In the Indian imagination, beef has been traditionally equated with brawn. That’s why the East India Company was able to just walk in and take over! And now beef is bringing in Olympic medals.
Once upon a time — a time which seems to be at a mythic distance now, though it is well within living memory — once upon a time before the birth of TV debates and Twitter, it was considered normal to step around bull***t and carry on with your life. Not any more. Now, even the most disposable statements must be discussed and analysed from multiple points of view, in multimedia, causing multiple headaches among the hapless viewership.
Multitudes of private citizens have been urging Udit Raj to have his head examined, following his revelation of Usain Bolt’s winning diet —beef twice a day. The implications have been pondered on TV and inprint, and physicians and researchers canvassed on the sporting benefits of beef. It was the B-word which set everyone off. Whether a pre-modern taboo should condition modern social and political behaviour is an important question, but the proteinaceous and calorific values of beef are settled questions. And it is generally accepted that a bowl of chickpeas can give a T-bone steak some competition.
In the Indian imagination, beef has been traditionally equated with brawn. That’s why the East India Company was able to just walk in and take over, don’t you know? And now, apparently, beef is bringing in Olympic medals. This round of the bizarre debate stopped only when public attention was diverted to the Olympic sprinter’s other appetites, following the revelations of an American model. Now, that question is going to agitate the soul of America, which venerates family values with the very intensity with which we regard the cow, who is our mother. Remember the uproar over Tiger Woods? It was as if a golfer fooling around had compromised national security. Fox and CNN may offer some exciting fare soon.
But India, one of world’s two biggest democracies, has become obsessed with family values, too. Hence the summary axing of AAP minister Sandeep Kumar on the peculiar charge of “objectionable” dalliances. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has taken the moral high ground,while party spokesman Ashutosh has wondered out loud, in print (sort of), if Kumar broke any law. This was in his column for NDTV — the once path-breaking TV channel is sampling the pleasures of the written word.
Ashutosh essays a detailed history of sex and attitudes to it, which actually have nothing to do with his theses. A few paras down, one begins to wonder why there are no stock pictures from Khajuraho and Konark to go with this article. He also produces a list of people in power who stepped away from the norm, which again, is besides the point. Even so, the point holds — what a person in public life does in private should not matter, unless it influences his or her activity as a public official. Indian media and its readers and viewers have never been deeply interested in the sex lives of the political leadership, as Ashutosh says (with the standout exception of ND Tiwari). Indeed, the indiscretion of Abhishek Manu Singhvi, memories of which have been revived by the Kumar affair, was a matter between him and his family. It had no political bearing at all. Only prurient interest kept that awful video on the air.
NDTV is not alone in going cross-media on the quiet. The downpours in Delhi and Hyderabad had TV stations crowdsourcing videos — it’s much more intelligent to take feeds from people already stuck in urban dystopias, than to hurl some more rookie reporters into misery. John Kerry was probably the most important human to be made miserable, and Voice of America’s extended coverage of his predicament included a video showing waterlogged Delhi roads on the way to Kerry’s speech at IIT-D. Radio channels are turning to video, while TV channels embrace the written word. This is not exactly what convergence was expected to be in the 1990s, when the world first hyperventilated about it. It’s turning out to be an unpredictable game.
Just for kicks, do check out Baba Sehgal’s video endorsement, Trump ka Mania. But not on a full stomach, please. Respect the dream popularly known as Swachh Bharat.