Kochi: It was on July 25 that the story of Hanan Hamid, the Kochi college student who sold fish for a living, went viral on social media. The 20-year-old became a cyberstar overnight and was projected as an icon of endurance.
After she received several offers of better livelihood from well-wishers, including a movie offer from 'Ramaleela' director Arun Gopy, a group of netizens started a scathing defamation campaign against her alleging that she was performing a publicity stunt for her upcoming movie. However, her real unenviable story was revealed by the media in the following days and it helped the young woman prove her integrity. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan ordered a quick probe into the defamation campaign and it yielded more than 25 arrests so far.
Hanan is rarely in the news now. The talented Kochi girl is no longer helpless and has quickly outgrown her narrow fish basket which launched her to fame. Hanan has a handful of movie projects in her kitty, and some exciting stage-shows in line. She is all set to travel to the UAE soon and the United States later. She has a decent home to live, a bank account to save her remunerations and increased opportunities to fulfill her ambitions including a medical degree.
A month after a helpless Hanan revealed her plight and plans to Onmanorama, a cheerful Hanan opens up regarding her celebrity-like status, upcoming projects and plans.
Busy times ahead
It has been a happening month for me! I can't fathom the tremendous change that happened to me within this short period. Until a month ago, I was concerned about the my basket of fishes stored in a car-shed. At night I would be thinking about the next day's classes. Now, my hands are full! People identify me in a crowd and gather around me. A few children painted my portraits and gifted me. I realise how deeply has my story touched the society. Now I have to be faithful to everyone who stood by me through tough times. I promise you that however high I fly, I shall remain the old Hanan before you – that innocent little girl who smiled jovially besides her fish-basket, despite struggles and burden of dreams.
I have a number of movies-projects in my kitty. Soubin Sahir's 'Ara Kallan Mukkal Kallan' and director Vijayakumar's upcoming biopic of singer Vaikom Vijayalakshmi in which I play the central character are two of the movies which I am excited about. I have also written and composed an Onam song for Manorama News TV. I also sang it by myself. It will be released before Onam this year. I am working on another music album right now.
Stage-shows keep me lively. I get invitations to chair functions, perform live music and mimicry shows and to give speeches. I have also done a good number of inaugurations and product-launches by now. I understand that this phase of stardom and fame are all momentary. All what I would be left with will be my skills and perseverance. Fortunately, I have now got good savings and ample opportunities to manifest my skills and thus earn good remuneration.
Thankful to tormentors
Hanan has only words of gratitude for her online tormentors. "I am thankful to all those who supported me in my prayers, but I owe more to those who ran campaigns against me online. Without them, I wouldn't have achieved the current fame. Setbacks have always forced me to fight and rise again. When I lost the support of my family and was left alone on streets, I didn't not think about suicide, but gaining a job and fighting the odds single-handedly. Similarly, after the initial 24 hours of fame, when the same social media which took me to the clouds ditched me ruthlessly, I decided, if a trace of life remains in me the next day, I would resume my business and live like nothing has happened. Thankfully, I was supported unconditionally by the media which proved my story real.
Many people ask me what message do I have for Nooruddin Sheikh, the Wayanad vlogger who launched the defamation campaign against me. I would rather gift him a brand new set of shirt and dhothi this Onam because the harder he tried to defame me, the stronger my truths endured to prove themselves.
Until a month ago, I had been a tiny candle which tried hard to hide its tear-drops with a beaming bright smile. Now you have added fuel to my fire. I shall furiously rise above all the challenges amid criticisms, suspicions and allegations raised by the society. Let me tell you, without those trolls, without that defamation campaign, you would have forgotten me the very next day that photograph went viral. I would have been selling fish or any other commodity on streets for a living.
Hanan's family went through a rough patch after her alcoholic father got estranged from them. Her father expressed her support on hearing about the furore over his daughter.
"On a fine morning after the controversies settled, I got a phone call from my father. “Everything you told before media are true to my knowledge, my child. I can appear anywhere and offer adequate support to you,” he said. I thanked him for his kind gesture and humbly denied his offer to make public appearance as I am desperately trying to leave behind the image that surrounded me. I don't want to create anymore headlines regarding my personal matters. My brother, on the other hand, expressed his disbelief and was thrilled to watch his sister going places. I want him to remain happy. What disturbs me the most is my mother's silence. Neither my maternal family nor paternal kin showed up.
Experiences keep Hanan grounded
Several people had offered help to Hanan on hearing about her plight. She plans to pursue her MBBS dreams as she no longer has to worry about making both ends meet.
"I got several offers of sponsorship. I try to avoid gifts these days, though I accepted some initial offers of a good house and aid. If you trust me, if you believe in my skills, give me opportunities to express my talents. Offer your donations as remunerations to my work. That is the reason why I accept all the movie offers I get. I have to make my financial side secure. Once I have a stable financial base, I will start preparing for the NEET exam. Afterwards, I would join a prestigious college for MBBS course and fund my own studies as I had dreamt earlier.
My plans are the same, despite the recent fame. The social media stardom gave me a fantastic break to my dreamworld, to which I was struggling to enter. I am grounded to my realities. I know people took me to their hearts for my hard work, endurance and self-reliance. Once I leave those values behind, the same people who lauded me will start cursing me. I shall not exploit my blessings," Hanan revealed.
Will Hanan sell fish anymore?
Yes, in fact (laughs.) It is the fish-trade which took me to the heights which I couldn't have imagined otherwise. Kochi Municipal Corporation has promised me a kiosque to sell fish. I am planning to open a fish stall as soon as the municipality keeps its word. I had a prolonged chat with Dharmajan Bolgatty the last day, after we performed a stage-show together. I was surprised to find that he still earns as much as Rs 6 lakh a month from fish trade. Fish trade is not a minor profession to pursue. If you are business-minded, you can earn stable income from a stationary store. Hanan's identity is her fish-basket. I shall not leave it behind.