There’s nothing like a little war to get the adrenaline flowing and the TRPs rising. Arnab Goswami, his clones and TV bosses have discovered that in an era of 56-inch chests and hyper nationalism, Pakistan-bashing is literally at the cutting edge of television journalism, or Target Rating Point, as the number crunchers call it. It needs just one solitary incident to get the lynch mobs to gather in studios, and Navjot Singh Sidhu provided one last week. Here’s how the mob reacted:
Number Cruncher: I feel like hugging everyone in sight but will restrain myself because of the Vishakha guidelines. Thanks to the Sidhu Hug, we have a chance to hit the ball out of the park, or Pak, as it is in this case. Bring on the big guns while I hit the refresh button on our TRP graph.
Anchor to Studio Staff: Please remember my mantra, Hype, Hyper, Hyper-nationalism.
To Make-up Person: Add a little red to my face when I feign anger and outrage, it should look genuine and convey the feeling that I’m about to go to war.
To Technician: When I nod in any one direction, cut off his or her mike, it means they are talking of giving peace a chance, but not before I give him/her a piece of my mind.
To Graphics Editor: Add more fury to the flames licking the bottom of the screen which comes on during my show. The headline should read: “Sidhu and Sedition.” The scroll on the bottom of the screen should read: “Anti-national Act: Sidhu embraces Pakistan army chief in public.”
To Coordinator: Do we have the usual suspects? Bring on the studio guests, we are going to have a lynching tonight and blood on the studio floor.
To Guests: Welcome to my show, the Nine O’clock Noose. We are here to debate the anti-national and seditious action of Navjot Singh Sidhu in hugging the Pakistan army chief bringing disgrace to the country. General, can we have your views please?
Retired General: (sounding apoplectic): Sedition. He should be hanged. I will personally put the noose around his neck, the traitor. He makes Mir Jafar look like a bloody patriot (angrily twirling his handlebars). Hang him, I say. Can you imagine what our brave martyrs must be feeling?
Retired Diplomat: If they are martyred, I assume they are incapable of feeling but I agree with your views. It was deliberately stage-managed by the Pak military establishment and Sidhu fell into their trap. As the sole representative from India, he has brought disgrace and disrepute to the cause.
Neutral Guest: What cause is that?
Diplomat: War. He has taken Chinese general Sun Tsu’s advice seriously; keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Never trust the Chinese, or the Pakistanis. Remember Doklam, remember Kargil.
Neutral Guest: But he went there in his personal capacity, for the swearing-in of a friend, a fellow cricketer, how can that be sedition?
Sambit Patra: It’s not cricket. Thanks to our vision for a new India, we foresaw that he would do something like this and sacked him from the BJP.
Neutral Guest: Actually, he left the party and is now with the Congress, so your outrage is a bit hypocritical.
Patra: He is a public figure in enemy country, he should have known there would be a honey trap laid for him.
Retired RAW official: Honey traps are when female spies get enemy agents in a compromising situation.
Patra: Same thing, embracing the enemy. As Sun Tsu said, in The Art of War, treat a hug as suspiciously as a bald man asking you for a comb…
Neutral Guest: Your Prime Minister is extremely fond of hugging people and he gets hugged in return by political enemies like Rahul Gandhi, so where does that leave Sun Tsu?
Anchor: Can we get away from Chinese generals and focus on our own as an act of patriotism. General?
Retired General: (shouting at the top of his voice): He should be tied to a tank and paraded through the streets. I will provide the tank, you provide the street. Even his own chief minister has signaled a no ball and blasted him for consorting with Pakistanis.
Neutral Guest: Amarinder Singh’s constant companion is a Pakistani woman journalist who lives in his house in Chandigarh. Does that qualify as a honey trap?
Retired RAW official: She would have been thoroughly vetted under the Cease Fire Agreement of 2003. Sidhu’s embrace, however, qualifies as cross border terrorism.
Neutral Guest: Imran Khan and Sidhu say they are promoting peace, what’s wrong with that?
Anchor (show’s over, and mikes are off): It’s bad for business, the TV news business, can you imagine what TV news will be like if there was peace between India and Pak? I’d be out of a job..
Retired General: How do you think I pay my bills, being on TV shows where I’m asked to yell and scream and indulge in Pakistan-bashing.
Retired Diplomat/Retired RAW official: Our status at the IIC, the Delhi Gymkhana and the Civil Services Officer’s Institute depends on how many TV programs we are on. If there was no Pakistan, we would have to invent one.