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Whether report

We asked the Prime Minister for a decision on war, and instead he gave us the weather report. Not since the early days of NDTV, when Anuradha would announce ?intermittent showers over Imphal? as though she were reciting Wordsworth, has such eloquence been expended on the cloudiness or otherwise of skies.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2002 20:00 IST

We asked the Prime Minister for a decision on war, and instead he gave us the weather report. Not since the early days of NDTV, when Anuradha would announce “intermittent showers over Imphal” as though she were reciting Wordsworth, has such eloquence been expended on the cloudiness or otherwise of skies.

Turning a press conference into a kavi sammelan, Atalji looked dramatically heavenwards, and declaimed, “Mujhe aasman saaf nazar aa raha hai, lekin kabhi kabhi bijlee saaf aasman se bhi giri hai.” He made the mausam sound awesome.

Astute Atalji had again got the analogy right. War is always associated with clouds. War is also associated with television news. So, taking their telecue from the PM, the nightly headlines are likely to be overcast, I mean recast, in the terminology of the weather report. Since, the present storm has been precipitated by the likes of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, it is quite appropriate for the LeT news to sound like the met bulletin.

Here are some possible scripts. Nagma sits as lonely as a cloud at her vast desk. Aaj Tak is in Hindi, so she could easily sound as mellifluous as Eloquent Atalji, whose Srinagar speech warbled like a zephyr among the chinars. But Nagma is likely to continue to sound as rigid as a rock in a storm as she begins her newscast: “The entire country is in the grip of a war wave. There has been a sudden rise in atmospheric pressure due to cross-border currents. Some feel they will be limited to convectional, maaf kijiye, conventional warfare, but hawks on both sides have been forecasting a nuclear meltdown if Siachen gets any hotter.”

As clips fill the screen, Nagma will ask her correspondent to “tell us how garam the hawa is on the street”. With considerably more animation than the anchor, he will report, “The aam janata is trying to protect itself as best it can against the heatstroke of its leaders. Not everybody can escape to Manali. Besides, in this mercurial situation, even the usual summer remedies are suspect. Rooh Afza has begun to sound like a jehadi.”

Nagma returns to announce the breaking news that “a government of India communiqué has just been issued, asking the public to exercise special caution against any heat-related appliances carrying the ISI mark.”

If you switched to CNBC, Govind Ethiraj’s script would read like this: “Gold has risen to a six-year high with the mercury and imminence of war, but the Sensex has wilted like a summer crop or a Pakistani battalion under Bofors fire. Meanwhile, scams continue to strike like ‘greased’ lightning”.

Surfing is a good idea in the heat, and you could flick to NDTV’s Newshour to catch Srinivas, in his cool summer crop, asking the bureau’s political editor for his analysis. Rajdeep Sardesai is a seasoned TV journalist who thrives on hotspots, but starts looking like he could do with a shower the minute matters get sticky. He is likely to continue in the PM’s weather vein.

Rajdeep will pronounce, “Political temperatures have risen to unprecedented degrees after one more audacious onslaught from the northern reaches. Hot air hangs palpably over Delhi, the haze impeding clear vision. Politicians have cut across party lines to come to reach a consensus on one point. They all agree that what’s worse than the heat is the relative humility.”

Rajdeep might add, “Significance is being attached to the leader of the Opposition descending on the Prime Minister’s residence like a searing desert wind. She would prefer to be a reign-bearing cloud, Monsonia or later.”

Arnab interrupts to say, “Thank you, Rajdeep. It is also believed that not much hope is being pinned to the visit of the US Deputy Secretary of State. Insiders say that if Powell couldn’t effect any Coolin’, what difference can Mr Arms-itage make to the Whitehouse gasses?”

Turning smarmily, he will add, “And now joining us in the studio is Chandrababu Naidu. Sir, what is the likely fallout if Mr Vajpayee fails to contain the political heat?” The Andhra CM, whose stubble seems like a permanent sunblock, might reply, “We allies are now quite used to a depression caused by low, lying pressure areas within the BJP. But if this thermal crisis is not defused, the entire NDA grid could break down, resulting in a staggering countrywide power cut.”

Then the studio voice will breeze in saying, “The Whether Report was brought to you in collaboration with MRF Tyres, ‘We take the Mushar-rough with the smooth-talking’; LG Plasma Gold, ‘Because what they breed is what we breed’; and Pepsi, ‘Yeh Dil Maange War’.”

Alec Smart said, “What’s the new Devdance? From mujrah to Can-Cannes.”

First Published: Jun 29, 2002 20:00 IST