Breaking Down News: Houses of Wax

Within hours of pictures appearing of the prime minister being measured by the technical squad of Madame Tussaud’s, news broke that the Delhi chief minister would have his head examined too, for his very own waxwork.

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Updated: March 30, 2016 10:23 am

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What a vicious backhander the BJP has struck at Arvind Kejriwal this week, banning over-the-counter cough syrups en masse. Not one to wan delicately, the Delhi chief minister has counter-attacked by launching the wax wars.

Within hours of pictures appearing of the prime minister being phrenologically measured by the technical squad of Madame Tussaud’s, there came news that the Delhi chief minister would have his head examined too, for his very own waxwork. Can Houses of Wax be far away?

Besides, imagine Kanhaiya Kumar’s waxwork looming over the simulacra of both chief minister and prime minister. His comeback speech, after he was released from jail, makes Kejriwal sound like a white collar conservative. And it will be a long, long time before we again hear the BJP’s SWOT talk about demographic dividend and chaiwallahs. Or that once-electrifying call for “aajhaadee”, for that matter.

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Meanwhile,  Pratap Bhanu Mehta spoke of in a TV interview with Karan Thapar? Or was this personal panic, inspired by the gambit of minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju? He had leveraged his high school reading of Nostradamus to dramatic effect, recalling the “man from the south” predicted to be the modifier of India.

All young men read the cleverly inscrutable apothecary in high school, but then you grow up and read the Roald Dahl version of Man from the South, which is much more credible. At some point, people become adults and understand that Nostradamus’ book is a palimpsest. You can read almost any story into it. The reader is being had and is loving it. That was the business plan for a publishing phenomenon that’s been in print for half a millennium.

In the foreign airwaves, John Oliver is back on song with his incisive analysis of Putin’s 13th rigged public TV inquisition. “Who would not feel comfortable asking questions to that friendly face?” he asks rhetorically, showing a portrait of Putin which looks like Mount Rushmore illuminated by nuclear holocaust. “Would you like to clone yourself?” asks a woman of the man who baffled Nato by going into Syria and has just bamboozled it by withdrawing rather suddenly. Loaded question there, given the gender of origin. Answer: “No.” Stop. No clarifications.

Another woman asks if Putin would request her friend’s husband Boris to get the friend a dog. It is a humanising moment, nicely set up. All the president needed to do was say, “Yes, I can do this!” But no, Putin wants the friend to ask Boris if he will not consider getting her something or the other, maybe an elephant. Maybe even a fur coat. In Putin’s Russia, anything is possible.

However, he does not control the whole human imperium. The world rolled helplessly on the floor when the village of Apastovo in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan enforced a ban on Western foods by bulldozing three frozen geese flushed out of a local shop. They could have expatriated those geese to needy foreigners, but ran them over instead. Habits remembered from Afghanistan?

Kitney aadmi the? One of the finest images of the week was that of former Chambal dacoits in tremendous moustaches and beards, apart from the lone woman in their number. All were in saffron turbans, courtesy the RSS activist who got them together. They want the right to police the forests they had once ruled, and to deliver rough justice to illegal loggers and sand mafias. As images go, that was more compelling than yet another sting on the Trinamul Congress, whose corruption is not in doubt.

News of the bombings in Brussels worked like a litmus test on Twitter. Sonia Singh: “Over 30 dead in #Brussels…  Have nothing new or profound to say. Just deep, deep sadness at the world my kids are growing up in.” Vinod Khosla: “Explosions at Brussels airport; Apple: national security is more important than privacy.” Interesting to see who cares about what. Many wondered why the blasts in Ankara did not evoke a global response like Paris and Brussels did. News TV buzzed with apocalyptic headlines. Zee led with: “Aatank ka Plan B3: Bagdadi, Belgium aur badla.” And amidst this turbulence, a truly spaced out travel agency showed a picture postcard view of Bruges at night.

Sometime thereabouts, PTI lost its marbles and loudly tweeted: “NOT USED.” Maybe just reminding media that it has the right to ignore nonsense, and should vigorously exercise it in meaningless times.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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