Yashpal Singh and Shanta Verma, residents of Haryana, are recent additions to the Instagram influencer gang. And they have their Gen Z granddaughter, Jonita, to thank for their 15,000 subscribers and brand endorsement deals.
A senior citizen couple have become social media influencers last year during the lockdown. At the age of 82 and 76, respectively, Mr and Mrs Verma, residents of Kalka in Haryana, are much older than the average Indian social media influencer, whose age ranges between 18 to 34 years.
The grandparents to 22-year-old Jonita have a follower base of over 16,000 on Instagram. While the page was started by Jonita to showcase her grandfather, Yashpal Singh Verma’s talents, his wife, Shanta Verma, refused to be left out and soon joined the party.
The Better India caught up with the family, who speak about how much they have enjoyed creating content and receiving all the love.
“I started the Instagram page in April 2020 for my grandfather and had named it ‘Gangsta Grandpa’, to showcase his wit to the world,” says Jonita.
The initial videos were all of him dancing. As Jonita helped choreograph her grandfather’s dance routines, she would hear her grandmother snicker and comment on how she could do it better.
“That was all the cue I needed. I got her in front of the camera next and she was a charm,” says Jonita. This is what gave birth to the Mr and Mrs Verma page.
Living in the age of social media
Jonita is very candid in saying that one of the reasons why she decided to start the Instagram page was to beat the boredom that the first lockdown in 2020 had induced. “It seemed like a great way to keep my grandparents and me entertained. They loved being a part of the videos as well,” she adds. There were times when Jonita’s parents would also join them and help in putting together the videos.
Yashpal says, “The best part is that we are really busy with all the planning and execution of the videos that we don’t realise how much time has gone by.”
Speaking about being in front of the camera for the first time, Shanta says, “I was a bit awkward and shy in the beginning but when my granddaughter suggested it, how could I say no?”
She adds, “I must confess that I have enjoyed it all.”
Asked if she ever secretly nurtured the dream of being in front of the camera, she says, “No, where was the time? I spent all my energy looking after my children and building a home. In our times, there was no social media, so there was really no opportunity.”
Jonita has been trying out various contemporary and traditional styles on her grandmother and says, “There are times when the clothes look so much better on her than on me.”
The grandmother-granddaughter duo started experimenting with jeans, jackets, sarees worn in different styles and even with accessories and make up. Jonita adds, “They enjoy it when a PR [public relations] package arrives for them. They have now started asking me when we will shoot the next video and how we will go about it.”
Shanta now actively rummages through Jonita’s cupboard and asks to be styled in her clothes. “I have never got a chance to wear such clothes and I enjoy it thoroughly, especially the dresses I am getting to try – they all look so pretty. I love them,” says Shanta. There are many brands that have now been reaching out to collaborate with the couple.
“My grandparents are still amazed that so many people are sending in their clothes and products for them to try and speak about,” says Jonita.
While the clothes and styling has been all directed towards Shanta, Jonita says that dadaji (grandfather) is very happy to see his wife in such new styles. She adds here, “While they are not conventionally romantic, every morning, after his walk, dada brings a bunch of flowers from the kitchen garden and quietly hands it over to dadi. He may never accept that it is for her but it is their version of romance.”
Adding to this, Yashpal says, “After spending more than 40 years working a regular job, taking on the role of a social media influencer at this age is something I am enjoying.”
Making these videos has brought out a new side to dadi. From being a reserved and shy person, she has blossomed. “My grandfather has always been outgoing but these videos have brought out a new side to my dadi too. I never knew how much she liked clothes and styling,” says Jonita.
If you haven’t checked out this couple’s adorable videos yet, click here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)