Ranjona Banerji: Any journo going to ask who paid for PM’s name-engraved pinstripes?

27 Jan,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The death of RK Laxman was not unexpected but is no less a loss for all that. India’s best known cartoonist without a doubt, his subtle, sharp wit and his use of an “ordinary person” as a hapless observer to world events made him stand apart from the others, no matter how talented.

 

For many of us now well into in middle age, RK Laxman was the last word because he was us: bemused, amazed, amused and horrified at what was happening around. For me, my favourite cartoon remains one he did after Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi was released. A well-fed minister-type walks out of the cinema, turns to the man next to him and says, “Very moving. A true story I believe.”

 

And there, in a few words was everything wrong with what politicians have done with our legacy.

 

**

 

If there was one thing that was not on display during TV coverage of US president Barack Obama’s visit to India and the Republic Day parade, it was subtlety. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has two main cheerleaders in the upper echelons of TV, I use the word “journalism” here for want of a better alternative: Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Rahul Kanwal of Headlines Today. It is hard to tell who’s the bigger fan of the two because the competition is fierce. Dutt felt that people watched the parade because of Modi, thus demeaning the rest of us who have watched the parade for ourselves for decades regardless of who the PM is or was. Kanwal was overwhelmed by Modi’s fashion choices.

 

However, am unsure whether either commented on what had emerged about Modi’s fashion choices: his suit for the parade had his name woven into the supposed pinstripes and is said to have been from Holland and Taylor, England and cost 10,000 pounds. Is anyone going to ask who paid?

 

If anyone does, it will be “evil liberal Congi sickular paid newstrader presstitutes” since too many Indian journalists have ditched objectivity for hero worship. Or will those selfie-taking Delhi political journalists actually do their jobs?

 

As it happens, the world’s media was on to the name in gold weave story and we are something of a cause for giggles around the world. Not a good day for a “patriotic” Indian.

 

Meanwhile, as for the parade, you heard it here first: There has never ever been a Republic Day parade in India until Narendra Modi became Prime Minister last year. Whatever you thought you witnessed before was in your imagination or your delusions.

 

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One tragedy: the fact that India is so young that almost no one remembers the joy of listening to Melville de Mellow’s mellifluous tones taking us through the parade.

 

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A cause for amusement: the hysteria in Indian media over Barack Obama’s visit. It’s true we do it every time. But it’s no less amusing, our patent inferiority complex. What they did, what they ate, where they went, body language, gestures, clothes and all the rest of it. No chance of the media of other nations behaving like that when our dignitaries visit so maybe we should petition the World Association of Newspapers and other such organisations asking for similar coverage? Actually, we provide that ourselves too, as we saw with Modi’s overseas visits.

 

The US media I believe is preoccupied with a storm.

 

Enough said.

 

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