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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

The Tellfie

It is the tenth anniversary of the word that has become the trope of our times

Upala Sen Published 26.02.23, 02:52 AM
If you die taking a selfie, it is called a kilfie.

If you die taking a selfie, it is called a kilfie. Shutterstock

Exactly 10 years ago, the word "selfie" was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries. It beat words like "twerk" and "binge-watch". Three years later, in 2016, French encyclopaedic dictionary Petit Larousse opened its pages to “selfie” and the Québécois word for it, “égoportrait”. That year “biryani” also entered its pages. Sometime in between, one man rode the still nascent selfie wave galloping his way into the public eye, of India and the world. In April 2014, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi tweeted a selfie of his inked finger and the lotus after casting his vote in Ahmedabad. At the time it might have seemed just very social media savvy of him, but as the days rolled into weeks, months and years, maun Modi was using the selfie to make his political statements.

Point taken

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The selfie is not just any trend. You know that when you read about the wounded and bleeding Ukrainian pilot taking a selfie of himself, immediately after ejecting from an MiG-29 and while parachuting down. You know that when you read about a US Air Force pilot taking a selfie with an alleged high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon. And you know that when you hear that among the Taliban leadership’s key instructions to its foot-soldiers is this — stop taking selfies. The Nasa site has something on the new NASA Selfies app, which lets you "generate snapshots of yourself in a virtual spacesuit, posing in front of gorgeous cosmic locations, like the Orion Nebula or the centre of the Milky Way galaxy". And selfie-diplomacy is actually a thing nations practise. The selfie is an obsession to insert the self into a moment of considered importance. Sometimes it is not the whole self that is captured in a selfie and so you have hairfies and footfies. If you die taking a selfie, it is called a kilfie. Now, reimagine the balcony scene from Romeo And Juliet! Wedding venues have selfie points and so do Durga Puja pandals. During the pandemic we saw initiatives such as "take a selfie after vaccination". And last year, when Sri Lanka was reeling from a political crisis and people’s protests, burnt buses and cars half-drowned in ponds outside Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's residence in Colombo turned selfie points.

I take selfies, therefore I am

What the ancient philosophers would have made of this urge, who knows? Would Chanakya have written the Selfieshatra? The global hungering for the perfect timely selfie has spawned technological innovations such as the selfie stick, selfie brush, touch-up apps. Those bored with the perfect shot, opt for the "point five" selfies of distorted imagery. Recently, Mercedes unveiled the interior of its 2024 E-Class, which includes a larger "superscreen" with integrated TikTok and a selfie camera. Imagine Ibn Batuta with bagal mein selfie stick instead of well-worn jootas. Imagine Hiuen Tsang and Columbus too. Imagine the Dandi March. Imagine the worldviews we would have inherited.

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