Telescope: Grace and the lack of it

Spunky Sania, indecorous Melania and the stiff upper-lipped Brits.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published:July 21, 2016 12:26 am
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First, some good news. It’s rare, make that, extremely rare, to hear someone articulate a lucid statement of identity without pushing all the melodramatic buttons.

That is exactly what Sania Mirza did. It is equally unusual for a TV anchor to admit a mistake and apologise for it on air. That is what Rajdeep Sardesai did.

In an India Today interview to celebrate her autobiography, Sardesai asked the tennis star when she intended “to settle down”, have children, etc. This question normally elicits two responses: The lady says how she longs for babies on the breast, hearth and home and will “settle down” soon. Or, she puffs out her bosom with righteous indignation, then rants and raves about male chauvinism.

Mirza chose neither. “You don’t think I am settled down?” shot back the ace from India, calmness personified, dripping sarcasm. She went on to recount her many successes —Wimbledon, world no.1, etc. — and wondered why such achievements were not enough to consider her settled. “I face this question all the time,” she added, as if exhausted by this predictable line of inquiry by men.

Ergo, she shamed Sardesai. Sufficiently for him to immediately apologise and admit that he would never have asked such questions of a male athlete. It was a singular moment: Mirza had cogently and very intelligently challenged the inherent sexism in the suggestion that women, even successful women, are somehow incomplete without motherhood, hearth and home. And Sardesai had the grace to concede his bias. By the way, NDTV’s Barkha Dutt hosted Mirza too but avoided such double faults and faultlines.

Another lady in the spotlight did not acquit herself with such aplomb. Melania Trump took to centrestage at the Republican National Convention to reveal the softer side of her husband. Unfortunately for Melania, the ovations had barely subsided when a striking similarity between her words and those of the lady she wishes to succeed, Michele Obama, took over the news cycle as CNN and other news channels on Tuesday, juxtaposed the two speeches.

The “coronation” of Donald as the Republicans trump card to defeat Hillary Clinton, made the headlines across the world and news channels from France, Germany, Australia, available on DTH to viewers here, had their men in Cleveland, to report on how “extraordinarily difficult” it will be to unite the Republicans (Australia Plus). Al Jazeera explored the shattered pieces of the “American Dream” that had driven Tricia to support and work for Donald: “It’s so much fun,” she cooed, “Trumptastic”.

CNN of course had moved bag and baggage into Cleveland and did a Times Now on viewers with eight experts on its panel for the wrap on day one of the convention. Most them were annoyed with the proceedings, not so much by matters of policy or the “fear-mongering” tone but that they had gone on far too long — past11.30 pm. Way past their bedtime, perhaps?

In other international news, if you watched the BBC, CNN and then the Russian news channel RT, you’d have got very different versions of the WADA doping report which found the Russians guilty of a large scale conspiracy to tamper with the test samples of its athletes. While the Western media found enough damning evidence to discuss Russia being banned from the forthcoming Olympics, RT had Russian athletes argue that Russia was not alone in the doping scandal. “Why I am to blame?” asked first time Olympic contestants. The experts questioned the “credibility” of the evidence and how exactly it had been collected.

Lastly, we’re all familiar with the stiff upper lip of the Englishman but sometimes it makes them seem silly or ungracious. Pakistan’s cricketers won redemption and fame by beating the English, literally at their own game but the reaction of English commentators on Star Sports was almost grudging. So when one of them exclaimed, “magnificent” it came out sounding like, “well, okay”.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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