"Thank you all for honest conversations here. But I do have deadlines and the energy in diffusing the viciousness here is not worth it," Mumbai-based writer Gayatri Jayaraman tweeted on Sunday, adding she would not be functional on Twitter for a while.
For those who are not social media regulars and haven't come across the words "Urban Poor" in the past week, Gayatri is the author of an article on BuzzFeed that went viral recently.
Titled "The Urban Poor You Haven’t Noticed: Millennials Who’re Broke, Hungry, But On Trend", the author writes about the "twentysomething" young professionals who have "internalised the lesson that to earn any money, you’ve got to spend a lot of it". In short, the article talks about young professionals who sacrifice precious salaries for the sake of appearances.
While the article was shared widely, it has since been widely criticized for its ill-considered use of the phrase "urban-poor".
One of the first pieces to take issue with Gayatri’s article was by Irshad Daftari for Scroll.in. Daftari writes, "The millennials are in no way comparable to the real urban poor – those who are snared in the impossible-to-escape poverty trap. The urban poor are the invisible people who keep our lives running like clockwork... Let’s call this phenomenon for what it is – living beyond your means."
Rajyasree Sen in LiveMint writes, "The people described in the article are entitled, deluded and utterly irresponsible. And no excuse should be made for their actions and decisions… What they need is to be shaken up and told to be responsible and live within their means."
In a piece published on News18, Runa Mukherjee Parikh describes a girl she knew "who wasn’t earning that much and yet, she wanted hair extensions worth Rs 5k" and "though she had family affairs to take care of but all she wanted was to throw the biggest birthday party at the posh South Delhi club and invite absolute strangers from work."
Runa writes that the girl fit the description of "urban poor" and adds, "So I will do my best to say what I always wanted to say to her: she, like these ‘urban poor’, is not trying to live a decent life but actually trying to keep up with the Kardashians."
QuartzIndia's Akshat Rathi begins his piece titled "All hail the rise of India’s urban stupid" quite bitingly. "India’s 1% are suffering like its 99% — that is, if the 99% had sports cars and Louis Vuitton shoes."
Naomi Datta has a name for the epidemic — the "Urban Poor Syndrome". In a satirical piece for Scroll.in, she deploys the clickbait headline style, writing, "Six signs that you or someone you know is in the throes of UPS or better still: The girl at LPQ orders a sandwich. What happens next will make your heart wrench. If you know a millennial, these are the signs you should watch out for..."
Taking a third line of argument, and comparing Gayatri and Irshad's pieces, Titas De Sarkar writes in YouthKiAwaaz, "What both these articles completely disregard is the ever-growing population of the youth who are neither the ‘urban poor’ in the strict sense of the term nor are those whose lunch comes from Le Pain Quotidien."
Taking a similar stance, Neha Yadav in an opinion piece for The Quint writes, "BuzzFeed’s nomenclature (‘urban poor’) is both inaccurate AND unfortunate, but Scroll’s single-minded focus on the term misses the crux of the article."
Retaliating to the critics, Gayatri had earlier tweeted,
To those objecting to the term 'urban poverty' I used it cos it's not hungry and at 0; it's hungry and at MINUS 5-10lakhs and STILL spending.
To those objecting to the term 'urban poverty' I used it cos it's not hungry and at 0; it's hungry and at MINUS 5-10lakhs and STILL spending— Gayatri Jayaraman (@Gayatri__J) May 6, 2016
Meanwhile, the word count on the subject continues to burgeon.