A set of disjointed observations methodically put together after going through a representative sample size of television channels and social media forums

Voices Sunday, June 08, 2014 - 05:30
By Naomi Datta I must confess I was mighty excited about May 16. It was an epochal day – a day where an icon from Gujarat would finally take his place in the hearts and minds of a billion Indians. He’s had his fair share of detractors, but finally this day of reckoning would separate the men from the boys. Moreover this man had now rid himself of the baggage of the past and had a six pack which I was confident would meet the 56 inches chest of a man test – what more could anyone ask for? But as it happened I missed the first day first show of Himesh Reshammiya’s The Xpose which released on May 16. So what was going to be an incisive and erudite take on a contemporary mass cultural legend has now turned into a random election piece. After all, someone’s got to keep the flag of randomness flying now that Rahul Gandhi is out of the picture. Here are a set of disjointed observations methodically put together after going through a representative sample size of television channels and social media forums. A bit like an exit poll actually so accuracy is not my selling point. In keeping with the random nature of this column, these observations are in no particular alphabetical order. F For FaceBook: Till Elections 2014, the express purpose of FB was to put up your vacation snaps, like cute kitty videos and coo at baby photos. The more evolved among us played Candy Crush Saga. If you had rage issues, the unwritten rule was you went across to Twitter and picked fights with complete strangers. But these elections changed all the rules of internet civility – status updates became sermons on neo fascism, pseudo secularism, crony capitalism and phony liberalism. We picked our sides and our fights – and my newsfeed became an acrimonious battle zone. No longer were we united in our love for babies and kittens and all things cute and cuddly – and even the fact that I occasionally let your goat graze in my farm in Farmville was forgotten. From a Sooraj Barjatya film FaceBook turned into an Ekta Kapoor soap, and now when I look at your baby’s photos, I am watching and judging. Noisy attention seeking baby. AAP. Gurgling know it all baby. BJP. Spaced out baby. Congress. H For Hologram: The big defining moment of these Elections was The Hologram. (No relation to the Holocaust before you jump down my throat you ‘waiting for inappropriate Hitler reference’ Nazis). Not only was the hologram Narendra Modi’s occasional vehicle of travel – it also did the unthinkable. It made the custodian of the nation’s interests have an attack of the giggles on national television. News TV viewers across the country were greeted with visions of a delighted giggling Arnab Goswami as his reporter was routinely teleported to his studio. ‘This is brilliant’, exclaimed the generally belligerent vigilante EACH time the hapless hologram appeared, ‘ABRACADABRA!’ dissolving into peals of delight as the reporter dissolved into thin air. Proving that while you may be the conscience keeper designate of the nation, all you ever wanted finally was to play Star Trek on live television. Awww. Beam me up, Scotty. R for Rahul, R for Random: Rahul. Random. Same Guy. Rahul Gandhi will go down in history as the man who was a spectator in his own election campaign. A perpetually zonked spectator at that. When he finally walked out with his stony faced mother to take responsibility for the decimation of the Congress, he said airily and rather cheerfully, ‘We have done pretty badly’. As he proceeded to get pummelled by irate news editors, I would like to proffer a theory. He wasn’t being cavalier –it was the relaxed air of a man who had finally found his superpower. A talent for spectacular understatement. This added to his other minor talent for spectacular underachievement rounds off the package quite well – Rahul Gandhi is in a happy place. Leave him be. S For Spokesperson: May 16 was perhaps the worst day to be any kind of Congress Spokesperson. Your job essentially was to go from television studio to studio and get scolded soundly by news anchors. What made it worse was you were sharing screen time with the BJP spokesperson being spoken to in tones of fawning wide eyed adulation. You on the other hand were addressed in tones reserved for the class duffer – yup, the guy who flunked all subjects even PT. And while gallantry medals are in the post for the Congress spokespeople, special mention for Derek ‘O Brien former quizmaster and now TMC termagant for his stellar performance. Post TMC’s pretty creditable showing, Derek found himself in the News Hour studio. When asked to respond to a question of burning national importance as all questions on the show are, he snapped, ‘Let me relax now’. The only guest ever in the history of the venerable news show to mistake it for a spa. Pressure ok, sir? K for Kejriwal: The big flop of the elections they tell us was the snub to AAP’s national aspirations. But here is where political commentators get it wrong – you see governance is not AAP’s thing at all. They rather not win elections – Kejriwal would prefer hanging outside the Lok Sabha instead of inside it. You’d understand this better if I told you a story from his childhood – as a boy, Arvind often went down to the park to play cricket. But here is the thing – he neither batted, nor bowled or fielded. He became the guy who ran away with the stumps in the middle of the match. Chew on that. And I made up that story just now, so don’t regurgitate it. N for Notable Mentions: This column would be incomplete without some notable mentions from the world of 24/7 news television. May 16 saw its firmament of stars hit peak form. First up, Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN IBN who was assailed by an attack of colour blindness on live television. Most alarming it was. He brandished his tie and said the country has turned saffron quite like my tie. Except the tie was yellow. Lurid yellow. Jaundiced view, anyone? Apart from that, Mr Sardesai seemed elated that while his exit poll didn't get the final numbers right, it was at least more right than his competing channel. The things that make you happy in the times we live now! The competing channel which incidentally got its exit poll least right in the meanwhile would be well advised to put out full page ads hollering, ‘ Even when we get it wrong, we lead’. That should put everyone in their place. But we digress. My next notable mention – Headlines Today. I must confess I didn’t watch any of their programming leading up to May 16. But on the day, for the purposes of sampling I did hop over only to be greeted by an animated representation of NaMo dancing vigorously to a recycled Bollywood tune. Even though my quest is to celebrate the random, that managed to stupefy even me. Apart from that, HT must be congratulated on placing Vir Sanghvi and Karan Thapar on the same panel. How perfectly droll it was –like a cushy tea-room where gentlemen drawl out every second syllable in slightly bored upper crust drawls. I suddenly and inexplicably developed a preference for holograms. And now I must stop – as that would mean The Xpose remains unwatched even longer. And that would blight a future which otherwise has only acche din guaranteed. (Naomi Datta is a couch potato – and in that she includes the time she spends on Twitter & FB perched in front of the television set. She felt compelled to write on Elections 2014 because it is the thing to do – and was hugely encouraged by the fact that insight and erudition are pretty dispensable when it comes to political commentary in India.

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