Sometimes,faith can overcome the worst odds. And so it came to pass that that the illness and subsequent death of Sathya Sai Baba dominated news TV recently without much visual appeal or the nightly roundabout of studio hyperventilation. There was no talk of corruption,no heated disputes,no political jousting,no morality show,not even voices breaking the sound barrier. When was the last time that happened?
The breaking news,throughout last week,was a medical bulletin. The discussion,when held,was a calm one on the future of his spiritual empire. The TV reporters were left standing outside the hospital or the Sathya Sai Baba Trust premises,trying to play the interpreters of maladies or biographers of his ailments. The most moving moments came when the Hindi news channels found devotees who spoke of their devotion and what Sathya Sai Baba meant to them. There was some scepticism of Sathya Sai Baba as a miracle man,but it was muted out of respect for his critical condition.
What does this prove,if anything at all? That television can treat a subject as news and not an IPL Twenty20 jamboree when it wants to.
Lest we get accustomed to the low-key nature of this coverage,TV news returned to top gear the moment the death of the spiritual leader was announced. Thereafter,we were treated to the sight of mourners,the more famous the better,in mourning. Besides politicians,we saw the likes of Sunil Gavaskar stalked by the TV cameras when he went to pay his last respects. But it was the spectacle of Sachin Tendulkar,weeping,and his wife Anjali solicitously watching him before passing him a handkerchief and then sitting by his side to console him that transfixed news channels,especially the Hindi ones. Again and again,the shots were replayed. That Tendulkar was grieving for Sathya Sai Baba became incidental to Tendulkar weeping,Anjali passing him the hanky and then talking to him.
From grief to celebrations. With the Prince William weds Kate wedding around the corner,BBC more royal and loyal than the entire United Kingdom has been running hour-long happy programmes each evening on the kinds of things you never wanted to know about the royals,their weddings and those who serve them. Honestly,the Beeb does itself no favours by telecasting what are ill-disguised promos for the House of Windsor and tourist guides to Britain,that too at prime time.
One evening was all about how the royals work. This involved a series of meals,most notably breakfast with the Arsenal soccer team and Thierry Henry who was a hit with the Buckingham Palace staff. The players were introduced to Queen Elizabeth who asked them their nationalities,and upon learning that several belonged to one country,exclaimed,Oh,so many of you,or words to that effect. Thats what is called a Royal Observation (BBC Entertainment).
BBC World had the reporter looking for mementos from shops which cater to royal tastes. So buy English cheese from the gentleman who sends it around to the palace. Or how about shoes made by the cobblers who cobble the royal feet and a jeweller who bejewels them? All frightfully expensive and not terribly interesting because after your mouth has fallen open at the prices of these ornaments and hung out there for a few minutes frozen in shock and awe,and then just about managed to clamp down again,theyve moved on to more expensive artifacts. Time for fish mouth again.
It isnt only the British channels that have gone all regal on us. NDTV Good Times was gushing like a broken faucet about Kate Middleton. She is our superstar,our Hollywood,said one Ingrid Seward. Or,our Shah Rukh Khan,we presume. We listened to how wonderful Kate is and was. Shes sensible and mature but sexy and fun too and does she or does she not love William!
When TLC began to replay the wedding of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer,Tuesday,you knew it was time to go out and buy a little Union Jack flag. Alternatively,watch a Suresh Kalmadi on slippery ground.