“Keep your arm and legs apart, take a deep breathe (sic), relax each part of your body from head to toe,” the voice stretched languidly across the setting. On cue, the TV camera rested upon a pair of feet with 10 toes.
We have seen much of Narendra Modi in the past few years but never could we have imagined that one day we would see our Prime Minister’s toes on the TV frame (DD News).
After his speech during Rajpath’s ‘Yogpath’ on International Day of Yoga was loudly applauded (clapping is also yogic), we saw plenty more of the PM: his kapal bhatti, his prostrated body from an overhead camera as he performed yoga along with an estimated 35,000-plus “quite enthusiastic” participants (News X reporter).
The PM gave an “achcha surprise” with his participation, exclaimed a delighted Minister of AYUSH Shripad Naik (Zee News). Clearly Doordarshan was in the know: it trained its coverage on Modi from top to toe throughout the 15 asanas — which by the way, he performed with far greater dexterity than many in the audience or his ministers and chief ministers. Back to them in a minute.
His “surprise” led to excessive gratefulness from the woman on the loudspeaker and the inevitable question from TV reporters: “Thank you very, very much Prime Minister. Heartfelt gratitude. Thank you very, very much,” gushed the former; “The Prime Minister performed yoga in your midst, aapko kaise laga?” the IBN-7 reporter asked a group of girls at the venue. “Bahut achcha laga, ma’am”.
Yoga Day was treated like the Republic Day parade on TV. News channels travelled to Mumbai (yoga in raincoats) to Kolkata (yoga with umbrellas), Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Haryana, Lucknow, Shimla, Srinagar — India Today went to the Siachen glacier and the Thar desert for military yoga and NDTV 24×7 to Australia where cricketer Brett Lee celebrated “My Yoga Day”.
At Rajpath, Modi’s ministerial colleagues were few and far between as senior cabinet members stood on one foot in various state capitals of India and the world. Lest anyone think Sushma Swaraj was missing because of the “other Modi”, DD News reminded us that the Foreign Minister and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would join yoga sessions in New York (UN) and San Francisco.
As DD and private news TV fanned out across the country, we saw President Pranab Mukherjee beat a drum to initiate yoga at Rashtrapati Bhavan, HRD Minister Smriti Irani in Shimla wear traditional Himachali headgear, Home Minister Rajnath Singh gamely try to emulate the PM, chief ministers S S Chouhan and Ananadiben Patel (MP and Gujarat, respectively) display flexible spines but Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh could barely flex at all.
Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan) performed despite “a backache” , which according to ABP had prevented her from attending the Anandpur Sahib celebrations last week. “How is she doing yoga?” asked an ABP wallah. “Yoga frees you of back pain,” quipped another. Now, if only it could free her of Lalit Modi.
One CM prominent at Rajpath was Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia. When asked by a channel about yoga and vipassana, the CM replied they were “good” for health and smiled like a man who had benefited from both.
Bollywood, for once, was in short attendance (tut, tut) with Shilpa Shetty alone making headlines. The TV celebrities of the day and during the entire build-up were yoga teachers, gurus — led by Ramdev who sat in an easy chair on the dais at Rajpath, clearly the camera’s favourite after Modi. A few TV anchors found themselves trying out poses — Karma Paljor stuck out his tongue in a “cool down” asana (CNN-IBN).
That left Muslims and the Guinness records. One monitoring official from London said “there is amazing energy” at Raj Path but didn’t translate it into numbers. And while everyone from the PM downwards stressed that yoga was about inner “peace”, Zee News and ABP turned a deaf ear. As soon as yogpath ended they pitted yogis against maulvis in a bitter debate over “Om”. We were back to loud politics as usual. By the way, it rained on IYD just as it had on Republic Day.