It was Monday evening. Manju, middle-aged Gujarati, mother of two, grandmother of two (girls), and crazed TV news addict, was exhausted (TV Ke Uss Paar, Zindagi).
She’d been chasing mosquitoes since Breaking News announced that “Over 7,400 people afflicted with chikungunya in the national capital.’’ and TV had given the battle cry: “All out war on mosquitoes”, “#Culprits must be punished”, “First Pak, now mossies: India strikes back”. True patriot, Manju had gone to war, with a battery-operated mosquito bat.
Now, she collapsed before the LCD, armed with dhoklas. It was 9 pm, time for her daily TV fix. DD News showed visuals of overcrowded Delhi hospitals and Narendra Modi: “The prime minister condemned the cowardly attack and assured the nation that those behind it will not go unpunished. Meanwhile, the Union health minister announced Rs 5 crore compensation for every victim.’’
Manju choked on the dhokla: Rs 5 crore for victims! And she’d been killing mosquitoes all day, for the nation? Annoyed, she switched channels. ABP was showing 100 angles of the aedes aegypti mosquito in 200 seconds. Aaj Tak was more intrepid: It had tracked the offending mosquito back to Dawood at his Clifton residence in Karachi — another “proxy war” by Pakistan. How did ISI unleash the insects on India? “Simple”, replied Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida, “It took them off the Exit Control List”.
Perplexed, Manju turned to her beloved — Ravish Kumar (NDTV India). Ravish, she noted approvingly, wore a light grey jacket with a blue striped tie — always so cool where other anchors were hot, with burning questions. Ravish was staring into an open drain, teeming with mosquito larvae, microphone in hand. Manju clapped her hands: Trust him to be the only one to actually interview “the enemy”.
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Zee News. Here Manju saw a “representative video” from Pakistan of mosquito swarms waiting to cross the LoC. The 9 pm anchor asked every Indian to defend the motherland: “Abki baar, seema paar”.
Manju sat back, contentedly: She’d already done her duty killing mosquitoes and displacing Pakistani serials — with Subhash Chandra Goel’s help, of course. She helped herself to dhokla and moved on.
On India TV, Rajat Sharma, with that sweet Aap Ki Adalat “killer” smile, accused Arvind Kejriwal of running away from chikungunya to Punjab, Goa and Gujarat. No, replied Delhi’s CM, this was a Modi government conspiracy to oust him.
Manju coughed: She was allergic to Kejriwal. She switched to Kashish News where Nitish Kumar spoke on the merits of prohibition for all ailments — even chikungunya, wondered Manju.
CNBC Awaaz and Zee Business were stock-talking, RSTV and Lok Sabha TV had men in white beards and women in handloom saris debate chikungunya and India’s strategic interests. Manju didn’t like RS and LS TV: They took the news so seriously.
On to NDTV 24×7. Left, Right and Centre. Here, the Congress and the BJP blamed each other for everything, covert and overt. But Manju wasn’t listening; she was admiring the anchor, Nidhi Razdan, thinking how well she would suit her son, Vivek.
On cue, in walked Vivek. “Ma, again you’re watching the news? Stop it, Ma, don’t you know, it’s reel, not real?” he shouted. “But it’s real to me,” yelled Manju. Suddenly, the TV remote began to circle 360 degrees, the lights flickered and Manju disappeared — into the Newshour studio. How did she get there? Must be Arnab Goswami’s doing with his Superman locks and looks, she reasoned. “Debating Tonight” #Surgicalstrikes2: Muzzle mosquito breeders. Voices buzzed in her ears but Manju didn’t mind; she was so pleased to be seen on Times Now, she beamed into the camera. Until Arnab wagged his finger at her and she fled.
Only to land up on India Today where a young man in army fatigues informed her that India had just “hit out” at seven mosquito camps across the LoC. “Quite right,” agreed Manju, “I use ‘Hit’ at home too”. Gaurav #India First Sawant commended her. Will you volunteer for a (c)overt operation to Balochistan, he asked? Manju remembered Vivek and zoomed out of the TV.
At home, Vivek was watching CNN’s “Trump v/s Hillary”. Manju hugged him, “Now this is what I call real entertainment.”