I have been avoiding watching too many news channels of late. Mostly, I think, the noise decibels were getting to me. Does shouting out the news or questions / comments make everything more credible? Most news anchors certainly seem to think so. (What about their own ears?)
But after the Ayodhya verdict, I reluctantly forced myself to tune in, though I wasn’t very sure if I would find anything on Ayodhya at all. The ‘Shame Games’ have been blotting out everything else at primetime for so long, there was every possibility that we would continue to be told about who had made how much money on what deal, how dirty the loos / beds / mattresses / walls / staircases / cupboards / nooks / crevices / etc were, how many animals were swarming around the Games Village in vast numbers (at last count, the list included mosquitoes, dogs, monkeys and snakes), how many bridges and ceilings had fallen or were in imminent danger of falling, how many bridges and roads and subways and buildings were still gloriously incomplete, how India’s name was besmirched forever, how the world was trashing us and so on and so forth, ad nauseum. (Also, there’s a limit to how often you can see Suresh Kalmadi’s face on television.) But for a change, the Games were not playing on the news channels. Instead, everyone was busy trying to dissect the
Allahabad High Court’s Ayodhya verdict. And there were certain recurring motifs across most channels – for instance, there was a chorus that it was a “panchayati” judgment. But the real theme song was “moving on.” on (wish TV channels had also moved on with as much alacrity), and therefore this entire temple-mosque conflict had become outdated. But clearly some people hadn’t moved so much as an inch from where they’d stood 18 years ago. Like the BJP’s L K Advani, for instance. In his thin, over-precise, school principal voice, Mr Advani said that the verdict had paved the way for a ‘bhavya’ mandir. We also had the ill-luck to listen to a stream-of-consciousness lecture on Partition by Uma Bharati. Frankly, after seeing that picture of hers (with Murli Manohar Joshi), which was shot on 6 December 1992, I’m not sure we wanted to see her in person on TV, leave alone listen to her talk (and least of all see her laugh). O n his part, Zafaryab Jilani, the Sunni Wakf Board lawyer, said they would appeal to the Supreme Court. (For some reason, Arnab Goswami kept referring to him as ‘Mr Jilani’ and ‘Mr Gilani’ in turn, often using both variations in the same sentence. Why, Mr Joswami? In fact, that particular discussion on Times Now took on an almost comical tone when Mr Joswami got a rather grumpy Ram Gethmalani, sorry, Jethmalani, into the discussion).
But many of the commentators, such as Javed Akhtar, spoke with genuine feeling about reconciliation and about putting the past behind us (that’s right, “moving on”). At the same time, many of the anchors often egged on studio guests: “So you’re disappointed?” / “You’re not even a little disappointed?” (as if they were disappointed that their guests were not disappointed by the verdict). Watching the coverage did have its plus points of course – there was a lot of information out there, for one. Then, parts of the studio discussions on NDTV 24X7 and CNN-IBN were interesting (though sometimes there were just far too many guests on NDTV; barely had one guest said something than Barkha would have to hastily jump to another guest who had just joined in).
But soon, I suppose, we’ll be back to playing Games.