Everybody’s Kung Fu Fighting

Nobody loves a good fight as much as the media, which has veritably been spoilt for choice this entire week.

This is the one week when the gods seem to have been smiling down at the news channels and publications. Politicians, social activists, authors, playboy cricketers-turned-politicians, playboys-turned-politicians, politicians-turned-poets, name it and they’ve all managed to pick a fight with someone or the other and that too while the cameras are rolling. And we all know that there’s nothing which is as entertaining as the argumentative Indian, and in one case the argumentative Pakistani. And it seems that nobody loves a good fight as much as the media, which has veritably been spoilt for choice this entire week.

The week started off with the most recent installment of the Khan vs Rushdie squabble, which was re-ignited by Rushdie who seems mighty miffed that Imran Khan, upholder of the collective Islamic sentiment, refused to share the podium with him at the recently held India Today Conclave. Now to give Imran his due, whether or not he participates in the conclave is really his choice. The reason for not doing so might be a poor choice in our eyes, but the poor dear does have to return to Pakistan shores and contest elections which he always seems to be losing. So you can’t blame him for erring on the side of caution.

But while the print media might have turned their nose up at the Khan-Rushdie battle, the television channels jumped at the opportunity to milk this fight for all it was worth. So yesterday, there was an ‘exclusive’ with Imran Khan on NDTV 24X7 which spent an indiscriminate amount of time asking ‘I’m the Dim’ as Rushdie fondly calls him, his views on Rushdie’s rather personal assault on him at the India Today Conclave. The good thing for the channels is that both Imran and Rushdie say such deliciously smarmy and stupid things, that it’s akin to sitting in a drawing room and watching them argue with each other.

Imran made some sparkling statements such as comparing writing on the Prophet to writing or belittling the Holocaust. Which he feels would never be allowed. So why should Satanic Verses be allowed? Obviously he hasn’t heard of the musical, The Producers which has had over 2000 performances and spawned a film and which caricatures not just the Nazis, but also Jews. But then he’d most probably explain it away as being a sign of fallen West. Imran also looked upset that he’d been accused of being afraid of mullahs, and went on to say that, ‘As if Imran is scared of mullahs”. What a preposterous idea. Barkha did throw in some questions on his politics in the last minute or two of the interview, but that seemed more of an afterthought. I do feel though that nothing is upsetting Rushdie as much as Imran carrying on denying meeting Rushdie ever – when Rushdie has gone online, in print and on TV, claiming that Imran did indeed dine with him at Naveen Patnaik’s house in 1984. We all get upset when people don’t remember meeting us after spending an entire evening with us, and it seems so does Rushdie. Either way, between Rushdie’s tirades against Imran on twitter and at the Conclave – which was dutifully lapped up and reported on – and Imran’s exclusive on NDTV, it’s good times for the channels.

But this wasn’t the only fight in sight. Oh no. Naveen Patnaik who has been having a tiff with Chidambaram over the implementation of the NCTC, stated that the Central government had not offered any assistance in regard to the two Italians kidnapped by the Naxals in Orissa. Chidambaram, who’s been camera-shy for a while, immediately gave a sound-byte saying that he was most disappointed by Patnaik’s statements as he’d even phoned him on Sunday and, “offered him every help. He did not ask me for anything. He said I am just keeping you informed… no specific request for help has been made until I left my office a few minutes ago”. How unfair of Patnaik. Who of course promptly told the media, in his very Brit way, that he was “not here to banter with Mr Chidambaram. The kidnapping is a very serious issue for us. My first concern is the release of two Italian hostages” At least someone was thinking of the poor Italian duo, who are having to banter with the naxals while hoping for the best. Not knowing that instead of planning their rescue, the home minister is busy settling scores with Patnaik.

And then just as I’d finished giggling at Patnaik’s ‘banter’ comment, a Jesus-like character arose on the screen and decided to show us the way to the Holy Land where there are no naxals and no evil. Sri Sri Ravishankar had seen the ruckus between the Home Minister and the Chief Minister, gathered up his robes and decided to jump straight into the fray. Making the mother of all comments on the issue, and that too in front of an army of cameras, the wise guru informed us that the naxal scourge could be nipped in the bud simply by the government refraining from running schools. Why? Because government school students become naxals and are more violent.  “Government ko koi school nahi chalana chahiye. Aksar paya jata hai ki government school se padhe hue bacche hi is tarha naxalvad me hinsa ke marg me chale jate hai”. Those from the private education system are not into these things, according to the wise one. They in fact move ahead with an ideal (adarsh) and the private school teachers are responsible for it.

Kapil Sibal, displaying a hitherto-unseen proclivity for measuring his words for once, immediately provided a sound-byte saying that Sibal was from a government school and he definitely wasn’t a naxalite. Now while I’m not sure of the former claim, I think we can all vouch for the veracity of the second claim. Sibal as a naxalite is as preposterous as Ravi Shankar not charging for his artful courses in living.

The private schooled guru immediately took to twitter – the cameras had most probably left the venue by then – and said that, “I specifically referred to sick government schools in Naxal affected areas. Many who have turned to Naxalism have come from these schools”. And as a plug to the many private schools he’s opening, also tweeted that, “The Art of Living is running 185 free schools in such areas. I urge more institutions to join this effort to spread peace through education.”

So between the talking heads on TV, quibbling over each other’s statements it felt less Current Affairs and more Current Arguments. But it is awfully quiet today. No one has picked a fight with anyone. The Norwegians are quiet, the Indian parents are quiet, Dinesh Trivedi and Mamata Banerjee are quiet, Mukul Roy’s busy re-arranging the furniture in his new office, and Rushdie’s promised to the twitter universe to not make any more statements about Imran. The media might actually get to report on some actual news stories what with Kasab’s hearing and Kingfisher’s fate being decided by the DGCA. But going by just the past week, I’m sure we’ll have another spat or two making it to headline news. Till such time though, all is quiet on the Western Front.


Image Source [http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaukar/6993809491/sizes/l/in/photostream/]

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