MR Jeremiah and Ms Cassandra have long been publicly moaning that the difference between news and entertainment has either disappeared, or we are fast getting there.
Such lament comes from confusion. News is not synonymous with politics. It is simply new information about anything we are interested in. And the reasonable fact is that people are more interested in what makes them happy, from fashion to fiction, than the depressing snarls of politics.
But there is always a political story which bridges these compartments, since politics is intrinsically amusing. All you have to do is pause and think. Sometimes a very thin line separates scoop and satire.
Witness, for instance, the floated story that in Andhra Pradesh the Congress is making a serious effort to bring its latest bête noire, Jagan Reddy, son of the late Rajashekhar Reddy, back to the fold by promising to make him chief minister. Jagan Reddy, who has shifted the base from under the Congress’ feet, is, at the moment of writing, in jail, accused of every sort of financial crime the Central Bureau of Investigation could conjure up.
So what does the Congress tell Andhra voters if this story ever comes true? ‘Hey, guys! This is the chap we sent to jail because we knew that his dad made zillions of dollars-pounds-euros. How did we know that? Er ... because he made the lolly when he was one of us.... Now that prodigal Jagan is back in the Congress, we can assure you that all those accusations were total fiction!’
And what does the Congress tell the obstinate judge who, on the CBI’s insistence, denies Jagan his legitimate right to bail? ‘Sorry, your Lordship, all those raids on Jagan’s offices were a bit of a charade, just a mild bit of spanking that children need when they get to their difficult years. As for the lawyers who were barnstorming against Jagan in court, your Lordship knows what lawyers can become given something extra in an envelope! They took a brief from us and turned it into a full-length suit … ha ha ha ha!’
Alas, the joke is not that some politician whispered this into a journalist’s ear, but that it is being circulated without any questions. The first question is the most obvious: is such a deal politically tenable? Will the voter, who has heard vehement speeches from both sides, accept it? What does Jagan Reddy’s mother, who has a backbone of quiet steel, have to say about this after having watched her son being incarcerated and punished by the Congress?
Jagan Reddy wanted to be CM after his father’s tragic death at an early age. He was denied. He might have accepted such an offer when, instead of him, an unknown and palpably amateur Kiran Reddy was made CM. But the Congress high command destroyed its own options by using extreme methods to crush Jagan Reddy personally and politically. It failed miserably. In Andhra, the Congress has a past and Jagan Reddy has a future. Why would Jagan Reddy join the past?
The irony is that while Indian politics trends towards radical amusement, Indian sport, which should offer national uplift, is drenched in depression.
Nothing makes one cringe more than simulated celebrations over an Indian bronze at the Olympics, or the adulation for a rare silver. India’s sports poverty is perfectly understandable. The brain power of India is concentrated on upward mobility through the fiscal route, not through physical genius. Take money away from the one sport where we compete with fluctuating ability — cricket — and that bubble will burst as well.
Other sports have their rewards as well, but the price in terms of physical discomfort is high, and that thought is a bit discomfiting to our youth, brought up on mother’s cooking. If we have to move, we might as well dance, for fat boy can dance as well as thin boy. Girth is not a serious hindrance to classical dance, either. But it is going to be many an age before there are half a dozen Indians who can move with the sheer brilliance of Chinese gymnast Dong Dong on the trampoline, a golden performance that I watched while channel-surfing because rain had interrupted the South Africa-England Test match.
I love the thought of us winning medals as much as the next Indian. But I don’t really mind when we lose in badminton or archery. What churns the stomach is the gratuitous exultation each time destiny sends us a peanut. The Japanese star who got bronze in an unbelievably difficult and visually dazzling gymnastic art was in tears at having come third. If he were an Indian who had won bronze for hitting a sitting duck at five feet, corporations would have taken front-page advertisements to honour the arrival of a saviour. No one congratulates Indians more gushingly than Indians congratulate themselves. It is a disease.
One look at the Olympics and I search for politics. One glance at politics and I shift to the Olympics.
The writer is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi, India on Sunday, published from London and editorial director, India Today and Headlines Today.