idol’s personal lives. Whether we prefer to admit it or not, we enjoy hearing all the feisty details of their lives, and the more dramatic the better. By our readership and following, we encourage our news outlets to provide us with the kind of news that awakens our mind on those one sleepy mornings in a way that a perfect cup of chai just fails to do.
Let’s face it, we’ll all be talking about the Aisam-Faha separation around the water cooler today, and we’re not better people for it.
Do Aisam and Faha as human beings deserve the amount of attention the disintegration of their marriage is getting, absolutely not. But we can’t just lay the blame on the media to make ourselves feel better. They just did their job, perhaps too well for our own comfort.
Read more by Murtaza here or follow him on Twitter @ManMadeMovement