19-year-old Hanan Hamid from Madavana in Kerala is a fighter. A day after she shot to fame on the Internet as the college student who sold fish for a living, she was subjected to a horrifying onslaught of abuse on the same platform. For the uninitiated, Hanan became the poster girl for hard work and resilience after a Mathrubhumi article spoke about her difficult life and how she makes a living from selling fish. What the article did not mention was that Hanan has been doing several odd jobs to make both ends meet, including working as a junior artiste in the film industry. Instead of highlighting her battles, the report focused on her poverty.
After other media outlets picked up the story, the Sherlock Holmes within several citizens in Kerala awoke. They landed on her Facebook page and discovered her dubsmash videos and selfies with celebrities. How could a "poor" girl do such things? From asking how she could afford to own a ring and wear gloves to sell fish, the "detectives" made another leap - Hanan was faking her poverty to land a role in a film.
Such was the strength of the online lynch mob that director Arun Gopy, who had earlier offered Hanan a role in his upcoming film with Pranav Mohanlal, said that he'd withdraw the offer if Hanan's claims were proved to be false. But, it's important to ask what claims these were in the first place.
Hanan has not portrayed herself as a voiceless victim anywhere; she has battled life from childhood, looking after an ill mother who is separated from Hanan's father. But Hanan has refused to be cowed down by her situation. She has continued to study, even learning to play the flute along the way at Kochin Kalabhavan. She has also done small roles in films like the critically acclaimed Take Off.
As subsequent reports by Manorama and several other media outlets show, Hanan has not lied about her ear surgery or circumstances. The Al Azhar College in Thodupuzha where Hanan is a third year Chemistry student, has confirmed this as well. Unable to find new jobs, from this Monday on, Hanan woke up at the crack of dawn, studied, bought fish, attended college, and rushed back to sell her wares till late evening. Before this, she has worked at a snacks shop and gone to collect fish.
On a Facebook Live initiated by the director of her college, Hanan talks about the abuse that she has been subjected to. The frail teenager can barely control her tears as she recalls how she has been doing odd jobs - from giving tuition classes to doing event management and radio programmes - to make ends meet, since childhood. Despite her sadness at how she has been treated, you can see Hanan's eyes light up as she talks about how she'd write poetry, how she was appreciated for her work, and the small rewards that came her way.
Posted by Paijas Moosa on Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Speaking about the gold ring which had caught the attention of the Sherlock Holmes club, Hanan said, "I bought this from Malabar Gold last month. I haven't had it for a long time. I bought it from the money I earned by doing event management in several places in Kerala and outside. It is my own money. Everyone has their desires and so did I."
Hanan goes on to speak about how she got into selling fish, giving details and even the contact number of a man who'd helped her. This is Hanan's testimony, in her trial by social media.
Why exactly were hundreds of people so eager to launch an attack on the young woman? Without pausing to check their information? Hanan did not fit their image of a "poor little girl" appealing to their mercy. She is neatly dressed, her hair cut fashionably, her voice assertive even in the face of adversity. Simply put, Hanan takes care of herself and doesn't try to hide it. She also has dreams and desires, something the poor are supposed to deny themselves. It is her spirit, which made her famous, which also made people turn against her.
But this is not Hanan's problem. It is ours. She has neither asked for our sympathy nor our support before she went viral. The abuse she was subjected to has affected her health but Hanan is still defiant. She will go back to the market, and she will continue to sell fish, she has said. Even if those who threw stones at her from behind their screens don't have the grace to apologise, the least they can do is to let her be.