BENGALURU: In the three decades I’ve spent on this planet, I have found a pattern to our nation’s consumption of news. These patterns are not verified by educational universities and will not find a mention in reputed magazines of the West. In fact, my research is not 100 per cent empirical or scientific — but rather from my memories of national obsessions over decades.
In the ’90s, with only newspapers and Doordarshan to deliver our news — our nation was obsessed with half-facts. If you are old enough, the stories of Ganesha idols drinking milk should ring a gigantic bell. Hysteria had taken over the streets, and families partook in the national experiment for months. There were also rumours about AIDS, and stories of syringes being left in cinema theatres, along with notes that read — ‘Congratulations! You now have AIDS!!’
And who can forget India’s first superhero (with enough dark shades to put Batman to shame) — Monkey Man. For months, TV channels, newspapers, and magazines put out illustrations of a ‘Monkey Man’ who swung from electricity wires and robbed houses. If our elders were obsessed with Monkey Man, the children were jumping from their roofs hoping that Shaktimaan would save them! As you can tell, the ’90s was a decade of rumours and half-truths.
The previous decade saw the word ‘scam’ becoming the important keyword in journalism. Every few years, a humongous scam would break out — 2G, Coalgate, Stamp Paper scam. With all our cultures and diversity, these scams united our nation in a way that Gandhi and Tendulkar could not. For example, the ‘Commonwealth Games’ scam, where our leaders redefined the phrase ‘common wealth’, by making the wealth theirs. These scams led to cracks in national coalitions, and eventually even to the home minister of the country going to jail.
In this decade, the news that gets our antennae tingling is the news of celebrity drug cases. Of course, these reports are not new. Actors have been caught with drugs earlier — whether it was Sanjay Dutt or Fardeen Khan — whose films were the biggest advertisements against doing drugs! But the news of celebrities doing drugs is irresistible to us today, whether it is Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan or the utterly shameful witch hunt that the nation indulged in last year of Rhea Chakraborty.
While the entire nation was reeling under the impact of a global pandemic that had brought the world’s economies to a grinding halt, our leading journalists spent their days and nights swooping in on
Mind you, we are not obsessed with just any drug haul. We never bothered with reports of Punjab facing an epidemic of drugs. We didn’t bat an eyelid when 3,000 kgs of cocaine were found at the port managed by the Adani group. We only get titillated by celebrities doing drugs. As a nation, we imagine our celebrities saying ‘I love you K-K-K-Kiran’ in the day and ‘I love you C-C-C-Cocaine’ in the nights. The entire nation has become a gossipping relative unhappy with wedding preparations.
This, of course, plays out perfectly for our ruling parties. Who will question a percentage drop in GDP, when they’re more interested in grams of cocaine? And so it goes, like the cycle of life and death. In a few weeks, the T20 World Cup will begin, and we will all forget about this issue. Till another celebrity will be caught with drugs. We are all Pavlov’s dogs, salivating at the prospect of a celebrity caught with drugs. And you know what they say — barking dogs seldom question the government!
(The writer’s views are his own)