Telescope: Between a bed and a khaat

An AAP MLA featured in a sex tape. Rahul’s UP yatra began on a chaotic note.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published:September 8, 2016 12:30 am
People take cots away after Rahul’s Khaat Sabha in Deoria district of UP. People take cots away after Rahul’s Khaat Sabha in Deoria district of UP.

In a week that went from the sublime to the ridiculous, we’re caught between a bed and a khaat. On the mattress (as opposed to the mat) was AAP MLA Sandeep Kumar, dressed in his naked torso only, from the waist up, but unlike Jain muni Tarun Sagar, clad in clothes from below as he cuddled a female form. Channels like India Today delighted in this particular screen grab each time they mentioned Sandeep Kumar and the sex tape scandal.

On the khaat, sat men and women, by all appearances, earnestly listening to Rahul Gandhi launch into Narendra Modi, Tuesday afternoon. In hindsight, they were probably contemplating when they could pull off the Great Indian Rope Trick and decamp with the khaats. As we watched, they lifted the charpoys and calmly walked away with them the moment he completed his speech, eliciting an immediate TV response: “Khaat fiasco” (CNN News 18), “Khaat rally ends in chaos” (India Today), and from Times Now, a pun: “Cot & Bowled”. It was sad, funny and farcical at the same time.

Much more uplifting was the sainthood of Mother Teresa, Sunday afternoon, live from the Vatican. The moment was complete in itself: The soothing voice of Pope Francis delivering his Sunday sermon, lilting choral music, and crowds bathed in the sunlight of a hot Rome morning. But news channels had to prove “mere paas maa hai” by waxing on and on with platitudes: “She will always be Maa, Mother” (NDTV 24×7), “(there are) celebrations to the north, to the east, to the south and (whaddya know) to the west’ (CNN News 18)”. We were advised that irrespective of religion we could all follow Mother Teresa’s “basic human values” (CNN News 18). Amen.

Now, when a headline reads, “Tamil Nadu vs Karnataka” you think sports, right? Wrong. On Tuesday, the news was awash with protests in Karnataka over the Supreme Court verdict on the Cauvery river dispute. And when you read, “TNPL Kovai vs CSG”, you think someone just loves the alphabet. Wrong again. This is a cricket tournament on Star Sports 1, featuring teams you’ve never seen before. Before the Tamil Nadu cricket association invented a new T20 club contest, that is. About as exciting as watching India Blue batting with a 616-run second innings lead and seven wickets in hand (Wednesday, Duleep Trophy, Star Sports 4). And what do you think of that pink ball?

Meanwhile, Gaurav Sawant has invented a whole new (confounded) way to describe terrorism: “The only good terrorist,” he said last week, “is a dead terrorist.” This and other such nuggets can be heard on India First where Pakistan features first. Daily. Sawant is a one-man army defending our borders and attacking Pakistan (by showing videos of Balochistan “atrocities”), the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Hurriyat etc, on the north-western front.

Switch to NDTV 24×7 and there’s Barkha Dutt who seems to be trying to bring peace to Kashmir single-handedly with reports, features and discussions, every evening, from the Valley. It’s a black and white study in contrasts.

Lastly, to the biggest interview — “it doesn’t get bigger than this” — with the “biggest political impact”: CNN News 18 interviewed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and first aired it last Friday. Then on Saturday, then on Sunday and parts of it even on Monday. All day for an entire week, the channel aired excerpts from Rahul Joshi’s Q&A with the PM.

Thereafter, the channel hit upon the idea of using Modi’s answers to generate 9 pm debates on a “white paper” or “one nation one poll”. The latter saw a laughable squabble between CNN News and Times Now over where Modi spoke first about the issue: “First on Times Now”, no, no, “first on CNN News”.

One parting question: Did CNN News get more out of the interview than the PM?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com