One question has become impossible for me to avoid. Wherever I go I am asked why the media breeds, indeed promotes, “a culture of negativity”. In other words, why do we constantly print ‘bad’ news. Is there nothing inspiring or uplifting happening in the country? The gloom and doom may be an inarguable fact, but the media ferrets it out, embroiders it in order to make the citizen feel depressed. It is a charge not without merit. Politicians revel in it. According to them, we spread cynicism about the political class, painting it in the worst possible colours. My response to politicians is that they create the cynicism, we merely spread it around. However, my worry is not the neta grouse: given their conduct, their complaint is entirely self-serving. I am more concerned about what the aam aadmi thinks of us.
Undeniably, much gloom and doom prevails. The wise Dimple Kapadia once said she did not read the morning papers because they gave her a stomach-ache. In Outlook, for over a decade, we carried a page called Making a Difference in which we reported positive things happening across the country. Believe me, material for the page was difficult to find—so difficult we had to drop the feature. Unless we resort to falsification of reality, we have to go with what there is. It is not perversity but reality which defeats us.
When genuine good new comes our way, we eagerly seize it. Consider the February 5 coverage of the appointment of Hyderabad-born, India-educated Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO. Most national papers played up the news with banner headlines, providing every detail of Mr Nadella’s private and professional life. The celebrated journalist Hunter Thompson said, “Good news is rare these days and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished.” That’s what we try and do.
A Word for RaGa
Now that everyone and his uncle has told us what Rahul Gandhi did ‘wrong’ in the Arnab Goswami interview, I thought it might be useful to check if he did anything ‘right’. Since many of you are convinced I am a paid apologist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, this exercise might sound as chamchagiri. Be that as it may, here is my pitch:
- For over 80 minutes, he took a variety of tough questions without walking out. (You-Know-Who has till date never held a press conference or given a one-to-one interview from which he did not walk out as soon as he was quizzed on the 2002 riots.)
- He did not lose his cool or his composure. And although he tried to dodge a few questions, he answered most with sincerity and passion and logic.
- He had no notes or aides to assist him. l He laid out his vision for the Republic and while at times he appeared a bit fuzzy, the country got a better understanding of his Idea of India.
- He told the truth about the 1984 riots.
Do It Like A Hollande
The mystery of what women find attractive in men just got deeper. The menage a trois in Paris involving a president, his girlfriend and his mistress seems to violate the popular precept propounded by Henry Kissinger regarding the aphrodisiac pull of power—Francois Hollande was pulling in the ladies even when he was an ordinary member of the Socialist Party. British novelist Daisy Goodwin summed it up neatly, “He (Hollande) is the most unattractive man on the planet, yet he is surrounded by beautiful women eager to bed him.” Rumour has it that the French President possesses a great sense of humour and pays “attention” to his concubines when they are talking to him. Is that enough?
Europe and America are agog with the mystery. Among French Socialists there is no shortage of males with hyper libidos and they are handsome in the Gallic sense with an excellent taste in clothes. President Hollande is neither handsome nor can he be described as a sharp dresser. Ironically, his dismal poll ratings in France improved marginally thanks to his busy and complicated love-life. One critic, however, noted: “He is running his private life very much the same way he runs the country.”
Francois Hollande is an unlikely Lothario. But he once again proves that a man does not need killer looks to be a successful philanderer.
Before Going to Press
Readers of my last diary might have been slightly astonished by the ringing endorsement I gave the AAP even while chief minister Kejriwal was sitting on a dharna in the heart of Delhi. Simultaneously, his aides were spouting racist slogans against Africans living in the capital. My excuse is technical. This diary goes to press on Wednesday (Jan 15) when all seemed well with the AAP. The so-called populist anarchy broke out on Friday (Jan 17). So, I was caught in the middle. Incidentally, I remain an admirer of the party, but now with some caveats.
I had some very good news. Details in Lucknow Boy’s sequel.
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta [AT] outlookindia [DOT] com