Telescope: Taste of diversity

Bharat Bandh was all over the place, Masterchef Australia turned a corner.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: September 13, 2018 5:47:50 am
Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh join Rahul Gandhi in Delhi for a nationwide shutdown to protest against fuel prices (Express photo by Anil Sharma/File)

It was a week of many stories. The falling rupee and rising fuel prices, a Bharat Bandh called by Opposition parties and the call from many different quarters to bring the bishop, accused of the rape of a nun, to justice. Businessman Mehul Choksi, on the run from the Indian authorities spoke out against them and then, the Congress “parivar” of Sonia and Rahul G, had perhaps run out of time to explain their role in the alleged National Herald tax evasion case.

And finally, there was the “best Indian team” losing 4-1 to England in cricket while tennis star Serena Williams was simply “losing it”.

Fuel prices and the rupee, along with the flood situation in different parts of the country, have been headline news for several weeks now. Most news channels approach these issues from the consumer’s point of view. They have set up shop at petrol pumps across cities and directed the microphone towards commuters’ complaints.

There are also discussions on what can be done — Monday evening, on CNN News 18 and Mirror Now, for instance. Ravish on NDTV India juxtaposed the BJP’s stand on fuel prices while in opposition and now in government — Sushma Swaraj’s searing comments in Parliament singeing the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee — and found that they are diametrically opposite. The current ministers echo the UPA ones before them.

The Bharat Bandh was all over the place, literally and on TV news. TV news correspondents reported from across the country on its progress — India TV showed different forms of protests via cycle, bail gaadi and on foot.

The focus was not on its relative success or failure, however, but on the damage caused by the senseless violence in the protests (Zee News, ABP) and the inconvenience it caused to ambulances, in particular. Aaj Tak highlighted the death of a girl child in Bihar because, it said, she couldn’t be taken to hospital in time: “If there was no bandh, would this girl have died?” Promptly, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took to a press conference to express his righteous outrage: “Rahul Gandhi, will you take responsibility?” ABP then went around cities looking for ambulances held up because of disruptions in traffic caused by the bandh — when did you last see traffic give and make way for an ambulance? Republic asked, “Will violence bring down prices?” knowing full well the answer was a resounding “no”.

No mercy was shown to Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal — at least not by TV news, with Faye D’Souza going so far as to say, Tuesday evening, that she would no longer call him a bishop (Mirror Now). It was a media trial of sorts with most channels supporting the nun, while, the Church shielded him (CNN News 18). “Church shames,” cried Times Now and echoed across channels.

The alleged rape preoccupied channels sufficiently for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to get off lightly on Monday evening after the Delhi High Court had said the income tax returns 2011-12 could be re-examined with reference to the National Herald case. CNN News 18 immediately explained why the case was important, and later Times Now and Republic were all over the “cheating”. Tuesday saw all channels take the Gandhis to task and other than Randeep Surjewala’s claim of vindictiveness, the Congress had no answer.

ABP scored heavily on Tuesday evening by telecasting its exclusive interview with Mehul Choksi in Antigua while other channels were running his ANI interview. Not that the content was much different but he was more expansive on ABP — good show.

Onto lighter subjects: If you watched the fifth day of the fifth Test match between England and India at the Oval on Tuesday, was it because you couldn’t believe your eyes (Sony Six)? A 200-run partnership between Rahul and Rishabh was not on anyone’s list — no wonder the commentary team in Hindi was so excited. Have to say Deep Dasgupta and Co were far more entertaining than their staid counterparts in English.

The latter — Gavaskar, Manjrekar and Bhogle — prodded and padded up, left the ball or offered a dead bat. They were almost as understated as the English commentators. In contrast, the Hindi team was steaming in with great energy — Anderson was at one stage described as a warmed up engine. They attacked, they argued and counseled the Indian batsmen: “Take it easy, Rishabh. Rahul should have a word with him”.

In an increasingly divided and divisive world, please welcome back Masterchef Australia (Star World). For the latest edition is a celebration of multi-culturalism. There are Australians of many origins on the show: Indian (Loki and Sashi), Greek, Japanese and Mexican, Azerbaijan gets a representative too and the familiar lady in a scarf. Is this intentional? Of course, but that makes it all the more important. Masterchef has chosen to celebrate Australia’s diversity. Couldn’t we all learn something from it?

The writer is vice dean, School of Journalism and Communication, Jindal Global University

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