Category Archives: A bit of fun

From Chinese-made phones and Chinese-made laptops, on programs sponsored by Chinese unicorns, a new weapon of mass distraction is unleashed on day 69

India is rocketing up the COVID charts (now No. 7 in the world) , but somehow, as befits a nation on day 69 of the lockdown, someone, somewhere seems to have decided that there is only one way of defeating it: by boycotting Chinese products. The ostensible provocation, of course, is the Chinese incursion across…

In the good old days, when journalism was still fun, before the nerds and “grads” arrived and sucked the oxygen out of the newsroom…

Khushwant Singh said he cooked up the weekly astrological predictions for The Illustrated Weekly of India for a couple of weeks when the designated crystalball gazer was rendered hors de combat. The claim was difficult to ascertain given the general record of its source. In the Bombay tabloid Mid-Day, its former staffer Mark Manuel recounts…

When a teenage prodigy with 34,347 international runs grinds his way to a slow and steady 25, it is news to celebrate

In the Bombay tabloid Mid-Day, its group sports editor Clayton Murzello marks the silver jubilee of batting legend Sachin Tendulkar‘s wedding, 25 years ago today. Clayton writes that he gifted the couple a marble Ganesh idol, and recounts Behram “Busybee” Contractor making mental notes for his Round & About column in the Afternoon Despatch &…

Amit Shah and the Streisand Effect: how newspaper readers who did not know he was unwell, are being told that he is in fine health!

Home minister Amit Shah has been mostly missing in action since the outbreak of Coronavirus. Although the absence set social media abuzz every now and then, only The Telegraph bothered to cover it as a news story on April 19 (above). *** On May 5, Mumbai Mirror sneaked in a gossip item of Shah becoming…

When a warm tribute to a dead journalist is mostly about a humourist who never met him despite 32 years in the same city

Jug Suraiya pays tribute to R.V. Smith, the former news editor of The Statesman, in a column in today’s Times of India. The tribute is interesting for three reasons. One, it is mostly about Jug Suraiya, not the recently deceased Smith. Two, despite having lived in Delhi for over 30 years, Jug Suraiya admits their…

Who would you like to be locked up with for a few days till the #Coronavirus threat passes? The ultimate fantasy game: “Dead Journalists’ Quarantine House”.

Life in the time of lockdown has turned locked-up captives all creative. Song lists, food recipes, dance moves are pouring forth from every nook and cranny of the globe. Some are lifting up their heads from their screens to see the skies and stars; pots and pets are flowering. Tik-Tok is the way to go.…

Even a mad ‘Fox News’ anchor like Tucker Carlson says Coronavirus didn’t happen because the Chinese ate bats. So why do Rahul Kanwal and Vineet Jain want them to eat ‘khichdi’ and ‘papdi chaat’?

Even in the best of times, Indians are never short of sanctimony and self-righteousness but there has been an oversupply of both since the outbreak of #Coronavirus. The virtues of ‘Namaste‘ as a form of greeting—folded hands as opposed to a physical hug or handshake—has been extolled ad nauseam, even briefly inspiring a BJP IT…

If you come today, it’s too early. If you come tomorrow, it’s too late. But between that tomorrow and today there will be many tomorrows: Shekhar Gupta meets Dr Raj Kumar with Swami Nityananda watching.

*** It is not widely known that the Kannada movie legend Dr Raj Kumar won only one national award in his long and illustrious career, but it was not for his acting prowess but singing. Dr Raj Kumar won the award in 1993 for his rendition of Nada Maya in Jeevana Chaitra but the Raj…

How language newspaper owners “advised” Narendra Modi on how to shape his response to COVID, six hours before he announced a 21-day lockdown

Narendra Modi‘s relationship with the news media since becoming prime minister in 2014 has been built on conspicuous contempt and confrontation, but behind the scenes, chummy co-option and cultivation has been a constant endeavour. Modi likes the world to believe he is not bothered with what the “news traders” of the mainstream media say, when…

When Narendra Modi told an impressionable journalist that his glasses cost only a few hundred rupees; that he wore a simple Indian watch; that he got his clothes stitched from the same tailor each time

After eight, maybe nine, years of carefully coiffured image management, there is nearly nothing about Narendra Modi‘s expensive wardrobe that is debatable. Anybody blessed with even just one functional eye can see that he changes his clothes virtually hour of the day, rarely ever repeating colours. Anybody who can type a question in a search-engine…

Pouting, preening, posing, hinting: how ‘objective’ journalists are voting in the Delhi elections without really ‘reporting’

*** Journalists are human, of course, but nobody works harder than Delhi-based journalists to prove that to the world, especially during festivals like ‘Holi’ when the Twitter timelines of the bold-faced names are plastered with unidentifiable faces. #DelhiElections2020 offered yet another chance to ‘Tweetiyas’ to demonstrate they are just like the rest of humankind, and…

To mark Narendra Modi’s “unprecedented” 69th birthday, 11 newspapers in 7 languages respectfully open their editorial pages for the perfect “bow job” by his party colleagues

Narendra Modi turns 69 today. In itself, the number ’69’ is not ‘abhut purva‘ as the alliterator-in-chief himself might say, except for its more popular connotation. Turning 69 is not any different from turning 67 or 68, and certainly not as significant as turning 70. The pradhan sevak is still a sexagenarian. At best, one could…

The Piyush Goyal Theory of Journalism: the farther a newspaper is from New Delhi, the greater its chance of taking the pants off politicians*

  Piyush Goyal‘s theory of Albert Einstein‘s theory of Isaac Newton‘s theory of gravity is a cute case study for headline management in Indian newspapers. The loud railway and commerce minister—who is a chartered accountant and BJP treasurer in touch with corporates—is widely known for his “phone calls”. The coverage in today’s papers of his faux pas reveals how…

After 64 months of ‘desh seva’, Indian political journalists are so unused to demanding answers from the man at the top that there is shock—OMG!—shock when a science journalist does

Not a single dawn sees its dusk in the social media age without the honourable members of the media inserting themselves into a story and putting up a cringe-worthy sideshow, perfect for a future newspaper called The Daily Tamasha. And so, in the year of the lord 2019, it is ISRO’s failed mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2,…

In 31 days of August, 5 leading English newspapers had 63 political and almost-political bylines on their edit and op-ed pages. Leader of the pack: ‘The Indian Express’ with 32 BJP voices in 39 pieces.

There once was a time, there was actually, when the editorial page was prime real-estate in a newspaper—the home of evolved minds; a trove of thoughts and ideas; and a showcase of scholarly even if somewhat boring writing. The dumbing down of the edit page, which began with the interventions of Samir Jain in The…

In the middle of an inexorable conflict situation in Kashmir, despite a brutal, undemocratic crackdown on civil liberties, there’s only one thing on the mind of a ‘saas’ who was once ‘bahu’

Mothers will be mothers, but reporters can be saviours. Vijaita Singh, a journalist with The Hindu, on assignment in Kashmir, met a woman in Srinagar, at a so-called “helpline” where citizens are allowed to make a phon calls, like prisoners. In the midst of a massive clampdown on communication networks in the Valley, Harvinder Singh…

Wisdom at the ‘Sangam’: Journalist Jawid Laiq has called seven elections in the last 42 years with greater accuracy than exit pollsters just by dipping his finger in the Ganga. Will 2019 reverse that trend?

After watching Indians at a polling booth and failing to read their mind on which way they were inclined to vote, James Reston, the late executive editor of The New York Times, grandly concluded that an election was a secret communion between a voter and democracy—it is sacrilegious to pry.  Now, where “Scotty” wrote this…

All indications are that India is heading for a major economic slowdown, but it is unlikely you will get that impression reading the so-called business newspapers

The less said about India’s business newspapers the better, but sometimes it has to be reiterated that they live in an alternate universe, all of their own making. Not one of them ever breaks a scam, although the state is seemingly receding from the lives of people and business houses are taking over. Most are…

Unused to real journalists meeting him without questions pre-scripted by the PMO, a defensive Narendra Modi mentions ‘The Indian Express’ ten times in his interview with ‘The Indian Express’

*** Prime minister Narendra Modi‘s interview with The Indian Express has been totally overshadowed by Time magazine calling him “Divider-in-Chief” on its cover, and the NewsNation TV “interview” in which he reveals how he fooled Pakistan’s radars by going in for the air strike in Balakot on a cloudy night. But the Express interview with…

Hit and Muss, and the Muzzler: When one of India’s finest cartoonists, Raj Thackeray, rages against Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, political campaigning touches a new ‘Low’

There has been plenty of weird stuff in General Elections 2019, but none weirder than the sight of a political leader whose party was not contesting, drawing bigger crowds than those who were sweating the good sweat. Even more bizarre was the spectacle, and a spectacle it has been, of thousands falling over each other…