Now that the Atlantis is back and Sunita Williams and her compatriots who were in space are safe and sound, this could be the right time to talk about the strange and bizarre behaviour of a particular kind of earthlings: Indian journalists. Desi TV was buzzing for the last few days about Williams. Apart from covering Bappi Lahiri doing his bit (“Sunita we love you...”) and children singing bhajans (“Sunita tum mahan ho...”), which was all very dire, TV channels were tumbling over each other to run comparisons between Sunita Williams and the late Kalpana Chawla. That, in anybody’s book, is as distasteful as things can get.
One can overlook the fact that the ‘Sunita Williams story’ required various perspectives. After all, stretches of air time need filling, and the more ‘novel’ the approach the better chance of hiking the TRPs. But asking Williams’ relatives leading questions about how they are preparing for her ‘ordeal’ (praying? conducting havans? fasting?) and whether they are worried about the delays in her return did not border on the insensitive, they were downright insensitive. One channel even asked the astronaut’s uncle in Gujarat how he remembers her as a child, almost hinting that it would be wise to start remembering her.
The banality on display last week would put any reality show to shame. At least, in the case of reality TV, you know what it is (banal idiocy). In the case of our TV news, we still, for some reason, expect it to be, well, news. Stupid, isn’t it?