Potues are making news for reasons which would be apolitical if the personal were not political. IBN, ABP and India TV were happy to play up a “shocking revelation” in Roger Stone’s book The Clintons’ War on Women, which is due out on Tuesday in the US — FLOTUS used to beat up Bill Clinton when he was POTUS. Well, wouldn’t you, if you were married to him and had a mean left jab? Sleaze on the Clintons never fails to make the news, especially when it is from a book. The mere fact that it is between covers seems to lend legitimacy, even when the author is a self-confessed hitman for the GOP and regards politics as “performance art”.
The rest of the news is about the present POTUS, and is much kinder. In a video that’s gathered over 32 million viewers, ABC News asks: “What happens when you’re the president of the United States, it’s raining and you’re the only one with an umbrella?” Answer, as the video demonstrates: If you are Obama, you step out of your chopper while unfurling your very Bengali lower division clerk umbrella, then wait gallantly for careless women passengers who have left their brollies behind, and escort them to shelter. At the end of the short journey, half of the president was sopping wet, while the women were more or less dry all over.
The food wars are back in the news. Odisha TV reports that the trinity of committees appointed by the state government to claim the rosogolla will submit their opinions this weekend or next week. The first committee will defend Odisha’s claims, the second will parry West Bengal’s moves and the third will produce documentation to back a geographical indication claim.
The news has sparked off tweets about food fascism and launched the hashtag #JeSuisMysorePak, in the manner of Martin Niemöller’s statement: “First they came for the sandesh, and I did not protest because I was not Bengali…” And so on via the rosogolla and the pinni until, by the time they came for the Mysore pak, there was no one left to speak up. “Not even Pratap Bhanu Mehta”, prolific contributing editor to this newspaper.
Year on year, the prices of lentils has doubled and has outstripped prices of animal proteins. Generally, the rise is attributed to flagging monsoons. However, NDTV’s Siddhartha Das and Saurabh Gupta attribute it to a server failure in the central customs office, because of which lowered import duties did not register. Traders refused to lift stocks until the error was corrected, and scarcity led to a price spike which has upset the entire middle class, and Saamna besides. The mandatory interview with a family on short rations followed — a vegetarian family in Bhopal was cooking dal only every other day.
During the food spiral in the last decade, which began in 2008, in which several third world countries saw food riots, rural Indian families went without dal for months on end every time prices rose, and it went wholly unreported. The UPA government blamed it on people wanting to graduate from a carbohydrate-rich diet to a protein-rich diet, as if aspiration for a basic quality of life was somehow deplorable. It became a media concern in the last years of the decade, when the urban middle class was pinched, hard.
Meanwhile, in a perplexing error of judgement, Rajdeep Sardesai wonders out loud if Nayantara Sahgal is hypocritical — she has returned the Sahitya Akademi award in protest against growing curbs on intellectual freedom under an NDA government, but had accepted the prize only two years after the pogrom against the Sikhs in Delhi, overseen by a Congress government. Almost three decades separate these events. Of course, people are entitled to think out loud, just as we are all entitled to sing in the shower. But really, can’t Sardesai be given more liberal deadlines which permit reflection? For journalists, it is a fundamental human right.