Windswept in NYChttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/windswept-in-nyc/

Windswept in NYC

Modi goes to the US. ‘Bigg Boss’ contestants board a flight to nowhere.

Equally fascinating was the other list running alongside, of the people who would be “live on News X” during its Modi In US coverage.
Equally fascinating was the other list running alongside, of the people who would be “live on News X” during its Modi In US coverage.

For the nation, it’s been a hi-five, sci-fi moment: the Red Planet, the Mangalyaan, a “crucial burn” and nano-second timing. After Isro’s Mars Orbiter had commenced its “final journey” by entering the planet’s orbit on Wednesday morning, we joined Isro and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in applauding India’s Mission Mars. Or, as the Doordarshan commentator said about the scientists, we were “all having beaming faces”. It  is for memorable events such as these and a delightful turn of phrase that you cherish Doordarshan.

Meanwhile, on planet Earth, TV news correspondents found many people beaming in New York. The prospect of Modi’s visit had NRIs “smiling from ear to ear” like our scientists, (thank-you Doordarshan). CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, News X and NDTV landed in the US well before the Indian prime minister for Namoste America (NDTV 24×7). Not knowing what to do with themselves until he actually arrives, the anchors/ editors wandered about the city looking for NRIs eagerly awaiting the visit — and beamed them back to us “live”.

On Namorica, Rahul Kanwal, hair waving decoratively in the breeze, found some NRIs rehearsing item numbers for Modi’s community reception at Madison Square Garden (MSG). Swapna smiled broadly and promised us “top-notch” dances (Headlines Today). Bhupendra Chaubey at MSG on Tuesday, assured us that although he was wearing a suit, it was very cold out there (CNN-IBN). Pooja, an actor, and Vega, a producer, relieved him of some of his discomfiture by the warm welcome they extended to Modi. “He gives hope,” stated Vega, while Pooja said she’d definitely be at the MSG. Later, Chaubey spoke to Columbia University professor Arvind Panagariya, who sat him down for a lesson on the difference between being authoritarian and authoritative like Modi.

News X had its strategic affairs editor, Geeta Mohan, windswept in New York, asking India’s permanent representative to the UN about the world’s “expectations” from the Modi visit — he gave the expected diplomatic reply. More interesting was Monday’s News X story on the “proxy” protests against Modi — apparently, 11 NGOs backed by Pakistan’s ISI were out to “sabotage” his visit. On Tuesday, News X had a list of Americans who were “opposed” to Modi: amongst others, it featured Vice President Joe Biden, Shirin Tahir-Kheli, an “ideologue close to Pak army”, Samantha Power, US permanent representative to the UN, “close to Pak”. Asked for the origins of the list, the anchor revealed it had been culled by the channel’s representatives in the US in conversations with sources within the Obama administration. Dodgy, when you are naming someone with the seniority of vice president.
Equally fascinating was the other list running alongside, of the people who would be “live on News X” during its Modi In US coverage. Impossible to read or register all the names as they flashed by in a second and Mohan’s hair was blowing in our faces.

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Contestants of Bigg Boss (Colors) have landed themselves in a lot of trouble. Promos had warned us they would be boarding a flight to nowhere in Season 8 that began on Sunday. And so it came to pass: their home is a grounded aeroplane (or sets that resemble one), their beds are economy-class seats and they sit outside when the plane runs out of oxygen. Two days on, they’re looking very scruffy. One of the delights of Bigg Boss was the toilet scenes, where contestants dumped on one another and then others had to clean up the mess left behind. So far, no toilet seen.

Instead, there’s a “secret society”  that bosses the contestants and what sounds like a new voice for Bigg Boss. Captain Salman Khan and his crew happily have abandoned the passengers to their own devices. Also, there’s no “bigg” star on board — could be an advantage, since no one is the cynosure of attention. But not sure why the aeroplane was the chosen setting — maybe the secret society will tell us?

Finally, watched the white tiger at the Delhi zoo attack a young man, drag him about and hole up in a corner with him — awful. Why did channels like India News broadcast the video? And did its voice-over have to say, “(Usko) zinda khata raha 15 minute ke liye”?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com