“Gentily wopen your ice.” The sonorously southern invitation to gaze dewy-eyed upon a transformed Rajpath set the keynote for Yoga Day. In the media, the event marked the eye of the Lalit Modi storm, bringing half an hour of peace, quiet and soothing primal sound in the early hours of Sunday. The band-baaja struck up again soon enough, though. Times Now waved aloft a document bearing Vasundhara Raje Scindia’s signature, endorsing Lalit Modi. The Kolkata Telegraph front-paged a photograph of the prime minister at rest on Rajpath in the Makarasana, with the headline: “Wake Up and See the Sign”. Almost TS Eliot, no?
The sight of the prime minister, just one yoga mat’s length ahead of the rest, leading the nation in the pursuit of peace and quiet, was much easier on the eyes than the absurd Soviet ritual of January 26, when Rajpath bristles with Brahmoses and bhangra dancers in equal numbers. But I caught the programme on YouTube, where the peace was routinely disturbed by the world’s dumbest mobile app ad, in which a blonde who has misplaced most of her clothes goes about shooting people for failing to download apps fast enough.
Besides, an unseen reporter from a Hindi channel, overcome by the idea that Narendra Modi was mixing with the common herd, yammered constantly in the background about the PM’s latest feats. Why did his performance astonish the media so much? One of the better traditions of the RSS is that its leadership routinely drills with the foot-soldiers. But the media seemed to read it like a story from the Betal Panchvimshati, in which the king goes out into his city and mingles unrecognised.
While an energetic participant, the PM did not live up to the expectation of flexibility warranted by his reputation as a routine practitioner. But the steel frame of the administration gave a good account of itself. Though perceived to be too rigid and turgid for the rigours of yoga, bureaucrats and clerks did not collapse in a breathless heap of safari suits as anticipated.
Modi’s BJP always picks up serious media miles from its campaigns, and this one had an international footprint, with Sushma Swaraj observing the day in New York, Arun Jaitley in San Francisco, JP Nadda in Hyderabad and so on. Amit Shah had targeted Patna, perhaps to dare Nitish Kumar, who had observed the previous week that Shah would benefit enormously, physically and mentally, from the practice of yoga. He spoke on yoga but did not do it. That would have been tempting fate.
The week’s big regional story claims that India had helped to train hundreds of activists of the Pakistani opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the use of weapons and explosives. The story is currently unverifiable, since it relies on quotes from unnamed officials, but the fact that it was run by the BBC gives it weight in the popular perception.
The big international communications story of the week is OneWeb, Richard Branson’s satellite internet venture, in which Bharti Enterprises has invested. Apart from the revolutionary possibilities in telemedicine, distance education and disaster management, it could revolutionise the delivery of media. Like, the Yoga Day show on NDTV had this fat, pointless headline across the bottom of the screen obscuring the elegant footwork of the Vrikshasana. If this were an interactive digital feed, it could have been turned off. Imagine turning off all the cascading numbers in the opening bell shows on the business TV channels, which do not contribute significantly to comprehension. Imagine stripping the loud headlines and inflated claims off Arnab Goswami’s sceen, and maybe some loud and absurd participants, too. Gentily wopen your ice. A new and better age is dawning.