Ranjona Banerji: Not enough on Sania!

14 Apr,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The world of Twitter exploded when Indian tennis star Sania Mirza became world number one in the women’s doubles version of the game. She is the first Indian woman to scale those heights; Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have both been number one in men’s doubles. Mirza and her partner, the uber-talented multiple Grand slam winner Martina Hingis, won three titles on the trot to claim the ranking.

 

So congratulations were in order, except for a few well-known internet dyspeptics who dislike Mirza because she’s female, a Muslim, married to a Pakistani or not a singles player. I have not been able to find similar bile directed at Paes or Bhupathi, who also did not reach number 1 ranking in singles either. Hence, my conjecture at the reasons for the hatred of Mirza.

 

But loons on social media aside, how did traditional media respond? Sunday, April 12, had also seen two Indian Premier League matches and two English Premier League matches. That is, cricket being played in India and football, being played in England with not a single Indian player in sight.

 

Here’s a roundup of some of the newspapers I looked at on Monday. The Times of India reduced Mirza to the middle of an inside page, after the IPL stories which get the first sports page. TOI though is notoriously skint when it comes to tennis stories. The Hindustan Times, which has much better tennis coverage usually, stuck Mirza on that annoying front page jacket but had a Manchester United player above the masthead on the, er, real front page. The story was relegated to the inside sports pages.

 

DNA and Asian Age carried the picture on page 1. Mumbai Mirror also had a front page mention. The Economic Times did not mention Mirza at all. I gather from tennis fans across India that major language papers were no different.

 

Anyone who works in a newspaper understands the pressures and pulls of a newsroom at deadline. But it is still intriguing, especially when we have become so collectively jingoistic about India, Indians and their achievements. Newspapers often waste space on some unknown person of Indian origin winning a municipal election in an obscure American town just because of the Indian connection. But Mirza clearly did not make the cut.

Ah well.

 

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The other big stories of the week were obviously the prime minister’s overseas trip, the declassified files on Subhas Chandra Bose’s family being under Intelligence Bureau surveillance and the Indian purchase of Rafale jets. I am ignoring the twitter squabble between some journalists and Modi fans over the shawl the prime minister has been wearing in Europe because it is so silly.

 

But if you ever want to get really confused, you could concentrate on the Nehru-spied-on-Bose’s-family and why-did-we-buy-the-jets stories. For those who are not obsessed with Indian contemporary history or India’s defence deals, these are veritable minefields which are impossible to traverse safely with mind and body intact. My point is, the media don’t help!

 

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What is more easily accessible is the online and now offline fight to protect “net neutrality” or that is, to stop mobile and internet service providers from allowing access to websites that pay them. And make you pay for the sites you want to go to.
Get into it!

 

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