Ranjona Banerji: No ‘fine and dry’ puhleez, dear BBC!

14 Jan,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


I have spent the last three weeks reading back issues of Time magazine. And I am amazed that their rewriting style (from what I recall, you are not really allowed to have a writing style at Time) has not changed at all. The same inverted sentences. The same twist at the end. The same short phrases to try and be current, even though some go back at least 25 years. This is testament to Time’s covenant with its principles – stick to what you started with even if your readership is shrinking and everyone around you has changed. A tip of the hat to this nostalgia-inducing standard practice: I practically went back to my childhood which was… well, it was a long time ago. You don’t want to know!




I have to confess that I have not read too many newspapers (this is a gross exaggeration: I have read precisely two) in the past 10 days. I have kept up with the news through social media and through some television. And by watching English news channels, you may forget that India is such a massive country.


Instead: there is Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi. Now New Delhi may be India’s national capital and it may have a state government but it cannot compare to any other state government. The chief minister of Delhi is responsible for about a quarter of the things – I am being generous here – that other chief ministers contend with. Yet, we have national news channels behaving like local cable news channels. What Kejriwal had for breakfast, what he wears to bed, the progress of his cold, how Delhi government officials may well be crooked, how to get a water connection in Delhi and on and on and on. We get it. Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party achieved something miraculous in the Delhi assembly elections. Now move on. Other things are happening in the rest of India.


The rest of TV news however is as blinkered. We are stuck in an endless spiral of Congress versus BJP fistfights. One party says blue so the other says yellow and it never ends. News channels set themselves up as pasties here as shrewd politicians play them for fools so easily. We understand that newsgathering is expensive and laborious. We know that TV has to look for instant gratification. We are aware that fighting for attention is a mug’s game. But still, it would be interesting once in a while to watch television and just get a picture of what’s happening in the world instead of a tailored picture of what might possibly create the most sensation.




This is a request to the BBC World Service’s weather department. We understand that the English are obsessed with the rain and crave the sun. But the whole world is not England. India for instance gets most of its rain from the monsoon. It rains sporadically in a few parts of India outside the monsoon – and most of this rainfall follows a very specific meteorological pattern. We in India are taught this as school children. For instance, if it rains in Mumbai consistently after the monsoon is over then it is a possible indication that the world’s climate is undergoing some immediate catastrophic crisis. Similarly, some parts of South India get the retreating monsoon. The North will be affected by westerly disturbances and it will snow in the Himalayas in winter.


So we need some pertinent weather forecasts from the BBC World Service. Like when people are dying of the cold in North India, we don’t need to be told that the weather is “fine and dry”. We need to be told about falling temperatures. We know that it is not likely to rain in Madhya Pradesh in December. So “fine and dry” are tautological. Conversely, when there is a heat wave in summer and people are dying, “fine and dry” sounds like a slap in face. Summer is when we crave for rain, really, we pray for the monsoon. We sing those Bollywood songs your pop culture experts are so fond of.


Also, when you run weather forecasts for the British in Britain on the BBC, you can advise them where to holiday. But for the World Service, it might be nice to concentrate on us. And tell us the weather of the world as well – there could have been more on the polar vortex, on the heat wave in Australia, on flooding in Europe. Please don’t take this badly. It’s just we’re so tired of “fine and dry”.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: No ‘fine and dry’ puhleez, dear BBC!”

  1. Guest says:

    Even if the columnist’s childhood was long ago, she seems to have remembered most of the geography she learnt in school !

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