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The Sania-Shoaib circus: Are you not entertained?

Last updated on: April 13, 2010 18:25 IST

Is the Sania-Shoaib-Ayesha controversy a media monster, or are the parties directly involved responsible for being pushed into the limelight?

Our PM met Obama two days ago, terror outfits in Pakistan are threatening to go to war with India over water disputes, the country is still reeling from the brutal massacre of 75 CRPF jawans at the hands of Maoists last week. And still, the circus that is the Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik marriage continues to dominate headlines across the media.

'I don't want to hear anything else about Sania and Shoaib for at least a year!'

'We're going the Hollywood way, hounding celebrities and scrutinising their personal lives.'

'These mediawallahs are blowing everything about Sania's marriage out of proportion, as usual.'

I've heard such statements several times over the past few days and if you're one of those who has been echoing similar sentiments, you should stop reading right here. In fact, it's surprising that this headline would even draw you in. Or is it really?

See, even overhearing a random stranger argue on the phone has our ears perk up as we strain to listen in on what is so not our business. If there's a roadside scuffle underway, you can be sure there will be a ring of spectators, there only to watch -- not to interfere, mind you, only to watch. And that's human nature. We're shameless voyeurs in every sense of the word. So please don't give me that yarn about invasion of privacy and celebs having a right to their private lives.

Am I saying that they don't have a right to remain private? Certainly not. I'm just saying that famous personalities who truly detest the media buzz usually get away with avoiding it. Johnny Depp moved to France because he didn't like the paparazzi stalking him and his family back in Hollywood. Closer to home, Aamir Khan knows how to keep hankering reporters toeing the line and steps into the glare of the spotlight only when his work requires him to. On the other hand, the Paris Hiltons and Rakhi Sawants of this world like flashbulbs to document momentous occasions in their lives such as scraping up dog poo in the park or visits to the cosmetic surgeon.

There are baddies on both sides all right. You have the actor who keeps you waiting for an interview outside his vanity van for four and a half hours while he chats up a starlet and you have the sleazy pap who can make an innocent peck on the cheek look like a tongue tangle.

My question to you has to do with this particular controversy, which refuses to die down -- maybe because the people at the centre of it all have fuelled it beyond control. Do Sania, Shoaib or his first wife Ayesha deserve any privacy or respect from the media at all?

Up until now, Sania cultivated a positive public image, even if her performance on the court has been utterly dismal in the last couple of years. The toast of Indian tennis made Page 1 for her miniskirts and social outings and Page 32 each time she fizzled in a tournament. We loved Sania, she loved Sania, everybody was happy. Well, maybe not the religious groups who would have her floating around on the green in an abaya if it were up to them, but that's another story.

Then Miss Mirza announced her engagement to childhood friend Sohrab Mirza in July of 2009. Happy, happy, joy, joy. In January this year, she calls it off -- tsk tsk, fans clucking in sympathy, everyone wondering what could possibly have gone wrong? They made such a cute couple, but then he was not a celebrity, maybe it would be better if she got a high-profile husband...

Then, barely a month later, she announces her engagement to cricketer Shoaib Malik. What? Pakistani! No, no, Sania, no! And as if that is not enough, out of the woodwork crawls Ayesha Siddiqui, a seemingly homely little creature (who turns out to be rather publicity-hungry in the long run, it will soon emerge), claiming she's already married to one of Pakistan's most eligible bachelors and that he has mistreated her grossly.

We know how the rest of the story goes. But there are a lot of issues that have been left out in the cold as everyone makes a mad scramble for the latest images of Sania and Shoaib in the wake of their recent wedding ceremony. First of all, who calls off one engagement and announces another within 60 days, or did they not teach you that in 'I'm a celebrity' school?

Sania may have been attracted to Shoaib while still engaged to Suitor Number One -- that is pure speculation, no more no less and hey, it sometimes happens to the best of us. Who are we to judge? But then we're not the ones who make the front pages of national newspapers. Instead of letting it all blow over, however, the two of them decided to announce their relationship to the world as quickly as they could and while Malik was still technically married to Ayesha Siddiqui.

The Siddiqui family quickly cashed in on their five minutes of fame, holding press conferences and announcing to the world that Ayesha was Shoaib's wife and that they would drag him to court over his actions. You may call it righteous indignation, I call it stupidity. Instead of threatening to parade their daughter and her stained wedding clothes to the public, they could have resolved the issue privately with the Maliks and nobody would have been the wiser. Feminists are busy asking why Ayesha should have kept silent on the issue instead of raising her scorned woman's voice for the masses to hear -- the answer, quite simply, is privacy! It's about keeping your life's drama out of everyone else's reach!

Shoaib, with his teenager's intellect, believed that denial was the best way out. Seriously, somebody needs to tell this guy he needs a savvy PR rep to save him from himself and to help retain his passport. If he had come out with the truth, opinions may have been divided on the topic of his first marriage, but nobody could have accused him of being a double-crosser who took advantage of a hapless young woman, although Ayesha has proven more than capable of offering any man his just desserts. Let's just hope Malik has enough room left over for his wedding cake.

Sanaya Dalal