YOU MAY call it the Cycle Debacle. Rahul Kanwal’s bicycle-borne interview of Akhilesh Yadav is the latest riff in the perambulatory interview segment, wherein the concerned parties travel from point A to point B in the course of their conversation. Maybe the activity helps if either interviewer or interviewee have ADHD. It prevents them from looking fidgety.
The trouble with a cycle-borne interview is that they don’t make cycles like they used to. Gone are the old black Heros and Atlases that socialist India once rode majestically, stolidly, indefatigably. Now, cycles are runty little things bearing riders who are precariously perched. So the only comfortable person in that India Today TV interview was Dimple Yadav, and that was only because she was not on a cycle. Taking the advantage, she unleashed a vicious cycle on Kanwal, asking him why national TV channels had given so little prime time to the Naliya rape scandal, in which BJP workers are implicated. “Of course we have,” protested Kanwal (indeed, Aaj Tak did cover the story). “We cover everything — Una…”
“I’m not talking about Una.”
“I’m not talking about Delhi. It’s the unsafest city in the world. I’m talking about Kutch.” Dimple Yadav was not supposed to be the prime focus of that interview, but she became a very sharp spoke in India Today TV’s wheel.
These days, you no longer have to head for the great open spaces to seek live action. The studio can be totally drenched in adrenalin, as Arnab Goswami showed. He has had to step away from the trenches for a bit, and the void is screaming to be filled. This week, Bhupendra Chaubey’s programme stepped up to the crease with the familiar formula: get two people who disagree violently together, get some sarcasm going to set the tone, and then let them loose on each other.
Chaubey’s champions were Shehzad Poonawalla and Tarek Fatah. The former took first blood with the accusation that Fatah had not read Article 19 of the Constitution. That acted on Fatah like a firecracker set off at a sensitive location, and he began to rant: “And who do you think you are, the Maharaja of Poonawalla?” The liveliest part of the altercation was not aired but found its way to YouTube, in which Poonawalla is seen to be still egging on Fatah with threats of filing an FIR: “This is the real face to Tarek Fatah, beating me up…” His adversary is being led away, shouting obscenities, and he clearly knows that he has lost the round.
Years ago, there was a wave of shock and awe stories in the Western press about kids with a college education joining Al Qaeda. People Like Us were rapidly becoming People Like Them. Now, Hussain Haidry the Hindustani Musalman is all the rage for exactly the opposite reason: One of the People Like Them is demonstrably People Like Us, to the extent that he admits to smoking and drinking. It is so wonderfully shocking that he has been sucked into TV studios. NDTV’s The Buck Stops Here asked him about his motive, and whether there are still syncretists who keep the faith with both Ramzan and Gangasnaan. That tradition is quite visible in small town India, which social media and political busybodyhood have failed to poison yet, but the motive behind the poem is sobering: Haidry said he was “getting confused”, and his composition for open mics helped him get a bearing on his identity. But he is not the one-poet target audience of his own poem. He is addressing Hindus who have defined themselves as unidimensional, and now believe that other communities must be the same way.
Shoot the messenger. Especially when the message is play money. Rs 2,000 notes marked ‘Churan lable’ (sic), issued by the Children Bank of India and the Bharatiya Manoranjan Bank, were spat out of an SBI ATM in the capital. Deeply embarrassed authorities are doing precisely that when they hold responsible the owner of the courier company which loads the ATM, for the action of a prankster. Some people have also tried to hold NDTV responsible, for running this hilarious story.
NDTV also had a strange story sourced from a citizen journalist, which showed a worker at a famous central Delhi restaurant apparently kneading something with his bare feet in a huge cooking vessel. The restaurant claimed that he was washing clothes. Why not? If lassi can be whipped up in washing machines, as it used to be on some Punjab highways before those troublesome food inspectors hit the road, why can’t clothes be washed in a cooking pot? And what if it was dough being kneaded, as has been darkly alleged. One of the Indian names for bread, pav roti, is believed to acknowledge the critical role of the feet. And it is impossible to find wine untouched by human feet. It’s enough to put you off the finer things of life for ever.