Of Gourds and Men

How the Tripura government isn’t a lauki to sink nails into and POTUS might have trumped-up his health certificate

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Updated: May 5, 2018 12:55:51 am
Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb (Express Photo by Abhisek Saha/File) 

Biplab Kumar Deb has descended from the sublime to the subaltern. Last week, the giant-slayer of Tripura set off a firestorm with his comments on the inauthenticity of Diana Hayden’s beauty. And on May Day, he sprang to the defence of his government, and of helpless vegetables in Tripura’s markets. While Bretton Woods economists prescribe haircuts, ABP News reported that on May Day, he threatened foes of his party, and of laukis, with nailcuts.

Rare is the day when one can defend Deb’s zaniness, but that day is upon us. He has said that laukis in markets are ruined by buyers who plunge their nails into them, to test their resilience. Indeed, India teems with such lauki-maulers, wreaking havoc in markets everywhere. But to extend the metaphor from the vegetal world to the animal kingdom, to people who are sinking their nails into his government — rather, into him — stretches the lauki thin. Nope, once more, Deb remains indefensible.

In Mysuru, the prime minister has successfully deflected Rahul Gandhi’s challenge to a US presidential-style debate with a much-televised counter-challenge to speak for 15 minutes on the achievements of the government in Karnataka without reading from a piece of paper. “You can speak in Hindi, English or your mother tongue,” he elaborated, attacking him for an accident of history which he can’t help. Structurally, it is no different from disparaging dalits or women for being dalits or women, but few news organisations went down that line. Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah has challenged the prime minister to speak about the achievements of the Yeddyurappa government for 15 minutes while looking at a paper.

There goes the chance to see a real debate in the House which, with implacable calm, passes bills on important issues with absolutely no discussion. But TV discussion panels remain engaged with trying to understand who would benefit more from a presidential-style debate. DPRK News Service, the parody handle claiming to represent North Korean media, reports helpfully: “Larger ape attacks and murders smaller ape in Pyongyang Zoo to delight of watching children.”

Overseas, the big breaking story is on NBC, to which Donald Trump’s longtime physician Dr Harold Bornstein has revealed that his offices were raided by Trump’s people and his medical files removed after he told the press that POTUS took a drug to promote hair growth. Thereafter, the story moved to The New York Times, which reported that the good doctor had been ejected from the Trumpverse. He also revealed that the famous clean chit — the medical certificate of good health given to the president — was dictated by Trump himself. Bizarre and damaging stuff continues to come out.

But what will probably remain the most bizarre story of 2018 is out in Wired, which reports a digital duel between two Instagram ‘influencers’, Lil Miquela, who promotes liberal values, and Trump supporter Bermuda. The latter hacked Miquela’s account and refused to return it until she revealed the truth — that she is a digital entity. The threat was double-edged, because Bermuda isn’t human either.

This would just be a diverting tech story, except that Miquela has a following of 1.1 million, has partnered with brands like Prada and Diesel, and is backed by a robotics and artificial intelligence startup interested in “applications to media businesses”. Clearly, the difference between journalism and promotion isn’t confused only in Mark Zuckerberg’s mind. CGI creations like Miquela are hyper-real, and backed by virtual and augmented reality researchers. And the very technology which is being used to influence you to buy a lipstick or a watch (sorry, chronometer!) can also be used to push a prime minister or president. Or to push out a prime minister or president. At that point, hyper-real artificial influencing would assume dangerous proportions.

GoNews has reported the menu ordered in by UP minister Suresh Rana when he visited a dalit household to dine: palak paneer, dal makhni, chholey, raita, tandoori naan and gulab jamun. Sounds like a railway meal ordered over the internet. But no one seems to have the answer to the question which really matters — did Rana order for the members of the household, too? Or were they left in the lurch with ghar ka khana?

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