When Display of Pyrotechnics Turned Out to be an Unmitigated Disaster

Published: 02nd February 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st February 2014 11:16 AM   |  A+A-

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After watching Rahul Gandhi’s much-hyped ‘first ever’ one-on-one television interview ‘granted’ to Times Now, we are reminded of a celebrated couplet by the famous Urdu poet Ghalib that runs something like this, “Rumours were rife that Ghalib will be blown to smithereens; we too joined the crowd, but there was no spectacle!” What was billed as a display of pyrotechnics turned out to be worse than the proverbial damp squib. One wonders whose image makeover was intended—Congress vice-president’s or the ravaging rampant anchor’s?

The usually roaring ‘tiger’ metamorphosed into a meowing kitty and his ‘specific’ barbs steered clear of really stinging. Nothing personal—no land deals involving relatives by marriage—only a restrained display of a tired and bored predator doggedly pursuing the playful prey. A command performance or a fixed match to eliminate someone else from the headlines—Modi or Kejriwal, how does it matter?

There must have been millions of eyeballs when the show began, but did anyone count how many masochists lasted the course? The media managers are already at work: The close-ups worked! The three fourth profile appears better than full face—poster designers please note. The earnestness shone through etc. The problem is that the person concerned has an exceptionally anti-Midas Touch. He can turn glittering 24-carat gold into organic manure in a blink. The cruel camera, alas, caught him blinking and flinching more than once. Nor could the viewers have missed his avoiding eye contact. The extremely limited vocabulary didn’t help either. All in all, to any objective person, it was an unmitigated disaster. The only thing the Congressmen can console themselves with is that the exposure was confined to ‘English medium’ elite. In vernacular, the results would have been even more cataclysmic.

Lacking both in style and substance, the audience was treated to pathetic nostalgia about tragedies that have befallen the family and reassured about the genuineness of the interviewee’s academic qualifications. The martyrdom of Srimati Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi is etched in the memory of a grateful nation and part of the primary school syllabus. And no one except Dr Subramanian Swamy is really interested in the genuineness or otherwise of degrees earned abroad. No one suffers from the illusion that such certification is the only or even desirable qualification for a life in politics in our democracy. The great grandfather did excellently with a pass in Bachelors and self-acquired erudition mostly behind bars and the grandmother, no democrat but decidedly a person most refined and well informed, sensitive to broad spectrum cultural activities and civilisational inheritance, had never bothered to complete graduation. Father too had preferred a pilot’s licence to an academic scroll. Why then all this fuss?

There were times when one was totally stupefied by the original response of the subject to the questions put to him. Rahul surely doesn’t believe in different strokes for different folks. He has a set speech and that is replayed all the time everywhere. In fact, it is not even a speech—more like a mantra learnt by rote and chanted with the hope that it will unleash some magical force to demolish the demons. “Bring in the youth, empower the women, change the system.” Encore. “Let me tell you” etc. Unfortunately, the attention span of a TV viewer is even less than the Congress vice-president’s. It is difficult to stay long with Arnab in his mellowed avatar.

Whoever thought of exposing Rahul Gandhi to this frank encounter deserves to be sacked. Silence in such cases is indeed golden. Rahul, in any case, doesn’t need any sponsored media coverage. Like he doesn’t need any office of power or profit. He has let no one remain in doubt that he is willing to suffer the loneliness of the long-distance runner. He too, we suspect, is like the addicts of prime time Arnab show—a bit of a masochist. But we digress.

Does this mean that the spin doctors who fancy themselves as dangerous pace bowlers will now, to mix cricketing metaphors, retire hurt? Will the opening batsman choose the manner of his and the team’s ruin—hit wicket, stumped, run-out on a bad call by the partner? What impact of his dismissal will have on the game’s outcome? Of course we haven’t forgotten that there is always the second innings and teams on the verge have clung their way back after a forced follow-on to snatch sensational victory from the jaws of disastrous defeat. Such is the stuff of fantasy.

We are tempted to conclude with another couplet penned by Ghalib that in translation reads ‘My dwelling even without my wailing would have desolate been; If not a desert a wilderness it would have been!’ pushpeshpant@yahoo.com

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