So Barack Obama finally did have a telephonic chat with Manmohan Singh. What the conversation was about is of absolutely no consequence. What is of absolute consequence is the fact that our media exposed their complete slavishness to the idea of one phone call — or the lack of it — deciding whether the fact that we don’t wear nappies anymore on the world stage was noticed by America’s next President.
Sure, the President-Elect of the US is a powerful man and his call signifies that he has Manmohan Singh’s phone number in his directory. But surely a country that should have known its non-alignment from its non-shamefacedness wouldn’t have created a din about a call that wasn’t coming.
The end, of course, was an anti-climax. Prime Minister Singh explained that he was travelling and Obama, not being being in the same chair as George Bush yet, didn’t have his mobile number. In Russia, the media would have spun things differently. Vladimir Putin told the most powerful man-to-be in the world, ‘Don’t call me, I’ll call you.’ Here, the PM down to the satraps of the satraps were giving explanations that eerily sounded like those that you give to your boss when you were missing in a meeting (and were actually at the closest TGIF).
The phone exchange did happen in the end and, perhaps, there were fireworks across the country. ‘Barack Obama has called Manmohan Singh! See!’ grandfathers told their grandsons, lawyers told their clients, players told their coaches. The media told themselves:
‘See, told you. India’s not an unimportant country, after all.’