‘Like a wow!’ and other Indian social media hits of 2023

People celebrate the successful lunar landing of Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the south pole of the Moon, in Chennai on August 23, 2023

From jubilation at India’s global successes to confusion and amusement at social trends, these are the moments that united Indians – in celebration and indignation – this year.

Viral moment of the year

Jasmeen Kaur’s “Just looking like a wow!” was the phrase that won the year.

Kaur, who’s been running a clothes shop in Delhi for nearly 20 years, went viral in October for her elaborate descriptions and effusive praise for the designs available at her store.

She has been using Instagram videos to promote the latest designs at her shop, often modelling them to attract prospective customers.

Her expression – “so beautiful, so elegant, just looking like a wow!” – to describe one outfit was so popular, it soon became a catchphrase.

Bollywood actors like Deepika Padukone, musicians and even politicians were among those featuring in nearly two million Instagram Reels made while lip-syncing to Kaur’s voice.

Stunned by the viral success, Kaur said it was hard to describe how happy she was.

“I have been doing Insta lives for three years now and suddenly I went viral. And now even Priyanka Chopra’s husband [Nick Jonas] has said it,” she told the Hindustan Times in an interview. “I am feeling wow. My life has changed.”

Who is Orry?

Kaur’s viral success was closely followed by mystery man Orry. Who is he? This was the question everyone wanted an answer to in November after photos of the young man posing with India’s biggest celebrities began to go viral online.

Orhan Awatramani, better known as Orry, was seen with Bollywood’s biggest stars like Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor to Nita Ambani, wife of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani. He was spotted at events like the opening of The Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre and seen partying at superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s house.

But why was he so popular and what did he do? Multiple news articles attempted to find the answers.

Internet personality and social activist Orhan Awatramani poses for a photo at the red carpet premiere of the upcoming film 'Farrey' in Mumbai
Image caption,Orry is frequently spotted at red carpet events and Bollywood parties

In an interview with Cosmopolitan India that went viral, Orry attempted to explain what he does: “I am working… But I am working on myself.”

In another interview, he said: “I am living, I’m a liver.”

As his answers continued to confuse and amuse people, Orry finally said he never wanted to be asked what he did for a living again.

Furore over a spoon

Popular author and philanthropist Sudha Murty sparked controversy after she said she carried her own food and spoon while travelling abroad to avoid any accidental interaction with non-vegetarian food.

Describing herself as “a pure vegetarian” who doesn’t even eat eggs, Ms Murty said “one of my biggest fears is that the same spoon may have been used for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes”.

Sudha Murthy, wife of Infosys founder NR Narayana
Image caption,Sudha Murty describes herself as “a pure vegetarian”

Social media was evenly divided between those criticising and defending her. Those supporting her said it was a matter of personal choice, while critics said her comments were rooted in the notions of purity dictated by India’s rigid caste system and her upper-caste Brahmanical sensibilities.

Some also shared photos of her alongside those of her son-in-law, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, carrying plates of cooked meat.

How much work is too much?

Months later, Ms Murty’s husband, Indian software billionaire NR Narayana Murthy, also found himself at the centre of a furious debate over his comments on the country’s work culture.

The businessman had, on a podcast, called on young Indians to work 70 hours a week. “Unless we improve our work productivity… we will not be able to compete with those countries that have made tremendous progress,” he said.

Mr Murthy received support from other business leaders who said it was what a growing economy like India needed.

Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys Ltd., speaks at the event celebrating 40 year anniversary of Infosys Ltd. at the company's head office in Bengaluru, India, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022
Image caption,Narayana Murthy’s comments had Indians debating the country’s work culture

But many on social media criticised him for seemingly disregarding the mental and physical health of employees and promoting “toxic” work culture. Many pointed to studies that showed Indians already worked very long hours for lesser compensation than in developed countries.

The debate also came at a time when developed countries are experimenting with shorter work weeks.

The “70 hours” comment has since been used by social media users as a joke whenever there’s a dip in the share price of Infosys, the company founded by Mr Murthy, or the tech giant loses a contract.

Adorable grandparents

Retnamma and Thulasidharan from Kerala went http://katasungokong.com/ instantly viral for recreating a scene from the 2016 animated Disney film Zootopia.

The video, which shows the elderly couple imitating selfie poses of the two lead characters in the film, had 10m views on Instagram within a week.

The couple – who run a popular Instagram account, called Achamass, with help from their grandsons – had shot the video months ago but posted it in November when recreating the selfie scene from the film became a popular trend on Instagram Reels.

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