By the time you read this, the news would have been flooded by coverage of the Chandrayaan 2 moon landing, and ISRO’s “15 terrifying minutes” during the final sequence. The moon mission has been making progress and news through the week. On Monday, the Vikram lander separated from the main craft and took on an independent orbit of the moon. On Friday, it completed the fourth lunar orbit manoeuvre, in preparation of the final descent. And in the meantime, back on the home planet, parliamentary affairs just gave and gave, in terms of drama and entertainment.
Never before, perhaps, has the UK Parliament echoed with unparliamentary terms like “towel head… from Bongo Bongo land”. In an impassioned speech about intolerance within the House, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour MP representing Slough, spoke of politicians of ethnic origin in the UK being able to feel the pain of burqa-clad women being described as “letter boxes” and“bank robbers”. “So rather than hide behind sham and whitewash investigations, when will the Prime Minister finally apologise for his derogatory and racist remarks? Racist remarks which have led to a spike in hate crime.” He demanded a probe into Islamophobia within the Conservative party.
Dhesi’s intervention has drawn as much attention as the violent protests outside the Indian embassy in London over the gagging of Kashmir, at a time when Boris Johnson was being excoriated by Jeremy Corbyn over his “mystery” Brexit plan and demanding fresh elections, and shortly before his brother resigned from parliament citing a conflict between family interest and national interest. The British parliament has been noted for its rhetoric and humour at least from the fabled skirmishes between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor, and the Brexit silly season is producing a fine harvest. It’s a pleasant change from our own parliamentary television, now dominated by politicians who are incredibly touchy, and whose sense of humour, when it is in evidence at all, is often crude. The UK parliament heard this sentence this week: “This isn’t a government. This is a racket.” If the Indian Parliament could tolerate that sort of thing, ratings of its channels would lead the market.
If brevity is the soul of wit, P Chidambaram is on the ball. In a clip just 17 seconds long, he is seen being asked by a reporter about his 15 days in custody. “Five per cent. What is five per cent? Don’t you remember five per cent?” he replied as he was led away. The three-liner referred to the grim GDP figures, and amounted to god-tier offline trolling. The coverage that followed in the evening, as he was taken away to Tihar Jail, wasn’t a patch on his parting shot. The usual, dreary details of his diet and his accommodation. Tales of dal-roti-sabzi are no match for GDP trolling. Especially at a time when, on average, the Sensex falls by over 350 points per press conference held by the finance minister.
For classic online trolling, please see a video which has surfaced from the bowels of the Prasar Bharati archive, in which Subramanian Swamy is interviewed by Vinod Dua. It contains embedded evidence of its vintage quality – both gentlemen have a respectable head of hair. And Swamy dismisses the BJP as a party with a very small dream – the removal of Muslims from the game-board: “The problem with the BJP’s definition of nationalism is that it’s totally negative. It is defined in terms of how much the Muslims lose.” He points out that while the BJP focuses in Article 370, it has nothing to say on Article 371, which applies to the Northeast and “says the same thing, but they’ll never talk about that… They talk about Ram Mandir, but never about Kailash-Mansarovar, which is even more pavitra for us… No constructive programme, but only how the Muslims can be brought down.” Who knows what could emerge if researchers really had a go at the Prasar Bharati archives?
The merger of 10 banks into four to de-stress them has brought forth a rash of merger jokes, and the WhatsApp forward of the day suggests the merger of Zee News, Republic TV, Times Now, India TV and Sudarshan TV onto a single transponder, to reduce audience distress. If that happened, perhaps there would be no airtime for drivel like the holocaust survival guide offered by Zee News. Almost all the tips are hilarious. One, don’t look directly at the site of a nuclear explosion, or you could go blind. Would it matter, since you would also be dead, and possibly vapourised? Two, take shelter in a sturdy building. Why, so that you can be automagically buried? Three, take a bath instantly to wash off radioactive dust. Well, some logic there, but it presumes that you would be capable of rational action. And that, in the midst of a nuclear holocaust, you would recall the advice of Zee’s friendly survivalists.